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2015: the year of real customer service?

2015: the year of real customer service?


Rob Stroud considers how the automation industry is paving the way for proactive service delivery.

A friend of mine has been attempting to establish a bank account for a new choir that he belongs to.  After many lunch breaks, personal time and even some work time, finally the account is open and operational. Elapsed time, three months! My friend describes his experience as a litany of unnecessary hold-ups, duplicated discussions, long wait times ‘on hold’, not to mention extreme frustration. To make matters worse, business accounts are managed remotely from the branch network, so he cannot walk two doors from his office to the local branch. When he does get through on the phone, after 20 minutes of wait time, the service desk staff are not empowered to expedite the process. He even tried naming and shaming via their Facebook page. The reply, ‘sorry, you must be very frustrated’.

This is a perfect example of a broken service, one where customer dissatisfaction will allow a disruptive competitor who focuses on the execution of the process to rapidly take the market.

Talking of disruptive technology, recently I had the opportunity to speak to a CIO in the automotive industry. Our conversation quickly moved onto the rapid rate of change, not just in the design and build process but also in the way that cars are chosen and acquired. Instead of visiting endless showrooms, test driving various models, and struggling to understand which options are available on which model as in the past, many manufacturers now offer a far more enjoyable online experience with driver simulation and a far more interactive approach to choosing the precise specification you require.

Indeed, my recent car purchase decision was effectively made online. I reviewed the cars that I was considering from the comfort of my armchair, looking at the options, especially the technology options. Then, with the help of a comparison site, I identified all the discounts that I could apply, so I knew what price I would pay before I spoke to the dealer. Only then did I visit a showroom, to confirm my decision, sign the paperwork, and take delivery.

On entering the showroom, I was further amazed at the technology available to me to review my choice. There were further simulations of lane changing indictors and collision detection options, an opportunity for the dealer to tell me about a proposed enhancement to the blind spot detection capability, which would be able to override a potential decision to merge into another lane with a car in my path. More interesting to me was the delivery of the vehicle’s performance metrics directly to my smartphone. Additionally the vehicle communicates directly with the manufacturer using the same metrics, part of a continual improvement loop to make sure that any performance or maintenance issues do not go unnoticed. The salesperson explained that, using the data available, the manufacturer issues software patches and proactively pushes them to the car.

The complete integration of technology into our lives is driving a major cultural change in our service management organisations, which must now transition from reactively solving incidents and restoring service to proactively assuring and ensuring continuity and quality of service. 

Our customers, once internal staff, are now made up of a diverse range of end users who are leveraging our “IT-enabled business services”; and for many service desks the call, email, instant message or tweet is directly from the organisation's customer. 

Not only is IT accountable directly for the service being offered, it is also responsible for change, and more than ever before demand is accelerating and IT needs to speed up the rate and pace of response.

Proactive delivery of service and correlation of performance information are going to be critical to a well-oiled and run business in this new economy. Real-time or near real-time analysis of performance data are critical to the understanding of patterns and trends and the identification of impacts on service, and service managers will rely increasingly on such information to prevent outages and other issues. Making sure the right information gets to the right person at the right time requires a significant level of automation

So how do we get from where we are now to where we are going? The challenge comes in balancing the delivery of innovation with ‘business as usual’. The modern service management organisation needs to transition to one where appropriate processes are automated, the overall provision of services is automated, and event-based triage and self-resolution contribute to more rapid and effective request fulfilment. But this has to be achieved without compromising existing services and processes.

As service management professionals in a business-driven economy, we have a vital role to play in making sure that this essential balance is maintained - a vital step on the road to true proactive service delivery.


Rob Stroud is Vice President, Strategy and Innovation at CA Technologies and President of ISACA.


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