Article : Delivering Great Customer Service – The Challenge For Service Providers
Customer Experience may be the buzzword of the decade but delivering a positive one remains a challenge for many organisations and never more so for Service Providers (SPs) supporting diverse and demanding customers.
We live in an age where customer expectation is high - when we buy something online we expect an instant response. The same when logging a problem online, or requesting a new password - if we don’t get that immediate response we assume that there is an issue. It’s a fact that communicating with customers and keeping them informed, is of paramount importance if you are to deliver the great customer experience that service companies aspire to.
Over Servicing - At Your Cost
The MSP sector knows only too well that when providing technical products and services you need to manage complex and diverse suppliers with different customer contracts to provide a joined up service. Customer service is a key capability that is high on the Board Room agenda - the cost of delivering a poor customer experience is high.
The challenge when running a business is how to provide a great service to your customers profitably. You need to ensure that you do not ‘over service’ the loud customer at the expense of the quieter, more profitable one. Customers vary considerably, and with different Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for different customers, it’s vital that you control your supply chain, manage your third party contracts and liaise with the finance department to make sure accounts are up to date to deliver the best service.
Different Contracts, Multiple Suppliers - A Tricky Balance
Of course, looking after your existing customers is just one part of the story. At the same time you want to expand your business, upgrade current customers as well as manage customer churn and acquire new customers. Managing these challenges effectively or not impacts both cash flow and the bottom line and can make the difference between success and failure.
Keeping The Plates Spinning
So how can you keep in control of all these aspects? Forward thinking SP organisations are adopting a version of the Service Integration and Management (SIAM) Model, or platform approach, whereby they can co-ordinate their supply chain and manage suppliers in a collaborative and effective manner.
A Service Integration And Management(SIAM) Approach
The key features of an effective Service Integration and Management model are being able to define different service requirements for critical and non-critical services or customers. For an SP, the ultimate benefit is that it ensures that customers experience the right level of service for their particular contract, at the right cost to the business.
A SIAM approach ensures that at the point where service and support are delivered to customers, all related data, contracts, processes and workflows are consolidated into a single service management platform so that the right service levels and actions are invoked. This will include managing the suppliers who issue the hardware to the customer, or authorised partners who carry out repairs off site or at the customers’ premises and even delivery service companies.
The team is responsible and accountable for the integrated services that are being delivered back to the business. The central service team typically acts as a central point coordinating across the multiple suppliers and internal departments, specifying service management processes and procedures to be deployed across the organisation and ensuring that they are followed.
Adopting A Platform Approach To Service Management
The platform approach provides another option to customer service management. In this scenario, diverse departments such as IT Service Desk, HR/Payroll, Customer Service, Facilities, use the same software, tailored to their individual requirements, while being part of an organisation-wide system.
Both SIAM and platform approaches have a focus on a central system that can support workflow, performance and service management, billing and payment. Furthermore both approaches support the idea of collaboration across the enterprise.
Both methodologies support key principles that underline the basis for providing excellent customer service. With integrated systems and workflow, all staff that are in contact with the customer have access to one set of data. Even if the customer needs to be passed onto a different department to book a service call, arrange a delivery or change billing details, they do not need to repeat their information, other than for security reasons.
Consolidation Makes Compelling Business Benefits
From both a customer and Service Desk point of view this data integrity is a major benefit. With access to one central set of data, information can be updated in real-time, which means customer changes and requests are dealt with and confirmed on a single call. On a practical basis, operations are streamlined and the elimination of duplicate handling of data saves considerable time.
With greater visibility (subject to security controls and permissions) data can be viewed organisation-wide – by sales, accounts or operations - rather than residing in numerous silos where it is difficult to access. In addition, audit trails and comprehensive reporting support queries and better informed decision making.
Winning Solutions That Win Customers
With seamless connections between sales, support and accounts, customers are assured of a swift and actionable response. The customer feels loved, that their business is valued and has confidence that the repair/ replacement or changes requested will be actioned.
In addition, with the right information to hand, agents handling customer calls are empowered to act. With the right information, they may be able to offer a disgruntled customer an early upgrade or additional benefits (for example more data) to their contract, thereby retaining a customer who otherwise might have been lost.
Such processes and workflows ensure that key activities are carried out to meet customer delivery expectations or repair timelines ensuring that Service Level Agreements can be adhered to and costly penalties avoided.
However, it’s not just about current customers. A savvy SP can also extend the use of a Service Desk platform to provide a pipeline for new business. A request for help or new product or service can be logged within the system and tracked through to resolution. This enables a company to see what potential new business is coming as well as the likely timescales and then prepare accordingly.
The question is not whether an SP should be focusing on customer experience but how. And with a choice of technology platforms that can support operations and deliver the important metrics and service, now is the time to act.
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About Sunrise Software:
Sunrise was founded in 1994 and is an independent provider of Service Management solutions for internal and external facing IT service operations. In 2003 they launched Sostenuto, a process driven, entirely browser based solution. Their customer base includes blue chip and public sector organisations.
Published: Thursday, June 25, 2015