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Article : When Service Is Your Business, Visibility Of Your Customer Information Is Critical
Neil Penny, Product Director at Sunrise Software explains why for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) one Service Desk product never fits all.
When was the last time you set up a mobile phone contract? If it’s been a while, then you may be surprised to know that the options are vast. You choose your phone, work out how many texts you might send, how many calls you might make and how much data you might use. Then, when you think it’s all done, you have to decide on the term of your contract and whether you want device insurance.
Now consider for a second the complexities of providing an effective customer Service Desk to the many thousands of customers who, like you, have their own highly personalised contracts and unique expectations. Complex? Absolutely.
This is an issue not simply confined to telecommunications companies, or to companies servicing retail customers. In these highly competitive times, MSPs (Managed Services Providers) in the B2B and consumer focused technology and telecommunications sectors are required to raise their game. Today, the need is for tailored product and service solutions in order to win and retain business and, of course, for effective customer support and service contracts.
This isn’t vanilla customer service - for the technology or telecommunications customer, it’s complex and it’s personal. If you’re in the MSP sector, then you will know only too well that managing diverse service contracts with attendant customer hierarchies and billing structures is complex. You need to be able to manage multiple Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and back-to-back third party agreements, and you need to be able to correctly catalogue all your products and services, keeping track of entitlements, renewals, credits, penalties and terminations.
There’s no "one size fits all" when it comes to effective support. There are many similarities between companies in the MSP sector, you all need incident management, customer contact details and SLAs. You all need access to technical details, such as product/parts information, service catalogues, and third party supplier contracts. But how you manage this information is quite unique. So too then, are your requirements from a Service Desk product to support this business critical area.
Most MSPs will have looked for software to manage all of this and correctly come to the conclusion that due to the sheer scale of the requirement, there simply isn’t the perfect solution out there. Field service management solutions manage calendars and job allocation very well, but they don’t do the complicated stuff like managing contracts, service catalogues and alerting when penalties are due.
What MSPs really need is a system with an ITIL(R) (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) background from a software vendor that understands their specific requirements and speaks the same language. Not for nothing is ITIL, now in its third iteration globally recognised as the standard by which to manage IT. Given that IT departments within large organisations are effectively acting as an MSP to the business, it makes sense that the solutions they use to manage customer service would be a good basis for a solution suitable for MSPs managing external customers. It is important that the base product is comprehensive enough to deliver all the standard functions with plenty of flexibility to also provide the unique functionality that each MSP requires.
Take Endava, for example, a company that delivers full project lifecycles, from application delivery and testing through to support, hosting and managed services for some of the world’s leading companies. This customer list includes pension corporations, who need their IT systems to provide accurate information one hundred percent of the time. There is no room for error. With such critical functions at stake, a failure to meet service level agreements can result in severe penalties.
In such a dynamic environment, the expectations placed on each and every department are high. Delivering an effective service to customers is top of the agenda across the whole company and in particular its Service Management operation.
It’s safe to say that, in the MSP arena, customer service is a key capability that is high on the Board Room agenda. So much so that, in 2012, more US companies were appointing Vice Presidents of Customer Experience than any other role - a notion further substantiated by an Institute of Customer Service report earlier this year, which valued the true cost of bad customer service at a staggering £10.5 billion per year in the UK alone.
While many companies talk about providing great customer service, for organisations providing tech products and service the depths of information required in order to provide a joined up response require a step change in Service Desk software. One company that understands this only too well is Mobile Workforce Management company Cognito. They are in the business of helping organisations to deliver good customer service, so their own customer service team has to be at the top of their game.
The company's solutions enable organisations to deliver consistently superior service at a lower cost by using their SaaS Service Delivery Platform. This is integrated with handheld applications to operate intelligent workflow, scheduling, tracking, parts management and reporting capabilities. It also ensures that their customers’ back-office systems can be updated in real-time. With each customer having a unique solution, this MSP’s customer service team need to have a rich seam of information to hand, as well as all the standard functions required to respond effectively and knowledgeably if they are to ensure that their own customer service experience is a positive one.
In addition to these two examples, we are fortunate to be working with a wide range of MSPs including Callstream, ANS Group, UKN Group and Cobweb. Each has their own unique blend of products and services, and a broad spectrum of customers to support. The one thing that they do have in common though is their absolute need to have all the right technical and often multi-tier service contract information to hand in order to provide effective customer service - whether by phone, email, online or even in the field at a customer site.
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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: Monday, March 2, 2015