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Changed expectations expose weaknesses in customer service and ITSM platforms

(Image credit: Image Credit: M247)

With the UK and Ireland now recovering from the end of Covid-19 restrictions, optimizing customer experience has become critical to growth. So too has the end-user experience for employees because the two are interlinked. We are certainly in the experience economy. 

Employees and consumers now expect slick interactions that give them the outcomes they want quickly and with minimal disruption. This is as true for a customer sorting out their broadband contract through a contact center as it is for the embattled agent seeking to help them. The increase in hybrid working, the surge in online retail and remote provision of many professional services means more organizations than ever are under pressure to ensure employees and the technology they rely on are fully supported and optimized. 

Organizations must adapt to changes in customer behavior. The McKinsey Consumer Pulse survey, for example, found roughly three-quarters of people who were first-time users of digital channels during Covid said they would carry on using them. Younger consumers especially, want to expedite their purchases or obtain a resolution to queries quickly across any channel, using a chatbot if it makes it easier to get things done. On the other hand, senior employees working from home or offering online consultancy to clients do not want to be stymied by faltering hardware or problems with systems access and log-ins. 

Maintaining, updating and upgrading all the IT behind these use cases and thousands more is increasingly demanding because of the complications of more dispersed workforces, the growth of SaaS applications and the need to use technology to increase competitiveness. Statista research in 2020, found that organizations with more than 1,000 employees were using around 177 software as a service (SaaS) applications, for example.

But all too frequently, the customer service and ITSM software platforms that ensure employees are as efficient as possible fail to live up to their billing. Supposedly loaded with value, they hold out the promise of easy integration with multiple applications and quick access to the power of AI. 

Weak integration

In reality, the complexity of customer engagement and ITSM platforms often means they struggle to deliver on their full potential. They frequently take months to implement, require significant training and still provide a sub-standard user experience for the customer, agent or IT professional. Maintaining them requires the time of IT professionals that could be better focused on more strategic tasks. 

While many customer service and ITSM platforms may supposedly offer access to AI and machine learning to help analyze and resolve tickets or streamline contact center performance, the user experience is often undermined by weak integration. For the end-user it means frustration and for the consumer, it reduces the likelihood of a friction-free experience across all channels, which is bad news for customer loyalty. Consumers only give brands a handful of chances before they go elsewhere. A customer is four times more likely to switch brands if they face a service-based problem, according to management consultancy Bain & Co.

This all frustrates the aims of many enterprises in the battle for competitiveness and increased efficiency as economies bounce back from the pandemic. Research for the IBM Institute for Business Value shows how customer experience has become such a high priority for businesses. This found 84 percent of executives planned to prioritize customer experience management in the wake of Covid, compared with 35 percent more than two years ago. Six in ten (60 percent) plan to use AI-based customer engagement tools.

They should remind themselves how poorly performing customer engagement and ITSM platforms lead to a proliferation of work about work, which drags down everyone’s performance as employees spend time trying to find the right information, moving between multiple applications.  

Those dissatisfied end-users include senior members of staff who are likely to look for quick answers from hard-pressed IT managers. When metrics show customer-facing employees to be performing below expectations or behind competitors the urgency for improvement quickly mounts. 

Employees using clumsily coordinated applications in contact centers are often crying out for more intelligent tools to assist them in answering customer queries more quickly and more accurately. What IT managers need is access to more comprehensive platforms that are more intuitive and have much easier integration with all the best applications while offering simpler access to AI.

In contact centers, agents need AI-powered applications to surface consumers’ details and histories quickly so they can get on with resolving their requests and avoid causing irritation by asking for repetition of information or putting callers on hold for long periods. AI and its machine learning component can be the help on their shoulder, providing rapid access to relevant information about services, accounts and the latest updates about the product or service their company provides.

New approaches offer better performance

The newer cloud-based products have these capabilities and can deliver value much more rapidly through ease of implementation that requires weeks rather than several months. With eco-systems of thousands of applications, simplified interconnections and quickly accomplished AI integrations, companies can quickly see the benefits – especially in customer experience. Better integration enables organizations to replace multiple platforms across customer experience and IT management with a single interface.

In customer service, agents can more efficiently work through their tickets because of the ease of switching between channels, enabling them to have a better overview of customer requirements and the status of queries. Admins can streamline team management and consolidate reporting across all support channels from one unified platform. AI is in-built in these platforms, rather than an after-thought. 

In ITSM, AI and machine learning analyze tickets and provides resolution of simpler queries with little or no human intervention. Across customer service and ITSM, chatbots provide resolution and information, freeing up the time of agents and IT support employees. End-users can obtain support via multiple channels such as email, a self-service portal, mobile apps, by phone or via a chatbot and feedback widgets. Workflow automation prioritizes tickets and is capable of analyzing historical data to establish trends and assist with categorization. 

As businesses look to move forward after the worst of the pandemic, they need to reassess their service desk platforms to improve the customer experience across all channels and provide better support to their frontline staff. Excelling in the era of growth and rapid change following the last 16 months of stagnation requires organizations to advance digitization and look at new tools to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Mark Twomey, CEO, Xcession

Mark Twomey is CEO at Xcession. Mark is a highly skilled ITSM expert. He has designed and managed some of the largest ITSM systems and implementations. He is an experienced Professional Services Manager and Solution Architect with a demonstrated history of working in the service management industry.