The Early Years
I started out my career in the early 1990’s as a desktop support analyst, working to support customers over the phone and face-to-face.This combination of a support analyst being able to provide a service by telephone, but also resolve a query or fix a problem face-to-face, quickly disappeared over the next few years as remote takeover tools and low-cost call centres became the norm.
The emphasis and reliance on service levels from a quantitative perspective became the big reality for a long period of time as the desire to drive down costs was the number one priority (ie average speed of answer, talk time, incident resolved or assigned to a group as quickly as possible).
As a Service Management Product Manager over the last two years, I have been exposed to the evolving market around end-user support, especially in the area of Service Desk and Field Service offerings. I take particular interest in the changes in expectation levels of higher service quality vs low cost offerings, and see an opportunity for all Service Providers and partners if they are able to embrace the shifting demands out there.
Changes Are Afoot!!!
Only very recently has the market started to see a change in attitude towards IT and Enterprise Service, where more organisations are looking to engage with a higher value customer experience for its staff, rather than the reactive, low cost models of the past. This shift confirms that priorities are changing, provided that the resulting employee satisfaction and business productivity reflects the investment.
Today, it is not uncommon for all contracted service levels to be green, but the end user satisfaction is low. This suggests there is a case for re-assessing the value of quantity-based service levels and moving to a more quality-based focus.
Don’t get me wrong, there is still a big market out there for the low cost type service model…..but the tide is changing.
As you will appreciate, much of the drive in this direction has come from the consumerisation of IT that we all experience in our daily lives. As the dividing line between personal and work-based technology has become increasingly blurred, that level of service and functionality needs to be replicated within the work environment.
For example, when we experience a slick service from an Apple Genius Bar or online with Amazon, we feel there is no reason why we should not experience that level of service from our employer and their suppliers.
What Is The Challenge?
The challenge today for some longer-standing service providers is how they try to move away from the historical low-cost IT service model and move into the expanding market that is “value add”.
Some could find it difficult to move into this arena because they are historically setup to cost and build the “budget / reactive” service that has served them well in the past. The existing contact management processes, people and relevant non-integrated tools may not be capable of moving to the full blown automated, proactive service that would set them apart in the developing Value Add market today. The result being they may need to invest heavily in setting up a brand new service, with people, process and tool cost implications before being able to compete.
There is also a danger that without a strong go-to market strategy, the service provider may start to lose its focus on its core services, by offering mixed, weak solutions that neither add value or quality, resulting in an ever increasing loss of market share.
The good news for the newer service providers and associated partners is that they seem to have a better starting position as they have less “historical baggage” with tonnes of flexibility, modern technology baseline and expertise to compete in this relatively new market.
Some of the value add elements that are becoming differentiators in end-user experience of services globally are:
- Technical pit stops – where employees can walk up to ask questions, try new equipment etc.
- Support staff who are not just trained to be technical, but also can sell the company and be customer service orientation
- The use of gamification tools and IT forums to empower end user groups and motivate service provider staff.Bi-directional contact channel management tools that are fully integrated across the enterprise to allow proactive communication between service providers and end users.
- Bi-directional contact channel management tools that are fully integrated across the enterprise to allow proactive communication between service providers and end users.
Service Providers and partners need to be tuned in to this developing demand and be market-ready to provide a high value offering that reflects the expectations of the consumer base today, and gives them a lead in grabbing the market share going forward. The key is listening and watching the market, whilst ensuring the investment in tools, people and process covers all bases that will allow the service provider to be ahead of its competitors in this value add space.