Service technology has come a long way, but what is its role in the modern organisation?
In the beginning
Helpdesk software and contact management software were very much the bleeding edge as little as 15 years ago. The focus, from a vendor perspective, was to encourage companies to move away from spreadsheets and manual process to the shiny new world of automated ticketing and contact databases. Some vendors had distinct applications that were aimed at both markets and in no way sold at cross purposes. My early career years were spent at Goldmine Software Corporation and Bendata – two great examples of the beginnings of what later became the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and IT Service Management (ITSM) markets.
Only a few years later, helpdesk became service desk and began to look at broader IT service and even internal and external service. ITSM was born! Meanwhile, contact management had morphed into full-blown CRM, with far greater complexity and focus on engagement with the sales and marketing functions of the business. This is where the technologies began to converge with the key component being interaction with the customer and the recording of these interactions.
This is not a history lesson
This general outline has already highlighted the customer as the point of convergence for service tech. In recent years, ITSM has developed more niche approaches and been driven by the emergence of best practice frameworks such as ITIL. IT has become more far-reaching in its goals for supplying service and has been breaking down traditional silos in the modern organisation. The advent of cloud-based applications and mobile technology has helped immensely in this area and enabled teams to share data, not just by department but by any location as well. CRM has been an early success story in cloud application terms, and has already persuaded many organisations to make the switch and move away from maintaining their own servers and applications.
Enter customer expectations
A side effect of this move to easier-to-access technology, and the use of such tech to improve the customer experience, has led to the customer being far savvier and more demanding. The importance of managing these increased expectations has led to the emergence of a new kid on the block ̶ Customer Experience (CX). Measuring customer sentiment and the interactions with your business brings a whole new level of insight and enables businesses to make more informed strategic decisions. Once again, though, the focus is the customer, their wants, needs and interactions with you. ITSM has also evolved to cater for the ever-expanding need for service across the enterprise, with many vendors offering Enterprise Service Management (ESM) as a business-wide approach to service. The result is still the same however, the distinct lines between ITSM/ESM, CRM and CX blurring, with data often shared across functions.
Putting yourself in the customers shoes
We have already established that the customer is more tech savvy and therefore more aware of all the interactions they have with you. There is, therefore, a high risk that we are all turning off the customer by engaging with them in an increasingly technological way. Add in marketing automation and the advent of AI and chat bots, and we are heading to a place where it is all about automation. Is this really the right way to treat the customer? Is it how you will want to interact with those you buy goods and services from? The frustration we all feel from automated phone lines with ten options and a seeming inability to “talk to a real person” could end up being the norm for a growing number of touch points with the business.
All this technology is revolutionising the way in which we are able to store information on the customer and how we engage with prospects, customers and partners. The customer journey is a real and necessary process for the success of a modern business, but great care must be taken to use the power of all this technology in the right way. Knowing your customer is the key to how you design all of your service processes and providing an approach with ITSM, CRM, CX and Marketing Automation (MA) that empowers every interaction rather than imposing or overpowering it. If possible, every touch should be unrecognisable as one tech or another as they all feed into the business as a whole. The blurring of the lines between technology sectors is helping with this and the sharing of data between platforms is easier than ever.
Just remember – the customer is always watching and assessing their interactions with you. Put yourself in their shoes and constantly test your processes from their perspective. This way, you will be able to join the dots between your departments and make sure you are using technology to enhance the customer journey rather than damaging it.