Manage your service delivery

The ability to provide stellar service is more difficult than you'd think, especially as businesses grow. Implementing the right technology to manage the process is key to providing a consistently high standard of service - both to customers and within the business itself.

Johannesburg, 15 Feb 2019
Read time 7min 00sec
Leon Swarts, MD of Taulite.
Leon Swarts, MD of Taulite.

The ability to provide stellar service is more difficult than you'd think, especially as businesses grow. Implementing the right technology to manage the process is key to providing a consistently high standard of service, both to customers and within the business itself.

Leon Swarts, managing director of Taulite, says: "Service management within a business is about customer experience; you must have adequate capacity, and the ability to scale with the business, enabling it to deliver a timely and quality service.

"It's no longer sufficient to just have a support team that reacts to e-mails or phone calls. This old-school approach to service requests isn't good for business or customer experience; it also doesn't result in good customer service."

Customer experience

It's essential that the business has visibility into the support or service management function in terms of opened requests, closed requests, service-level agreement (SLA) parameters, individual performance and team performance. Over and above using the resulting data to calculate ROI, it will also assist the business to constantly improve service to the customer; for example, by being able to provide regular and accurate updates on the status of their issue via their choice of communication, whether it be voice, e-mail, SMS or Whatsapp.

Swarts says: "Customer experience is as important as delivering on service requests. It is quite possible to deliver on service requests, but without aligned expectations set by SLAs or relevant notifications regarding progress, the customer experience can be negative, even though your staff are delivering on the request. It's all about setting and meeting expectations and empowering customers to have a say in what they get and when they get it.

"You have to empower customers to access your service on the platform of their choice at a time of their choosing so that you can respond more quickly with useful information - and even empowering them to resolve their own issues, where possible. Speed of resolution is everything."

Do you have capacity?

"Service and support capacity is also important, as is maintaining that capacity. It must be possible to introduce new teams, to add more people to existing teams, and to efficiently onboard all relevant parties to the current processes and systems and infrastructure."

The value of an engaged team that is collaborating and actively resolving issues cannot be over-estimated. Swarts elaborates: "Non-collaborative teams that don't share knowledge very quickly reach a ceiling that limits their capacity to deliver."

Can you scale?

Swarts says in order to be able to scale support services to meet demand, businesses need to build a knowledge base of devices and other infrastructure that require support, including where everything is located and how it can be accessed.

They also need to establish processes around how to handle requests of all types, from requests for IT support, to an alarm being triggered, to an internal configuration request.

The ability to share knowledge, also referred to as democratising information, is key to empowering support teams to resolve challenges more quickly and efficiently. The use of crowd sourcing and peer support to address problem-solving have become popular and successful methodologies that enable people to collaborate on solutions across the organisation.

The right data in the right place

Service management tools capture and integrate information throughout the service process and make it available when and where it's needed in the business and to the customer. The ability to deal with and coordinate many business units with differing priorities is key.

Implementing a comprehensive service management tool digitally transforms service management in the business by automating key elements, from discovering infrastructure and software in the business, to automatically notifying and communicating with relevant internal and external stakeholders where required.

All of this is enabled through the use of technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and automatic discovery.

Is your service timely and of good quality?

To ensure you deliver service that is timely and of a good quality, the business needs to be aware of what requests are being logged, how long each request takes to resolve and what is outstanding. Reporting and SLAs are critical to enable the business to identify capacity issues and make decisions on where it needs to scale in order to meet - or exceed - the service requirements.

Service management internally

He goes on to say: "Service management is as important internally to your employees as it is externally to your customers. Companies often only think about providing a good service to customers and neglect service management internally. Internal service management covers day-to-day challenges like being able to print, send or receive e-mail, being able to access knowledge systems, giving employees access to the necessary tools, ordering new hardware, and ensuring these issues are dealt with efficiently, thereby streamlining the service delivery process. This increases staff morale and gives staff more time to think about the customer instead of their own internal issues."

Empowered stakeholders

Going digital is a no-brainer for today's enterprises. Customers and workforce alike have access to electronic devices wherever and whenever. People are accustomed to communicating digitally on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and want their interactions with businesses to be as instantaneous and accessible.

Swarts says: "It's about empowering stakeholders to have access to the right information at the right time and communicating with them in a social, more informal manner that doesn't require them to fill in a form if they wish to interact with you. Enabling this type of less structured interaction will vastly improve customer experience and workforce productivity. You need to talk to people on the platform of their choosing at the time of their choosing."

Key to this is enabling communication that is without rigid form or structure. Social media communication is less formal and more interactive, even direct communication is becoming more relaxed and less structured. "Just because you use a relational database doesn't mean you must communicate in tables or forms with your customer," says Swarts.

Measuring ROI

Bearing in mind the need to maximise budgets and realise return on investment (ROI) on purchased products, businesses should choose service management tools that are invoiced on either a capex or opex model, depending on whether they're on-premises, in the cloud, on a perpetual licence or based on a subscription model. The latter has the added benefit of enabling the business to dispose of local infrastructure and use cloud-based options instead.

Deciding between the various options, says Swarts, is dependent on the business's strategy in terms of infrastructure and capital investment compared to operational expenditure. However, working out ROI goes beyond the initial investment because it requires visibility into your processes and how efficient they are. "You need to be able to measure your capacity for servicing requests, your ability to scale quickly, and the overall customer experience, if you want to calculate your return on investment."

Choosing a partner

It all comes down to support, implementation and training, says Swarts. "You need a partner that can make your processes work, assist in reporting on the right performance indicators and, most importantly, not end up with a solution that you can't use to its full potential. You have to remember that small systems deliver the basics. However, large and expensive systems will also only deliver the basics if you don't invest in training, proper implementation and support. Without these three key elements, you won't generate the required return or efficiency improvements for that investment."