This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of CUSTOMER Magazine.
Something radical is happening. As entrepreneur Marc Andreessen says, software is eating the world. From Netflix and Hulu (News - Alert) to home security and heating systems, from smog tests to doctor’s blood tests, the globe is being invaded by an entirely wired and programmed flow of easily accessible data and online decision-making tools. As software bites off greater chunks of work and home, there’s a corresponding hunger for tech support. Proliferating programs and cloud-connected devices cry out for the helping hand of IT help desks and customer contact centers. Employees and customers expect and depend on companies to make their software, programs and apps work and keep working.
What To Do?
It’s time for companies to rethink how they deliver support to their employees and customers with their proliferating desktops, mobile devices and apps. Support organizations must re-envision how they keep networks up and running while replacing a raft of legacy support tools with new, effective cloud-based technologies. Streamlining work processes, avoiding pointless complexity and reducing support costs are probably some of your major goals in 2013. Providing quick issue resolution that is consistently pleasant, seamless and trouble-free is really the new marketing for companies. A live, shared-screen support session is uniquely intimate and immediate. To some end users, it seems like magic. Deliver a remarkable support experience like this and your company can out-support the competition. It’s a guaranteed way to help satisfy customers, retain them and ensure repeat sales. For your employees, it’s all about ensuring they are always connected and productive.
Dwindling Resources, Increasing Demands
Like a tidal wave, the demand for support is intensifying as support is increasingly deemed strategically significant for the business. One small problem: Since the onset of the recession in 2008, manpower and money for support have dwindled. Even now with a recovering economy, IDC (News - Alert) reports that renewed spending first goes to IT projects directed at generating competitive advantages and ensuring business agility. Funds for support remain flat or worse. Both internal support of employees and external support of customers are hammered by a lack of resources. For both, the stress is on efficiency, accomplishing more with less. “Because of this,” IDC reports, “support professionals should continue to demand products like clientless remote support tools, as they ultimately drive efficiency.”
Internal and external support share a common strategic imperative to service and satisfy clients. This is a key driver of convergence: Help desks and contact centers are beginning to mirror each other. Both are adopting the means and measures that through trial and error (and, yes, some debate) have proven to be essential to elevating the satisfaction of end users. Those techniques include first-contact resolution, reduction in call-handling times, easy access to self service and, of course, the surefire tool for efficiently resolving issues: next-generation integrated support tools. Help desk managers and service center directors find their job descriptions aligned in staying on top of tech trends to identify new tactics or tools that might reduce the strain on support. In this context, a dominant trend in the industry is the replacement of legacy systems with cloud-based, integrated solutions that present an easy-to-use interface on one pane of glass.
In a just-released Technology Spotlight, sponsored by Citrix, industry analysts at IDC endorsed this shift to consolidated cloud-based toolsets. The Technology Spotlight details how unified toolsets “enable support teams to be more efficient and effective in delivering their services.” Such integrated solutions, IDC noted, are “increasingly being used by IT and by groups that provide support to external customers.”
The Case of Vertex
Vertex Inc. is a great example of a company that is experiencing first-hand the convergence trend in its contact center operations. A global leader in tax technology, Vertex software helps the vast majority of Fortune 1000 companies calculate what taxes they owe in every jurisdiction, large or small, throughout the country. The service desk supervisor at Vertex, Casey Neff, says she started using the GoToAssist Remote Support solution initially to resolve issues for staff. Neff told us, “Our employees are so amazed at how quickly we can help them resolve any issues…. Using GoToAssist has made their jobs easier.”
The effectiveness of the tool and the need to deliver sterling service pushed Vertex to take the next step: “We recently expanded usage of GoToAssist to our external customer support team,” Neff says. “GoToAssist also allows us to easily evaluate our client's hardware and software for troubleshooting and to resolve more complex issues.” As Vertex has shown, using the same support tools for delivering internal and external support can be very beneficial to all companies.
Another means to drive efficiency with tech tools has emerged with the multiplication of support channels. The addition of chat, social media and self service all have the virtue of not only catering to the preferences of customers and staff, but also offering lower costs per call.
The Benefits of Seamless Integration
But the ability of these new tech tools to enhance customer and staff satisfaction depends on their seamless integration and accessibility. Ideally all these channels operate as part of a unified cloud-based platform. Self service is the channel users prefer to use, but it also has the lowest customer satisfaction because answers are often not found. By connecting self service seamlessly with a chat session and, when needed, with full hands-on screen sharing, high rates of customer satisfaction are restored. If integrated service is critical to the front-end user interface, it is doubly true of the back end. The essential tool bench for delivering tech support – remote support, ticketing and a self-service knowledge base, along with network monitoring, alerting and inventory management – should be supplied from one integrated toolset. For example, when service desk management is integrated with a remote support tool, support professionals can launch a remote support session directly from an incident ticket. Session notes and recordings are saved back to the ticket and duplicate data entry is eliminated. In addition, the session recording can then be used as the basis for a knowledge-base video, showing support trainees (or even end users) how to fix the problem. Processes and tools should be immediately available to a user without any additional complexity or confusion. Where possible, these processes should be automated. By accessing multiple tools from one easy-to-use interface, support centers can reduce the complexities in their daily work, accelerate efficiency and elevate support.
No wonder IDC recommends the adoption of consolidated technology tools. In its recent Technology Spotlight, IDC explored how delivering multiple support services from one intuitive interface can help drive efficiency and customer satisfaction.
Zooming to the Cloud
Tech research firm Gartner (News - Alert) estimates that 15 percent of IT service support management tools in enterprise IT organizations are currently licensed under the SaaS (News - Alert) model. Gartner states, “We expect this growth to continue, as demonstrated in our client inquiries conducted from June 2011 to June 2012, where organizations looking to acquire new IT service desk/ITSSM tools had SaaS solutions on their shortlists 75 percent of the time.” At the end of the day, IT support and customer support need to be able to assist both people and technology and collaborate in a team-based environment to be at their best. Support is now strategic, and companies must rethink how they provide support to cope with a proliferation of devices and software. Whether their focus is internal, external or both, they need new, more efficient technologies to survive and ensure the productive uptime of their customers and employees.
Elizabeth Cholawsky is vice president and general manager at Citrix (www.citrix.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi