About 10 years ago, a service and support leader of a consumer product at a global technology company was tasked with reducing cost without harming experience -- a familiar pair of requests for service and support leaders in every industry.
The solution to this leader’s challenge was nothing short of dramatic: Eliminate a live service channel -- specifically, email. The leader was so confident in this bold move that he staked his career on the success of the approach.
Did it work?
Within two years of halting email as a support option, while ramping up web self-service and the visibility of customer forums, the company had realized tens of millions of dollars in savings. They also saw a slight bump up in customer service experience, all while slightly decreasing live contact volume.
One of the keys to the success of this approach? Knowing where to divest and invest in technology. Ten years later, this still holds true. But with countless technologies, capabilities, systems and tools emerging for service and support leaders to investigate and invest in, where should they begin?
To help navigate the increasingly complex technology landscape, Gartner conducted a 2018 Technology Roadmap Survey among 452 service and support leaders to determine which technologies they are exploring, abandoning and investing in for the future. I've highlighted a few of the significant discoveries and offered insights for each.
Sitting on the sidelines isn’t an (intelligent) option
Some service and support service organizations follow a “first follower” approach to technology investments, meaning they’ll wait until other organizations have invested and tested the usefulness of a technology before making the investment in their own shop. While this strategy has merit for technologies like email management and workforce management, newer technologies, like bots and virtual customer assistants require companies to test, fail and learn to improve. These, and other similar, technologies are being piloted by nearly 40% of the companies in the survey, and more than two-thirds view the technologies as high-value tools for their function.
Key to getting it right? Start with a modest goal (e.g. password reset) and expect some failure. After all, failures provide you with an opportunity to learn and improve your offering. Just make sure to get in the game sooner than later, or you’ll fall behind your peers and competition.
There’s more juice to squeeze
Emerging technologies tend to garner the most press and generate the most excitement, but there are tried-and-true technologies that carry huge weight today and into the future. The usefulness of technologies like knowledge management and dashboards is here and now, and their utility into the future is significant, too. The survey results show that leaders expect the already fully embedded knowledge management to have an even greater level of importance in the future. Plus, 76% of service and support leaders expect dashboard usefulness to be more important in two years than they are today.
Key to getting it right? Recognize that the value of some technologies is great today and even more significant in the future. Knowledge management is most successful when the process from knowledge creation to implementation is applied consistently, and frontline staff are expected to utilize the resource regularly. And dashboards are evolving into the analytics space -- making them easier to navigate and even more impactful.
Shift away from time-cop tools to engagement-enabling tools
Traditional employee engagement tools like workforce management, and assistance and task management have less future importance than newer tools like metrics and recognition, and voice of the employee (VoE) tools, according to the survey respondents. Fully one-third of service and support leaders say their companies are currently piloting or will have a VoE program in place by 2021, and nearly two-thirds of service and support leaders expect the value of VoE programs to be even greater in two years than it is today.
Key to getting it right? Ask your associates and listen to their answers about the entirety of their job. Pretty obvious, right? But how many service and support leaders are listening to associates regularly about all aspects of the job, including the tools and technologies they use to resolve customer issues? Not nearly enough. The best companies regularly engage their associates to learn about their experiences to create better customer outcomes, and then act on the feedback to make those improvements. Happy associate, happy customer.
The future of technology in the service and support space is growing significantly, and leaders are being tasked with making six- and seven-figure decisions. Knowing the value of these investments and making smart decisions about where to invest and divest will separate the winners from the also-rans.
Pete Slease is a vice president and manager of the Customer Service & Support Leaders team at Gartner