Recently, I interviewed John Ragsdale, VP of technology and social research for the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) about his recommendations for improving self-service. In that post, I mentioned the Support Services Technology Stack Report by John and his colleagues, Michelle Latorre-Illman and Judith Platz, which defines the 16 technology categories relevant to support services and the top vendors in each category.

In part two of my interview with John, we discuss the role of technology in customer service delivery and the three things customer support leaders should consider when making technology investment decisions.  

Mike: What role does technology play in improving service quality or the customer experience?

John: Support operations track a lot of metrics, and some metrics are more closely linked to quality and experience metrics such as customer satisfaction, loyalty and customer effort. For example, TSIA data has shown that companies with the highest first contact resolution tend to also have the highest CSAT scores. A recent case study presented at a TSW event showed that the lower the customer effort, the higher the loyalty score, and the more projects purchased by the customer.

In the parlance of customer effort scores, technology reduces “friction points” for customers. That could mean reducing hold times, boosting first contact resolution rates, or making it easier to find content on a self-service website. New technology projects need to be evaluated on the basis of how they impact the lives of employees as well as the impacts to the customer. Personally, I’d put any technology project with a clear link to reducing customer effort on the priority list.

Mike: What are the three things you recommend customer support leaders do when making their technology investment decisions?

John: Many of my member conversations are after an operational benchmark review, when a company discovers that they have some areas of their business in which they are behind their peer group, and are interested in investing in technology to boost productivity, improve margins and/or revenue, or increase customer satisfaction, loyalty or customer effort scores. Clearly “boiling the ocean” with too many technology projects at one time is a recipe for disaster, so I typically recommend companies prioritize technology investments along these lines:

  • What is the intended ROI? Of course you want to tackle the project with the biggest upside, but the larger the anticipated ROI, usually the larger and more complex the project is. Prioritizing big ROI projects along with smaller ROI projects can help you focus your efforts without overwhelming IT and employees.
  • How big of a cultural change is involved? Maybe you are introducing a technology to take an existing successful program to the next level, but often technology projects require big overhauls to processes and people. If a project is going to require major change management, it should be during a less-busy time of the year, and not at the same time as other projects requiring shifts in processes. If you do too much at once, employees will become overwhelmed, and the projects will take longer to complete and may have a slower ROI curve.
  • How will the project benefit the employees? Too often companies focus on the ROI for the company. But how does the project benefit individual employees? Is it reducing boring, repetitive tasks? Is it freeing them up to work on more interesting projects? Will it help them solve customer problems faster, raising their CSAT average and giving them a bigger bonus? When launching a new technology project, be sure you can clearly articulate what’s in it for the employees. And if you can’t find a clear benefit for the employees, that may not be the first project you want to take on.

For more great insights from John, check out his blog posts on the TSIA Blog.