Challenges in Customer Service Management

2020 . 01 . 13

 

Who is this article for? You get the most value of this article if your company is already using ServiceNow platform for IT or HR or any other inter-company function and at the same time, you are considering using the platform for supporting your customers or consumers.

About ServiceNow Customer Service Management

ServiceNow (NOW) Customer Service Management (CSM) is an application built and supported by ServiceNow on the ServiceNow platform. The purpose of this application is to provide service to external customers of your organisation. Example would be a mobile device manufacturer, which has various communication channels such as website, email or helpdesks, through which they provide support to their customers for the devices they sell. 

All of these communication channels (and more such as chat with a bot or a real person) can be supported or in case of web application even built with NOW platform. There are many advantages the platform offers, to name just a few:

  • Great workflow engine which is now being rethinked as Flow Designer
  • Powerful integration engine, again currently reworked as Integration Hub
  • Form system which is easy to use and to customize
  • Ability to do a lot without any coding and when that is not enough, ability to write Javascript code to achieve almost anything
  • Great track record of stability and performance, even compared to other leading SaaS
  • Very good upgradability
  • Great support

However, there are some specific challenges to Customer Service Management, which are not a result of the particular implementation of this functionality on ServiceNow platform. The important distinction between IT Service Management or HR Service Management on one hand and Customer Service Management on the other is the Customer. Whereas in other service management areas the customer is actually internal, an employee or maybe a contractor, in CSM the customer is a person or company buying your products or services. All the challenges listed below stem from this important difference.

User experience is the key

While it is true that enterprise applications are quickly catching up in terms of user experience with customer oriented applications, with Customer Service Management your benchmark should not be SAP or Salesforce, but Google or Amazon instead. I am of course not saying that you have to have the budget or the need to compete with Google or Amazon, however the goal of CSM is simply different to other areas ServiceNow platform is usually used. While in ITSM your goal might be to make sure your IT organisation runs as smoothly as possible, or to optimize your costs related to IT operations, in CSM your aim must be to provide the best service to your customers.

Unlike with intra-company systems, where users are employees and simply have to use them even though they are not satisfied with them, your customers usually have a lot of choices and if your user experience is poor, they simply move to your competitors eventually.

Another reason why user experience is extremely important is that your customer facing channels must be as easy to use as possible. Unlike in enterprise systems, you most probably cannot distribute guides or give trainings to your customers. The design therefore must be simple and intuitive.

Diverse communication channels

What communication channels are supported by the average enterprise system? My guess is email and a simple web portal. With CSM, you should strive to support a lot more. The centerpoint should be the Customer Service Portal, which is a responsive web application. Email is still in use, especially for notifications, therefore it cannot be left out. However, you should strive to maximize usage of self service over email, because self service can be scaled. CSM portal also supports chat and chatbot and ServiceNow platform can be integrated with social media.

Necessity for advanced testing

I don’t think intra-company software should be riddled with bugs, however I argue that delivering a bug-free solution in CSM space is absolutely necessary. The simple reason is that in my experience, external users are far less likely to report a bug than internal users. I have a couple of theories why that is true. Internal users always need the software for their work, therefore they have a stake in reporting and resolving a bug. Also, your employees probably tend to be more willing to help you (reporting bug is actually doing testing of your software for free) than externals. If your CSM application is buggy, your customers will simply leave or if you are lucky, they will mock your support system on Twitter (even though this is not a great PR, at least you will find out about the bug).

Another aspect of quality is the performance of the system. As with user experience, the performance is improving in all parts of IT industry. However, unlike with enterprise systems, where slow applications are something you need to learn to live with, worse than average performance of a CSM system should be a bug with high priority. As performance is subjective and users don’t usually report it, there has to be an automatic performance monitoring in place.

Ownership of CSM solution

Finding the correct person in an organisation to be the sponsor of any project is undoubtedly important and not always easy. In my opinion, it is even more difficult for CSM projects. Customer service, from its definition, goes across multiple traditional departments, such as end-user support, product management, sales, marketing or legal. There is a new role, called Customer Journey manager, which should be involved in CSM projects. However at the moment of writing this article (beginning of 2020), it is not widespread.

Data protection and privacy

General Data Protection Regulation, known as GDPR, came into effect in the middle of 2018. At the moment it applies to European Union only, however there are voices in the US that want to harmonize the legislation. I personally believe that the impact of this legislation will be higher in the long-term. New implementations will always have a set of requirements to ensure compliance with GDPR. Since CSM will always be a customer facing application potentially storing significant amounts of personal data and metadata, the requirements will be more stringent compared to enterprise systems.

Different pace of innovation

For enterprise software, it is not uncommon that the solution is in “keeping the lights on” mode. Or it is still supported, but no new features are in development. This will never be the case with CSM application. The rapid pace of innovation of your competitors will pressure you to innovate as well. This will become a challenge, because what is the average release cycle of an enterprise software nowadays? I believe it is not much less than 6 months, which might be the release cycle for your ERP.

It is probably not necessary to deploy 50 times a day, however a release cycle should be less than a month. This requires different organisation of work, different types of resources you use to do the development and using advanced tools such as automated testing and automated deployments.

In conclusion, Customer Service Management is significantly different from other service management areas. All the challenges this article lists have a common solution. Before you start considering implementation of CSM in ServiceNow, you have to be aware that you need different skills and experience in your team. You still need developers experienced with ServiceNow, but they should also be aware of the latest trends in the development of customer facing applications, like automated testing or latest frontend frameworks.

Petr Smejkal is a Lead Consultant with experience in platform development. He is accustomed to challenging projects in an international environment. His business background allows him to see the requirements in a broader perspective. This, in combination with his technical skills and passion for development, makes him strive for perfection.

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