As far as customer service technology is concerned, I guess if someone could add up the bill for what’s been spent in the last decade, it would be eye popping.
Maybe not as large as the current UK national debt but still a number with a long tail of zeros! So an outsider could be forgiven for assuming things are working pretty well. After all, hospitals have some pretty amazing high tech stuff and do wonderful things with it. The awesome images that ping back from deep space confirm we can make our technology perform in extreme conditions. Even your average iphone user feels the force and does technology better than they ever expected of themselves.
So why does Customer Service technology spoil the party and win so few friends? Is it really that much more difficult?
Best Practices For Successfully Buying Technology
I’m currently helping a company try and sidestep that booby trap. And while the issues are fresh and still rattling around, I thought I’d pass on a few of the insights in that classic format: the checklist
- Ignore The Tender Process As Long As Possible The traditional tender process serves neither customer nor vendor very well. As a form of communication that effectively answers a customer’s set of requirements, both sides are usually at fault for sloppy thinking, cut ‘n paste template filling and virtually no contextual information. Therefore invite vendors to participate in more authentic ways that allow both sides to effectively listen, learn and help each other
- Go Much Deeper Into The Detail Of What’s Needed. Define the old workflow and its problems, then do the same for the new. But make sure it has enough granularity to allow you to compare one vendor solution with another. You will find they are not all equal and solve operational needs differently. Until you have the detail you will be guessing.
- Technology Does Not Deliver ROI. Transformed Workflows Do. Unless you change the way people work for the better, which in the world of Customer Service normally is based on greater effectiveness and better stakeholder experiences, you will be slapping a fancy level of automation over the same old same old. Result? No change or possibly even worse than before.
- Ensure Managers Commit To Facilitating The New Workflow. Too many times internal customers passively expect the benefits to flow and naturally curse I.T. into the 5th dimension and beyond when nothing right turns up. New workflows need consciously planned timetables, underpinned by targets and operational management commitment. Again this is best negotiated into next year’s business plan before vendors even get a whiff of what you are up to.
- Only Buy What’s On Your Shopping List. It has to be said, the conversation between vendors and customers borders on the surreal. The gap between what is promoted as the ‘now’ technology and what actually ends up being bought can have a 10 year time lag. What’s the point? A dose of hyperbole to sound your best is fine, but to race so far ahead of customers is kind of…
- Get Proof Of Concept Ticked Off Before Asking For Inch Thick Tenders. Before wasting everyone time and over exciting vendors’ CRM pipelines, find out for sure how close their solution fits your detailed description of operational needs. Get the respective technical communities to workshop and jointly plan it out before the sales team and executive charm offensive click into gear and build up the pressure for an early decision. No solution will be perfect. So what you want to know if where you are going to need to compromise and what that does to the ROI. If needed, offer to pay for the detailed planning. If they won’t play at all, that tells you something useful too.
One Last Lesson Learnt – Most Will Fail. Can You Avoid That?
My final point is more mindset than activity. It goes like this.
Since what you are reading is just a checklist in a blog far, far away from where you actually work, these ideas can be all too easy to agree with or mocked as unrealistic. But hear this. All too often I’ve watched brands buy and then ruefully reflect on lessons learnt. And sadly in the majority of cases, it boils down to this simple truth. Everyone’s too busy to make it work.
I won’t run salt in the wounds renaming names but the most recent example of this exploding into the public domain, resulted in a $400m cheque in damages for getting it wrong. I can assure you they are not the first nor will be the last.
I repeat my point. Most of us are all too busy to do anything but fail. Admittedly for understandable reasons but great explanations don’t change outcomes! If you are ever been involved in the purchasing of technology in a large organisation, this set of examples will be familiar.
- You know all about the trials of diary management and trying to get the right people thinking long enough about the detail of the new workflows
- Likewise you know that the many changes to ‘how we do this now’ will always take too long to be understood at policy level and receive a considered response in return
- You also suspect that the integrity of the tender process will be comprised anyway because new deadlines with lighted fuses are set off, which only the bravest ignore. No time for doing it right
So yes, there are plenty of reasons why failure is often a pre-determined outcome early on. But hey, the health industry, the space industry and the consumer electronic industry have shown how it can be done. It just needs fresh imagination and a determination to stay away from blackholes.
So make a note to your future self. Maybe you can stop the rot and lead the charge for the Customer Service Industry next time the opportunity to go technology shopping comes around.