New Ways of Working – Same Old Support?


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The pandemic continues to change the way people work. Leading up to the “big resign” as people began to decide how they wanted to work, enterprises of every size needed to rethink how they deliver support for hybrid and WFH and remote work choices. The great news is that the technology is there to support flexible digital delivery—the bad news is that too many organizations are trying to do business the way they always have.

Look at this situation: a government agency with a paper-based process that is no longer keeping their citizen-facing operations open. The only way to engage is to fax in a specific form. The workers who process the forms and answer the phones are working remotely. There is one person who goes into the office on a part-time basis to index the fax entries and distributes them into the workers’ queues. Service level agreement? Fourteen days to confirm receipt of the fax.

The pandemic has led to two negative service experiences:

  • People continue to operate manually even though remote work cannot support it
  • Call centers and other customer-facing operations are still running lean even though there are ways for them to provide the support levels they used to

There are different solutions for each of these ranging from the introduction of fully digital processes to creating working environments and pay scales that make it easier to get people, but so many people resist the change that’s needed.

Resistance is futile!

The way we work has changed, customer expectations have changed, and resistance will only cause the death of the empire! It’s time to get creative and re-imagine what service and support can look like if the tools and technology available for the last several years were actually put into use.

What should support look like now?

Regardless of the industry or the type of support, internal or external, organizations need to change the way they provide support. There are several key factors to consider:

  • Omni-channel support and customer/employee journeys: every customer or employee will choose the support journey that best suits them, and stopping them from doing so impacts their support experience.
    • Enable the people who like the phone to get support.
    • Make it possible for digital lovers to get online support. Ensure all operations can be done digitally or manually.
    • Provide face-to-face, on-demand opportunities (yes, even internally)

Enable your customer to choose the journey that works for them, even if it means someone creates the digital records on their behalf.

  • Automate all support operations: That fax machine issue? Easily fixed with an e-fax solution that can be managed remotely. If all office operations are shut down, manual processes require automation immediately. As staff shortages occur, automating repetitive and manual uninteresting work enables leads to more engaged employees as their work becomes more valuable. There are many areas in which these opportunities show up:
    • Chatbots, virtual chat via channels like Slack or MS Teams backed with a solid knowledge base enable people to find answers for known issues. Automated escalation to a human offers acceptable support experiences when an exception is encountered, driving more people to use automated solutions.
    • Providing true self-service via a portal with an app store and self-healing diagnostic tools offers a digital solution for those interested, leaving phone support available to those who prefer it.
    • Artificial intelligence and machine learning, combined with automated IVRs and good configuration management, could enable automated device troubleshooting and repair for devices on a provider’s network. Just as a cable provider can troubleshoot and reboot a box remotely, imaging reading error logs off the caller’s PC and using predictive intelligence to select and run an automated repair script!
  • Up your customer experience game: Open the customer-facing stores and offices back up with suitable safety protocols in place.
    • Think about what support looks like in a hybrid office situation. While remote workers will require hardware replacements shipped to the home, the hybrid scenario offers its own opportunities. Concierge desks, lockers, and vending machines make it possible for employees to interact with providers when they are in the office. This eliminates the challenge of logging a ticket only to be home when support drops by their desk.
    • These solutions are not just for IT. Lockers can be used to pick up print jobs, office supplies, and other non-IT items. Vending machines can offer common supplies and accessories for purchase against a department’s budget. All service providers need to be more creative.

Today’s support model expectation is now immediate, on-demand, anytime, anywhere.

The importance of investing in change

There’s a tremendous business value to investing in the tools needed to adjust support to this model, primarily in employee/customer satisfaction and retention and money saved through decreased downtime and increased support staff scalability.

The automated solutions discussed here not only offer improved support channels but also enable people to get back in operation more quickly, making them more effective at work or making customers sing your praises. It’s no longer good enough to say “but COVID.” By now, new solutions that bring support experience levels up are expected.

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Phyllis Drucker

Phyllis Drucker

Phyllis is an innovative and focused professional with more than 20 years of experience in Business/IT Strategy, Enterprise service management, governance, customer service and support, ITSM tool implementation, HR automation and team building. After more than 20 years in the support industry, she is taking her thought leadership out to the community by focusing on writing and speaking. In addition to her activities as a blogger, she's a published author and her book “Service Management Online: Creating a Successful Service Request Catalog” is available through TSO. She's also an experienced international speaker, having delivered keynotes and conference breakout sessions since her first speaking engagement in 1997. You can follow Phyllis on Facebook, Linked In and Twitter or visit her website