Mobile: the new frontier for self-service

Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Google searches performed on a mobile device outstripped desktop searches (in certain territories), according to figures released last week.

That’s an important milestone in the meteoric use of mobile.

Of course, the searches refer to global use of Google, including consumers searching for the nearest pizza joint, and are not necessarily reflective of enterprise IT – but we all know, since the introduction of the blackberry, iPad and then current smart phones, of the increasing business demands for mobile.

Will your service work on mobile devices? Will it provide a frictionless consumer-like experience, Does it matter who owns the device? And so on.

It doesn’t matter that we’re not delivering consumer services and that we might be delivering services in heavily regulated industries with back-breaking governance hoops to jump through – the demand for mobility and flexibility continue unabated.

Mobility promises the ability to avoid speaking to pesky humans, get things done, keep track and unlock me from the constraints of a physical office.

Avoiding speaking to people is an important point: In terms of human interaction it’s a case of quality over quantity. When I do (occasionally) speak with a human – I want a great customer focussed experience. You’ve only got to look at the growth (or is it a return?) of IT concierge desks resourced with IT staff especially selected for their more extrovert nature to witness this.

The premise: automate as much as possible, help the customer help themselves, if they do need to speak to us, make it a great experience (which doesn’t necessarily mean fixing everything).

With this in mind it has been great to see traditional ITSM providers innovating with mobile.

The future is here, just unevenly distributed

The terms artificial intelligence and augmented reality go hand-in-hand with the Jetsons, self driving cars and the fridge that knows to order more beer and lettuce. But look carefully, and it’s slowly permeating everywhere, including the humble service desk.

Smart-phone owners might be familiar with Apple’s SIRI, Google’s Voice Search or Microsoft’s Cortana as a personal navigator (Voice recognition to intelligent search / actions).  Similarly consumers might be familiar with Word Lens (Image to language translation) or Evernote (handwriting to textual search).

SnapIT from LANDESK promises smartphone image capture to knowledge base lookup. Sharing screenshots or remote sharing with end user customers to identify issues is a staple of the service desk toolkit – but what about cutting out the middle-man and connecting customers directly with help by snapping a picture of the issue on a mobile device?

Direct link to Video

LANDESK have offered this new capability with no extra charge to existing customers. It’s available via iOS, Android or simply via a browser.

I look forward to seeing this and other innovation at the ITSM show next month, we’ll be on stand 723 collecting customer reviews for TOOLSADVISOR.net (think trip advisor meets itsm tools). Come and say hi!

Image Credit

What I learned about IT and DevOps from Gene Kim

Gene Kim presents at itSMF Norway
Gene Kim presents at itSMF Norway

Following on from my trip to itSMF Norway last week, I wanted to share with ITSM Review readers my thoughts on Gene Kim’s presentation “The Phoenix Project: Lessons Learned in Helping Our Businesses Win”, along with some of the key pieces of advice that he presented.

Gene kicked off the first full day of the conference with his keynote presentation about IT and DevOps. If you’re not familiar with his book then I’ll start by highly recommending that you head over to Amazon to purchase a copy. If my recommendation alone isn’t enough to entice you to part with your hard earned cash, then read this article by Gene first.

Gene’s article provides a good summary of his session (along with some great tips), but the bottom line of the presentation was that (and to quote Gene) “IT is in a downward spiral, it’s trapped in a horror movie that keeps playing over and over again” and DevOps is a way to help try fix this.

Advice from Gene

Some of the advice that was provided during his session included:

  • Never forget that the best will always get better. Back in 1979 who’d have thought that anything could surpass the amazing Sony Walkman?
  • In order to win in business we need to out experiment our competitors.
  • Be fearless in breaking things. Mistakes and errors are a key source of learning
  • When it comes to DevOps and metrics, measuring lead time (i.e. the time it takes to go from the “raw materials” to “finished goods” is a much more effective metric than measuring deploys per day
  • When creating a DevOps process it’s important to ensure that you include a “handback” stage. This way, if necessary, fragile services can be returned back to development if operations don’t think that they are up to scratch
  • Develop smaller changes frequently to avoid painful large scale deployments in the future

Bonus learning

Other things we learnt in this session that you might not know:

  • 95% of all capital projects have an IT component
  • 50% of all capital spending is technology-related
  • The value of DevOps is even greater than anyone can imagine. Some of the companies doing DevOps include: Spotify, Google, Amazon, Bank of America, H&M, US Department of Homeland Security, Twitter, Gap (and a long list of others).
  • A survey of the room showed that it took most months, and even quarters, to deploy a change request. Did you know that an effective DevOps team can deploy a change request in days, and even hours?

Overall a thought-provoking presentation, and one that I very much enjoyed. Not being a total ‘techie’ I confess to never really, fully understanding the concept of DevOps before. Now thanks to Gene, I think I might even be able to confidently explain the benefits to others.

To learn more about the entire itSMF Norway conference please read: The itSMF Norway Conference: it’s the one that I want!

Customer Experience the Apple Way

geniusYou’ve probably noticed that Customer Service has become an old fashioned term.  Nowadays it’s all about the “Customer Experience” led in no small part by Apple and it’s crew of blue shirted genii poised to help with all of your purchasing and technical needs.

According to Carmine Gallo, author of The Apple Experience, there are ‘5 Steps of Service’ that every Apple Store staff member needs to work through and these should either lead to a sale, or more importantly to Apple, to build a customer for life:

A = Approach Customers with a personalized, warm welcome       

P = Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs

P = Present a solution for the customer to take home today 

L = Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns

E = End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return

He continues by saying that ‘Apple employees are not in the business of selling computers, they are in the business of enriching lives’.

Recently I’ve noticed there have been more organizations eschewing the traditional customer service model and adopting the ‘Experience’ paradigm.  Walnut Hill Medical Centre in Dallas, Texas is creating its own steps of service complete with its very own acronym (W-E-C-A-R-E = Warm welcome, Empathize, Communicate and connect, Address concerns, Resolve and reassure, End with a fond farewell) to improve relations between patients and staff, and AT&T have been using a form of Apple’s system for a number of years.

Although its early days with Walnut Hill, AT&T clearly don’t have all the answers yet as last year they were ranked last for the third year running for value, voice quality and customer support by Consumer Reports and in November 2013 Lifehacker named AT&T as the US’ least favourite cellphone carrier following a vote by readers.

How is this different to how other companies do customer service?

In mid 2013 Craig Johnson head of Customer Growth Partners suggested that ‘Apple needs to recreate and reinvent its once novel retail model, which is now not so novel,’ (source: Daily Mail).

Perhaps this is true in the US, but back here in the UK I have seen little to suggest this in my day-to-day life.  To me, for the most part, Customer Service is still the same stale old formula it’s been for years.  Things that I would expect to be a bare minimum such as smiling, politeness and a willingness to help are still missing more often than not, so to me that approach is still very novel.

I mean how many stores can you think of where you can go in and play with the merchandise?  All Mac’s, iPads and iPhones are preloaded with apps and connected to the Internet to encourage you to try them out.  This is in stark contrast to most other stores where if you move a product more than the allotted 5cm’s an alarm goes off and you get rugby tackled to the floor by security personnel.

Is it possible though to create the kind of Customer Experience that Apple strives to offer for companies that are selling more than just a few different types of products?

It’s much easier for an Apple Genius to be clued up on everything they sell when there’s, at most, a fifth of the products on offer that there are in say Curry’s PC World.  Plus when you take into consideration the massive markup on an Apple product they can afford to not only have people trained to an expert level in a chosen area but also to hire more of them.

My experience at the Apple store

Recently I had my first ever visit to an Apple store.  This might seem odd to some of you, especially the ones who are aware of my attraction to pretty shiny things, but my family hails from Yorkshire and the miser in me always won.

I’d like to start with the good in my Apple experience but frankly there wasn’t a lot of it.  I waited a good 25 minutes loitering but not entirely sure what to do or where to go. There was no ‘Help’ point and each Apple employee was surrounded by many other slightly peeved potential ‘customers for life’ circling like shoals of piranha’s.

When I did manage to flag down a blue shirt the advice I received was practically non-existent.  Rather than probing me to understand my needs it was more a case of me prompting as to what was required.

I’m led to believe by my subsequent conversations with store managers at Apple that at this point I should have been asked what kind of work I would be doing and what I would be using the product for in order for appropriate advice to be given.

However, once I had decided on my purchase things started to look up considerably.  My shiny new MacBook Air appeared within a matter of minutes and aforementioned blue shirt then produced a handheld gizmo, which appeared to be an iPhone strapped to a card reader to take payment.  This I liked…no ‘I’ve left it behind the counter madam now if you’d like to queue for another 20 minutes someone will eventually relieve you of a shed load of money and try and persuade you to buy a bag for life and two chocolate bars for a pound’.

However it wasn’t enough to save the experience and when emailing the receipt for my purchase later that evening to the boss the message had one line…

Genius my arse!’ (For those non-UK readers out there who may not have come across this before it is an exclamation of disbelief).

The Apple way was ground breaking but where is customer service/experience heading next?

It’s reported that following the departure of Ron Johnson (Head of Retail), Apple has taken a wrong turn advising its store sales advisors to forget about Customer Experience and concentrate on the business of selling.

Never mind a wrong turn this is one gigantic step backwards.

Concentrating on what is seen as the primary need of the customer has always been short sighted.

With the addition of Angela Ahrendts (credited with the turnaround of 150 year old brand Burberry) to the top team, Apple has shown its commitment to not selling technology to the masses but to being a company that can support lifestyles by providing experiences rather than just products.

There are the obvious contenders such as Zappos and Google, but recently Samsung has invested heavily following reports of “the worst customer service ever” from consumers.  Steps to improve its reputation have included launching a worldwide customer service campaign and offering a free app that provides online support that you can take anywhere.

Hotels tend to get a bad press but Hilton makes strides by outlining exactly how they’ll take care of you. For example Doubletree, a franchise owned by Hilton Worldwide where you get free yummy cookie on arrival, maintains a CARE committee within each of its hotels that includes workers from every department and exists to monitor hotel performance and ensure that guests are satisfied. With four out of every five guests reporting an “excellent” or “good” interaction this seems to be working.

And lets not forget that Apple’s ‘5 Steps…’ model was actually inspired by the ‘steps-of-service’ pioneered by the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain.

Conclusion

Creating a model or philosophy for Customer Service/Customer Experience is fantastic.  It makes sure that everyone knows what the company is trying to achieve and where they stand.

In my experience they certainly didn’t deliver what was promised in their ‘5 steps…’ but they are clearly aware of this and are taking strides back towards where they want to be.

If you are attempting to put in place your own model don’t just assume that because something works for someone else it will work for you too.  Organizational culture, company history, who your customer is and even location can play a massive part in what make you tick and these all need to be taken into account.

In reality plain old Customer Service is of a bygone age and so much more than what consumers and customers expect, even if that’s not what they get 70% of the time.  A caller on the end of the phone will remember how you treated them far longer than whether or not you resolved the issue for them.

Every company should have something in place to show that they understand what is required of them by their customers be that in a mission statement, agreed statement of values or a formal written agreement.  We’ve all been in situations where everyone’s working to what they believe is a level of good customer experience yet side by side they all vary drastically.  Don’t leave it up to interpretation.

On that same trip to the Apple store I had the usual request from my six year old to visit the Build-A-Bear Workshop.  I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve visited and the small one has wandered around in awe. We rarely buy anything as you can get teddies much cheaper from other stores and like most parents an avalanche of toys threatens me if we add anything else.

However, it’s the experience of creating something exactly as she wants it, being able to ask any question she wants about her teddy’s back story without feeling dumb and playing teddy Star Wars with the eccentric sales assistant that means that more often than not we return.

So maybe they won’t have a customer for life but I suspect it will definitely be until the end of her childhood.

Do you clog your social media channels with useless crap?

True value or ego massage? '64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour...'
True value or ego massage? ’64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour…’

Do you care what you share or clog your social media channels with useless crap?

In this article Tobias Nyberg explores why people share at all.

Sharing and caring

Is there a way to tell if what I’m sharing actually has any value to others? Do my followers, readers and community peers have any use for the information I share or am I guilty of clogging the social media channels with useless crap?

Out of the 239 twitter followers, 158 Facebook friends, 93 Google+ circlers, 343 LinkedIn connections I have, a very small percentage interact with me frequently when I share stuff with them. How can I tell that they and the ones that are silent find value in my contributions?

Is sharing caring or is it a way to feed my ego?

I asked myself, the Google+ Back2ITSM community and friends of mine this question some time ago since I wanted to try to understand if I bring any value to the community in these areas or if I should just stop spreading worthless information.

The answers were, of course, not simple or even all in the course of what I expected. And just to set some prerequisites straight, I wasn’t necessarily looking for hard fact metrics on value (even if it would be nice), a good feeling about the value takes me close enough.

There are some basic tell tails to see if you bring value through the social channels. If people follow you on twitter, have you in circles on Google+, friend or follow you on Facebook connect with you on LinkedIn they at least think that you at one point or another brought them value. The problem is of course that most people don’t un-follow, un-friend or un-circle you if you no longer bring any value. They’ll either ignore you or mute you from their streams.

Another thing is if your followers re-share your contributions, you would expect them to find your information valuable to them, and in some cases it probably is. But as it turns out, the main reason people share stuff from others, is to either look smart themselves or in other ways boost the image of them. (See also ‘Suffering with consumption‘)

An old study I found on how word of mouth advertising works is probably possible to apply on social media as well. At least for the sake of argument in this situation. That study shows that 64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour, etc.

There is of course value in that, maybe just not the kind of value I was hoping to bring to the community.

Writing and sharing for your own sake

Some of the people I’ve spoken to about this says that they aren’t that interested in what value to others they contribute with. They write, share and interact for their own sake. And I guess that’s a perfectly fine standpoint as well. It can be a way to collect and sort out thoughts and ideas and put it into structure for use, now or later on. And if someone happens to read it and find it valuable, well, good for them. But will they continue to create and share content if no one ever uses it or find value in it?

Some people believe that value from what you contribute with will come out eventually, for someone, and you won’t probably even know it. So their strategy is to keep sharing what comes to mind (and perhaps what make them look smarter) and then let the information be valuable, or not. I guess that would be sharing without caring.

I’ve also been told that it’s impossible to know if you bring any value if you don’t know what your followers want and find value in. And that is a bit tricky to say the least when you don’t know them at all, or even know who they are besides a screen name.

One method that I’ve found to be more used than others is a pragmatic approach of loosely collecting vibes on the channels on what kind of value you bring. Most of us probably do that but some even have methods of sorts to create an perception or understanding on what social media channels to use because they bring more value (as well as gain more value as it turns out) to their followers. Some people write it down to track changes and to see their “vibe-trends” over time.

In the end, it seem to be hard to measure the value of what you share on social media and it’s hard to even create a perception of the value of your contributions to others. I think it’s safe to say that much of what many people share is valuable for ego boosting though, may it be mine or your ego.

When I share things with the community I would like to think I care about what I share and what the information bring in form of value. But to be frank, sometimes I share value and sometimes I share crap. But even more importantly, sometimes, quite often, I don’t share at all. Because I care what I share.

I'm not saying my opinion is better than yours, but I do have a klout score over 60

Learning to play nicely

This article has been contributed by Chris Dancy of ServiceNow.

Introduction

There are 30 million reasons to care about your Klout, but for now, don’t.  In the future (36-48 months) something like a klout score could determine your position.

If your name is not on this list please connect with Martin. The names are an arbitrary list of names of people using twitter who speak about ITSM.  For the sake of full disclosure, you could add any person on twitter to this list who is an expert in gold fish and if they had a high klout score, they would be above all the other ITSM “experts”.  To learn more about klout and the industry of influence, I encourage you to read on.

Digital Influence 2012

Do you remember when only CXO’s, Analysts and Speakers had any real sway over our organizations?  Do you remember when we paid for advice that seemed like common sense?

The marketing of digital influence is a fools game, unfortunately many people love to play games for a living.

Let us first set some parameters before we have this talk.

Yes, I am in fact, an authority on the topic of social media and online influence.  Why am I an authority?

  1. I have had the good fortune to spend four years watching every single person, organization and marketing team in the IT space joining in this social media game and succeed or just die.
  2. I don’t abuse social media (more on this later).
  3. Klout, Peer Index, Kred.ly and Empire Avenue say I am an expert, so THERE, I must be!

Yes even I laugh out loud a bit at number three.

Second, this topic is about as explosive as calamities in the catholic priesthood, and probably more so as it involves people e.g. humans.

Humans are a nasty bunch, they like to judge, list, order, measure all in the name of gaming some dissociative sycophancy they acquired while working through an oedipus complex.

Yes, I do suffer from a bit of sardonic misanthropy and it is shameful.  Daily I struggle to allow humans back into my life. Sometimes I hasten the technological singularity just so I can get back to dealing with objects that can’t be programed in objective hubris.

Finally, we need to look a bit of history on the World Wide Web to understand how we ended up here.

The Rise of the Spiders

The rise of the search engine grew out of the need to find order in the volumes of information being shared on the web.

That’s it.

Nothing else.

There were many search engines in the 1990’s.  The first WWW search engine I ever used was yahoo.

I remember be so overwhelmed by the answers that I didn’t care if they were correct or not. This feeling of euphoria with “any” solutions rather than the correct solution can only last so long.

Finally as many people were celebrating the non-event of Y2K, they returned to work and found their peers were using this site called “Google”.

Google was so cocky in it’s early days, they proudly presented users with a button labeled “I’m feeling lucky”. The “lucky” button was basically just Google’s way of taking you to the first hit you found without looking at any others.

Google had so successfully indexed pages using an algorithm called PageRank, that people were flocking to the site to find information for most of the 2000’s.

This is where our story turns a little dark.

Remember those nasty humans I mentioned above?  Well a small group of them said, “Hey, we can make money by being “Internet Search Experts” (read social marketing expert).

These Internet Search Experts quickly spawned an industry, a multi BIILLION dollar industry called SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Business spent billions handing over their websites to these gurus who hacked and cracked their way to fortune.

Many people will still argue the merits of SEO as a real skill.  Call me old fashion but I consider shoeing horses a skill, not jacking up HTML.

SEO WAS THE FIRST MAJOR PUNCH IN THE FACE THAT MARKETING, INDUSTRY ANALYSTS AND PUNDITRY TOOK IN THE FACE.

The SEO industry changed a lot of people’s lives.  Developers were now in marketing, content creators were now experts on Google rankings and blogging was about to change the game again.

Between 2005-2010, blogging, YouTube, peer networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace), read “Social Media” threw the entire SEO industry into a tailspin.

Enter 2012, close to a billion 3G enabled handsets all sharing data, experiences and information.

Just as in 2000 with the vast amounts of data that Google conquered, today’s consumers are overwhelmed with information pumped from everything around them.  The Internet of things has taken over and Google can’t keep up.

Remember those nasty humans I have mentioned twice now?  Well a small group of them have created another billion-dollar engine, this time around “Social Media”.

Information Democratization

There is a minor difference in 2012 from the SEO experts of last decade, Information democratization.

You don’t need to teach people how to share (although we should while we have a chance add digital literacy to every high school, university and corporate environment).

We are at the beginning of a change in the way we do everything and by 2015 we will have close to two billion people sharing just as much if not more information because of the rise in mobility.  For more information on mobility and big data, I have a slide deck here.

Phew!

Social Analytics

Wait, you still haven’t talked about klout or this “influencer list”.

Much controversy has been generated by Klout.

On one hand Klout could be a very easy way to know with a fair amount of certainty that a social object (in this case, a person) is sharing and sharing information “correctly” that is relative to your search.

On the other hand, Klout could just been seen as an arbitrary algorithm that is making some people “better” than others and lacks any real transparency.

Sound familiar?  Yes, these were the same arguments made by proponents and opponents of Google circa 2000.

Personally I understand the klout backlash; I understand the misgivings about any influence system.

For the first time in my professional history, we have the BEGINGINGS of a way to measure KNOWLEDGE WORKERS.

This scares and it SHOULD scare you (Open the FUD gates).  This should scare you more if you are in Information Technology or any type of knowledge sharing field.

We are at the beginning of being able to ascertain via algorithms, “how you share” and if you are practicing “good digital etiquette”.

This is the most revolutionary thing to happen to human kind since we became able to share books in codec form to the masses.

THIS REVOLUTION WILL BE THE SECOND AND FINAL BLOW TO THE FACE OF MARKETING, INDUSTRY ANALYSTS AND PUNDITRY.

Unfortunately hubris, greed and ego are fighting very hard to beat back the systems such as klout.

Humans don’t like to be told how to share.   Humans want to act they way they want period.  Think of the first year of school.  Kids don’t share and have to be taught, how to share and WHAT to share.  Teachers measure students “social” skills early in school to let parents know how their child is progressing, or if that same child is in America, how much to drug that child into submission.

So what does this mean to you and your klout, kred.ly, peer index or empire avenue score?

Hopefully nothing, but personally, I do hope people take more time to start acting less like children and more like “CO-operative Knowledge workers”

Klout and all the influence systems, have very little to do with how many “followers” someone has.

They are about WHAT is done with the information that is shared by a person.

This presents two very distinct problems for “Social Media Experts” and the rest of us.

  1. How do we separate out what we share so it’s relative to the people following us(our customers)?
  2. How do we know what is good ” digital etiquette “.

First, as Christopher Poole stated during a keynote, at the web 2.0 summit in 2011“It’s not ‘who you share with,’ it’s ‘who you share as,’”

Therein lies the first key to this puzzle; currently we don’t have the complex systems to sort out sharing.  So folks like myself, share as different people, multiple twitter accounts, multiple Facebook’s, etc.

I respect my audience.  This respect is real therefore; I know it is absolutely impossible to follow more than 150 people per Dunbar’s Number.

If you are following more people than 150, you are lying to yourself and those people you are following.

There is a major benefit to following everyone who follows you, you get MORE followers.

In this case QUANITY doesn’t equal quality or substance, and klout and the rest of the systems see right through you.

The second problem, How do we know what is good digital etiquette?

Again, it’s a lot like real life, you don’t steal, you don’t brag and you don’t talk needlessly.  If you really care about digital etiquette, I have three blogs you can read here.

Chris Dancy

Summary

In summary, follow less people, before you post anything to ANY social network, say to yourself, Is this of interest to anyone outside of my mother and spouse?  If that answer is no, back away from the mobile device or keyboard.

You can do this, I would not have taken time to write this piece if I didn’t believe and see first hand many knowledge workers who are starting to respect the time of their customers (followers).

You will be met with doubters, these are the same people who don’t care about, reply to all emails, klout or any digital influence system.

Deep though, in the darkness of their cube, will stare wildly watching their blog stats, their Facebook notification indicator, their likes, their YouTube views and their unread inbox count.

These are the knowledge workers of yesterday.  These people don’t care about actual klout, they are the game players who never shared and will never share without a fight.

See you on the playground, and until then be kind to each other.

This article has been contributed by Chris Dancy of ServiceNow.

Image Credit