A holistic cure for what ails customer support

Workflow integration, automation, and knowledge-sharing can create a seamless experience for both customers and support teams

In customer support, pain spreads fast when a problem can’t get quickly resolved.

For beleaguered customers, there’s the frustration of phone calls to open a ticket, compounded by annoying follow-ups to find out why a fix is taking so long, often rehashing the problem with a different agent each time.

For support teams, the pain can be just as bad. First, they may need to find the right engineer or developer to analyze the glitch, then there’s a flurry of emails to track progress, or lack thereof, amid intense pressure to meet ever-rising customer expectations.

Case by case, a crack support team can deliver the goods. But as companies scale their support operations, the whack-a-mole approach can only take them so far. What’s needed is a seamless, integrated solution that breaks down communication silos, automates workflows, improves transparency, and empowers customers to resolve issues on their own. For all the bottlenecks and inefficiencies that ail customer support, a holistic customer service management (CSM) strategy can be the cure.

80%

of customer questions posed to the community get answers within six hours


I’ve learned this firsthand at ServiceNow, where we use our own digital workflow solutions for customer service. We’ve learned that by removing barriers to communication and collaboration, and by boosting self-service and automation capabilities, you can dramatically improve both support productivity and customer satisfaction.

Our customer base has grown by nearly a third since 2015. Using our CSM solution, we recorded a 50% reduction in time to resolve cases year over year during that period, as well as a 20% annual decrease in low-priority tickets.

Faster resolution and fewer cases have made for measurably happier customers. In 2018, the median industry Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) for customer support was 8.35 out of 10. At ServiceNow we attained a 9.04 CSAT in 2018, and we’re on track to achieve 9.10 in 2019.

Here’s how we did it.

Breaking down enterprise silos

The first major pain point in customer support is communication. Traditional customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, indispensable though they may be, can slow knowledge sharing due to internal barriers between product developers, engineering teams, support agents, and customers. That confuses the chain of ownership and clouds transparency for both customers and internal teams alike.

In customer support as in healthcare, prevention is the best medicine.

Our CSM solution brings customers, internal stakeholders, and ticket tracking together on one shared portal. This has helped accelerate information flow from customers to the people who build the product or service, and vice versa. Known issues, best practices, and ticket updates flow seamlessly from product and engineering teams to customers. Real-time progress becomes visible to customers, support teams, and IT pros, letting teams collaborate better and track case ownership at every stage.

Self-service with a smile

Customers rapidly get frustrated when they’re stuck on hold waiting to speak with an agent or counting the minutes while a faceless engineer scrambles to find a solution to their problem. A self-service CSM tool relieves that frustration by giving customers the power to create tickets, monitor progress, and search an online service catalog that informs them of known issues and suggested fixes.

ServiceNow customers have embraced self-service support. Over the last 12 months, our customers logged 200,000 cases for our technical support teams to manage. The vast majority (86%) of all cases were created on our self-service portal. During the same period, just 7% of customers opened tickets over the phone. We also added an AI chatbot to help customers manage their issues, navigate the site and access our service catalog and knowledge base (KB).

Automatic for the people

We’ve found that automation is the secret sauce for better, faster workflows. It’s also the key ingredient of an integrated CSM platform. With a few clicks, users can log into our support portal and automate mundane tasks themselves or schedule help from a technician. In the past 12 months, our customers have automated roughly 60,000 tasks. They have made 160,000 automated changes each month, for an estimated savings of $18.6 million.

In customer support as in healthcare, prevention is the best medicine. Here too, automation plays a critical role. At ServiceNow we use automated-system monitoring to flag low-level customer problems before they become big problems. At the earliest stages, we guide customers on the best architecture and best practices to optimize their system’s efficiency and stability. We also rely on early-detection tripwires to alert them to bugs, slowdowns, or outages.

We don’t just sit around and wait for technical issues to happen. Our tools constantly monitor the service so when we see a wobble, we can get a head start in resolving the issue, often before the customer notices.

Customers sometimes contact us while we’re in the process of resolving an issue. They are often pleasantly surprised to find out we’re already working on it—and not scrambling to react. This level of proactive care generates tremendous customer confidence and loyalty.

Knowledge is power

Another way our CSM tools improve the customer experience is by putting valuable information in front of the right people through our KB. As soon as a customer opens a ticket, the system pulls up KB articles for our support team that may solve the problem. If no article provides a fix, the support team can update old content or create new content that is immediately available to customers via search.

$18.6

million saved by automating 60,000 tasks


Last year, KB articles generated 14 million views, reducing resolution time and costs. Cases with KB articles attached have been solved on average 40% faster since the program started, and 24% of customers who logged into the portal to create a case didn’t need to because they found KB content to resolve the issue themselves.

Wisdom of the crowd

ServiceNow has a thriving user community, with more than 200,000 active participants engaged in 19 million interactions annually. Our members tend to be highly responsive: 80% of the questions posed to the community get answers within six hours. Of 81,000 questions posted on the community section of the portal in 2018, 49,000 cases were solved by the community without technician support.

But it’s not community troubleshooting alone—or, for that matter, automation, workflow transparency, knowledge-sharing, or self-service capabilities—that helped decrease our time to resolve cases by 50% while the number of cases increased by 20% year over year. Our experience shows that the key success factor was integrating all these tools into one CSM solution.

Customer support may never be entirely pain free, but a holistic CSM solution can help reduce the swelling of tickets and the spread of harmful glitches. That makes for more satisfied customers, as well as more productive and helpful support teams.


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