Protecting Customer Data During the Support Process

Protecting Customer Data During the Support Process

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Protecting Customer Data During the Support Process

With new data protection requirements and security threats it’s important that Support organizations understand their role in protecting their organizations from these risks.  As Support is an external interface to customers and partners, it’s important to understand how to minimize risk associated with troubleshooting products in customers’ environments.

By Paul Esch: Strategy and Business Development, TSANet

Protecting Customer Data During the Support Process

Over the past several years the importance of securing customer data has become a top priority for companies.  With laws such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the government can impose fines on organizations that misuse or expose customer data.  Attacks such as ransomware also have also highlighted the risk of doing business in todays connected business environment.

With new data protection requirements and security threats it’s important that Support organizations understand their role in protecting their organizations from these risks.  As Support is an external interface to customers and partners, it’s important to understand how to minimize risk associated with troubleshooting products in customers’ environments.

Partnering with your IT group

Protecting customer data is a corporate level responsibility that often managed by the organizations IT group.    While the IT group may have overall responsibility for securing the data, it is the support organization that is using and updating this information and often the source of breaches.

Partnering with the IT organization to define best practices and obtain certifications such as ISO 27001 is a great way to ensure the security of customer data.  ISO/IEC 27001 is widely known, providing requirements for an information security management system (ISMS).   Using this standard enables organizations of any kind to manage the security of assets such as customer data, financial information, intellectual property, employee details or information entrusted by third parties.

Working with Partners – Multi Vendor Support

While obtaining ISO27001 is a great way to ensure the protection of customer data within your organization, working with Partners adds a challenge if the collaboration requires the exchange of customer information.   Vendors working with Partners on common customer issues should follow the best practices below:

  1. Ensure that the collaboration is supported by a legal agreement
  2. Ensure that the customer is aware of the collaboration and has authorized it
  3. Only share what is needed to solve the technical issue

For more information about Multi Vendor Support read:

Optimizing Multi-Vendor Support Collaboration | ServiceXRG Blog

TSANet – Operational Framework to Protect Customer Data

TSANet provides the operational framework and best practices for Members to collaborate on customer issues by providing the following:

  1. A legal framework that supports collaboration on customer issues
  2. The ISO 27001 certified TSANet Connect platform for requesting collaboration between members
  3. A set of best practices integrated into the multi-vendor support processes

About TSANet

TSANet is a member run community with over 800 companies committed to streamlining multi-vendor support collaboration. TSANet is a not-for-profit industry organization founded in 1993 to provide a common legal framework and technology platform to facilitate vendor collaboration.

If you do not have a multi-vendor strategy or are looking to streamline the way you cooperate with other companies, visit TSANet for more information (www.tsanet.org).

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Sell Services Faster and More Accurately

Sell Services Faster and More Accurately

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Sell Services Faster and More Accurately

Company executives understand that selling services alongside core product offerings leads to greater alignment and customer value, while subsequently decreasing the likelihood of customer churn and loss of recurring revenue. 

While products form the basis of a customer-vendor relationship, services are the foundation from which post-sales customer relationships are built and sustained.  Services are a natural extension to core product features and offer access to the expertise, skills, and resources that drive customer value.

By Steve Schneider – Co-Founder, WorkRails

Why selling services can be difficult

Well-defined services and the means to sell them are imperative. so why is selling services so difficult?

The ability of Sales to sell services is often complicated by inadequate systems and manual processes that reduce the speed and accuracy of service discovery, configuration, and quoting. Inhibitors to service sales are often systemic and arise from programs that are disproportionately focused on selling strictly new products.

Services revenue is more important than ever, and companies must make concerted efforts to help their Sales teams sell services more efficiently.

10 ways to help Sales teams sell services

  1. Make Sales aware of available services.

Sales teams may not be familiar with the extent of services available to customers or recent modifications and enhancements to the catalog of available services. Actively promote the availability and value of services to Sales.

Develop a comprehensive catalog of service programs with up-to-date program descriptions and critical details. Make the service program catalog available digitally in a single, easy-to-find location like a CRM.  Keep Sales up-to-date about enhancements to the service catalog.

  1. Make it easy for Sales to align customer needs with available programs.

The existence of a service catalog does not mean that Sales will know how to align customer needs to available services. Help Sales recognize service opportunities and provide the tools to match needs to available services.

Provide Sales with digital customer journeys, use case examples, and service configuration guidance (configurators). Consider creating predefined service-outcome-based journeys that package multiple service programs to deliver specific customer outcomes, but also support custom SOWs.

  1. Justify service value.

Every service program and service bundle will have an associated price, even if it is discounted. Customers will want to understand the benefits of service offers for the price paid. Be prepared to help Sales justify service value. Establish guidance to suggest the tangible benefits customers can expect, including faster time to benefit; lower costs to implement and maintain; and the attainment of business performance objectives.

Provide Sales with cases studies and quantification tools to help justify the cost of services.

  1. Simplify service configuration.

Some service programs will provide standard deliverables and resources, other services must be customized to meet specific customer needs. Make it possible for Sales to customize and configure services to meet the specific scale and scope of customer needs. Integrate configuration tools with the ability to create customized service quotes.

Provide Sales with access to easy-to-use sales enablement and on-line configuration tools to capture required information needed to customize service quotes.

  1. Streamline proposal creation.

Creating a service proposal should not be complicated. To simplify service proposal creation, use configured services information to automatically build proposals with up-to-date program descriptions, terms, and conditions. Provide the means to pull information from existing systems and integrate customer-specific configuration inputs to create customized service proposals.

Provide Sales with the proposal-generating tools necessary to generate customer-ready documentation quickly and easily.

  1. Digitize pricing, discounting, and Sales policies.

Pricing should not be a mystery and Sales should not have to hunt for quotes. Provide a digital experience for Sales and Service team members to dynamically create quotes based on customer needs. Add pricing and sales policies to your services catalog and keep all data up to date and relevant in one central repository. Assure that pricing and sales policies are clearly delineated by regions.

Provide Sales with a digital platform to generate quotes on demand based on customer requirements.

  1. Automate approval workflows.

Take the guesswork out of pricing and discounting by establishing clear sales policies and approval guidelines. Automated, end-to-end service sales workflows and approvals assure that proposals are aligned with current sales policies.

Provide Sales with clearly defined sales policies related to pricing discount and approvals. Provide digitally enabled processes for creating and routing new proposals to the appropriate internal resources for approval—deal desks or executives— with the ability to capture customer approvals digitally.

  1. Seamless system integration

Selling services should not require extraordinary efforts by Sales. Disparate systems that require time and effort to keep up to date can increase the time to close new service deals and lead to errors and inaccuracies.  implify the service sales process by integrating Customer Relationship Management (CRM),  Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Professional Services Automation (PSA), and other back-end systems that enable service sales actions such as configuration, pricing, quoting, booking, and scheduling new services.

Remove the burden on Sales teams to update multiple disparate systems by providing seamless system integration across the end-to-end service sales process.

  1. Incent action.

Streamlining and simplifying the end-to-end service sales process will help Sales sell services, but it may not be enough. If you want Sales to take an interest and commit time and efforts to selling services recognize and incent action. Structure compensation, goals and KPIs to properly align products and services.

Incent Sales to sell the right services to the right customers and adhere to established service sales policies and guidelines.

  1. Measure and improve.

Monitor the effectiveness of service sales actions to identify which service programs are most often purchased and w messaging and sales resources are most useful for closing service deals. Evaluate the effectiveness of selling platforms and processes to further streamline the service sales process.

Continually monitor service sales performance and engage with Sales teams to assure that service offers are aligned with current customer needs; sales resources are effective; and that systems and processes are streamlined.

Help your Sales team sell services.

Services and the means to sell them are imperative. With the right resources Sales can quickly and accurately discover, understand, configure, price, and quote services. Effective service sales capabilities create opportunities for recurring revenue retention and growth. Help your Sales team sell services by providing the information, systems, and processes they need.

Service sales can be complex and time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be.

 

About WorkRails

WorkRails has reinvented how software companies sell services to their customers.  With over $700 billion a year spent on technology services, we were shocked to see the most advanced companies relying on old documents, spreadsheets and predominantly manual processes to drive such an important part of their business.

Through automation, WorkRails makes selling services easy, fast and more accurate for our clients, saving them time and money.  Our SaaS solution powers an e-commerce experience for services employees, clients and partners that increases adoption and reduces errors.  Our clients include some of the top software companies in the world.

Learn More about WorkRails at https://www.workrails.com/

 

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How to Sell Services Faster and More Accurately, from ServiceXRG and WorkRails

Service Outsourcing Should Be at the Top of Your To-Do List

Service Outsourcing Should Be at the Top of Your To-Do List

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Service Outsourcing Should Be at the Top of Your To-Do List

Today’s customer service leaders are under enormous pressure to deliver high quality service to more customers across a growing number of channels with budgets that are not matching the pace of interaction growth. Facing these constraints, some may find themselves purposely hindering the customer experience (turning off channels, reducing hours of service, or increasing acceptable response time windows) instead of considering an entirely different approach to their costs. Read about why you should really be considering outsourcing right now.

By Amanda Quinn, SVP Finance & Marketing, ArenaCX

Picture this: The new smart watch you ordered online has finally arrived. You successfully turn it on and get it syncing with your phone. For the first week or two everything is going great – you’re loving the health insights, being able to respond to messages on the go, and finding out the weather with a flick of your wrist. 

But then, all of the sudden, your watch stops receiving text messages. You go to the manufacturer’s website and call their support line. The estimated hold is currently 95 minutes. “That’s crazy,” you think.

So you go try to self-serve by visiting the company’s help center to look for articles that might explain what’s going on. You follow the directions to troubleshoot (turn the watch off and back on, turn your phone off and on, unpair your watch from the phone) with no luck. You even call your nephew to see if he knows any tricks you don’t.

Now what? Do you call the manufacturer back and just resign yourself to the long wait? Do you email the general support address and hope you get a timely response?

Let’s paint a new picture of service.

Imagine the original scenario, but this time when you go to the manufacturer’s website you see the option to start a chat and the estimated wait time is less than 2 minutes. The agent asks you a few basic security questions, listens to the issue you’re experiencing and offers you a few easy-to-follow troubleshooting tips. Before you know it, your smart watch is back up and running and you can get back to your life.

Now, what if I told you the person you were just chatting with is actually an outsourced customer service representative based in Honduras. Would you be surprised that you could get “good” support from an overseas agent? Most people would be.

Unfortunately, customer service outsourcing has a lingering bad reputation from a time when offshore centers were notorious for treating their customer service agents with little respect. When you hear “offshore call center,” sadly, you probably still picture poorly vetted sweatshop environments with underpaid, mistreated, and miserable workers. While I’d be remiss to say that those types of outsourcing centers have become completely extinct, I can gladly say that that awful scenario is becoming less and less frequent as the number of well-managed contact centers consistently rises. 

Think about outsourced service in a new light.

Over the past few years, the outsourcing industry has made considerable improvements so it’s time to start thinking about outsourcing in a new light. Now there is a plethora of well-managed contact centers with excellent performance records, high ethical standards, sophisticated technology, and a deep appreciation for the modern customer experience.

Today’s modern contact centers are well-prepared to handle the day-to-day operations of assisting the customer at multiple touches and through multiple channels. They also strive to meet the financial, culture, social responsibility, data security, and regulatory compliance requirements of the companies they are representing.

This can be accomplished by a demonstrable shift in the way CSRs are managed: They can now expect fair wages, respect from their employer, and opportunities for career growth and success. As a result, these happier CSRs have a more positive outlook on their work, which reflects in how they treat the customers they’re serving.

This has been widely recognized in the industry, and more and more outsourcing centers are doing what it takes to do right by their employees and by their client’s customers. After all, Happy Customer Service Representatives = Happy Customers = Higher Customer Satisfaction Scores

Ranging from small boutiques to publicly traded companies, contact centers are now present in every geography, helping fill language and time zone gaps for internal teams. Brands can partner with firms that are local (US-based), nearshore (Latin America and the Caribbean), offshore, or even an open-talent firm. 

Better yet, a combination of partnerships is often the best bet, allowing brands to tap into a disparate set of skills and strengths for different aspects of their business. This enables the brand to save money on support costs while maintaining the level of support their customers expect and deserve.

In short, service outsourcing no longer requires a tradeoff of quality for cost.

For those still hesitant to trust these improvements, take comfort knowing that industry watchdogs, news outlets, and social media platforms won’t hesitate to spread the word about bad actors in the outsourcing space. A bit of vetting and getting customer testimonials will help you find the partners who fit with your business.

It’s important to outsource with integrity. 

This obviously includes choosing a reputable partner who treats their employees responsibly and respectfully, but it also means that once you’ve chosen your partner(s), it’s imperative that you treat them as such: trusted partners. You and your outsourcing partners must understand that you are mutually responsible for business outcomes and must manage the relationship collaboratively. Your partners can become huge assets in your quest to deliver high quality support with a constrained budget. 

We view the traditional headcount-based model of engaging with a contact center as an impediment to creating the true spirit of partnership most brands desire. Instead of contracting on a per-agent basis, we recommend engaging your partners on a per-interaction model where they earn more of your business the better they do. We believe aligning incentives for your company and your partners is key to long-term successful partnership.

In short, if you feel your customer service operations are not 100% able to meet your customer needs (channel, hours, languages, etc.) within your budget, you should really consider outsourcing. 

About ArenaCX

ArenaCX is the world’s first marketplace where contact centers compete to better serve your customers. We make it easy to find and trial new contact center partners. If you’re interested in learning more about outsourcing or how ArenaCX can help match you with vetted, ready-to-onboard partners visit ArenaCX.

Customer Experience vs. Customer Success – Similarities and Differences

Customer Experience vs. Customer Success – Similarities and Differences

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Customer Experience vs. Customer Success – Similarities and Differences

The terms customer experience (CX) and customer success (CS) are commonly used within the service industry.

Sometimes CX and CS are used to describe the same or similar things and other times to describe complexly different actions, activities, and outcomes.

Below, we’ll break down customer experience vs. Customer success—the similarities and differences, and how to begin optimizing both in your organization.

 

By Jennifer MacIntosh

Customer Experience (CX)

Customer Experience Is a Strategy. 

A CX strategy defines the approach a company will use to influence customers behaviors and perceptions by creating specific customer experiences. Customer experiences may be influenced through product usage (User Experience | UX), person to person interactions, automated and self-help transactions and even perceptions about company policies.

Customer Experience is intended to endear customers to a company by nurturing positive customer perceptions about its products and services.  The expected outcome from CX is to create and retain long term customer relationships; increase the likelihood of expanding relationship value; generating brand affinity; influencing positive customer references and reviews.

CX is holistic and is not limited to product-only, sales-only or service-only factors.

Customer Success (CS)

Customer Success is an Operational Model.

A Customer Success operating model promotes practices across the entire customer-lifecycle including landing new accounts; onboarding, success planning; product adoption; health monitoring; retention and expansion.

Customer Success is intended to maximize customer retention and create opportunities for revenue expansion within the customer base by assuring that customers can attain tangible positive outcomes with the products and services they have purchased.

Customer Success transcends organizational silos such as Support, Professional Services, Training, Sales, and Product Management. It is not limited to specific organizations, teams, or roles.

Implementing CX and CS

A Customer Experience strategy and Customer Success focused operating model are complementary.

A CX strategy should inform the organization about what it intends to do, the outcomes it expects and the methods by which these outcomes will be achieved.

The Customer Success Operating Model will describe the specific roles, responsibilities and practices a company will use to execute the CS strategy.

 

About the Author

Jennifer MacIntosh, Customer Experience Industry Advisor

Recognized as one of the Top Women Leaders in SaaS, Jennifer MacIntosh has over 20 years experience working with high-tech and financial services companies helping them to establish, lead, and grow their Customer Experience and Success practices. Jennifer is an advocate for the customer who builds transformational customer engagement, adoption and value realization services. She is passionate about helping companies leverage self-service and reuse knowledge to improve the customer experience while managing their organizational costs. Jennifer was most recently with Coveo and built their Customer Success, Experience, Training and self-service practices from scratch. Prior to Coveo, Jennifer was Founder and Principal of Okas Consulting, a global consulting practice. Jennifer has also held executive roles as a change agent who significantly improved the customer experience at Yahoo, Quest Software (Dell) and Cognos (IBM). Jennifer has deep knowledge and expertise in Analytics, Customer Experience, Support, Self-Service, and Knowledge Management.

Accelerate Customer Success.

Download the ServiceXRG Playbook:  Customer Success Management and discover:

  • How to establish customer needs and plan for successful outcomes.
  • What it takes to help customers adopt and apply your products.
  • Key success indicators and the means to monitor progress.
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Revenue Recognition Standard (ASC 606) —Why Technology Companies Need to be Aware

Revenue Recognition Standard (ASC 606) —Why Technology Companies Need to be Aware

Revenue Recognition Standard (ASC 606) —Why Technology Companies Need to be Aware

Companies that attach services to their core products, professional services firms, and companies that sell their products as-a-service need to be aware of revenue recognition standard (ASC 606).

ASC 606, Revenue From Contracts With Customers

For privately held companies a new accounting standard will go into effect for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2018 (i.e., fiscal year ending December 31, 2019); this standard took effect for public companies as of January 1, 2018. Its goal is a framework that allows greater comparability of revenue recognition methods across companies and industries and requires companies to show revenue in a way that represents how the company earns that revenue through providing services or transferring goods to customers.

It makes sense and sounds simple, but implementation could be complex; the standard applies on a contract-by-contract basis and targets technology companies in particular that tend to have multi-year contract terms. Furthermore, the standard is a principles-based standard, can require complex judgments and estimates to implement, and should not be seen as a simple standard to implement on day one.

The standard, ASC 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, outlines a core 5-step model. To be compliant with GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), companies must:

  1. Identify all their customer contracts (including whether a contract actually exists).
  2. Define performance obligations in the contract.
  3. Indicate transaction price of the contract.
  4. Allocate the transaction price to the individual performance obligations.
  5. Recognize revenue as those obligations are satisfied.

For companies that attach services to their core products, professional services firms, and companies that sell their products as-a-service, this means that revenue must follow specific service delivery rather than being recognized in, for example, equal monthly installments. It also means that for multi-year contracts where the obligation may be final delivery, revenue may not be able to be recognized until the end of the contract.

Implementation of this standard could have far reaching effects. Timing of revenue reporting could change dramatically based on contract delivery terms. For this reason, there is “lookback” guidance to compare financials with prior periods. However, deferred revenue recognition may significantly impact revenue covenants in debt agreements and hinder applications for additional loans. Companies should discuss these issues with their bankers.

Deferred revenue recognition could also affect employee bonuses based on revenue targets even if cash payments have been made. On the operational side, companies need to review all contracts and note performance obligations. Financial systems must track this level of detail for revenue and expense recognition. Going forward, companies should keep these guidelines in mind when negotiating and structuring contracts with customers.

For the tech industry which has seen a high degree of Private Equity interest and M&A activity, due diligence will need to assess the impact of this standard on historical and future income statements. Although the new standard does not impact cash flows, changes in the timing of revenue recognition and increased earnings volatility may impact EBITDA and valuation models and the potential and amount of debt that can be secured. PE firm Partnership tax reporting on their investment portfolio will be affected as well.

To ensure tax compliance for your specific circumstances, consult your tax professional.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paula Goldstein, PhD, CPA, MBA, MS, Consulting CFO at Strategic Horizons, Inc., provide CFO and COO services and strategic, financial, and operational consulting. With a technology background and experience in manufacturing and distribution, most recently as CFO for an apparel manufacturer and retailer and experience running and turning around businesses, Ms. Goldstein has a track record helping companies grow profitably and streamline operations, partnering with business stakeholders to build and implement financial models and strategic and operational business plans.

Make the Move to Subscription.

Download the ServiceXRG Report:  The Subscription Mindset and discover:

  • Get your organization ready for the transition to subscription licensing.
  • Understand the key metrics necessary for a subscription business.
  • Embrace market leading practices.
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