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For our fall Technology Services World conference, we used the crowdsourcing approach to select a theme. We gathered input from members and asked our various advisory boards for feedback on the suggestions, arriving at what I think is truly a “big tent” topic: The Art and Science of the Customer Journey. Regardless of where you fit in the customer lifecycle—sales, implementation, post-sales support, field service, customer success, expand selling, etc.—improving and accelerating the customer journey is a critical component of your job. 

PIMO: Customer Engagement from the Customer’s Perspective

TSIA has talked a lot in recent years about the customer journey from the company’s perspective, moving accounts through the LAER (Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew) model. But it is also critical to consider the journey from the customer’s perspective, which at a high level we call PIMO (Plan, Implement, Monitor, Optimize). In Las Vegas, I will be presenting a keynote and a Power Hour session on a topic linked to the Monitor and Optimize phases: enabling rapid adoption of technology, and optimizing the customer experience.

TSIA PIMO plan  

The PIMO plan is referenced and explained in the books B4B and Technology-as-a-Service Playbook by TSIA.

I’ve been on my soap box for a few years now about the state of customer self-service. There is unprecedented spending on self-service, with companies hoping to boost customer adoption and success of unassisted support. I’ve had inquiries and done advisory projects with dozens of companies trying to create more cohesive self-service portals that better meet the needs of customers and improve deflection rates.

Ideally, the customer would prefer not to have to go looking for help at all.

Though TSIA’s Channel Preference study shows that customers typically prefer self-service to assisted service, we are overlooking one small point: Ideally, the customer would prefer not to have to go looking for help at all. And that brings me to my primary topic for TSW: embedding support into products, so if a customer does encounter a problem, they don’t even have to navigate away from the application to get assistance.

5 Examples of Embedded Product Support

For those of us of a certain age, when you mention “embedded product support,” the first thing that springs to mind is Clippy, the Microsoft Office Assistant, introduced in 2001 and fell by the wayside a few years later. Looking back, I wonder if Microsoft was ahead of their time with this idea, which could identify tasks you were attempting and offer assistance. Today’s embedded support is a bit more subtle, but still contextual to what you are doing, and offers the possibility of resolving issues while working in an application.

There are several flavors to this approach, which include use cases both for new customers trying to learn how to use technology, as well as seasoned users who encounter a problem:

Example 1: Search for Help

While most applications include some level of field help, or access to documentation, innovative companies are going further. They allow customers to search documentation, as well as knowledgebase articles and forum threads from within the application. This eliminates a visit to a self-service site to find the required information.

Example 2: Embedded Training

Online learning is very common today, with most companies offering learning management systems with libraries of online classes customers can take, usually in bite-sized chunks. Making this accessible from within an application can be hugely helpful to a customer struggling to create a report or perform a task—a training module on your exact activity is just a click away.

Example 3: Video Walk-Throughs

There are new technology providers making it easy to record a simple video walk-through on how to complete a form or a process, which can also be activated from within an application with a click, with the system walking you through the process step-by-step. This option is fantastic for new customers or for processes you use infrequently.

Example 4: Virtual Assistants

Maybe this is too close to Clippy for some people, but there are recent examples of companies embedding a virtual assistant within an application which can offer advice or answer questions. A good consumer example is Sony, who has a virtual assistant living within its games that can help with registration, explain game mechanics, or even reset your password—all from within the gaming console.

Example 5: Assisted Support

What if the customer really needs to ask a question? Offering a chat option from within an application is a great way to offer seamless access to support without ever navigating away from the application. Using remote control, the agent can even walk the customer through a process or show them live how to do something.

Hear More about Self-Service Support and Other Ways to Improve Your Customer Journey at TSW!

In my pre-conference keynote on day 1 of TSW at 11:45am, I will build the business case for this approach, highlighting real-world examples of the above approaches. Later that day in my Power Hour at 4:15 pm, I will hold a panel discussion with technology providers enabling these embedded support options today. They will share information on the ROI model, how to get development to embrace the approach, tips on effective introduction, etc., as well as answering all of your questions on how to get started.

Improving and accelerating the customer journey is everyone’s business. Finding innovative ways to leverage technology to assist in this effort is the only way companies can scale success operations without continually hiring more success managers and support technicians. We will have some interesting examples of enabling technology on display in the TSW | EXPO, so please take this opportunity to see emerging technology in action.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of you in Las Vegas, and as always, thanks for reading!

Read more posts in the "Art and Science of the Customer Journey" blog series:

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John Ragsdale

About Author John Ragsdale

John Ragsdale is a distinguished researcher and the vice president of technology ecosystems for TSIA. His area of expertise is in creating strategies for improving the service operations and overall customer experience by leveraging innovative technology. John works closely with TSIA’s partner ecosystem, identifying leading and emerging technology vendors whose products help solve the key business challenges faced by TSIA members. He is also author of the book, Lessons Unlearned, which chronicles his 25-year career inside the customer service industry.

John's favorite topics to discuss