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Last week, TSIA held our Technology Services World (TSW) conference in beautiful San Diego. I had a really busy week with 11 presentations, including a technology keynote and the EXPO Tour, and I spent most of Wednesday in 1:1 meetings with members, talking about their technology challenges. Based on questions asked during breakout sessions, my 1:1 meetings, and dozens of hallway and EXPO conversations, I've put together a list of the common themes I heard that I'd like to share with you.

Portals, Portals, Portals

I released the findings of my 2016 Global Technology Survey at TSW, and a key data point is that customer self-service portals are the top planned spending area, with 87% of companies and 97% of support services organizations having budget for new or additional portal technology in 2016-2017. To drive this point home, the majority of my 1:1 meetings were directly or indirectly about portals, and I participated in a case study session on portals, “How Adobe and WatchGuard Are Delivering Effortless Support Experiences.” While the discussion continues about how to define and measure self-service success and deflection, most companies are making at least a token effort. After one person said in a session that they didn't like self-service and didn't know what all the fuss was about, I had at least 50 people ask me about it later. If you're looking for a starting point in how to build your own self-service portal, be sure to check out my three-part blog series, "Creating the Ultimate Customer Portal," which covers key points on design, function, and content you should consider before diving in.

Professional Services Automation 2.0

For years, most of my PSA, or professional services automation, conversations were convincing companies to move off of Excel and adopt a real PSA tool. Today, adoption of PSA is over 50%, and many companies are now finding that they are outgrowing their original PSA tool, and are therefore shopping for a more sophisticated replacement. I participated in 2 sessions on professional services automation last week, and there were great discussions about analytics, machine learning, knowledge management, mobility, and Internet of Things (IoT). Marc Lacroix of RTM Consulting described the innovative capabilities emerging as “PSA 2.0,” and I agree—if you haven't evaluated PSA platforms in a few years, there is definitely a new breed of technology available today, and I would encourage any company who has been on the same tool for 5 or more years to see what is new in the market.

Getting Serious About Customer Engagement

As popular as customer self-service portals are, they are only one touchpoint for customers. During one session I participated in, “Customer Engagement Best Practices,” we talked about all aspects of creating a customer engagement strategy, including mobile, social, chat, email, automated robots, etc. I talked about how more internet sessions are conducted using a mobile device than using desktops or laptops today, and this means we need new tools and processes for supporting mobile customers. Examples include SMS/text-based chat and CSAT surveys, remote support for mobile devices, and training support techs to navigate customer privacy concerns when communicating using mobile devices.

Using Video in Service

In 2012 I delivered a TSW presentation on leveraging video in service, and the audience told me loud and clear that they weren’t ready for this topic. However, I heard a lot of video-related discussions last week, such as using video tools to communicate with premiere customers or offering video chat when customers pay for a dedicated technical account manager (TAM). Adobe talked about how they continue to focus on screen cam videos for knowledge base articles. And in field service, video links can help lower field service costs by allowing a corporate expert walk a novice in the field through a complex repair. If this is a topic that interests you, I encourage you to watch my on-demand webinar, “Leveraging Video Chat for Customer Support: 3 Key Questions Answered.”

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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.

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