Why Should You Care About Continual Service Improvement?

If you have been following our blog for a while then you might have noticed that I’m a fan of something called ITIL. If you haven’t, then it’s fine as well. We’ll explain it to you in a moment. One of the modules of ITIL is CSI. CSI stands for Continual Service Improvement. If you’re confused right now, or never really understood what this term means that you have come to the right place! In this article, we’re going to talk about CSI and why it is necessary for you to enforce it if you’re using ITIL to grow your business. But before we go there, let’s recap ITIL.

What is ITIL?

ITIL stands for IT Infrastructure Library and it is basically a framework used to help enforce the best practices you’ll need to successfully deliver quality IT services. This generally covers a broad area. It can be system maintenance, customer experience and so much more. Naturally, a lot of people confuse the different things that come up under the umbrella of ITIL so don’t be sad if you happen to find yourself in those shoes. That’s why we’re here- to help you understand exactly what ITIL is.

As you can imagine, due to the sheer amount of information that comes under ITIL, it is a very broad subject to cover and we’ll do that in future posts. For now, we’re going to focus on CSI.

What is CSI?

CSI, as mentioned, stands for Continual Service Improvement. Once you’ve started using ITIL to impact the performance of your team, you’ll be looking for a way to maintain the kind of bar you’ve set. The last thing you need is to start using ITIL for a while, and then stop after implementing some improvements.

Believe it or not, but businesses who begin using the ITIL model but then leave it halfway and fail to continuously implement them fail horribly. So, in order to make sure that you continue using ITIL services and maintain the quality of your services, it is very important that you use CSI.

CSI allows you to process useful methods that will ensure that you maintain the quality of your work. This includes management quality as well. It keeps managers on their feet so that the entire team does not fall apart.

The CSI cycle- as it is known- will help you continue to maintain the quality of your processes as well as improve effectiveness, efficiency, and output of all the IT services that your company has to offer.

Why Businesses Should Use ITIL CSI?

Continuous improvement

Now that you know what ITIL CSI is used for, let’s talk about why businesses need it. Several companies delude themselves into thinking that just because they’ve made improvements once, they don’t need to do it again. However, in order to stay on top of things, you need to continuously employ methods to improve your business. Below, we’ll give you a list of reasons why your business should apply CSI.

Improving Quality of Operations

CSI helps you look at your business as a whole so that you have a better understanding of how your business operates. You will be able to look at the whole functioning process of your business, providing you with the bigger picture. This gives you the advantage of knowing how each and every service operates, the various work cycle levels, delivering services and more, making it easier for both you and your team.

Improves Staff Productivity

Since by using CSI practices, you are learning about the entire service lifecycle of your company, it will become so much easier for you to identify staff performances as well as practices which will make your staff more effective. Additionally, it will also help you learn more about the more easily disposable applications and services that are rendering your business ineffective. Sometimes, you need the bigger picture to show you how one or more extra components of your business are affecting others and so you can make sure that all of your business processes are helping you grow your business and not harm it. With this knowledge, you can also look at your workforce and regroup them in ways that will benefit your business.

Keeping Things In Check

One of the biggest advantages of using the ITIL CSI system for your IT services is that you can keep an eye on everything- from accounts to processes to the eventual output and delivery of service. This helps you keep in check with your budget so that you’re on top of your deadlines and can help your staff with issues they may be facing. CSI helps to fix the server errors and issues you may be facing in some IT services so that you can maintain your services accordingly and deliver quality problem.

Summary

As you can see, you need ITIL CSI to help you manage and maintain your business. It additionally helps you improve efficiency and make sure that you don’t fall behind the competition. With these practices, you will be able to keep your balances in check, so that you can continue to grow your business and satisfy your customers.

Some Simple Steps to Improve Customer Experience

Let’s take a simple example that everyone is familiar with – Email. Email is a fact of life now and many organizations have switched to email as the only way in which they provide support to their customers.  However humans are social animals and we are built to make judgments based on visual clues – this is called Body Language – and when these clues are removed from a conversation, the most innocuous and innocent topic can quickly escalate out of control.

With email, it’s impossible to understand body language, so what can you do to ensure you are getting your point across? How can you improve customer experience when you do not get a chance to meet your customers? Some things that you can do to improve this though are as follows:

Personalize

If your company uses templates or something similar to respond to customers, take the opportunity of personalizing them.  It is not just a matter of adding a name to the top of the email, but rather sprinkle their name throughout the discourse you are having with them.  Think about it as if you were having a normal, face-to-face conversation with that person.

Add a bit of personalized text to your email and you can make the customer feel that you care about him; his needs and that you are there for him. Everyone in this world wants to feel special, keep that in mind when writing emails.

Empathize

If a customer tells you about something in the body of their email, make sure you have actually read it and understand what he is saying.  For example, if you are informed that the reason the internet is so important is due to a disability, you can use the words “sorry” in the body of your response without it being offensive.

A few words showing empathy and well wishes do not take long for you to type but might make all the difference – keep in mind, if they are contacting your support department, it is because a service they are paying for is not working to their expectations and at this point, customer service is where you need to put your focus.  The golden rule definitely applies here and you should treat them the way you would like to be treated in similar circumstances.

It’s important with customer experience to focus on removing roadblocks. The more barriers there are, the more difficult your customers will find it to work with you.

Tone

What is your customer actually telling you?  Does he sound happy/sad/angry?  Is this his first email about this issue or has he sent many others?  How many emails has he sent to your company on other similar issues?  Here’s where a decent CRM comes into play as the more information you have about a customer the better.

All of these are clues to help you in determining the type of response you should send to your customer.  While you might be restricted in the message due to the circumstances and the response you can give, HOW you tell the customer something is completely different to WHAT you tell the customer.

K.I.S.S.

An old, old acronym is KISS – Keep It Simple (Stupid) – and this definitely applies here.  Remember who your target is and what their skills are.  If you are supporting a technical product, it should be fairly obvious that your skills in this area are going to be higher than someone not working in that field and without access to your tools and resources.  There are a lot people with no or very little experience with computers. They may not use computer daily, are elderly, technophobic… when a person like this contacts us, they might have already exhausted everything they were able to do and are already feeling frustrated with the lack of a resolution.

Your response to this person should be aimed at not only resolving their reported issue (in a KISS way!!), but based on your experience what their NEXT question would be also.  In addition, you should take this as an opportunity to educate your customer also on where they can find this information in the future.  You will not stop receiving emails from everyone by doing this, but gradually education is the best tool to ensure that your issues are resolved.

The Terminator

A fairly famous film that you will have probably heard of is The Terminator with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In that film, machines have taken over the Earth and are currently at war with Humanity.  This is NOT the case here. 

While AI implementations are increasing around the world, you are dealing with real people and NOT machines so the way in which you speak to them should be appropriate to that.

Top 3 Project Management Software Options for the Small Business

Small business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs are probably one of the most overlooked group when it comes to marketing, software management and more. In fact, not many companies aim their customer service or work efficiency products and software towards them because the consensus is that this sector of the private industry cannot pay much. Neither do they have a lot of requirements like big businesses either so there’s no multi-million-dollar business contract to be signed.

Just because this sector cannot throw millions of dollars for software development does not mean that they should not enjoy the benefits of doing business in the twenty-first century. Below you will find a list of some of the top software packages that I think you can use if you are in the SMB sector.

Wrike

First on our list is Wrike. This is because it’s a very robust project management software which helps you keep track of your projects from start to finish, allowing you to manage multiple projects at the same time. It will make multi-tasking much simpler for you and your team.

This software is designed with small teams in mind and is made up of very good features which will aid you in your journey to create the best project solutions. This software is built in a manner that will allow you to grow your business. It includes a very flexible feature on managing multiple teams, so you can assign more people to different projects. This is actually very helpful as it will help you divide work between your workers so that you can distribute the workload in a way which will benefit your business and cause your staff to hone their best skills.

The software also allows you to keep track of individual contribution to a project so that you can keep track of all your employees, which will make it easier for you to decide on things like bonuses and help you identify each staff’s strengths and weaknesses.

The only downside of this software is that you can only have up to five employees on the software and you will find that the user interface is not very interesting, making it more difficult for those who are not very tech-savvy to operate.

MeisterTask

Next up on our list is MeisterTask. This is a cloud-based project management software. Freelancers will find this more useful than small business owners because it helps to keep track of individual tasks and keeps you updated with your progress. It does not offer individual progress but it’s fine because you can keep track of how your team is performing.

In addition to that, the features of this software include giving the administrator full control of the direction and tasks of the project so if your staff is untrained or newly appointed, it might be useful to use this software to help them understand how to do work. The software also allows you and your team to communicate in real time via a feature called MindMeister.

MeisterTask also allows you to classify tasks according to your staff. This means that each staff on your team will only be seeing their part of the project and not the task assigned to others. This may come in handy if your team works in the systems security service or simply if the task requires discretion. Furthermore, MeisterTask will easily connect to third-party apps like Zendesk and Slack.

The downside of this software is the limited functions when it comes to team tasks and listing. As we mentioned earlier, it will be quite difficult for you to keep track of each individual and may be problematic if you’re trying to keep track of each individual’s performance.

Paymo

Last, but not the least, is Paymo. Like MeisterTask, Paymo is a cloud-based project management solution but, unlike MeisterTask, it specifically caters to small business owners. Of course, freelancers can also use this software, but it does not leave businesses out. This is why out of the three we’ve mentioned so far. We personally recommend Paymo because it’s the best one around.

Paymo offers not only just project management features but also allows the users to create, divide and assign projects to their teams. It also allows team members to engage in discussions related to the project(s) they’re working on and helps them stay updated with the progress of the project.

What makes Paymo stand out though, is its key feature: The Visual Kanban Board which allows all the users working on a project to see the progress of every task and track the estimated time it will take for their project to finish. Furthermore, you can customize time and work reports for things like auditing, billing and reporting purposes.

It also includes an accounting function which allows you to keep track of expenses, invoices and estimate profits. In fact, users can even manage and customize each project’s accounting and budgeting requirements. Unlike the two mentioned above, Paymo has a per-user-per-month subscription plan so you don’t have to pay for a whole year in advance and can add members each month as your business flourishes.

Conclusion

As you can see, each of these packages has a specific audience in mind and it’s not just focused on big businesses. Wrike is aimed mostly at small business owners and entrepreneurs while MeisterTask is better for freelancers than anyone else. However, as we mentioned, Paymo is our favourite software because it’s great for all three.

How Positive Feedback Influences The Bottom Line

Positive feedback matters. It makes a difference in employee morale and motivation. As someone in the support and operations area of business, I cannot emphasize this enough.

Let’s be honest, it’s easy to complain online if and when services that you expect do not get provided correctly or on time. To be completely frank, with tools like Twitter and Facebook at our beck and call, this has become even simpler than it ever was before. Not only can you complain about a company, but you can shout it from the rooftops and you’ll have hundreds if not thousands of people joining in the conversation.

The Power of Positive Feedback

Don’t ever underestimate the power of positive feedback. We are quick to point out to someone when they make a mistake. Sometimes we forget to acknowledge them when they do something right. As a leader, I have to often deal with the negative complaints about the service my team provides. While part of solving that problem is an additional process through things like post-mortems and RCAs, the flip side is acknowledging that there are some rare customers out there that take the time to recognize good work also!

Don’t ever underestimate the power of positive feedback. We are quick to point out to someone when they make a mistake. Sometimes we forget to acknowledge them when they do something right. As a leader, I have to often deal with the negative complaints about the service my team provides. While part of solving that problem is an additional process through things like post-mortems and RCAs, the flip side is acknowledging that there are some rare customers out there that take the time to recognize good work also!

To those rare customers – THANK YOU!! Giving positive feedback can be a powerful tool for employee motivation and your time is sincerely appreciated. For the managers and leaders lucky enough to have received such feedback, here’s how to use it most effectively:

  • Do it now. Positive feedback is too important to let slide. Say something right away.
  • Make it public. While negative feedback should be given privately, positive feedback should be given publicly. Do it in front of as large a group as appropriate.
  • Be specific. Don’t just say “Good job, Sally.” Instead say something like “Hakim, that new procedure you developed for routing service calls has really improved our customer satisfaction. Thanks for coming up with it.”
  • Make a big deal out of it. You don’t want to assemble the entire company every time you give positive feedback, but do as much ceremony as the action warrants.
  • Consider the receiver. It is important to consider the feeling of the person receiving recognition. For a very shy person, thanking him in front of his workgroup is probably most appropriate. For another person, you might hang a banner, balloons, and streamers in the department area.
  • Do it often. Don’t wait for the big successes. Celebrate the small ones too.
  • Do it evenly. Big successes need big recognition; small successes need smaller recognition. If you throw a party for every small success, you diminish its effect for a big success.
  • Be sincere. Don’t praise someone for coming in on time. Don’t congratulate someone for just doing their job. People will see right through you. Really mean it when you give positive feedback.

The Importance of Surveys

If you’re not getting positive feedback, are you sure that you’re asking for it? This is where surveying your customers comes in really handy. Many companies wrongly make the assumption that the Customer Service Team is completely disparate to the rest of the company and has no bearing on new business or in serving their existing customers aside from when they have a problem or an issue. In reality they are the face of your business and often know about new problems in the field before anyone else.

Customer Surveys allow you to collect valuable data from your customer base while simultaneously reinforcing perceptions that your organization genuinely cares about their opinions and welcomes their feedback.  If your organization does not have a process in place to gather this invaluable information, it should do so quickly with the help of a customer survey.  By listening to the voice of your clientele, you are ideally situating your organization to develop or maintain a competitive advantage.

Why Customer Experience Matters

Historically having siloed departments perhaps made sense in some industries. While this might have been historically true (and even then, not so much) customer experience has taken on a renewed focus in the industry. Many companies actually acknowledge that it is a key differentiator for them so anything that a business can do to improve this should be emphasized.

The impact of employee experience on customer experience has been explored in great detail. In fact, “happy employees equal happy customers” has become a motto for some of the world’s biggest brands.  While this might be an old argument, it has validity and is a mantra worth remembering.

The same companies invest in employee happiness year after year. The rest continue to not invest. There’s a clear line between companies that get it and companies that don’t and there’s not a lot of crossover.

An Introduction to Organizational Behaviour

I’ve spoken earlier about OB and how it is used within businesses, but I thought that it might be useful to be a lot more detailed. So, over the course of this year expect regular posts on this topic which you can use in your own learnings.

Organizational behaviour can be defined as the study of how people interact within groups. This study is generally applied in an attempt to come up with more efficient business organizations. The main idea of the study of organizational behavior is that organizations can apply a scientific approach to manage their workers. Generally, the theories of organizational behavior are used for human resources to maximize the individual output of people from group members.

A Breakdown of Organizational Behaviour

There are different philosophies and models of organizational behaviour. The focus on these different areas of study is:

  • Increasing job satisfaction,
  • Improving job performance,
  • Encouraging leadership and promoting innovation.

Managers may adopt different management tactics to achieve the desired results. These tactics may include modifying compensation structures, reorganizing groups and changing the evaluation of performance.

Brief History of OB

The field of organizational behaviour dates back to the late 20s when a company called Hawthorne electric company set up experiments. The experiments were designed to discern how environmental change changed employees productivity.

Between 1924 and 1933, various studies were conducted by Hawthorne electric company. The studies included the study of the effects of different types of breaks on the productivity of employees. The most famous finding from the studies is what is known as the Hawthorne Effect, the change in people’s behavior when they know they are being observed.

Some people have argued that the focus on the finding is to ignore a wider set of different studies that would be credited for the development of organizational behaviour as the human resources professional and as a field of study. The idea of looking at behaviour and productivity in an organization scientifically with the aim of increasing the quality and amount of work an employee can do was backed up with the idea that employees were not resources to be used interchangeably. Instead, workers are unique regarding their potential fit with the company and their psychology.

Organizational behavior has focused on different topics. During the 1940s, organizational behavior focused on management science and logistics. The emphasis was mainly on statistical analysis and mathematical modeling to find the best answers for problems that were deemed complex.

In the 70s, theories of institutions and contingency, as well as resource dependence, organizational ecology, and bounded rationality, came to lead the study as the field concentrated more on quantitative research. These sets of theories and findings helped organizations to understand how they can improve decision making and business structure.

Since the 70s, a good amount of work being done in the field of organizational behaviour has based on cultural components of organizations, and this includes gender roles, class, cultural relativism and gender roles and their unique roles on productivity and group building. The studies take into account the ways in which background and identity can inform decision making.

Focusing On The Academic

You can find academic programs that focus on organizational behavior in business schools. You can also find them in the schools of psychology and social work. They draw from the field of leadership studies, anthropology, computer models and ethnography and use qualitative, computer models and quantitative as methods of exploring and testing ideas. One can study different topics within the field of organizational behavior depending on the program.

Organizational Behaviour in Practice

Human relations professionals and executives can use organizational behavior to understand better the culture of the business and how the culture can hinder or facilitate employee retention and productivity. Executives and human resource managers can also use organizational behavior to evaluate the skills of candidates and the candidate’s personality during the hiring process.

The knowledge or theory application from the field of organizational behaviour can be narrowed down to the following sections:

  • job satisfaction,
  • personality,
  • leadership,
  • reward management,
  • power,
  • authority, and
  • politics.

There is no single way of assessing the suitable way of managing any of these things, but researching organizational behavior can be used to provide topics and guidelines to follow.

  • Job satisfaction theories are different, but some people dispute that a satisfying job is composed of compelling work, concrete reward system, satisfactory working conditions, and good supervisors.
  • Personality plays a significant role in the way people interact with groups and do work. You can know the personality of a person through a conversation or a series of tests. Knowing the personality of a person can give you an idea of whether they are the perfect fit for the particular environment you want to hire them into. You will also know how best you can motivate the employees.
  • Authority, power, and politics depend on each other in an organization. It is therefore essential to understand the appropriate ways and adhere to the rules at the workplace, and the general ethical guidelines in which the elements are used and exhibited are the main components of running a cohesive business.

Why Managers Should Study Organizational Behaviour

The pressures on firms continue to mount, and companies around the world need to utilize their resources in the best way possible.

The success of every organization depends on the effectiveness of the management of the employees. The people’s behaviour in an organization is governed by feelings, ideas, and activities. For businesses to effectively manage people, it is vital to perceive their needs. However, the behaviour of people can differ from one individual to another. This makes it impossible to come up with standard solutions to the problems in an organization.

For this reason, it is crucial to consider the social and psychological aspects when designing solutions to solve different issues in an organization, and that is why managers should study organizational behaviour.

How Leadership and Management Differ

We always have considered leadership and management to be similar things – most people can’t even tell the difference. To them, a leader is a manager, and a manager is a leader hence leadership is management.

Practically, we are not far from the truth. Leadership and management are two concepts with quite a range of overlapping areas but they are still uniquely different. No matter how much we try to ignore it, the difference is very important.

Leadership Versus Management

Leadership Defined

Many definitions of leadership have been suggested over time. Leadership can be seen as a skill that when possessed, provides an individual with the ability to guide others. ‘Lead’ is an action that is an example for other individuals to follow.

A leader can in simple terms be defined as an individual whom others follow or an individual who is a good example to other individuals. Leadership thus goes hand in hand with social influence – individuals who are leaders normally have high social influence. The unclear understanding of leadership has led to many arguments on whether leaders are born or made.

Management

The definition of management goes hand in hand with that of administration.

Management can be defined as the coordination and organization of tasks in an organization for the purpose of achieving the organization’s goals.

Management is thus a factor of production in business.

Is Management Different From Leadership?

Managers are people to which a task is bestowed – the task of management. The task of coordination and organization of tasks in an organization or company. The task of planning, hiring and firing in the organization.

Leaders on the other hand help set the way and direction for others to follow. Leaders don’t necessarily have to be of higher job level to lead while managers have to be on a higher job level to manage.

A leader’s most important quality is wisdom while a manger’s most important quality is rationality and logic.

We are now going to look at roles management and leaders play at different levels of business hence bringing out the difference.

Establishing a Vision

Manager

  • In the quest to realize the vision of an organization, a manager will plan and budget in such a way that the organization invests in projects and tasks that work towards realizing the vision.
  • A manager does not develop an emotional attachment towards any particular project or against it. Once the vision of the organization has been set, the manager works towards it.
  • A manager will develop the schedules and plans towards realizing the vision. For example – if a transportation company decides to buy 100 new trucks by the end of the year, the manager will set the timelines of buying those trucks putting the financially inflows and outflows of the organization into consideration such that by the end of the year, all 100 trucks are bought.

Leader

  • A leader will decide the direction the business takes and set the vision and mission of the business. A leader of a transportation company will, for instance, decide that by the end of the year, the company needs to expand and buy 100 new trucks.
  • A leader develops an emotional attachment to the vision of the company – or at least should appear too. A leader is supposed to be an example thus loving the direction the business is taking and acts as a motivation to the rest of the organization’s stakeholders.
  • The leader will develop the strategy required to achieve the plan. For example, if the transportation company intends to buy 100 trucks by the end of the year, the leader might ask the shareholders to contribute towards it or use some of the previous year’s profits or take a business loan to fund the expansion.

Personnel & Networking

Manager

  •  A manager staffs the organization. They hire and fire. This includes doing the research on the kind of staff required and the optimum number of staff while identifying the non-productive staff and dismissing if need be.
  • Maintains the organization structure. A well-maintained organization structure ensures the business retains its quality and does not veer from its goals and direction.
  • A delegation of responsibilities to juniors. A manager assigns tasks to his/her juniors, creates deadlines and follows up making the person to who a task has been delegated is responsible for that task.
  • Other than delegating responsibility, a manager also delegates authority to their juniors. A delegation of authority involves shifting the task of decision making from one organization level to the other. For instance, if the manager is supposed to chair a meeting on a specific date and he happens to have to attend to a more important task on the same date, he/she can delegate the authority to any of his juniors.
  • A manager implements the organization’s vision. Managers have bestowed the task of transforming the organization’s vision to reality thus given that authority. A manager is thus allowed to come up with the procedure of ensuring the organization’s vision comes to fruition, and the company has to give them the resources of doing it.
  • A manager runs on logic rather than emotion. A manager is the brain of the organization and sometimes may have to make radical or mean decisions to make sure the company remains standing and achieves its goals. A manager, for instance, might have to lay off workers if that’s the most prudent decision to ensure the business remains standing.
  • A manager many times is not the most liked person in an organization. A manager’s responsibilities limit the choices of workers due to their do what needs to be done policy.

Leader

  • A leader, on the other hand, aligns the organization. This involves setting the goals and deciding what direction the business should take.
  • A leader will present to the rest of the organization’s stakeholders the vision and the mission of the organization.
  • A leader is the networking tool of the organization or company. He/she spearheads the coalition and partnering of the organization with other organizations.
  • Unlike a manager, a leader runs on emotions. A leader has to influence people and convince them he/she is worth following hence hurting anyone’s feelings won’t work in their favor, and they have to check that. A leader thus is seen as someone who increases the choices of other stakeholders in the organization.

Vision Execution

Manager

  • The manager regulates and controls the processes towards the execution of the vision. The manager, for instance, might have to introduce overtime in order to increase production so as to realize the organization’s goal of expansion.
  • The manager identifies the problems in the organization and obstacles towards the vision and comes up with the solution of solving the problem.
  • The manager’s approach to problem-solving is always low risk considering he/she has a limited say in the establishment of the vision. The manager is more like the executioner of the leader and always works within a limited space.

Leader

  • During the whole process of vision execution, the leader’s main role is to motivate the stakeholders towards it and help inspire them. This involves simple gestures like:
    • Showing confidence in the workers and stakeholders
    • Seeking input in decisions.
    • Giving you opportunities to shine.
    • Rewarding high-performing workers.
    • Respecting everyone in the organization.
    • Giving credit to anyone that deserves it.
    • Encouraging low Performers.
  • The leaders approach to solving problems is high risk. A leader might decide to take a high-interest bank loan in order to fund the organization’s vision for instance.

Vision Outcome

Manager

  • The manager’s role in vision outcome is results. The organization’s leadership expects the manager to provide consistent results that are consistent with the organization’s vision on a regular basis. The manager is thus bestowed with the task of ensuring an ‘all is well’ environment and will have to prepare themselves during the organization’s meetings to convince the leadership that all is going according to plan.
  • If and when the leadership is unsatisfied with the results, the manager is forced to take control measures and bring the organization back in line. If the task proves to be a mountain to the manager, the leadership might come in and make riskier decisions like dismissing the manager or pumping more funding into the business which may involve taking a loan.

Leader

  • Leaders react to vision outcome generally by either establishing a new vision and rewarding the stakeholders where the vision is realized or is moving towards being realized and making risky decisions where the vision isn’t getting realized. A leader might decide to give the shareholders and the stakeholders an end of the year treat or increased dividends. He/she might set another vision for the next year.
  • Accountability shouldn’t be limited to your workers.
  • A leader is someone who motivates and inspires. A leader can lead by simply being there and not actually interacting with their followers on a one on one basis.

How Help Desk Software Increases Your Customer Support ROI

If you want to invest in customer support software such as Freshdesk, you may be wondering if the cost of the software will pay off. It can be tricky to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of your new tools.

One of the things you need to consider is if it will bring in revenue. Most help desks are cost centers, but if the software reduces the cost of doing business it is still a benefit. This is one of the most important questions that you must get answers before you start using the software. The software can be effective in measuring the impact of your actions on the business metrics. It is possible to make customer support into a revenue generator and not just a cost center.

Nowadays, things are changing, and more customer support teams are focusing on driving growth in businesses and proving their worth to the business. Using the right software can make your customer care more effective in generating revenue. Freshdesk, for example, can help you streamline your customer conversations, automate your repetitive work and collaborate with other teams to solve problems faster. Software for help desks should save money and bring money into the business in order to create a return on investment.

How to Measure Your Investment in Software

If you are at the stage of putting processes into place to support your business’ customer of if you want to fix some gaps in your system, the right help desk package will ensure that you get back to all clients in a timely manner.

This is an important baseline to meet. If you miss one email just once, you can cause your customers to stop doing business with you. 86% of customers quit doing business with companies because of poor customer service. 51% of customers quit doing business with a company for one poor customer experience. All the lost customers lead to lost revenue. Read on to understand different ways of investing in help desk software, save revenue in your business, and increase your customer service team’s ROI.

Move to a Streamlined Queue

Help desks were originally made around the idea of tickets. This can still be seen at the butcher. You take a ticket number and get services in the order that you came in. Nowadays; your businesses shouldn’t treat customers like tickets anymore.

It is important to adopt a nuanced approach to organizing questions from customers. You can become adept at managing messages from customers by using modern help desks. You can achieve this by prioritizing customers who seem to be more upset or customers who have a high opportunity of converting to paid customers. Businesses should invest in help desks that offer better management of queue. This will make customer support teams to more effective.

Self-service Should be Part of Your Customer Service

Businesses should have the ability to offer content in the form of FAQs and knowledge base articles to help customers be able to help themselves. Businesses should understand that self-service is another form of customer service. Self-service carries the highest ROI for different reasons.

Customers like being able to help themselves. 70% of customers like to see an option on your website where they can help themselves. If you don’t offer this service, your customers will be frustrated and will need to contact you. On the other hand, 73% of customers prefer researching for answers on their own instead of talking to a human over social media and live chat. 81% of customers also try to help themselves before contacting human support.

Investing in software that allows self-service keeps the customers happy. Customers will keep coming back when they find it easy and convenient to do business with you. Apart from customers helping themselves, self-service also benefit you as a business owner or manager. Self-service is a cost-effective way of helping customers to resolve issues versus other business help channels. When you get self-service right, it is a cost-effective way of making your customers happy.

Personalize Each Transaction

You can build your customer loyalty by investing in your customers. You can focus on building good relationships with your customers beyond transactions. We should form holistic relationships with customers instead of treating the problems of our customers as a series of events that don’t relate to each other.

You should, first of all, know who your customers are before you think beyond the transaction. If all your customer service team can see is the question at hand, they won’t have a nuanced and personalized conversation about their customers’ needs.

Your help desk can provide additional context with different conversations. For instance, they might show you the last four conversations the customer initiated. If you have integrated your help desk with your CRM, you can see when the renewal date is coming up. You will also see how many users they are paying for. When the context revolves around the history of the customers, you can tailor your approach. You can easily see what your customers need and offer it.

Provision of valuable data

The return of investment of customer support is not always tied to sales directly. Businesses can also use customer support for research on users. This includes knowing what customers think of your product and how they use the product. You can also know what your customers think of your competition. You need help desk reporting that will capture trends for you to get all the information you need from your conversations.

You can use important data from your customers to enhance the efficiency of service delivery and improve the quality of your products to suit your customers’ needs.

Investing in Helpdesk Software – Money Well spent

Calculating the customer experience return on investment is a critical requirement for frontline teams. It is important to know how our actions affect the business. When we connect our customer support goals to the business goals, we move from making our customers happy to showing the value we create.

A Help desk plays a crucial part in the journey of connecting customer interactions and making money. This can be through increasing the power of your support team, improving the loyalty of your customers or uncovering important data. With all these, a help desks can deliver a huge ROI.

The Top 3 CRM Software Packages You Need to Consider if You Want to be Successful

For the success of a business, managing the customer relationship is essential. For any company, the client is seen as a potential resource. Therefore, it is essential to stand out from the competition while responding to your client in a timely and effective manner. As a company, we must not forget that the criteria for choosing a client are not always financial, even in times of crisis.

Whether it is to acquire a product or a service, the client also requires account recognition, responsiveness, and listening. With a good customer relationship management system, the company must be able to handle difficult customers and claims, to be responsive and communicative, to be satisfied by meeting their needs.

Here is where the role of CRM comes in! Now if you’re not in the support and operations industry, you might not be familiar with CRMs so perhaps we’ll start with an introduction first.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the set of tools and techniques for capturing, processing, analyzing information on customers and prospects, with the aim of creating loyalty by offering services.

With regard to a computer application, these include software packages that allow you to deal directly with the customer, whether in terms of sales, marketing or service.

Why Use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software?

Customer relationship management software (CRM) is considered to be a modern version of the “client file”. It is a tool that allows the updating and storage of prospects or contact lists as well as associated customers or target companies. It is possible to use an Excel file and a simple database to maintain your customer records, however, modern CRM software goes further. Here are some examples of its features:

Increase the Satisfaction of Your Customers

Be more efficient in business processes (by better managing your after-sales service, being more responsive and intervening at an opportune moment),

Have a closer relationship with the customer by developing a privileged relationship with them (by registering their preferences, birthday for example, etc.),

Develop competitiveness by providing more services and personalized advice.

Increase the Profitability of the Company

Increase sales through targeted actions on defined segments of your customers and prospects (Example: retain your customers through specific offers based on each customer population),

Optimize the profitability of commercial investments, marketing, and customer service thanks to a better calculation of the return on investment,

Have a clear vision of the commercial activity to optimize the processes (report on the sales, the follow-up of the appointments of the salesmen, the advancement of the objectives, etc.),

Save time by automating recurring tasks (automatic results tracking, automatic client recovery).

Improve the Internal Organization

Calendar shared between the collaborators (tasks to do, events),

Centralization and sharing of all customer data (all important customer information is sorted in the same place and easily accessible),

Structuring information and business processes. You have a structured customer file with relevant information that can be used for marketing purposes (Example: paper mailing, e-mailing, phoning, etc.),

Keep the history of your customer data.

Top CRM Solutions Available In the Market

Your relationships with your customers are sometimes complex, but the tools you use to manage them must remain simple. Created with the needs of customers in mind there are many CRM solution software available in the market. Some of them are mentioned below:

Freshdesk

Freshdesk is the only cloud-based support center software that offers you a feature-rich package that’s easy to use and affordable. Freshdesk is a full set of features including social networking capabilities with   Facebook and Twitter support. The list of integrations includes services like Capsule CRM, Google Contacts, Google Analytics, Freshbooks, Harvest, and JIRA.

All this combined with the exceptional support of Freshdesk gives you an unbeatable, reliable and incredibly affordable customer support experience.

1. Advantages:

  • Setting up Freshdesk is easy
  • The support team is available to help you
  • No hidden clauses, no hidden fees
  • Freshdesk is the only support center that allows you to chat with your team directly from the ticket thanks to Team Huddle
  • Customize your workflows to fit your needs

Disadvantages:

  • Limited data transfer
  • Premium Package is expensive

2. Zendesk

Zendesk is one of the best customer service software packages in the market. With its ticketing system, live chat, telephone support and intelligent knowledge base in one solution, providing effective customer service have never been easier.

Advantages:

  • Reduces the total number of views that agents must view
  • Allows you to see the total number of open tickets at a glance
  • Very easy to configure

Disadvantages:

  • Agents need special training to respond to tickets on a brand
  • Difficult interface

3. Salesforce

Salesforce is your sales order center that takes the form of a Customer Relationship Platform (CRM). The solutions work together to help you manage your sales, marketing, and customer service from one central location. It is intuitive, personalized and designed to support your growth.

With Salesforce CRM, treat each of your customers as if they were the only one. By managing your customers’ information and their interactions with your business on a single platform that is accessible anywhere, anytime, you can understand their needs, solve their problems, and identify areas for which they need help.

Advantages:

  • More than 150,000 companies are on the road to success with Salesforce
  • Ensure the satisfaction of all your customers
  • Manage your business from a mobile device

Disadvantages:

  • Salesforce is the most expensive option in our list! You will need to pay consultants to customize the CRM for you, the interface and the applications
  • As Salesforce does everything, it has many – too many – views and its reporting and dashboards are clunky.

Final Verdict – Freshdesk Wins!

Out of the three discussed CRM solutions; Freshdesk is my favorite and useful option available. Freshdesk is SaaS-based customer support software used by more than 100,000 companies worldwide. It is a comprehensive helpdesk that provides excellent customer support thanks to its many features and integrations.

Freshdesk is positioned primarily as a hub that centralizes all customer requests whether they come from the ticketing platform, incoming phone calls, chats, emails or social networks. This hub allows you to be present at each place where your customers are and it also allows assigning the tickets automatically or manually to the agents who will take care of them.

Freshdesk’s Strengths against Salesforce and Zendesk

In view of the exceptional functional coverage of Freshdesk and its ergonomics, the creator offers an ultra-competitive rate.

The tool is also very well connected to social networks. Freshdesk allows you to master all incoming and outgoing channels without leaving the tool.

Finally, Freshdesk offers you the opportunity to purchase one or more phone numbers and manage calls from this online software.

Conclusion

The use of good customer relationship management technique within a company gives you the opportunity to boost the marketing strategy by targeting and segmenting your contacts. These efforts will enable the company to evolve by conducting targeted marketing campaigns, with the sole purpose of raising the awareness of customers according to fairly precise criteria.

DIDs and SIP Trunking for Dummies

With regard to real-time communications, there are two aspects that businesses focus on. They would like a system that not only saves them money in the long run but is more efficient than the system they already have in place. This way, they can seamlessly upgrade their system while at the very same time keep their more sophisticated users happy.

 
Earlier, a PBX telephone system and later PRI (Primary Rate Interface) Line, integrated with TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) interface. This allowed 25 to 30 individual voice lines for a single connection and was the most used business telco system in place. It was easy to use and manageable at the time.
 
Various employees connected to the same system could call one another using the employee specified extension or use a programmed digit – “7” for instance – if they wanted to get an outside line. The way these lines were connected to one another is how branches of a tree are connected to the trunk of that tree, hence the term “trunking”. Even though the system worked for decades, it was not cost-effective and it had problems. Thus, as soon as companies saw a way out, they took it and what we call SIP trunking emerged.

How Does SIP Trunking Work?

As mentioned, the PBX and later the PRI system worked well for a long time, but as soon as SIP trunks utilizing VoIP (Voice over IP) was introduced businesses realized that additional alternatives existed. SIP trunks, coupled with VoIP, were faster since it used a data connection to connect users to a network, often the same data connection that the business used to access the internet for other reasons also.
With the development of technology in use, SIP trunks with VoIP services could easily-manage voice signals through a data connection. This helped businesses realize significant cost savings as they were able to make a call and video connection as well as hosting cloud services and managing an e-commerce business all through the same network.

ITSP

SIP trunking used a carrier called the ITSP i.e. Telephony Service Provider that offered the VoIP Services. It relied on internet services and protocols as opposed to circuit-switch voice protocols in use for the purpose. This enabled businesses to merge their voice connections and data usage under a single data connection, allowing them to save serious amounts of money annually. Additionally, it also provides a private system with public access, serving the purpose fulfilled by the traditional circuit-switched voice i.e. transport and termination of SIP trunk calls.
 
 

SBC

The key purpose of using SIP trunking services is to provide a seamless transition between different VoIP gateways. Here, VoIP is the device handling the calls and video conferences, while SIP is the protocol that enables smooth handling of both calls and video conferences. The one element here that keeps this system running smoothly is the SBC i.e. the Session Border Control. It is the device that protects a private network by managing traffic and preventing spammers and blacklisted users, such as telemarketers from gaining access to the network. This keeps the system running smoothly.

What Role do DIDs Play In the Process?

DID or Direct Inward Dialing is a series of numbers that are primarily used to dial into your PBX i.e. Private Branch Exchange or networks. These numbers are allocated to the customer and then forwarded to your respective PBX through SIP trunking services
 
The PBX is distinguished on the basis of the last three or four numbers in the series. These digits are known as DNIS i.e. the Dialed Number Identification Services and are responsible for routing the information to the correct telephone extension directly.
Presently, DID services are provided on a PRI circuit. DID services also play a similar role with VoIP communications, using PSTN to reach users directly. It works as a gateway to route and translates calls between the two networks. It is also worth mentioning that with a DID in place, your business can get the much needed local presence which plays a significant role in increasing your profit margin. Not only does it enable number portability but it also provides you with local number availability lacking the toll-free 800 number. This can help you build a local presence without having to change your number.

Why Prefer SIP Trunking Services?

When all has been said and done, as a business owner, your primary concern is probably how the service could best benefit your organization. Thus, here are a few reasons to prefer SIP Trunk Services for your business.

SBC and Networked Policy Management

SBC is the one element of your SIP Trunk Services that keep all the spam at bay while securing your network and keeping it from overloading. Thus, it goes without saying that many SBC based solutions require hands-on policy management as well as configuration, especially if you require a big deployment.
 
This may cost a bit in the initial stages, but if you keep your needs in mind and choose wisely, it will definitely be money well spent for you and your business. Plus, they handle bulk traffic, which makes your entire system run efficiently.

Media Support and scalability

With trends in the world of communication changing on a daily basis, it is a given fact that business will continue to move into better, more efficient forms of media which can improve the pace of business. This includes video conferencing and high-definition audio among the few things.
Thus, equipping your business with state of the art SIP trunk services will ensure that it is always able to keep up with the changing megatrends of the telecom world, keeping your business a step ahead of the competition.
 
Additionally, most SIP Trunk Services are scalable. Meaning, as soon as you have more traffic that needs to be handled, you can easily just upgrade a few components and you are ready for that extra capacity.

Ironclad Security

Most highly ranked SBC and SIP trunking services have a network firewall in place which is backed up by a highly efficient intrusion prevention system. These not only keep spam at bay but also deter data based attacks, enabling it to work with various different systems.

Robust Session Management

As you increase the range of your PRI to SIP services, expanding to VoIP apps, one thing that you will notice immediately is the robust session management of the new system you have in place.

The Bottom Line

At this point, you have a general idea of what of the various aspects of real-time communication dealing with business SIP Trunking services. It is one of those efficient and always evolving systems that can be modified at any time to fit the needs of your expanding business. 

Management and Technical Problem Solving

Managers are often stuck in a very hard place. Organizations depend upon them for their ability to manage the teams, but at the same time, they are often called upon to be the escalation point when a problem inevitably goes sour. This is quite difficult as managing people often means giving up managing technology simply due to the pace of change.

Some of this can be mitigated by offering tiered support levels where agents with increasingly more complex and technical skill sets handle customer issues prior to the management level, but unfortunately, not many companies can afford this level of complexity or cost.

I’ve worked in a variety of industries around the world and this pattern tends to repeat itself in almost every organization I’ve worked in. Frequently businesses assume that by promoting managers from the team working the issue, then the problem should solve itself. After all,

“the individual was a great technical resource so they should easily make the transition to management – right?”

Management & Technical Skills

Unfortunately, this rationale simply does not work. During the time the manager was simply a technical resource, they were rewarded for gaining new and more complex technical skills. This reward could be in the form of compensation, but it could even simply be by the peer recognition of skills. While continued growth in technical skills might work in lower level management positions, it simply will not suffice in more senior positions, where managers are expected to demonstrate more strategic abilities. If managers demonstrate conceptual and human skills as well, their promotion prospects and, more importantly, their performance potential are both greatly enhanced.

A great example of this from the early days of my career was working with a senior network administrator – the manager of that team. As the leader of the support organization, I was frequently forced to interact with him when dealing with complex customer issues. I quickly learned to dread those conversations as his initial reaction was always the same:

“It’s not us! The customer is doing something wrong!”

Internally we started to call him Dr. No. However, he was simply doing what he was used to which was defending his team and department, instead of realizing the larger issue. The customers pay all of our bills and if we lose them, we have no team or department, or company! With Dr. No, there was a simple solution – have him meet the customers. Once he understood the problems and could actually see the impact our service (or lack thereof in this case) had on their business, he was able to conceptualize it in different terms.

Over time I’ve come to realize that many organizations have a “Dr. No” or the equivalent. Someone woefully lacking in people skills but a superstar in the technical department. Unfortunately, individuals like this tend to reduce a firm’s operational effectiveness. 

Perspectives on a Manager’s Job

We’ve talked previously about a manager’s role and their importance in greasing the wheels of operational effectiveness. Businesses in today’s more decentralized workforces need these skills even more than in year’s gone past and manager’s need to evolve from an authority-derived ‘issuer and interpreter of rules and orders’ to a role responsible for creating an entrepreneurial work climate that facilitates teamwork regardless of where a person physically sits while doing the work.

As someone interested in management and managing teams in general, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that research has stated a manager’s day is “a series of discrete, fragmented episodes.”  What this means in simpler terms is that managers are often pulled in hundreds of different directions at the same time! Managers are often unable to spend more than 5% of their time on a single discrete task and technology in the modern office with tools like Slack, Chat and Chatter only make the interruptions more frequent.

To understand what managers do, it’s important to realize their job comprises the following:

  • Managing employee performance (supervising).
  • Guiding subordinates (teaching and training).
  • Representing one’s staff (advocacy).
  • Managing team performance (facilitation).
  • Allocating resources (decision making).
  • Coordinating interdependent groups (collaboration).
  • Monitoring the business environment (scanning for adaptations).

Regardless of where you are in the management hierarchy, these tasks are common across all companies. What does change is the amount of time spent at each level as strategic planning (tasks lower in the list) tend to take a greater amount of focus as you rise in levels in your career. As companies and employees continue to migrate to digital tools and remote working, managers that are only comfortable with exercising authority and command are being retrained or replaced by those who know how to coordinate the work of interdependent teams.   Customer expectations are changing. Now and in the future customers will support only companies that deliver high-quality goods and services at the best price anywhere in the world. All firms have easy access to the tools of total quality management (TQM) (continuous improvement) and use it as a principal method to sustain operational effectiveness. The successful twenty-first-century manager moves easily in the environment of continuous improvement and develops in his subordinates the dedication to improve products and customer services.   

How can Managers Grow and Evolve?


Well, that’s really the point of these series of articles! While there isn’t a single “magic bullet” that can solve all problems there are things that can be done to improve managerial skills in a timely and effective manner.

When managers are interviewed about the problems they face, they invariably turn to annoying workplace issues. They talk about the fact that their employees “won’t go that extra mile”, or they simply “aren’t customer focused.” Many managers talk about their teams basically being “seat warmers” and complain about the siloed organizations they work in where teams simply do not talk to each other! If you’re in that type of an organization you have my pity. I’ve been there but I’ve also managed to turn things around. Feel free to reach out if I can help.

What is Customer Journey Mapping and Why is it Important?

Most people have the wrong view of customer journey mapping, and that is why they get intimidated by it. They think that it has to be an accurate representation of every degree of customer’s experience. This is impossible.   

It is better to think of it as a persona. Customer maps are like personas. The only difference is that they focus more on the questions and tasks. They express the experience of customers over time and not as a snapshot. This means that they work together. A customer journey map focuses on the customer experience while a persona focuses on people or the person.  

The Meaning of Customer Journey Mapping

According to Forbes, customer journey mapping can be defined as a way of visualizing the experience of customers and how the customers interact with your business. The primary goal of mapping the journey is to remove any obstacles and improve efficiency while also making the process intuitive. The customer experience will improve if you create a seamless experience. Laterally, it is mapping out the best way for the typical journey of the customer.   We can refer to it as an archetype representing the underlying complexity and nature of a real journey. There is no way a customer journey map can be 100% accurate. This can leave a lot of people wondering about the importance of customer journey mapping.

Importance of Customer Journey Mapping

It is not easy to create a customer journey because it requires a lot of effort to create. For this reason, you will create fewer of them. People often create customer journey maps for each of their primary audience. Rather than digging into too many details, they focus on the overview of the whole journey. You can polish out the journeys over time. You can also think of customer journey map as a story designed to give insights into the journey of the customer.   

Companies Can Refocus With an Inbound Perspective

Customers can discover your company with the aid of inbound marketing rather than using outbound marketing to discover your customers. Using outbound marketing is not effective because it involves using tactics that are poorly targeted at uninterested audiences and it can interrupt customers from their activities.  

  You can spend a lot of money on outbound marketing and achieve undesirable results. This can annoy customers and deter them. On the other hand, inbound marketing involves creating interesting content that potential customers are already looking for. This can grab the attention of the customers at first and focus on sales later.   By mapping out the journey of the customers, you can understand the helpful and interesting things to your customers about your website and company. You can also understand things that are turning your customers away. You can also create vital content to attract the customers to your company and improve customer trust.

The New Target Customer Base

You won’t be able to know the psychographics and demographics of your customers if you don’t understand the customer journey. This can be dangerous and can waste a lot of resources to target an audience that is too broad repeatedly. It is important to target people who are likely to be interested in your content, products, and services.   You will get a good picture of the types of people trying to achieve a goal or get services and products from your company if you research the needs of your customers and map out their journey.

Creation of a Customer-Focused Culture 

It can be difficult to coordinate different departments in your company as it gets large. This will make it difficult to be customer-focused. Your company will, therefore, have marketing and sales goals that are not based on what the customers want.    You can share a clear customer journey map with everyone in your department. The maps will help you understand every step of your customer’s journey from the first time they interacted with your company to the post-purchase support. You cannot deny the importance of customer journey mapping based on this rationale. 

Timing

Timing is an essential factor for businesses to focus on when looking at the customer journey mapping. Businesses can use the maps to observe the time it takes customers to complete specific actions.

Identifying gaps in Communications and Service

Businesses can use customer journey maps to reveal gaps in customer service. This can enable business managers to make the necessary adjustments and improve service delivery. For example, one department may prove to be understaffed, and this can cause frustration to customers who interact with that department. Problems in communication between departments and among employees may be revealed and solved accordingly.

Reduced Costs

Businesses that use customer journey maps reduce costs. Research done by the Aberdeen group indicated that brands that use customer journey maps improve in the cost of customer service more than ten times. The research also found out that brands that use customer journey mapping grow by 21% within a year while those that don’t use customer journey maps experience a yearly decline of 2.2%. Customer journey mapping also increases referral marketing, and this reduces the costs of marketing.

An Example of Customer Journey Mapping

This is an example of a customer journey map, and it clearly shows the steps that dapper apps believe customers go through as they interact with them. The company goes beyond the purchasing phase and incorporates the post-purchase needs and initial research.   

  The map helps employees to get into customer’s mind and understand the questions they have and their emotions. This makes the map effective. The dapper apps take incremental actions in response to the customers’ questions and feelings, and this helps it to solve the current problems that customers have.

Reasons why Customer Journey Maps Fail

There are many different reasons for failure when it comes to customer journey mapping. Here are some of the most common ones that you need to be aware of.

Speaking to Like-Minded Colleagues Alone

When employees are expressing their views on customer journey, they can gravitate towards views that only reflect their own opinions and common wisdom. This can lead to employees expressing their opinions, and not views backed up with concrete evidence.    This can be very dangerous if the opinions of the employees are taken and accepted as facts. It is therefore important to seek out a wide range of opinions from different groups of employees.

Lack of Clear Governance

Customer journeys cut across different organizational structures. This makes it useful to form a functional group that cuts across all the structures to reflect different departments’ experiences of the customer journey. It is important to have proper governance in place for this to be successful.

Failure to Involve Stakeholders

It is important to involve all parts of the business to participate in the creation of the map. Strong support should come from the senior leadership to ensure that customer journey mapping is successful. An initiative such as customer journey mapping will fail without executive sponsorship.

Not Speaking to Customers

During customer journey mapping, it is important to take the opinions of your employees. But as we had earlier seen, some employees will only give you their opinions and not hard facts. To solve this problem, it is crucial to validate the views of your customers by talking to the customers and not relying on your employees to give you information.

Spending too Much Time on Research

It is important to do enough research, but this doesn’t mean that you should spend too much time on research. You can result in a lot of problems if you do too much research. Researching for too long can make the project too be too expensive and complex. You only need research to create a detailed and helpful map and not to improve functions.

Conclusion

The process of customer journey mapping creates an overview of customer experience. It also maps how your customers navigate through the sales funnel. Customer journey mapping is useful across both refinement process and iteration as new elements get designed while the old ones get refined or discarded. You can use customer journey mapping to identify opportunities and enhance the overall experience of your customers.   Customer journey mapping can help content creators create the best way to approach the creation of their content. For the designer folks, customer journey mapping can help them to identify the missing connections in the navigation and help to eliminate various customer frustrations.   With customer journey mapping, you will be able to put your customers at the center of everything you do. You won’t only look at your needs and priorities and make assumptions about ways you can motivate your customers to meet your business goals. It gives you a reason to consider the customers first.   To get started with customer journey mapping, you will first need to choose the processes you want to analyze and deconstruct each step taken to complete each process. This sounds easy but you there are some challenges. Nevertheless, every business needs customer journey mapping, and you need to make a decision now because there are numerous benefits that you will enjoy later.

The Impact To Your Business of “Unplanned Work”

You can’t feel it, you can’t see it, you can’t touch it, but unplanned work is silently killing your business. How many times have you finished your day at work, very exhausted yet unable to cross anything off your list of high-priority to do things? This can make you feel robbed. It is impossible to tell where your time went to. This is a sign that you are falling victim to unplanned work.
 
Unplanned work is not evident in our metrics of performance, so it is difficult to analyze. However, the impact of unplanned work is great. It can mask dependencies and block and stall important priorities. Risk will accumulate across your system if you receive more work and start it late. The risk will continue to yield more risks in the form of unknown dependencies, neglected work, too much WIP and conflicting priorities. This can jeopardize the ability of your organization to deliver predictably.
 
 

Effects of Unplanned Work

You can encounter unplanned work in 2 different flavors:
  • The requirements that you have to change in the middle of a project
  • The defects you find during testing. 

You can deal with both of them if you have an agile team that is run well. It is important to understand the cause of unplanned work if you want to make your project cheap and predictable.

 
It is also important to understand that unplanned work steals valuable time from planned work. Most people see unplanned work as a norm instead of seeing it as a significant problem. 

When solving a problem, you should ensure that the problem will not occur again, but if you solve the symptoms of a problem rather than the problem, then the problem is likely to occur again. The main problem that is left unattended will lead to more issues which will lead to the allocation of more resources, and this can worsen things.
 
Every organization, department, team, and individual should measure the amount of unplanned work that is being performed. You can even forget about solving problems that come later and get a sense of how much time is allocated to work that isn’t adding any value to the business and rather spent on fighting the status quo. 
 
Let us consider release management as a concrete example to explain unplanned work. You take a piece of software and deploy it to the market and spend a lot of time trying to diagnose why a certain release didn’t work as expected. The time you spend trying to diagnose the problem is unplanned work. You can easily solve some of these issues through deployment, continuous integration and automated testing. You can be proactive and resolve a lot of (future) unplanned work as you try to diagnose and debug why things didn’t work as you had expected.
 
It is difficult to get rid of unplanned work, but we can easily learn how to plan for it. The only concern is how to plan and tackle unplanned work. Before we go deep and discuss how you can handle and mitigate unplanned work, it is important to discuss incident management, problem management, and post-mortems because they can help plan for the unplanned.
 

Incident Management and Problem Management

Problem management and incident management are key components of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library service model, and they have been created to provide a more streamlined service to consumers.
 

Incident Management

Incidents are things related to customer contacts. They can be account updates, information request, and issue reporting. There are different methods that incidents can be reported through, and this includes email, phone, and chat. Incidents can also be generated by automatic monitoring tools. There are different incidents that come through/from different sources. They would get routed to your tool for incident management. This could be something simple for smaller teams, but larger teams may need enterprise level tools or in-house customer-built applications.
 
Your business should have the responsibility of reviewing information about different incidents and check if there is a solution available to the customer. An example of an incident is when a customer wants to change their account password. The helpdesk will receive the incident, get the necessary information and make sure the customer has passed all the security checks, facilitate the changing of the password and inform the customer that the password has been changed and then close the incident. Some incidents can be managed with automatic tools while others have to be managed manually.
 

Problem Management

Incident management is repetitive in nature and can get tedious. This can exhaust the more skilled employees in your organization so if you have such employees in your organization, consider moving them into managing problems.
 
Problem management is deeper than incident management. This is where a single problem causes multiple incidents from multiple clients or customers. Problem management needs the best people. The role of these people is to find out why a certain problem happened and find the best ways to fix it and prevent the problem from happening again.
 

Post-mortem

A post-mortem is usually performed after a project has been concluded. The process helps to determine and analyze different elements of the concluded projects that were successful or unsuccessful. The main purpose of project post-mortem is to inform improvements in processes to mitigate future risks. This helps to promote best practices in an organization. Post-mortem helps to manage risks in an organization.
 

Mitigating unplanned work

As we had already seen, unplanned work is time-consuming, expensive and can negatively impact other projects in your organization. 
 
It can also drain all your skilled resources. This can be the rarest and the most important resources you have in your organization. This is why unplanned work hurts more. Two main methods you can use to mitigate unplanned work are:
  • Widening the bottleneck to moving configurations down and upstream without having to tie down your constrained skill base.
  • Increasing communication flow between producers and developers to relevant changes.

 

When you widen the bottleneck, it turns hours of work into a few minutes. If something goes wrong, you can always roll back and mitigate the impact of unplanned work. You can widen the bottleneck by creating a build of configurations, automating activities of migration of configurations and creating other jobs.
 
When the flow of communication is increased, your developers will know any changes to production that impacts their activities directly. They will be able to run comparisons instantly against critical systems and see if they have to consider specific changes as they perform their work. This helps to prevent failed deployments or reduce the likelihood of failed deployments. 
 

Customer relationship management

This is somewhat self-explanatory. Customer relationship management (CRM) is a strategy used by a business to execute business objectives and meet the requirements of their customers. 
 
The service strategy can be used to improve the customer relationship strategy within a business and ensure that the business can create value for its shareholders and customers by contributing to the value. The strategy ensures that businesses are able to organize their operations in an appropriate manner to deliver services that will enable the success of customers. 
 

Document Objectives

 
The business objectives are the results you want to maintain and achieve as you run your business. Every business should have clear and attainable goals. 
 
The goals may include productivity, profitability, customer service, core values, employee retention, growth, change management, marketing, maintain financing, competitive analysis and more.
 

Document Requirements

If you want to arrive at a solution that will ensure the continuity of your business, you need to map out every application; server, data, and software solution set in your environment. You should assign a downtime tolerance that is business-driven for each of the requirements. Map out the application interdependencies as you do this.
 
 

Test Your DR Planning

 
Disaster Recovery is never a onetime event. This is a constant process, and it is important for disaster recovery to keep up with the changes in the environment and evolving service-level agreements. The truth is that the data center is rapidly changing and it is almost impossible for the change control processes and operations to keep up. It is also very hard to conduct disaster recovery tests with enough frequency to be meaningful. This leads to most companies considering disaster recovery and tools for monitoring to allow analysis that is a near-real-time of the disaster recovery processes and setup.
 

 

Every business should conduct disaster recovery tests to determine the people who need more training and also know the disaster recovery processes that need to be refined. Some of the main disaster recovery things that a business should have include monitoring, environment awareness, hardware, and software independence and work from a knowledge base. 
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