In the past, the role of collaboration technologies was to help customer support reps work with each other on what I call “exception cases.” These are the 20% of cases that are not solved by the FAQ, or first line support. Often they are more complex, and there is no current solution in the customer support database. Creating a solution may often involve the support rep working with someone in engineering or product development. It is clear that collaboration has a critical role in this process and is not going away.
But the nature of customer support itself is changing, just like most of the ways we now work are changing rapidly due to the influx of new and often game-changing technologies. The other big challenge in support is people. Many support people are at retirement age, and the ability to capture their knowledge is critical to the organization.
In the past customers expected support technologies like TeamSupport.com and genesys labs, that supports better knowledge sharing between internal support team members and company experts. While telephone support is not going away any time soon (and it still supports a collaborative interaction) customers are looking for more new and social options: chat, social media, video, and self-service.
New wave Collaborative Support
A new wave of collaboration technologies and an offshoot of the mobile revolution (wearable devices) may provide some of the solution to this knowledge capture problem and appease the appetite of today’s customers for new and more collaborative solutions. There are many mobile applications that already support collaboration of many types: Collaborate.com for asynchronous mobile communications, and Fuze for real-time communications and videoconferencing.
Pebble, Samsung and many other vendors have announced watches that connect with mobile devices or directly to the cloud (if they have WiFi). In Samsung’s case their watches will pair with the Galaxy Smart phones, allowing mobile employees to record video and still have their hands free. This ability to record video or implement a video conference makes it easier to capture this elusive knowledge from the field.
No matter what the technology is and its ability to connect to a variety of people, people are still people and they talk with, interact or collaborate with those they trust or like. People often go to their personal networks for answers. If you don’t know someone personally, then you find the identified expert. Although the NSA may have a record of this conversation, the company that is providing the support often doesn’t, and so is not capturing valuable knowledge. Steve Rosati does a brilliant discussion of this in his article “The Future of Field Service: Wearable Tech and Social Collaboration Can Take us There.”
Because of the BYOD revolution (ongoing) there has recently been a lot of effort put into the area of wearable devices. Not only Google Glasses (which would be very expensive for most companies to provide) but General Dynamics has made wearable devices for the military for a long time. Even watching the America’s Cup races you notice that the helmsman has a wearable (and waterproof) computer on his forearm, and others have devices on their chests or belts (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Note the computer on the right forearm of this America’s Cup sailor
New types of context- aware software like Cisco, and Appear IQ will support the sharing of technical information with the video providing examples and details. This additional context information for field support employees will allow them to be more productive and also provide higher quality support. As you use devices like this, not only will field support managers be able to keep better track, but the ability to capture knowledge will also be enhanced.
Recently Amazon announced the Kindle Fire HDX which offers a Mayday button with a video to show how it works. If you press the “Mayday button” in the “Quick Settings Menu” it instantly connects you with a live support person (on video) who can show you how the device works, or answer support questions. In this case the mobile device is now the support tool: “Our goal is to revolutionize tech support” noted Jeff Bezos. “It is a real “wow” feature and we expect new users will be showing it off to their friends and colleagues, so we have ramped up our support staff to deal with that eventuality.”
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