The Customer Experience

April 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

My thoughts on the customer experience are very straightforward.

If you aren’t offering something that someone else isn’t offering (ie you have a monopoly) the only way you can differentiate or compete is by making it easy for customers to do business with you in a repeatable and consistent fashion.

This is exactly where retail have it all wrong and are suffering at the hands of the e-Commerce industry.

I could go into a large department store, fight traffic, get parking, walk through hundreds of people to buy my stuff, then wait for a person who knows nothing about the product to help me, then check out and get home OR I could go online, read other customers reviews and one click order from the comfort of my lounge room in my underpants without any of the above. The only issue is that of delay of fulfilment, but most customers don’t need a new pair of shoes, or a DVD player TODAY, so it’s not really an issue in retail.

One is easy, the other is hard and the way this applies to the IT industry is that we all too often make it too difficult for customers to do business with us both initially and in a repeat fashion.

There are a number of ways we can improve the customer service experience, but I’m going to focus on the issues and on two products which are awesome and I really enjoy working with that improve that customer service experience.

The first issue for mine is non-integrated service portals – I hate these with a passion; a separately maintained username and password onto a portal which is usually not well designed and doesn’t allow customers to do key tasks. I’m looking at you here Connectwise, you know what I’m talking about! But luckily, the solution is already here and it’s called DeskDirector ( – I’ve been doing some testing with this product and it, in one word, is awesome.

It’s basically a replacement for the Connectwise service portal (which you probably already give access to your customers to) that does a number of great things to improve that user experience for customers and make it easier for them to do business with you.

First, it’s AD integrated to the CLIENTS Active Directory, you just put their domain SID into a portal and then the users automatically authenticate with their own Active Directory username and password and even better, if the client doesn’t exist as a contact in Connectwise and they try and use the portal, this will actually CREATE them as a contact in Connectwise! That’s actually a really simple thing, but it’s really great because often you won’t have clients details for a call back or something like that, plus you can track who logs tickets and for what.

Second, it’s a client side application installed with a easy installation on clients PCs, particularly easy if you use something like Labtech to roll it out but the reason that clients want to use it is because it includes a raft of user training built into the product and the ability for you to provide training to customers is what will drive the client side adoption of the product without having the “oh no, not another thing for me to use to interact with my service provider!” discussion. The training is customisable and you can provide your own training material on a global or specific per company basis – the other advantage of this is that if a client can find the answer to the problem before contacting you, then you’ll save costs on servicing that customer. But mostly, the client is happier because they can pull training and information they need whenever they want it to help themselves.

Third, there’s a raft of features I love which enable the customer to interact in a simple and consistent fashion. These are:

1. A very user friendly wizard driven way of logging a ticket (including adding screenshots etc very easily) which can automatically assign service types into Connectwise or put the ticket onto different Connectwise boards. Also the ability to see all active tickets for a company including timeline and interactions with your organisation
2. The ability for a specific user at a client site, if they are added to a particular group (that you manage in Connectwise) to be able to either have all of their tickets logged as a priority 1 or 2 OR have the ability to ‘fast-track’ particular tickets that might not look important at first glance but actually are (ie a single PC not working might not be important, unless that person is the payroll person and today is pay day!)
3. The ability for clients to see all invoices issued to them from Connectwise (if given the permission) so they can self service their own invoices taking the pressure off your account management/finance team if a client wants to see an old invoice.
4. The ability for clients to see “Recommendations” which are basically Opportunities in Connectwise and flag them for review (or really just say they want to buy them!) along with being able to see the quote if you have Quosal and are using Order Porter.
5. The ability for clients (if they have the permission) to see tickets in the “On Hold – Awaiting Client Approval” status and approve the ticket – no more billing or security problems when a client says they didn’t approve for work to be done
6. If you want to provide the feature of ‘chat’ with your engineers, there is also the ability for clients to chat with engineers and your engineers to see the ticket they’re chatting about and enter the notes from the chat directly into Connectwise from the chat application installed on your engineers PC. In my mind, this would replace the chat agent that Connectwise are selling which is kind of expensive anyway.

Anyway, that’s enough about Desk Director, but take my word for it, it is truly awesome and I can’t wait to get this rolled out to our customers so they can experience the power. It’s not that expensive and well worth a look, the guys will set it up for you and you can test drive the power of it.

The second issue I have ugly reports. That’s a pretty blunt term, but clients want to know what’s going on with their network and with their service tickets and they want to do that in an easily understood fashion that can be given to a non technical executive and they can at a glance see what’s occuring. I spoke a little in my last blog post about experience scores which I think is where the industry needs to move to but while that’s being built out you have to provide some sort of Managed Services Report to clients who you’re working with.

Generally the reports coming out of RMM and PSA tools are disparate, and, well, ugly. I’ve seen a lot of them, used a lot of them, and even as a technical person sometimes the content is not easily understood even if you know what you’re looking at.

The guys at BrightGauge (( have a excellent piece of software that pulls information out of Connectwise, Labtech, Kaseya, Autotask and GFI Max and consolidates that into a online, fully customisable, drill down, gauge driven report that both looks awesome and demonstrates value to your clients for the services you’re delivering. It’s a major differentiator if your competitors are still issuing the tired old reports that have a lot of words, but don’t really say anything. It’s also dirt cheap for what it does, if you don’t already have it, seriously – go and sign up now, they have no contracts and when we’ve needed their support they’ve been very forthcoming with it.

For mine, the next iteration should be that the guys from BrightGauge talk to the guys at Desk Director and have Desk Director be able to deliver the reports directly down to the client desktop without requiring another portal. It would be especially cool if a client could run their own reports, on their own timelines directly from Desk Director. More than one portal.. is too many portals – but if you’re reducing 3 portals to 2, then you’re at least going in the right direction!

Both of these products solve a number of difficult problems with giving clients granular, understandable access to the value you deliver for your Managed Services clients and I can highly recommend both of them for streamlining and improving the customer experience.

My major point for this post is that clients are expecting to be able to pull information on their timeline without necessarily needing to interact with you and your staff or wait for a reporting period to come around so they can see what’s going on with their networks. Anything you can to do give that information in a consistent and concise fashion will add value to the customer experience and make it easier for them to do business with you which will drive improvements in profitability, customer retention and customer satisfaction for you.

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