16 September 2016

Organizing Customer Support Service

Today, customer service is one of those factors that every company must consider. A person using your product or service must have easy ways to contact you in case a problem occurs.
Employees of a service provider form a specific group of consumers. Technical support that they receive has a great impact on the efficiency and productivity of the company.
In this article, I try to show how technical support offered to both customers and employees must be organized from the point of view of BPM.

External and Internal Users

1. Customer service for the company’s customers (external users)
The customer has a contact point for interaction with your company (technical support specialist, sales rep that initially worked with this customer, hotline, online forms, and so on). The customer reports his or her problem and waits for a quick solution.
How the company solves the customer’s inquiry is the company´s problem only. Answers like “you see, our supplier failed to deliver the required parts on time” or “Mr. Smith is on vacation, we have to wait two more weeks before we can do something for you” just drive customers mad. Obviously, the better you set up the customer support process, the more loyal the customers will be.

2. Customer service for the company’s employees (internal users)
Companies rarely consider their employees as users of customer support. Service desk is the only thing that comes to mind in this case. Middle-size and large companies usually have a service desk to manage computer hardware and software issues. If the company itself provides IT services, the service desk also offers technical support to the company’s customers.


Service Desk structure

Let’s set the IT issues aside and consider a simple example: a sales rep has a printer in the office, and one day the printer breaks down. It happens for the first time in the two years that the sales rep has been working in the company. Would he or she know what to do in this case, whom to call or message to repair the printer, or how to get a new one in case this one cannot be repaired? A service desk is needed for this exact purpose, to deal with such situations.

Here you can see how users’ complaints forwarded to the company’s IT service can be managed by means of a BPM system. When a computer software or hardware incident takes place, a user starts the IT Request app, and then the process is performed according to the process map.

However, companies offer a lot more supporting services to their employees, such as requests to the legal, provision or HR department. They are meant to make the working process easy and stable. The question here is HOW these services are organized if organized at all.

Any User Support Process Is a Business Process

In the matter of technical support for external and internal customers, there are two main rules:
1. If a user knows what to do when a certain problem occurs, he or she will do what is necessary and will do other work while waiting for the result.
2. Solving a user problem inside a company is always a business process. It starts when the user makes a request to the customer support service, and it ends when the user (employee or customer) is notified that the problem is solved.

In our example, the system administrator comes to check the broken printer. If nothing can be done to repair it, he or she makes a request to purchase a new one. The superiors approve the request, and then an invoice is issued and paid. After that, the sales rep gets a new printer.
If this process is well adjusted and works like a clock, all the participants complete their tasks fast. For the sales rep, things are very basic: the problem comes up and then the problem is solved.

Setting up Customer Support Services in a BPM System

Setting up user support processes is an important objective. Of course, small companies can do it without much effort: the office receives all the phone calls, and requests go to the CRM system via a website. The customer flow is not significant and does not require an automated process. The same goes for employee technical support in a small company.

In larger companies, technical support services are best managed with a BPM system. Consider a company that provides industrial equipment. Say, a customer reports equipment failure. First, to solve the problem many specialists have to examine the equipment, reveal the cause, replace the broken part or the equipment itself.
Second, the period in which the technical support is offered is highly important. While we consider the customer’s complaint and discuss the best way to transport the equipment in order to replace it, the customer’s plant is idle and experiencing losses.

Customer support service built as a chain of tasks (and usually a rather complex one, with time and quality priorities) is a business process, which is best automated with a BPM system.


Example of supporting processes in ELMA BPM

With a BPM system, you can:

  • Model the processes of user request handling.
    The process model is created as a simple visual diagram by dragging graphic elements from the toolbar. The diagram shows the tasks aimed at solving the customer’s problem, the employees who must complete these tasks, and order in which the tasks must be completed. This is very simple and does not require any programming experience.
  • Organize a single entry point.
    A ВPM system can be used as an easy-to-use interface for messaging to the technical support services, so that the users do not have to think where exactly they must send their request.
  • Automate process execution.
    When the process reaches a certain point, such tasks as “check printer in room number X” or “approve equipment purchase request” are automatically assigned to their executors. The system makes sure that the work is done according to the approved policies. In addition, the technical support employees find it easier to work, when they do not need to wonder who they must reach to approve a certain request.
  • Make sure that no complaint or request is forgotten, and minimize the risks of exceeding the time limit for solving the issue.
    A BPM system stores all the requests sent to technical support, and determines a certain time period for their processing. If a task is overdue, the system notifies the executors or/and supervisors.
  • Monitor the technical support service operation.
    The system automatically creates reports that show the number of complaints, operation time of each process step or of the whole process, billable hours, employees’ KPIs and other metrics. Also, you can always track the current process step and see how a request is being processed at the moment.
  • Improve the complaint handling processes right during the working process.

A BPM system automates the process as a whole, from the moment the request is made to the moment the problem is solved. This allows you to see how effective the service is, track the bottlenecks, spots where delays mostly occur, and improve the process basing on this information.
If you want to modify a process that is already automated in a BPM system, all you have to do is edit the diagram. After the changes are saved, the process will be executed according to the changes made.

In the end, I want to point out that it is crucial to consider the company’s needs when selecting a system for setting up your user support services. If you need to perform a typical request registration and display of results, and put everything in order, a packaged solution or a SaaS solution like Service Desk would fit your right. I would recommend that you apply a business process approach and implement a BPM system if you need analysis of, for example, how technical support operates for a certain area of work, if you have several technical support services and they employ personnel from various departments, and if you plan to develop and improve your services.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Aleksey Trefilov