5 Steps to Service Simplicity and Transformation

Mergers are picking up again. Staples announced that it is going to buy Office Depot. Halliburton is in talks to buy Baker Hughes. This year’s mergers and acquisitions activities are expected to surpass last year’s $3.5 trillion total, which was 47% higher than in 2013. While mergers may be popular these days, the business complexity they can add is potentially harming the estimated $340 billion spent yearly in brand investment by American companies.

Where brand loyalty wanes, high customer confusion and effort reigns. Redundancy of product lines, ERP systems, unforeseen new products and delays in delivery are just some of the challenges caused by mergers.

To limit customer and partner effort, Keith Clemente, Avaya Global Support Services Offer Management & Performance leader, was charged with transforming and simplifying a confusing complex of service offerings and processes across a variety of Avaya channels and markets that resulted from multiple years of Avaya acquisitions. Keith took time away from the project to share below some of the lessons learned along the way, lessons you could leverage in your business as you embark on customer service transformations.

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Aligning the Wheels While the Car is Moving

Keith Clemente, Avaya Client Services

Mergers and acquisitions, as well-intended as they may be, can lead to a legacy of unintended services, offerings and unnecessary challenges to how a brand is experienced and perceived by customers.

For Avaya, more than a dozen acquisitions had built a confusing, complex and costly ecosystem of backend tools and processes, including more than 10 different support products, and services, three entitlement systems, four ERP systems, and seven quote tools. Getting lost in the complex structure were customers, partners and commerce simplicity. Simple transactions required complex changes to multiple systems and tools that slowed transformation.

Transforming while running an ongoing business is a lot like aligning wheels on a car while it is moving. Consider these steps when you begin the transformation of your business and all of its touch points with customers and partners:

  • Simplify point of sale offers to meet and exceed market needs. Do not design to be all things to all markets. When possible, design for fewer but higher value offers to meet the needs of key markets. Fixing the initial sales process is key, so that you don’t perpetuate problems, it also enables you to place more attention on migrating and modernizing the embedded base
  • Streamline processes by consolidating registration data, systems and tools, as well as often-overlooked search functions. At the heart of simplification is records accuracy. More accurate customer records drive time and cost out of key processes. Faster registration, approvals, support, quotes and renewals are possible when data is accurate, saving time and improving the customer experience. Streamlined processes leveraging accurate data free up time to focus on value selling and focus customers on their roadmap vs administrative tasks.
  • Structure the customer service experience for customers and partners. Whenever possible, look to improve omni-channel communications with customers (e.g. Web, chat, video and mobility capabilities) to meet ever-changing demands–in so doing, enhancing customer satisfaction and net promoter scores.
  • Speed of delivery by making it faster and easier to purchase services. Web-based part fulfillment for parts ordering with expanded parts availability can provide a convenient, consistent, and faster ordering experience. Self-service and customization helps speed renewals and simplifies billing.
  • Stay in touch with customers for feedback and customization of new approaches. The best way to ensure you are fixing issues and not adding to them is clear consistent feedback from customers and partners.

Transformation takes time. We started with a focus on reducing redundancy, eliminating multiple offers, consolidating ERP, quoting, and entitlement systems as well as using electronic signatures to eliminate paperwork. Given data accuracy is at the heart of any commitment to simplification we spent much of our time on efforts to improve records and enhance registration tools. The commitment led to these notable improvements:

  • Point of sale support offers dropped from seven to three, simplifying the portfolio and associated processes
  • 50%+ reduction in registration cycle time
  • 99% reduction in customer authorization cycle time
  • 99% reduction in SME service activation cycle time (1 hour down from 7+ days) with a new token process

Communication with constituents (customers and partners), key throughout the five-step process, helped confirm and discover pain points while prioritizing resources going forward. This is especially important when doing foundational work that may not be entirely visible to an external community. Consider the following communications cadence to keep the dialogue going with customers:

  • Quarterly emails
  • Monthly sharing calls
  • Monthly roadmap reviews
  • Recorded monthly topics
  • Quarterly webcasts

Transformations take time and are evolutionary. There is not a single finish line. Transformations require continuous investment in technologies, tools and process. While the focus is always forward, there needs to be a continuous feedback loop to ensure the primary goals are always clearly in view.

Transformations can also be tricky. Often they can come unraveled or derailed, as circumstances dictate reactionary next steps. Unintended consequences emerge. Through it all, businesses need to remain committed to why they began such an arduous process. Success will only come to those that keep forever focused forward!

  • What transformations are you committed to in 2015?
  • How do you communicate change to your customers?
  • Can you simplify your customer interactions?
  • Are you losing sales to complexity?