by John Fronius, Vertical Reach Solutions
Are you experiencing escalating case volumes, 24×7 demand for support, and needing to do “more with less”? What about Knowledge-Centered Support, Web 2.0, and online communities? These days, you must have an effective eServices offering – your company and your customers need it. What’s that? You haven’t really gotten traction yet?
If you are just getting started in launching your eServices offering (or in some cases, relaunching), now is the time to ask yourself and your organization some key questions. I’m not talking about technology platforms, knowledge bases, or ROI calculations, you’ll get to those soon enough. I’m talking about some “gut check” questions that will help shape your strategy and ultimately determine the success of your execution. These questions are a test of your courage, determination, and nerve. That’s right, it’s going to take time, money, and more than that – unwavering commitment.
Who’s in Charge?
First things first: do you have an executive champion leading the charge? That is, have you sold the business value at a high enough level in your organization so that you can break through the inevitable logjams that will occur along the way? Successful eServices initiatives require a tremendous level of visibility and sponsorship to garner the funding and human resources needed to make it happen.
I remember some years ago working with the President of a services firm whose business card listed his title as “Chief Passion Catalyst”. You get the picture – a leader with genuine enthusiasm that was contagious. Who is the passion catalyst in your organization? This leader will play the role of sponsor and advocate for the changes needed to move forward.
Ideally, your eServices initiative (notice I did not say project) should have a long-range value proposition for your company and customers. This is not a fleeting exercise that will be short-lived (plan on many projects along the way). After all, this is a fundamental change in your business model in which you service your clients. More than technology, it is a cultural change that requires constant reinforcement of the vision by the leader of your organization, and all their direct reports. Which leads to…
Who’s on Board?
The old adage applies here, “if you’re not for us, then you’re against us.” Is this initiative understood by the entire organization? Now that you’ve identified who’s in charge, it’s imperative that you communicate the vision and educate everyone to enlist the pivotal support of the enterprise. Success depends on it.
First, start by making it crystal clear where you are heading and why the company and customers will benefit. Part of getting folks on board involves taking time to develop a comprehensive communication plan. Silence is not at all golden when it comes to an eServices initiative. Just when you think you’ve covered your bases and you have everyone’s support to move forward, think again. Not everyone will immediately “get it” and many will have candid questions that deserve your response. Create forums for interaction with massive doses of listening and follow-up communication. Take the time to do it right, or you will pay for it downstream with resistance that you did not anticipate.
Is the management team committed? In the coming months and weeks, everyone will be watching to see if their leaders “walk the talk”. Be certain that people really understand the “why” behind the actions you are taking. Involve key players and influencers in the actual planning and implementation (not just managers, but people who do the real work).
Are your employees aware of and internalizing the changes? Managers need to know the implications on career paths, hiring protocol, and professional development. What incentives and measurements are needed to reinforce the behavior changes to support eServices? Be sure that your definition of success and related metrics are in sync.
Effective leadership demands that those not “on board” are either in the process of getting on board, or you are actively making plans to help them exit the organization. This is no time for passive aggressive behavior. You need the troops to be “all in”. Experience shows that you can plan on a small percentage of people who will refuse to align with the changes. After you have taken great care to communicate the vision and business rationale, some may still refuse to support it — you may need to coach them out. This is not limited to front-line workers, but may also include managers.
Who’s Your Customer?
This seems like a fairly basic question. Of course your customer is the end-user of your products and services! But what about all the other customers that touch your eServices solution? As a support organization, you have many customers. Who else is affected by this channel in which you will deliver value and transfer knowledge to your customers? Take an inventory of your internal stakeholders as they are consumers of your services in their work and they have a vested interest in the success of your eServices initiative.
Think about the IT organization, Corporate Marketing, and most definitely the Product Development groups. Probably your most important internal customers are the Support Analysts and Field/Sales Channels. Are there features that you need to design in to the solution to meet their needs? You need their support and you want them to be avid users of your eServices solution to actively promote it to customers. As power users they become a key referral source for your online support to help drive adoption.
So — Are You Ready Now?
The executive team is depending on you to deliver. Your product leaders want to know you are serving their customers well and not alienating them on the web. Customers purchasing your products and services are expecting value for their money. End users are expecting to find solutions when they visit your self-service portal.
How’s your gut? Do you know who is in charge? Are you prepared to find or be the leader? Is your organization really on board? Have you invested in communicating the vision and involving others in the planning? Are you taking the time to partner with your internal customers and captured their requirements and those of your external users?
Answering these questions early will help lay a solid foundation for the investment you are about to make. They aren’t necessarily easy and they aren’t optional, but the payback and upside of an effective eServices support channel is well worth it!