What I Heard: Hot Discussion Topics at TSW

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Hot_Topics_at_TSWOur largest Technology Services World conference is now complete, with 1,500 attendees and 100+ breakout sessions over three days at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. I presented two breakout sessions, and spent the majority of the remaining time in 30-minute one-on-one meetings, completing about 15 meetings with members and partners. In addition to those meetings, I had a few dozen conversations after sessions or in the EXPO. Thinking back over all of those interactions, I’ve pulled together a list of the hottest topics on the minds of the TSIA community.

Machine Learning

I’m not exactly sure where analytics stop and machine learning begins, but this emerging science, in which technology can interpret data, detect trends, and predict activity, is top of mind for TSIA members. The potential for machine learning in knowledge management was a frequent discussion topic, with companies hoping that automated guided resolution—something we are hearing about from more vendors—is actually coming and not just an urban legend. Companies are also looking for machine learning to replace manual rule systems in order to intelligently automate tools such as consumption monitoring (proactively identifying adoption patterns and laggards), and email management (correctly interpreting, routing and responding to customer emails). Several TSIA partners have releases coming with new machine learning capabilities, so hopefully we will see this concept go from concept to reality very soon.

Knowledge Participation

My Power Hour session revealing the findings of TSIA’s 2015 Knowledge Management Survey ended up more of a fire and brimstone sermon than a best practice presentation, with me voicing frustration at how many practices proven to generate positive results are ignored, and companies struggling with problems we’ve known how to solve since the 90's. Convincing employees to contribute their hard-earned knowledge to a searchable repository had been a challenge I’ve heard since I did KM implementations 20 years ago, and that challenge continues, especially now that knowledge initiatives are bigger than tech support.

One member told me how they tried to encourage development to submit knowledge articles, offering €50 Amazon gift cards to the developers who submitted the three best articles in a month. At the end of the month, only two articles had been submitted—not even enough to give away the third gift card. There are many solutions here, including gamification, but at the heart of this issue is a cultural problem: companies must encourage and reward knowledge sharing, and the fact that 62% of companies have no employee goals or bonus programs for knowledge participation or positive outcomes illustrates that knowledge management still isn’t part of corporate culture for the majority of companies.

If you are interested in what I presented during my Power Hour, "Redefining KM: Merging Knowledge, Content, and Collaboration," I’m doing an encore version as a live Pulse webinar on Friday, November 6th  at 8:00 AM (PST). Even if you can't attend the live event, be sure to register anyway so we can send you a link to the on-demand recording.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, or IoT, has been a big consumer trend for a couple of years now, and we are starting to hear increased interest in IoT from B2B companies. The ability to access and interact with remote technology has multiple implications for support, and some companies started with enabling remote control of mobile devices. But at TSW I heard a lot of discussion about leveraging IoT infrastructure, such as LogMeIn’s Xively, to streamline access to log files stored in OnPremise hardware or software. I used some TSIA Support Services Benchmark data in my Power Hour, showing that Customer Log Files were rated the most useful resource in resolving service incidents.Resolving_Service_Incidents

The challenge has historically been how to access these log files, and there was often a delay as customers dumped the log files and FedEx’d a disk, or uploaded to DropBox. With more technology being internet enabled, companies are investigating how to leverage IoT infrastructure to connect to these log files in real time during a support session. With remote data now at your fingertips, I hope to see more investment in proactive monitoring and self-healing features, which customers are willing to pay an uplift for since you are essentially guaranteeing uptime.

Next-Generation Self-Service

John_Ragsdale_Power_HourIn my Power Hour, I also discussed creating a virtual knowledgebase, using intelligent search to index and search all knowledge and content repositories and return a filterable list of matches. I showed examples of three TSIA members who have used this approach to create elegant and highly useful customer self-service sites: Broadsoft, Tricentis and Informatica. This generated a lot of 1:1 meetings to talk about the ultimate self-service portal, what features to include, how to measure self-service success, etc. An important point here is that while the search box may be the most important feature to offer, it is actually intimidating to novice users, who aren’t sure what to search or how to phrase a question. Companies with the most successful self-service do use case analysis to determine which features customers want, and this usually involves index trees (which appeal to analytical types), FAQ lists (which appeal to more novice users), and even automated agents or chat bots (great for new users who don’t know where to start). I also discussed basic UI paradigms for self-service, such as maximizing “above the fold” real estate on the portal, and minimizing scrolling and clicks.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to schedule a 1:1 with me at TSW, and for all the helpful feedback I’ve received about my sessions. Planning is already underway for our next conference, TSW San Diego 2016 in May, and I hope to see you there! As always, thanks for reading!

About the Author 

John_RagsdaleJohn Ragsdale is vice president of technology and social research for TSIA. His area of expertise is in creating strategies for improving the service operations and overall customer experience by leveraging innovative technology. Ragsdale drives TSIA's highly regarded technology research agenda, delivering insightful, thought-leadership research and analysis on the most pressing business issues facing services leaders to enable them to better plan and execute their service strategies.

In 2012, Ragsdale released his first book, Lessons Unlearned, which chronicles his 25-year career inside the customer service industry. Filled with best and worst practices, insider gossip, and sometimes-shocking real-world stories, Lessons Unlearned helps support managers, company executives, and even customers improve service interactions.

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Topics: knowledge management, gamification, internet of things (IoT), self-service support


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