In an ideal world, a customer would not have to ask any questions or reach out to support functions because the service automation of the future would turn support from predictive into preventative.
On the way to this perfect customer experience, the digital support experience is continuously improved step-by-step. One important milestone during this journey is to simplify and streamline the entire incident creation and management process. This process has the potential to save customers time and effort and solve their problems before an incident needs to be filed.
John Bowley, launchpad incident management product owner for SAP Customer Success Services, revealed how he and his team identified the most important aspects to improve the customer experience within in the incident creation process. Bowley also shared which customer feedback they collected before and after the improvements went live.
Q: A name like “incident creation process” does not sound very innovative or fancy at first sight. However, you and your team invested a lot of time and research on how to improve this particular part of the customer experience. How did you identify this need in the first place?
A: In product support we have been, and still are in, a transformation process — not unlike our customers in the era of digital transformation. Our customers’ needs have changed as much as the technologies we have today to provide an improved, simplified, and partly-automated service to answer questions and solve issues. With SAP’s Next-Generation Support approach we basically reinvented ourselves and started questioning features, solutions, and processes. We got a very good idea of what we wanted to change; partly from customer feedback showing us where we had room for improvement, and partly from research projects we initiated. We tried to collect as much input as possible from many different perspectives and areas of need.
And one important aspect that kept bothering us was that our incident-creation process. Even though it worked and fulfilled the purpose, it showed a lot of potential to be simplified and optimized. That was the reason why we started working on this and now are in the process of rolling out improved, simplified features step-by-step over the next couple of months.
What were the first steps you took to narrow down the changes you wanted to implement?
The most important step, in the beginning, was to involve our customers in our research to get the outside-in view on our processes and tools. Our intention was not to tell the customers what we thought was best for them but listen to the customers and learn from them: what they were missing, where they felt they run into problems, or where our processes should do better. We worked closely with our customer experience team to perform interviews, meet up with customers, and involve the SAP user groups. Of course, we also included our internal customers within SAP and SAP partner companies. In the end, we got a good coverage of different user profiles and felt confident to start defining the changes needed.
Regarding the overall incident creation process: what are the key improvements you have launched up to now and what else can we expect in the near future?
Some outstanding key improvements resulted from our close cooperation with the team that develops new features based on artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning technologies. This is vital to any automated and improved process where customers really experience the difference between the former process and the new, improved way of dealing with technical issues.
With the launch of Incident Solution Matching, for example, we offer a real opportunity to resolve the issue without having to complete the incident creation.
The next function that went live was the component predictor, AI-based automated help for selecting the right component the issue needs to be solved for. Correct component selection is vital to the efficient processing of an incident.
We had a lot of feedback from customers that claimed selecting a system was complex and not intuitive. We completely redesigned the way of selecting a system from the ground up. It is now much more intuitive and simpler to use.
With our new support assistant functionality, customers are guided through a series of more detailed and targeted questions, step-by-step—with each question being based on the answer given to the previous question. As this information is collected, we can provide more and more detailed knowledge articles with the aim that the customer finds the solution to the problem without the need to submit the incident.
The log-analyzer feature we added suggests to customers which files should be attached to the incident and can even analyze them in real time, finding issues within the log files. It also offers suggested solutions to these issues.
Regarding future improvements, customers can expect even more automated support features to free up more time for them to deal with their actual challenges and not with managing incident processes.
If you had a free wish regarding customer support experience, what would it be?
My wish would be that a customer would not have to reach out to support at all. Issues and problems would get automatically solved before they even occur.
Simple, effortless, and easy to work with; that’s what we want to achieve in a preventative support environment, and for an ideal customer support experience.