Intelligent Swarming: How Collaboration Can Enhance Customer Service

The way we work in today’s modern landscape is not all that different from how honeybee colonies have operated since the beginning of time. While it may sound like a funny analogy, it is worth noting how bees swarm to find new places to live when their colonies become overpopulated.

During the process, each bee no longer makes decisions for themselves, but instead must act with a collective mindset with the other bees in the colony to move cohesively and intently to reach a final goal.

This collective maneuvring and problem solving is something frequently seen in the IT services and support industry. Customers integrating software solutions to help run their businesses can no longer wait days or hours when they need support on a specific solution or task. They need answers in real time that will minimize any interruption to their business.

Like honeybees, services and support organizations must create internal processes to help ensure collaboration so customers receive the right level of support and expertise needed to resolve issues.

What is Intelligent Swarming?

SAP recently introduced Intelligent SwarmingSM, a collaborative support model that helps address issues around incident response time and sending customers incidents back and forth between agents, or ping-ponging, both of which have frequently delayed incident resolution in the past. As an emerging industry best practice, SAP implemented Intelligent Swarming within the Support Services team to encourage and optimize collaboration among support engineers and help ensure customers receive the right expertise quickly and efficiently.

By bringing a diverse group of people from multiple disciplines to one incident, teams can use a broad range of expertise to work together to come up with the best solution. While incidents that usually initiate swarms are deemed complex and placed at high-priority, the process by which they are resolved is quite simple. Throughout the life cycle of an incident, one owner is responsible for identifying the best experts to work toward a resolution and thereby act as one collaborative team to help improve customer experience.

Enhancing Customer Experience Through Intelligent Swarming

Improving incident resolution time for customers has always been a top priority for SAP. With the normal incident resolution process ranging from five to seven days, SAP aimed to find ways to drastically shorten this. With the implementation of Intelligent Swarming, SAP has been able to reduce 50 percent of incidents that have a swarm to less than eight hours. Customers have taken notice and are excited about this new process.

Intelligent Swarming will not only help resolve the incident at hand faster but will also be used to influence how similar incidents are handled in the future. After each swarm, details help improve the relevance of the next interaction, capturing knowledge and improving operational efficiency for each iteration.

Shifting Culture Through Collaboration

SAP made Intelligent Swarming completely voluntary, meaning groups could opt in or out of specific areas throughout the enablement phase, and recognized an opportunity to eliminate any fears associated with asking for or opting to help in such scenarios.

To ensure Intelligent Swarming could be properly implemented, a culture shift needed to take place within the support organization, from one which was largely siloed to one that was based on a collaborative network. By shifting from a streaming model that took a linear, escalation-based approach to a swarming model that took a collaboration-based loop approach focused on tapping individuals within the network for measured value creation, SAP saw increased engagement and collaboration.

According to a poll conducted by Gallup, businesses use less than 40 percent of the skills they employ. Intelligent Swarming challenges this statistic by allowing employees to tap into different functions that may not be a part of their day-to-day job. The act of swarming allows for knowledge transfer across various disciplines and enables a skill-multiplier effect that encourages employees to help each other grow by seeing how the problem was solved.

Strength in Numbers

Early adopters of Intelligent Swarming have seen a culture of collaboration become second nature at SAP. The company is looking to embed the process across the entire support organization and roll it out across all product and development areas so all customers can benefit from increased efficiency and superior support.

While a single honeybee may not catch the eye, when hundreds form, their impact can be monumental. The same scenario applies to Intelligent Swarming: When each engineer has the same shared goal and act as a collective mindset to resolve a customer issue, the result can be remarkable.