No Jitter is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Epicor Taps ServiceNow for Customer Service Improvement

Digital transformation and customer service improvement go hand in hand like salt and pepper or Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Among the literally thousands of digital projects that organizations could undertake, improving customer service seems to be the unanimous choice across all industries.

Customer service needs to be front and center today because it will soon be the basis of competitive advantage and market leadership. In fact, ZK Research predicts that within five years customer experience will overtake all other attributes (price, product quality, etc.) as the No. 1 brand differentiator. The time for customer service improvement is now.

Epicor, which provides enterprise resource planning and other business software for the manufacturing, retail, and distribution industries, is one company that recently revamped the way it services its customers. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ian Ashby, the company's SVP of global support, about the challenges the company faced in serving its customers, which number more than 20,000 across more than 70 products in 150 countries. We also talked about the solution it chose, and the benefits gained.

Ian Ashby, Epicor

Can you please provide an overview of what customer service was like prior to the transformation initiative?

The existing support system environment was quite disjointed, product-focused, and overall did not provide a great customer experience. Like so many organizations, Epicor has been aggressive with acquisitions to grow its business. The result was a customer service environment with over 15 CRM-based support systems and over 50 customer portals. The multiple support systems meant we had no single view of our customers and no ability to see all the open issues. This lack of a consistent and accurate view caused customer frustration and, as a result, we received low satisfaction scores on this component.

What was your vision for customer service?

What we wanted was to simplify the support environment with an underlying support system that could provide a single view of all customers and products worldwide. We also needed to find a platform that could grow with us. This last point pushed us toward the cloud, as many on-premises products don't scale easily so we would have needed to try and calculate what we might need for capacity several years from now and overpay in the short term. With a cloud solution, we would be able to buy what we need today and then scale up.

Once this decision was made, the next step was to choose between a CRM-based system and a service management platform. We chose Customer Service Management from ServiceNow.

What strengths did the ServiceNow solution have over CRM systems?

As I mentioned, this was a big decision for us -- but, at the end of the day, was an easy choice. We love CRM systems at Epicor, but their strength and focus is sales and marketing with the logging of key information for support and customer service being an add on. We needed something to help us track workflows, create tasks, and do other things that are core to customer service.

We like the ITIL [Information Technology Infrastructure Library] best practices for customer service as we feel the team-oriented nature of it will provide a differentiated approach. ITIL is focused on delivering services such that the end user experiences the best possible result. It centers on measuring the operational efficiency in meeting service-level expectations through standardization of processes. We wanted to take the ITIL best practices and make them customer facing.

Our decision was to choose ServiceNow as our partner to deliver our new EpicCare platform, a common and consistent support system for the delivery of service to all our customers and partners for all of our products, globally.

How did EpicCare improve customer service?

The consistency of services and global knowledge has been a game changer for us. Now there is a single dashboard for everyone involved in customer support -- from the contact center agent, to developers, to field service -- to use with embedded collaboration so all team members have the same information. When tickets are opened, they can be assigned and then tracked all the way until completion. For example, if a product has a software bug, the tasks can be grabbed in the dashboard and assigned to software development. Once that task has been completed, assignment can be switched to the next person in the team until the customer issue is resolved. This gives us an embedded audit trail of everything that impacts our customers.

Also, because it's a single source, it gives us the ability to service customers in new ways. For example, if a customer is having a problem with a certain product, we can quickly see who else may be having the same issue. This allows us to be proactive and notify customers and notify and solve the issue before they even notice.

How has Epicor benefitted?

The primary motivation for this project was service improvement, and we have received great feedback from our customers. In our opinion, the best measure for this is Net Promoter Score and we created some incentives for the entire organization around NPS improvement. Since the implementation, we have seen NPS improve month over month for the last five months.

Also, we have seen a reduction in the cost of delivering service from improved technician productivity and speeding up the "service to cash" cycle. Another unexpected benefit was that the data could be used for things outside customer support. For example, the information collected can be used by sales and marketing for cross- and up-selling opportunities.

Our main goal was to improve customer service, and the best measure of that is feedback from our customers. Here is a direct quote from one of the retailers we serve:

    "It's a HUGE improvement over the old system of calling in issues. Now I feel far more comfortable having my staff call in issues and I won't have to be the only IT guy! What am I going to do with all my free time? Good improvement."

Follow Zeus Kerravala on Twitter and Google+!
Zeus Kerravala on Google+