A couple of weeks ago, we participated in the «Automation of Telematics Business expert meet-up», held by Gurtam for hundreds of service providers & fleet management integrators around the world. In the face of the pandemic and economic downturn, professionals from all over the world discussed how to address the main issues in the implementation of helpdesk software for service automation, and how to smooth out the negative attitude towards the implementation of solutions and increase the likelihood of successful implementation of business process automation systems including customer support & field service processes.
Apart from Kirill Fedulov, cofounder of Okdesk (leading helpdesk system for service automation & field service), the experts were Milan Suletic, CEO of Codes (Serbia), consultant and expert in software development, and Fabrice Fotso, CEO of Camtrack, the largest integrator from Cameroon, operating throughout Francophone Africa.
We have collected in this article the key and most important points of the speech.
There are many ways to organize interactions within a company. No two businesses are alike, nor there are automation strategies that will work for everyone. What needs to be automated first? Experts answered this question at the beginning of the event.
Milan Suletic argued that any service business needs first to automate key processes or more general functions such as sales or customer support. He also recalled the opinion of market experts who believe that only mature corporate processes should be automated.
Fabrice Fotso suggested focusing on customers first. The goal of any company is to ensure that customers and partners can access solutions to their issues more quickly and as efficiently as possible. And this is the starting point for planning improvements. Citing his company as an example, Fabrice Fotso pointed out that these were the goals they set for themselves by introducing chatbots and a new ERP, which included a sales automation unit or CRM system as one of the components.
Kirill Fedulov noted that instead of answering the question "What business processes should be automated in the first place?", we should start by answering the questions "Why do we need automation?" and "What do we want to get as a result of implementation?" Kirill said that for many years he's been interacting with dozens of service companies every day, including integrators of transport monitoring systems, and sees the cobbler-always-wears-the-worst-shoes situation, when those who implement automation helpdesk systems do not automate their company and business processes at all or automate them using MS Excel. In conclusion, Kirill noted that fleet management integrators do not question what to automate in the first place. It is the sales process, obviously, to make sure that leads and customers are retained. But the technical support processes should be automated first of all because they are the main line of business for service providers. Yet the main thing is that the cost of attracting customers has become too high to lose customers merely because of inadequate service. It's too wasteful.
As Fabrice Fotso pointed out, the introduction of automation systems is always associated with changes. This means that the issues will be the same as with any changes within the company or in the way these changes will affect customers. Solving these issues requires change management, making sure people are engaged and understand how and why things happen.
The second important point is the cost of implementation. Automated processes are cheaper than manual ones, but sometimes the cost of automation can be too high. Therefore, it is important to evaluate any transformation and implementation projects in terms of ROI.
Milan Suletic added that automation is not always the proper solution for a young company, since it needs to be flexible and creative at the start, as this creates its potential for growth. But automation requires structuring. That is, the greatest difficulty in automating any process is associated with the implementation of the process itself through changes within the company and adaptation to a new way of thinking. Any software tool is mere "the cherry on the cake" on top of already mature business processes, which simply helps run them faster and more efficiently.
According to Kirill Fedulov, the main objection is the statement that "We are all right!" Almost 90% of companies say so. But we know that they are far from being all right, so we go on asking a few simple questions, for example:
Almost no one can answer these questions. This actually far from being "all right."
But the main or the "killer" question is: "How often do you lose customers because of poor service?" Kirill referred to the results of the first industry study of the quality of services among fleet management integrators, according to which, when answering this question, almost 60% of respondents stated that they "lose customers due to poor service several times a year." Of course, "We are all right!" is a dangerous self-deception in such a situation.
Innovation in the company should make life easier, Milan Suletic said. In any case, employees will have difficulties with any new procedures or tools. Managers' task is to help them overcome those difficulties and experience improvements. You need to help employees find their place in the new company that will actually emerge once automation systems have been implemented.
Fabrice Fotso believes that education and trust in your team are key success factors. He complimented the words of his colleague with a recommendation to explain to employees what benefits they receive from the innovation. You need to believe in people. When they understand all the benefits of a new CRM or ERP system, they will stand for its implementation. Key employees can be involved early in the process when decisions are made and the advantages and disadvantages of various tools are discussed. You can even use demo versions from various vendors so that employees can choose the approach they like best.
Kirill Fedulov referred to The CHAOS Report published by the Standish Group annually in which they analyze the results of the implementation of automation projects around the world. According to this report, there are several key factors that increase the likelihood of successful implementation of any automation tool. Most of the factors are at the organizational level. For example, you must engage the support of management to implement the changes and the project, and involve everyone affected by the changes. Actually, you can rely on this report and do it! "Screw It, Let's Do It!"
However, Kirill added that, among other things, it is important to be able to "sell" changes in customer service processes and helpdesk systems to your team. You must show how they will benefit not only the company but also everyone involved in the process. We must not forget to "market" the implementation internally if we want to be successful.
Fabrice Fotso is confident that the manager knows everything about the company's processes, including their bottlenecks. The worst mistake is not to eliminate potential points of failure before implementing automation systems. The main issue would not even be implementing the wrong process but rather correcting the situation which will cost you too much. In implementation of automation systems, everything revolves around money. And the cost of implementation very much depends on whether errors in the processes are corrected in advance and whether people are prepared for this.
Milan Suletic agrees with his colleague: you cannot assume that the new tool will solve all your problems. Automation will not fix the wrong process, it will rather generate errors faster. To prevent generating errors, you need data and reporting on the business performance. Milan also noted that, unfortunately, customers often misjudge the value of the systems being deployed. They think that paying for forms and buttons is pointless. Meanwhile, many systems incorporate experience, some kind of reference model, and best practices. The customer buys those along with buttons and forms. This is what actually has tremendous value. Sometimes, this value is much greater than the actual cost of the software.
Kirill Fedulov reiterated that the main mistake is a lack of understanding of what automation is needed for and what results the company wants to achieve through the implementation of such systems. At the same time, Kirill is sure that when introducing changes, most companies do not need to make any groundbreaking measures. Processes are already in place and they work somehow. All we need is to improve and automate them step by step, aligning these steps with our goals. In doing so, you can employ the CMMI process maturity model, which each company can adapt to its own situation. The same applies to the automation of customer support and field service processes.
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