We need to talk about customer service’s “messy middle” – Interview with Michael Ramsey of ServiceNow

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Today’s interview is with Michael Ramsey, VP, Product Management, Customer Workflow Products at ServiceNow, a cloud computing platform provider that helps enterprises manage digital workflows and operations more effectively. Michael joins me today to talk about the “messy middle” in customer service, what it is, what problems it creates, how companies are addressing it and whether it should be there in the first place as well as a bunch of other insights for customer service and experience leaders.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Solving language based customer service inequalities – Interview with Vasco Pedro of Unbabel – and is number 377 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my chat with Michael:

  • A lot of customer service is focused on customer engagement.
  • The messy middle, however, is focused on what happens when a customer has a question or has a problem that can’t be just answered by knowledge, it’s not an FAQ answer and it’s not even something that customer service can directly solve by themselves. It requires somebody in the middle office, back office or some other team that has to do something for the customer to solve their problem or resolve an issue.
  • That’s the messy middle and that middle can often be very messy.
  • Often times you find that the teams and the people that have to do those things for the customer they’re connected by manual processes.
  • The lack of automation can lead to a very poor customer experience no matter how good the actual engagement is.
  • People talk about digitally native firms versus legacy or traditional firms. However, this phenomenon is something that effects all teams.
  • The pandemic has changed things for everyone and the whole problem of a messy middle and connecting customer service with your operations has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • This is not just a technology problem.
  • ServiceNow worked with one UK bank to solve a messy middle problem around payment disputes. These problems/issues happen all of the time for large banks. Normally it would have taken them 24 hours to assign it to someone to do something about it or even just to look into it. Now, by putting in automation across this payment dispute process, including assignment, they are now handling 1500 of these queries in the same amount of time it historically took them to deal with one.
  • Worked with 7-Eleven, a global convenience retailer, to improve their complaints handling procedures. Normally, they allow customers, and employees and partners within the stores to file complaints or submit issues/problems with the store to head office. The process was completely manual and responsiveness and resolution was often very haphazard. Through automation and intelligent assignment they were able to increase the resolution rate by over 200%. To date they are approaching 400,000 customer issues that have now been resolved which is roughly about 1,000 issues a day.
  • We need to look at customer service experience through not only the lens of how we engage customers but also what is the end to end experience.
  • The central problem is that while many companies may be talking outside him, their systems are still not designed outside in.
  • You’ve got to be able to see how you deliver that engaging experience that you want for your customers and then how do you do the work on behalf of them to connect the middle and back offices so that they can have the experience they want.
  • To do this you need the C-suite and the change agents to get things noticed and started.
  • Michael’s Punk CX word: Risk-taking
  • Michael’s Punk CX brand: Honor Health

About Michael

Michael RamseyMichael Ramsey is VP of product management for ServiceNow’s Customer Workflow products, which enable organizations to create seamless customer experiences and drive fierce customer loyalty. In this role, he is responsible for strategy and execution throughout the product lifecycle, including managing strategic partnerships, investments, and mergers and acquisitions. With more than 20 years of experience as a product manager, solution architect and software consultant, Michael brings with him deep expertise of the SaaS business model and enterprise software, as well as in-depth knowledge of cloud and mobile software development with hands on experience running billion dollar product lines.

Prior to ServiceNow, Michael served as Chief Product Officer at Leanplum and Invoice2go, where he helped develop products to build customer loyalty and fuel business growth. He also served as SVP of Product Management at Salesforce, where he was responsible for the Service Cloud product line including all agent and customer-facing products and features.

You can find out more at ServiceNow’s website, say Hi to them on Twitter @servicenow and connect with Michael on LinkedIn here.

Thanks to Jeffrey Beall for the image.

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