The action (or practice) of customer service itself is not immune from the juggernaut effect of so-called digital transformation, which, in real terms, we can take to mean the migration of all business operations to cloud-centric data-analytics enriched mobile-first continuous-real-time Artificial Intelligence empowered intelligent automation layers of IT.
But this whole term ‘service’ is becoming broader in definition.
This means that software application developers working in cloud-centric cloud-first environments will now need to consider a) cloud services being used to build b) customer service and field service management technologies to facilitate c) user service requests which themselves may sit inside d) higher level service services from service companies in the services industry – and no, we’re not exaggerating for special effect.
Customer service (or as it is also sometimes now more interactively called ‘customer engagement’) has to now shape to accommodate the always-on customer who expects instant gratification and immediacy in all goods and services.
Enterprise applications company IFS has attempted to fulfil this need with its IFS Customer Engagement product.
This is software intended to drive an AI-powered omni-channel contact center facility and it integrates with the company’s own IFS Field Service Management (FSM) software, its core IFS Applications product and a collection of other third-party software.
This month sees IFS bring forward three new core capabilities in its IFS Customer Engagement software.
- Voice Self-Service: Technology driven by AI to offer a speech-recognition self-service front-end that helps customers complete tasks like rescheduling service appointments or checking appointment times in a simple, automated way.
- Digital Self-Service: Technology to give customers the option to find answers to questions themselves using this software’s website-hosted AI chatbot. This can be deployed as a visual overlay for other IFS software to reduce the burden on the humans working in the contact center.
There is also a Customer Engagement Agent Desktop: Technology to provide customer service agents with simultaneous access to all customer communications, including calls, emails, chat, messaging or social media for a 360-degree view.
“Today’s end users expect instant gratification when it comes to customer service and they want to be able to communicate in ways that are most comfortable and convenient for them, whether social media, email or messaging,” said Paul White, director of IFS customer engagement.
The launch of IFS Customer Engagement is the result of the integration of recently acquired mplsystems’ solution portfolio into key IFS software products.
Field Service Management
Moving from customer to field service management, IFS straddles both worlds and has now updated its IFS Field Service Management software. The software has had a front-end overhaul and is presented with a UX that the firm says is born from design focused on ‘user-centric and intuitive action patterns’, plus it has some pretty graphics too.
The company has also upped the configurability options in this release. It is written in a new scripting language that allow customers to configure data fields, workflows and user behaviour.
Customers can choose to deploy IFS FSM 6 as a true multi-tenant solution on the Microsoft Azure cloud, as a managed service in the cloud, or on-premise. This flexibility also offers customers choice in how they pay, from outright ownership to a monthly subscription.
The upshot (or consequence) of these technologies coming into focus is part of what happens in so-called digital transformation. If it is implemented successfully (and let’s remember that it’s still comparatively early days for many customer/users) then it can lead to virtuous circles involving technology-business practices such as DDMRP (demand driven materials resource planning) where firms are able to balance resources including stock, parts and people to supply them more efficiently to the job base that the company trades in.
IFS CTO Dan Matthews has summarised the service-centric notions discussed here and called it ‘servitization’ which – cheesy marketing term or not – does go some way to express how service driven contemporary business is becoming.
After service-based business… well that’s ‘business outcomes’ based pricing, but that’s another story that we’re not quite writing yet.