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Service Leaders: Do you need to invest in your rep-facing tech?

By Christopher Sladdin | October 27, 2022 | 0 Comments

Customer Service and SupportService and Support Strategy and LeadershipService and Support Talent and Operations

“I’ve got everything that I need — right in front of me.” A line from Life’s a Happy Song,  featured in the 2011 “The Muppets” movie, which I can’t get out of my head thanks to BBC Radio 2 having turned it into a jingle played consistently on weekdays at 6pm. McKenzie Bret, who wrote the song, definitely didn’t have Customer Service Representatives in mind, but if you’re a Head of Customer Service, I imagine it’s something you’ve dreamt of or had your reps tell you they’d like time-and-time again. After all, isn’t having everything your reps need in that moment, in a single system, and presented on a single screen, the dream for delivering high-quality, efficient Customer Service?

Turns out, it isn’t. While system consolidation can be helpful to an extent, new Gartner research shows that for many organizations, system consolidation is not as important as other design considerations.

This is just one of the findings from our upcoming Virtual Executive Retreat and research series for Heads of Customer Service & Support on “The Connected Rep: Effectively Enabling Reps with Technology.” You’ll have to join us if you want to unpack that a bit more. But until then, I wanted to share a few quick headlines from our ongoing research study to whet your appetite. 

Rep-Facing Tech: Is it worth it?

I’m sure that, somewhere within your Customer Service and Support function, you’ll be investing in self-service technology for your customers – after all, who isn’t? But are you investing in your rep-facing systems? The latter is an area we discuss a lot with clients – but it often comes with a series of existential questions:

  • Is it really worth it when my reps are in and out of the door in 3 years? 
  • Sounds expensive – how much will it cost? 
  • Sure, I recognize the need but what are the one or two capabilities I really need to improve in these systems?

Inevitably, these questions have led to a paralysis, and as a result, your organization probably has a rep-facing system which reps hate to use (or don’t use at all) and which looks like it has come straight out of the dark ages (think customer name, contact info, what they bought, and whether they are a retention risk, but little else). 

Only 34 percent of Service  Support leaders see their rep desktop as effective.

So, should you really be investing in your rep-facing tech? Is it really worth it? 

The answer is yes – investing in select rep-facing technological capabilities can have a huge impact. For example, we know that:

  • Technology can substitute for skills or experience – given the current talent market, and significant rep attrition, technology has huge potential to better your customer’s experience because it can enable the new joiner rep to deliver at levels which previously required significant tenure and experience. Reps with just one year of experience are at least 40% more likely to work at high or medium levels of complexity when using high-tech environments than those with low-tech environments. 
  • Environments with greater technological capability also see greater rep ability to perform Value Enhancement (which drives loyalty) and generate revenue – both objectives which Heads of Customer Service are increasingly being tasked with

The keyword here is “selective” 

Throwing millions at investing in every technological capability you and your reps can think of is not necessarily an efficient way to drive the outcomes above (and given that some of the outcomes are revenue-focused, you should be tapping into your Chief Marketing and Sales Officer peers for investment support). Why? Because 62% of reps believe that their systems present them with unnecessary information. Not ideal given we’re asking them to handle more complex calls and drive additional business outcomes. 

Then there are the employee outcomes to think about. We already know from previous research that only one in three Customer Service Reps are engaged on the job, and by implementing new rep-facing and augmenting technologies, there is a risk of that getting worse. Indeed, employees in environments with more technology are more worried about being replaced by technology than their low-tech peers, and some higher tech environments perform worse than others when thinking about the employee experience.

As a former-CEO of start-up businesses once said: “Technology on its own is not good or evil. It is the choices that we make with these processes that can help or harm others.”

We’ll be discussing all this and more on November 16th, December 6th and 13th, and January 10th. Given the risk of business outcomes stagnating if you do nothing, but also the potential to invest heavily only to find your capabilities don’t deliver the most impact in driving your business or employee outcomes, you won’t want to miss it.

If you’re a Gartner for Customer Service & Support client, register today by clicking here. If you’re not yet a Gartner client, contact our Account Representatives today.

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