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Customer service from A to Z: A ServiceNow glossary for success


Gartner Magic Quadrant Report

Expectations for customer service are changing fast—and so is the language around customer service.

A growing list of acronyms and jargon has sprung up due to new technologies and the dynamic nature of customer service software. Keeping track of the new terminology can be tough. And when stakeholders don’t speak the same language, confusion and frustration follows.

As a leader in digital transformation, we’ve had a firsthand look at how customer service terms and technology has evolved. Use this glossary to establish a shared language for your organization’s customer service transformation. Because when we’re all on the same page, we can have more productive conversations—and make better-informed choices throughout the buying process.

Artificial intelligence (AI): AI can simulate human intelligence and do mundane or data-intensive tasks without boredom or burnout. With today’s abundance of data (and increasing customer expectations), AI is needed to achieve dramatic efficiency gains and improve customer and agent experiences.

Automation: The process of converting high-touch and largely manual business processes into faster and smoother low-touch digital workflows. If you’ve handed over control of certain processes to your customer service system, you’ve already stepped into the world of automation. For customer service, examples in ServiceNow Customer Service Management include providing a customer self-service option in a service catalog without contacting an agent, routing a customer to the agent best able to help them, and creating tasks for other departments necessary for solving the customer’s problem.

Case deflection: The ability for customers to find answers to questions without contacting support. Case deflection is a key component of self-service. You can improve your case deflection rate by providing your customers with a strong knowledge base and community, along with a virtual agent (chatbot) and service catalog to automate common requests. ServiceNow Knowledge Management provides an out‑of‑the‑box knowledgebase.

Communities: The place where customers come together to connect, learn, and engage with content, experts, and one another. This is an essential feature of a self-service strategy. Specific to ServiceNow, Communities refers to the application that facilitates customer collaboration with peers, experts, and customer service agents.

Configuration management database (CMDB): The ability to build logical representations of customers’ assets, devices, infrastructure, or services, and the relationships between them.  These details help to pinpoint specific issues for a customer, especially when those assets are being operationally monitored.  This information can also be tied to service level agreements (SLAs) to ensure assets are being maintained or services delivered as defined.

Continual improvement management (CIM): The ability to initiate and track improvements across the enterprise by aligning people, processes, and data. Enablement of the CIM application allows a company to set up roles, groups, and integration properties. Next, the company can track improvement initiatives that contain goals to measure success, along with phases with specific tasks and actions to complete the improvement.

Customer service operations: The team responsible for helping a company’s customer service team be more productive, work more effectively, and deliver better service to customers through the use of new technologies.  For example, in a telecommunications company, customer service operations might both identify new technologies such as AI or chatbots to reduce agent load while serving customers faster as well as monitor customers’ products and services to avoid outages.

Digital workflows: Using software and other technology tools to automate underlying tasks, processes, and manual workflows. This allows humans to augment their capabilities with smart machines and shift their focus away from menial, repetitive tasks toward more creative and analytical work. Digital workflows are increasingly being adopted for automation to streamline processes across the enterprise. ServiceNow Workflow automates multistep processes across the platform consisting of a sequence of activities within a drag-and-drop interface.

Dynamic scheduling: The process of assigning tasks to field service technicians and optimizing agent schedules to accommodate new work and shifting priorities. Use it in tandem with ServiceNow Field Service Management to manage your end-to-end activities.

Gamification: Encourage customers to participate, contribute, and engage with community content by providing incentives (e.g., points, achievement levels, badges) through a system of defined rules.

Geolocation: The ability for field service to track technicians, plan efficient routes between locations, and calculate accurate travel times. Learn more by exploring our Field Service Management application.

Internet of things (IoT): The connection of devices to the internet and to each other for automated sending, receiving, and processing of data. As an example, a medical technology company can monitor equipment at hospitals via the internet. If service is required, notifications or alerts are sent to customer service agents, field service technicians, or operations to be addressed.  The company can then send a service technician to perform maintenance before the equipment fails. With Customer Service Management, you can take advantage of IoT and Operational Intelligence (IT Operations Management) to provide real-time visibility into the operational health of customers’ products and services.

Knowledge management: The ability to quickly and easily share support information in knowledge bases for agents and customers. The ServiceNow Knowledge Management solution includes workflow and publishing tools along with service portal integration for an out-of-the-box knowledge experience for customers and agents.

Machine learning: A type of AI that allows systems to learn from experience and be trained on large volumes of data to perform specific tasks. ServiceNow Predictive Intelligence provides a layer of artificial intelligence that learns from patterns in historical data.  Cases can be categorized, prioritized, and routed to the best agents to improve efficiency and increase customer satisfaction.  Predictive Intelligence can also be used in an agent workspace (unified desktop for an agent) to help agents find related knowledge and community content, similar cases, or major cases reporting critical issues.  This greatly shortens the time to resolution for customers.

Major issue management (major case management): The ability to efficiently identify and manage critical issues and tie individual (yet related) cases to a parent major case that, when resolved, will solve child cases. The Major Issue Management feature also identifies customers who have not yet reported the issue and proactively creates cases on their behalf, helping to manage internal and customer communications until the issue is resolved.

Natural language understanding (NLU): A branch of artificial intelligence (AI) that uses computer software to understand input made in the form of sentences in text or speech format. Model builders and inference services enable the system to learn and respond to human-expressed intent, understanding word meanings and contexts to infer user or system actions. ServiceNow has added NLU to Virtual Agent functionality in its New York release.

Net Promoter Score® (NPS): A measure of customer experience that predicts business growth. The gold standard for evaluating client loyalty, your measurement of NPS should be simple, customer-focused, and easy to configure and track. ServiceNow Performance Analytics simplifies NPS trend monitoring with common KPIs.

Omnichannel: A cross-channel strategy that organizations use to improve their customer experience. It provides a single source of truth for customer conversations by managing all interactions within one system, eliminating the need for agents to pivot between systems and making it easier for them to service customers. This is a step above multichannel systems, where the involved channels are typically disconnected, e.g. telephone calls are recorded in one silo, while chat transcriptions are saved in a different system.

Proactive service: The ability to identify and solve a customer’s problem before they know they have one. Proactive Customer Service Operations is specifically designed to track your customers’ digital services, alerting you to service disruptions and allowing you to notify affected customers up front. Analytics can also help pinpoint trends indicating issues.

Problem management: The ability to handle the full lifecycle of all problems, including information about problems, workarounds, and resolutions. Problem Management tracks problems across cases to provide valuable information, particularly for R&D or engineering organizations. Using the metric of percentage of new critical problems helps reduce the number and impact of issues over time.

Robotic process automation (RPA): An emerging form of business process automation technology that automates rules-based business practices by automating actions within the user interface to streamline operations and reduce costs. Although AI and robotic process automation are being used in tandem across enterprises, RPA has limitations versus using a single-agent workspace with support from digital workflows.

Self-service: Allowing customers to solve their own issues through access to online information about their products and services and automating frequently made requests and tasks. ServiceNow enables your customers to log into a Customer Service Portal, efficiently access existing information in Communities and Knowledge Management, and use automation to perform common tasks via the Service Catalog and Virtual Agent.

Skill-based routing: The ability to auto-assign and route tasks to the most qualified agent based on the skills required to perform a task. As an example of a skill-based work assignment, you can configure the routing of cases from a particular country to agents who speak that country’s language.

Unified desktop: A single interface that consolidates and integrates customer service applications for agents. The ServiceNow Agent Workspace is a configurable user interface that gives agents a fully integrated, intuitive user experience.

Virtual agent: Also referred to as “chatbot” or “virtual assistant,” virtual agents interface with the customer to quickly get them what they need. The ServiceNow Virtual Agent allows organizations to design and build automated conversations to help customers quickly access information, run applications such as performance diagnostics, or process transactions such as creating or looking up a case.

Visual Task Board (VTB): An interactive graphic interface that simplifies the navigation of multiple task records, lists, and forms. The ServiceNow Visual Task Board provides a graphic-rich experience that enables the management and assignment of tasks across the enterprise and provides visibility into the status of those tasks.

A common vocabulary equips customer success leaders with language for customer service transformation and gives teams with the right knowledge to navigate buying decisions.

Reference this glossary when educating stakeholders and exploring ways to optimize your organization’s customer service function, and learn more about ServiceNow® Customer Service Management from real-world success stories.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld, and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

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