The customer service imperative: Digital operations and engagement

The customer service imperative

Without question, the largest disruption the customer service market has ever experienced happened at the beginning of the pandemic. Millions of customer service agents across the globe were sent home overnight, causing major disruptions for companies that were too reliant on manual processes and tribal knowledge.

Agents didn’t have the necessary tools in this new remote environment, and customers experienced unprecedented wait times as a result, with some requests never being answered.

On the other hand, companies that had previously invested in a digital-first system of engagement and a connected middle and back office were able to quickly adapt to the new circumstances and saw little to no downtime.

The year 2020 was a wake-up call for companies to modernize and digitally transform to deliver better end-to-end customer experiences and become more operationally efficient. Speed, agility, and efficiency have become the key requirements for customer service.

Needed: Customer engagement and customer operations

Transforming customer service starts with digital engagement, which involves how customers make requests. Today, businesses must meet customers at their point of need, in the channel of their choice—going beyond the traditional phone-based call centers into the omnichannel world of chat, virtual agents, self-service portals, and embedded service.

This customer-facing “engagement layer,” however, is only half of the story in customer service. The other half is getting the work done to fulfill the request, and this is performed in the “customer operations layer.” In customer operations, organizations need to orchestrate a series of tasks to fulfill requests, and that orchestration is what we call workflows.

A request such as, “What’s my order status?” can be handled in the engagement layer by an agent, a self-service web portal, or an AI-powered virtual agent. But most customer requests—and certainly the most impactful ones—are more complex.

Seemingly simple requests like, “I would like to file an insurance claim,” or, “I want to dispute a bank payment,” require a series of tasks to fulfill the request. Often, the process spans multiple systems and departments within an enterprise.

A lot of this work has traditionally been done manually via swivel chairs, emails, and phone calls, all glued together by agents and middle-office workers with tribal knowledge. The result is a slow, inconsistent process that leaves customers frustrated.


Transforming customer service starts with digital engagement, which involves how customers make requests.

ServiceNow solves this problem and delivers great customer experiences by combining our modern digital engagement with powerful workflows. We define and structure workflows through declarative platform configuration and low-code application extensibility and development.

This product-led approach has huge benefits over those that rely on low-level custom code, including fast initial deployments and fast ongoing iterations, which are essential with digital transformation. We can apply powerful analytics and AI for process optimization and automation that’s simply impossible to do using legacy approaches unless you write yet more custom AI code.

Fueling better experiences and resilience

ServiceNow delivered a purpose-built solution for Vaccine Administration Management in only one month. The application provides best-practice but flexible workflows to address three main challenges the world is facing with vaccinations:

  • Consumer-grade appointment scheduling at scale
  • Efficient and contactless clinician experiences
  • Vaccine site and process administration

These solutions are massively scalable and agile to accommodate the ever-changing situation on the ground and, most importantly, fast to deploy because every day counts in this crisis.

Another great example of workflows at work is Lloyds Banking Group (LBG), which digitally transformed seven of its mission-critical payment operations in 12 weeks. With ServiceNow, LBG has reduced manual processes and streamlined operations, creating a better experience for service agents and customers.

LBG has removed 88% of the manual steps required to handle customer payment issues—from 16 steps to two. In addition, 82% of direct debit recalls are now fully automated, and 100% of customers receive refunds in less than 30 seconds.

The IT service desk at Nationwide Insurance is leveraging Customer Service Management (CSM) to improve experiences for its associates and insurance agents, giving them more time to focus on customers. To date, the company has migrated approximately 27% of its support requests to self-service, helping navigate the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pivoting to a new approach

COVID-19 forced many retailers to prioritize the e-commerce shopping experience over the usual hybrid in-store/online approach. As a result, they received an influx of customer inquiries. Those businesses needed a solution to manage the increase in online demand.

For example, Austrian crystal company Swarovski had to close or reduce capacity at most of its retail stores across the U.S. in 2020. The company saw a huge surge in online requests, including questions from customers about the status of their online orders. This left the iconic brand with an immediate need for a more robust digital customer service strategy.

Using ServiceNow CSM, Swarovski was able to handle the influx of requests, reducing caseloads by an average of 55% and improving collaboration across departments. In fact, 92% of Swarovski’s customer care agents said ServiceNow enables better communication with other teams.

In the UK, Capita Software implemented ServiceNow CSM to centralize 26 service desks, 290 agents, and 23 ticketing systems onto a single platform and empower users with smarter technology.

Prior to that, Capita customers with more than one product often spoke with multiple agents across multiple service desks to resolve issues. This disconnected experience led to challenges for agents and customers alike.

With ServiceNow, Capita has reduced case volume by proactively helping customers find the answers they need and using communities to answer simple queries.

Evolving customer support

Continuing to deliver great end-to-end customer experiences starts with implementing the right technology that supports customers on the channels of their choice and unites front, middle, and back-office operations.

The technologies that helped organizations stay agile and resilient through the pandemic will now drive a new era of connected customer experiences that offer greater choice, faster resolution, and unrivaled proactivity.

Learn more about how ServiceNow transforms customer service at Knowledge 2021.

ServiceNow, the ServiceNow logo, Now, and other ServiceNow marks are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of ServiceNow, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. Other company names, product names, and logos may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated.


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