IT Life: Improving The Customer Experience

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ClickSoftware’s Steve Mason talks about the Cloud, CRM and Spotify

Steve Mason is Vice President of Mobility, EMEA, at ClickSoftware, a firm that aims to improve businesses’ relationships with customers. He has a long history with CRM tools but believes the question of whether to migrate to the cloud is redundant as such technology becomes mainstream.

He’s an iPhone fan, loves his music and has a love/hate relationship with many of the leading figures of the technology industry.

Customer relations

Tell us about your company, how long have you been in IT and what are your areas of expertise?
ClickSoftware helps service organisations address the challenges they face when trying to improve the customer experience, increase service margins, or to reduce operational costs, all while remaining competitive.

Steve Mason ClickSoftwareWe can uniquely accomplish this because our domain expertise in the service sector delivers best practices that are implemented in our best-in-class field service solutions. Using technology for the mobile workforce, including time optimisation, enterprise mobility, artificial intelligence, and social collaboration; every service organisation can increase service response and quality for its customers, improve workforce productivity, and streamline process efficiency.

I have been at ClickSoftware for almost eight years working in different leadership roles. I most enjoy working with organisations to help them redefine their service strategies through leveraging the capabilities that ClickSoftware provide. I have developed my expertise around mobilising business processes and customer centric service strategies. I have been able to work with organisations from the UK through Europe to Africa and into Russia.

What’s the favourite IT project that you’ve ever worked on?
Working with a financial services company to fundamentally change the way they delivered their service delivery. It automated the whole process of making customer appointments. We created a more efficient way of enabling the field inspectors to cover a broader territory and created a mobile application to collect data consistently and submit it from the field.

The project exceeded the client’s original objectives which were to dramatically reduce the time to complete the end to end process, increase the number of inspections and investigations that were completed by the field team, create a more customer centric experience as progress and updates were visible to customers and other stakeholders in the company.

The return on investment out performed expectations as there was a 90 percent reduction in administration support to the team and business created enough spare capacity that they were able to insource work from other companies in a managed service agreement.

 What technologies were you involved with ten years ago?
I was working with eCRM and knowledge management applications delivered via the cloud for customer service organisations.  At that time I was working both in the UK as well as emerging markets. The industry focus was to move customer interactions away from call centres into online self-help intelligent systems

Cloud future

What do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
I expect everything that directly touches employees and customers will be running via the cloud either public or private, that all applications will incorporate artificial intelligence and everything will be universally mobile.

By that I mean regardless of the device I am using at a specific point in time, I will be consistently working on the same underlying process. So I could be creating a Word document on my office PC, reviewing and editing on my tablet on the train home and publishing it from my smartphone whilst walking the dog in the woods.

This ubiquitous way of living will become possible because technology will allow universal access to information and systems from any device at any time and from any place and it will be as prevalent in our business environment as it will in our personal lives.

The Internet of Things will change the way we work and interact with everyone and everything. From driving to a meeting where the car self-drives part of the route and automatically guides us to available parking and through a city route that is least congested.

To walking into a room and the lighting, heating and entertainment systems automatically adjust to our presence to reflect how we would like it to be, such as dim lighting, warm room and our favourite TV show starting to play as we sit on the sofa. All of this is possible because our wearable technology is interacting with the room’s devices and the house’s AI system has learnt our living habits.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for an IT company or department today?
Ethernet cloud rental network © Brian A Jackson ShutterstockEnsuring they are positioning themselves to meet the needs of both today and tomorrow. The speed at which innovation is becoming possible is increasing and IT organisations have to create flexible environments that allow the company they serve to be agile and reactive in the market.   

To cloud or nor to cloud?
To cloud or not to cloud is no longer the question. The cloud is the basis of a disruptive force in all industries if companies must learn how to embrace and leverage what it can offer. So I would say the question for now is “what to cloud next?”

IT organisations should have clear strategies on how to bridge legacy systems with new innovative applications in the cloud. This will enable the IT departments to focus their energy on enabling the business to become agile and more customer centric.

This will enable companies to increase competitive barriers either through new forms of service or product delivery or through reduced costs. Over time, legacy systems can be managed out of the business or condensed and buried deep inside the IT stake.

Within the field service sector, we see more organisations embracing SaaS workforce management solutions so they can take control of their field force and introduce new service delivery models. The traditional ERP and CRM systems are becoming more repositories of customer and product data rather than places where service procedures and operating models are configured or coded.  The change is driven by external pressures as new companies are entering markets and forcing our customers and prospects to change and innovate their own business models.

Heroes and villains

Who is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?
Perhaps I’m a little different but some of my tech heroes are often my tech villains – for example:

I admire Steve Jobs and what he did to drive Apple forward as an innovative company for business and individuals – but he is also a villain in my eyes for creating such a closed community that prevents Apple users from benefiting from what the broader market can provide.

Larry Ellison is a long term hero for the work that Oracle has done creating a technology platform that enables organisations to build their IT systems on, but villain in the culture that has been created to sell Oracle in my opinion regardless to what is best for the end customer.

I admire Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce.com, and his approach to create an open garden to allow customers to choose what is best for their business either a Salesforce.com product or one from another company that may offer a speciality that best suits that organisations specific needs thus providing them the flexibility to be successful.

Travis Kalanick and the other co-founders of Uber  are huge heroes at the moment as they are doggedly pushing the boundaries of archaic legislation around the world.  The speed of innovation is moving so fast that legislation can’t cope and perhaps you could argue in many cases has become redundant and obsolete.

What’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?
iphone 6 3My favourite device is the iPhone and the variety of business and personal apps that make my life easier and more enjoyable.  On the personal front it has to be my portable Bose and Spotify. I travel a lot and music is constantly playing where I am working – it is the one constant point in a changing world.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?
The three most interesting companies at the moment are Apple, Amazon and Google.

Amazon because it’s revolutionising the way we shop increasing consumer options and opening up the world to new suppliers and new markets – its ethics on corporate tax especially in the UK is questionable.

I admire Google for leveraging its search engine revenue to innovate new industries such as driverless cars, the Android operating software that is powering the smart phone innovation and their support to bring smartphone and internet access to a billion new users in emerging countries.

Their investment in wearable technology such as Glass and Maps  makes the information available to everyone. Again ethics on corporation tax especially in the UK is questionable.

Finally, I admire Apple for its innovation, design and company culture – I just wish it was more open and inclusive to the industry.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
As a child I had always wanted to be an explorer.

Which tech CEO once marketed Mr Potato Head?

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