Self-Service - What Does it Mean for Your Reference Program?
Friday, September 22, 2006
Are there days where you feel like the requests just keep coming in, but there isn't enough time in the day to address all of them? With reference program resources staying flat, and reference opportunities always increasing, how is a program to support its stakeholders effectively? One of the popular approaches right now is to implement a "Self-Service" model. But what exactly is this model and is it right for your company?
The concept of self-service is straightforward: providing a centralized location for program users to find exactly what they need and self-fulfill requests. However, the definition of what exactly is 'self-serve' can vary from company to company. The model could be as simple as a centralized content management engine and could be as complex as providing automated request fulfillment workflow. Which one is right or better? There is no right or wrong way to provide self-service of references. What is important is that your definition of self-service is clearly articulated to program users and the boundaries of service are understood.
When considering a self-service model, the first step is to understand what are the priority needs of your program users - do they want evidence centralized in one place, do they want to automate requesting references? Next, look at what your team can directly manage with your current resources and then identify what might make sense to open up to a self-serve model.
Here are some key considerations for your reference team when defining your self-service model:
- Reference fulfillment workflow. Map out exactly how a program user will interact with your self-service model - from the point of entering a request, to who will act on that request all the way through to who will complete the request. If your self-service model has limits, communicate its true capabilities with program users and advise them how to best use the system to fit their needs.
- Customer contact strategy. Once a requestor finds a good match, who actually reaches out of the customer? Is it the account manager for the customer? Perhaps the CRP manages this process. Again, there is no right or wrong answer to this question; what is more important is that whatever you decide is best for your program, educate program users on who is responsible for what.
- Reference request prioritization. How does the self-serve model gauge the priority of requests? Does every request or program user have access to the entire pool of references? Also consider what permissions has your customer provided your company? Are they interested (or even able) to participate in PR? Are there ways your self-serve model can accurately narrow the list of appropriate target references with reference opportunities?
- Data integrity guidelines. You have a lot of people pulling from this self-serve model, but who is pushing customer intelligence into it? Be clear with program users on who owns populating the system. Perhaps it is the account team, your services organization, or maybe sales engineers. Gain buy-in from contributors prior to launching the self serve model so that the program and its ability to provide true self-service is a success!
The bottom line is that you can deploy a successful self-serve model that works for your company when using effective, reliable data and turning that data into a repository of tools that serve the needs of the field, and clearly defining the best way for the field to leverage "Self-Service".
Kathleen McBride, Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org