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Channel partners rely on technology to run their businesses, but when the products they use aren't quite up to the task the results can prove unsettling, to say the least.
ENKI, a managed cloud services provider based in Denver, can attest to that. The product the company had been using for customer support automation wasn't able to ensure clients would quickly get to a support person who could respond to their issues. The software had a one-hour scheduler for handling events, while ENKI's policy was to escalate within minutes.
The services provider tried to get around the hard-coded limitations of the software, running two hourly schedules on alternating half-hour starting points, said Eric Novikoff, COO at ENKI. "But it still didn't meet our 10-minute maximum escalation promise to our clients."
As a consequence, ENKI lost a couple of customers who encountered more than one missed escalation. That's when the company sought a new platform for customer support automation and began working with Agiloft, a company based in Redwood City, Calif., that offers business software applications, including customer support.
ENKI was able to modify Agiloft's customer support offering to meet its escalation requirements. The customization effort involved adding fields and making changes to "enable handoffs that matched our company's culture of responsibility," Novikoff said.
Eric NovikoffCOO, ENKI
For example, ENKI built upon Agiloft's core functionality, adding an offer/handoff/acceptance module that facilitates the task of reassigning a client from one support person to another.
The module, Novikoff explained, "automates the process and couples it with staff actively offering to take responsibility for an issue and accepting that responsibility. This is very different from the standard paradigm where the manager or system arbitrarily assigns responsibility to tickets from above."
He noted, however, that the base features "provided an overwhelmingly complete starting point for our customization."
A three-week modification
The software modification took about three weeks of full-time work from one person, along with part-time contributions from a couple of other employees, to place the customer support automation system into production. ENKI clients and employees noticed the benefits of the system's customizability and soon upgrade requests to improve the customer portal and support functionality began to come in.
Novikoff said the requests for additional features required a few two-to-three-week upgrade cycles. After that, ENKI was able to settle into a yearly maintenance cycle.
This ability to modify applications is particularly appealing to channel partners, and one of the reasons Agiloft focuses on that industry segment, said Colin Earl, CEO and founder at Agiloft. He said partners can radically change the way an Agiloft software module works or build an entirely new module. The Agiloft platform lets customers automate business processes without custom coding, making software builds faster and less expensive, according to the company.
"Previously it took an investment in excess of $1 million to build a secure, scalable, enterprise software system to address a particular area," Earl said. "Agiloft reduces that investment to a week or two to learn the system and another three or four weeks to build the solution."
Earl said the channel, as of March 2017, represented about 25% of Agiloft's business, adding that the partner segment is growing faster than direct sales. He said the channel could generate half the company's revenue by the end of the year.
The customer service automation software went live in 2012 with additional release cycles wrapping up in early 2013. Since then, ENKI has moved on to employ ENKI in the sales automation area and has also created a security compliance record module using the platform. The latter, which went into production in last year, tracks an ENKI customer's security state over time
This year, Novikoff said ENKI is planning an enhancement to the module, based on lessons learned from using the software with pilot customers.
"In addition, we are investigating whether the module is mature enough to be used as a service separate from our managed cloud hosting services," he said.
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