Tired of Web 2.0? Try Service 2.0 for size

Back in the old days of the Internet, when money was free and ideas plentiful, a few friends asked me if there was something new and different that I thought was ready to be discovered, transformed into a product, created into an IPO, and worth millions of dollars. I said I was not sure about the millions, but there had been something bouncing around in my head for a while. I called it, at that time, “point-of-need customer service” (Yes, seven years at Gartner improved – but not perfected – my naming skills). We created a pilot product, deployed it – and amazingly enough people wanted it and it worked. Of course, this was about the time the air was let out of the bubble, so the lack of funding made it impossible to continue the endeavor, which coupled with my wife’s insistence that I get a “real job” took me to Gartner.

The concept behind “point-of-need customer service” was that the browser is a clunky, stateless, session-driven interface that, to keep constantly providing service and support to customers required lengthy and complex programming, integration, and adaptation to many, many operating systems and computers. The concept I had was a unique, non-browser type application that was constantly in contact with service providers, proactively providing customer service and support to clients. The money-making portion was to sell to providers the infrastructure to service those devices, and “viral distribution” for free of the devices or applets would take care of the rest. As I said, it did not go far due to lack of funding.

Fast forward some time, and while at Gartner I proposed the idea of the Customer Interaction Hub (yes, this was the best name we could agree on – I told you it was better but not perfect). This basically became the infrastructure component that each organization could deploy to use browsers as “point-of-need” service applets. I sorta gave up on the idea of replacing the browser, as it had become as ubiquitous as operating systems in computers. I still, for the record, believe that the browser is a lousy interface… but my Don Quixote days are over, so let’s embrace it!

So, on to the concept of where we started: Service 2.0. If you are wondering where the next “thing” (or the new, new thing as Michael Lewis put it) is start to look into how to expand your Web 2.0 investments into Service 2.0. Think about the characteristics of Web 2.0: proactive, effective, low cost, high-volume, point-of-need… doesn’t it sound like that Customer Service strategy you have been working on? Some of these things already exist and are implemented (one of our clients, Symantec, does first-level troubleshooting of problems in the computer itself – without using the browser), others are infrastructure components (like device relationship management components embedded in medical and industrial machines that alert to service needs, troubleshoot, and even scheduled service calls automatically) already in place… but the whole idea revolves around three core concepts of both Web 2.0 – and your service strategy: automation, decentralization, and proactivity.

All the elements of a winning Service 2.0 strategy.

What do you think? Ready to embrace the future? Are you planning your Service 2.0 infrastructure?