I know this will be hard to believe – but I am a nerd, a geek, a lover of all things technology. Why, in the old days when Windows 3.x was just beginning I made a few extra dollars building computers from spare part for fellow students (hey, it was way cheaper and popular back then), not to mention that I am certified for Novell and Microsoft networks (yes, I was a sysadmin at some point in life). I love technology and I use my knowledge as much as possible.
As I was cleaning one of the hard-drives in my computer last week I came across a paper I had written at some point in life contrasting the use of parallel and serial ports in computers. Now, this is not a big deal these days with USB and Firewire and the myriad other connection options – but back then it was the only way to connect. In this paper I looked into the technological considerations, including speed, of using one or the other.
Here is the summary you need to know for the purposes of this post. Parallel ports work, as their name implies, by sending data at the same time through all possible pins or channels with no interruption. This translates into a top speed of around 4 Mbps. Serial, on the other hand, work by sending data bits one at the time and waiting for confirmation before continuing. This reaches a top speed of 115 Kbps. The difference is somewhere around 12 times faster for parallel ports once you count in things like hexadecimal conversion, acknowledgments and enhanced ports and accelerators.
Why am I bringing this up? I am not trying to date or label myself, I am using this as the starting point for a new model for customer service – parallel servicing. All the customer service we do today is in serial form. A customer contacts us, and they wait. We take one action, they wait. We solve their problem, we think, and then we wait to make sure it was solved, or we wait for them to come back. Not only that, but we cannot serve multiple customers at once unless we deploy more “ports” or resources.
The concept of parallel servicing is not having to wait, to be able to service customers at a higher speed, with certainty of delivery and better results. How would you like to be able to service more customers with just your current resources but faster? Three steps to get you there:
1. Proactively Service Customers. I wrote about this many times, talked about it for a long time – and no one listened (it’s OK, I am used to it). You have the tools, technologies, and know-how to implement proactive service today – with no major investment. As simple as writing a few triggers for your database, then letting them run their course. As you get more comfortable you can get more courageous — the sky is truly the limit. A new patch released? Send an email to people who own the product you are patching. Complementary product created for your best-selling product? Up-sell. You can even charge for it in a subscription service! So many ways to do this… so easy to do.
2. Change your Processes. Yes, I am telling you to change your processes. No, I don’t know how (but would be glad to do the work for you if you want, just call me). The secret here is to find serial processes that can be converted to parallel processes. Why would a customer have to wait for one action to take place before a second starts? Look, you know your processes, you know where you can find actions or functions to improve. Once you get used to the idea of parallel servicing you will notice more and more areas where it makes sense.
3. Automate. Nothing makes processes go faster than automation – and you can run multiple instances at the same time (sorta like a parallel communication bus). Look for areas where you can automate to improve the speed of your processes. In lots of cases, you can turn long processes into sub-second actions on the computer – virtually parallel servicing if there is no delay! Think about where automation makes sense, and do it.
Final words: you don’t have to do all this at once. I am a firm believer in evolutionary changes, not revolutionary ones. Go slow, little by little, and notice the results. Get more courageous as you succeed. Do more and see the speed of your service processes improve, then end up with a great example of parallel servicing.
What do you think? Interesting enough to try? Leave me a comment, let me know how it goes…