Next-Level Tech: DevOps Meets CSOps

Operations are some of the most important aspects of an organization. In tech, DevOps has dominated the conversation due to its necessity in keeping up with the rate of building products, applications and infrastructure with code. DevOps encompasses much more than a team of developers; it is a culture, a set of practices and tools that allow organizations to deliver applications with speed and scale and then effectively operate. This philosophy has been incredibly useful over the last decade but has lacked a connection with other parts of the organization. Developer teams are connected, but within their silo, their work is lacking integration with the end user, diluting the opportunity to deliver the best solutions for their customers. More immediately, developers, DevOps and ITops cannot see the breadth of impact when working in an autonomous environment, leading to poor prioritization and remediation. 

Enter customer service. Another pillar of organizational strength, customer service is not only a necessity but has risen to become a strategic function for the business. They are the first responders of a business when digital services don’t work as expected or their customer expectations are not met. Customer service agents are highly trained, well-funded and armed with the latest technology so they can be the most effective first point of contact for customers. Customer service teams can learn something from developers in their organization and work within the same kind of ‘operations’ model that dictates philosophies and practices: in other words, CSOps or customer service operations. 

Why CSOps?

Customer service is an incredibly powerful element of business operations, as it is tied to user experience. Consumers are not shy about announcing when they have experienced poor customer service, and the opposite is also true. End users also loudly trumpet the moments that they have received strong customer service; that goes a long way in creating loyalty, repeat business and retention. In a study from Bain & Company, it was noted that customers were four times more likely to buy from a competitor if they experienced a service-related problem rather than an issue based on price or product. Leading with customer service, like many e-commerce platforms have done, is a new standard of operating and is critical to meeting the expectations of customers. In a B2B setting, customer service is no different. Customers or users are drawn to organizations that can quickly remediate their concerns in a frictionless and efficient manner.

Customer service is now at the forefront of corporate initiatives and isn’t going anywhere. In a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, analysts and executives weighed in on CIO budgets and forecasted priorities amidst growing recession concerns. With cuts coming to some areas, customer service was not one of them. The overall sentiment is that “businesses see more value than ever in tech that will enhance the customer experience and give them an edge in an increasingly tight market.” 

In today’s organizations, you cannot compete with DevOps if you do not have CSOps. They are symbiotic in their relationship to the bottom line—if products or applications do not meet the customer’s desired outcome, communication from customer service teams must connect with developers and convey what’s wrong or missing. Then, developers can work to provide the proper solutions. Customer service operations feed the DevOps pipeline to create products and services that address customer needs. In other words, you cannot succeed with DevOps if you don’t have CSOps. 

Creating the DevOps and CSOps Relationship

The truth is that most CSOps and back office teams like SREs or ITOps don’t have a good relationship, nor do they have effective processes to communicate with each other. This disconnect not only creates problems with customers, but the lack of internal communication creates fault lines across teams and an inability to produce results efficiently. With the trajectory of technology organizations over the last decade ignited by the SaaS model, flexible work and the rise of applications, it is important to look at best practices within an organization and understand how teams can work better together.

While developer teams continue to iterate and produce code, customer service teams are constantly fielding customer feedback, concerns and complaints. Customer service agents are often the first to learn if something is broken and where—if organizations are not using their front-line workers as a tool in remediation and incident response, they are missing out on valuable information that can help them find a solution.

Beyond just fielding complaints and reports about product and service issues, customer service teams are able to aggregate and correlate reports, as well as gather additional information from reporting users. When something goes wrong, mobilizing the required rapid response can often be difficult. If there is a lack of communication between the customer service teams and the developer or engineering teams, a customer complaint about a product or service could take too long to make it through remediation. Creating a rapid connection from the customer service team to the developer team allows customer service agents to have visibility into the problem and the solution, offering feedback to the customer in real-time as the solution is being implemented. It is this ‘Ops’ culture on both the customer service and development teams that supports the organization from end to end. 

The symbiotic relationship of DevOps and CSOps can benefit any organization, but adoption requires visibility and bi-directional communication. Development teams that are in close contact with their customer service teams benefit from having better, real-world user information that can then be incorporated into new features and improvements. When customer service teams have a clear path to escalate customer-reported issues—with the right context to the appropriate teams—time to resolution decreases by eliminating silos and breaking down the walls between CSOps and DevOps.

It is time that every organization integrates customer service teams as part of delivering on customer satisfaction instead of just reporting on it. The integration with engineering and back office teams creates a culture of service-first operations. 

Jonathan Rende

Jonathan Rende is senior vice president of product and marketing for PagerDuty. He has more than 25 years of experience in the mobile, performance management and quality industries and has held various product, marketing and engineering executive roles during this time at Informix, Mercury Interactive/HP Software, Appcelerator and Keynote. Prior to Keynote, Rende was Vice President of Products at Appcelerator. Previously, he was Vice President and General Manager for HP Software’s $1 billion Application Lifecycle Management business. He has also held roles at Mercury Interactive, Informix and Lockheed.

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