Think Beyond Traditional CRM and Focused on Sales to Elevate Customer Service

CRM is focused on sales—not service. Go all-in with an end-to-end service solution that meets today’s high customer expectations.

Think Beyond Traditional CRM and Focused on Sales to Elevate Customer Service
Think Beyond Traditional CRM and Focused on Sales to Elevate Customer Service

One of your biggest opportunities to deliver a superior experience is through customer service, and traditional CRM just isn’t cutting it anymore. In this article, Farrell Hough, Senior VP Customer Workflow Products at ServiceNow, discusses the need for purpose‑built customer engagement technology and processes that go far beyond call‑logging to set your company apart from the competition. Read the article to learn:

  • How traditional CRMs are not meant to serve customers effectively
  • The advantages of end‑to‑end solutions for seamless quality experiences
  • The options for integrating into current systems


You’re not imagining it: Customers today are different. They expect a personalized relationship with your company—not a one-time engagement—and seamless service at every point of contact. One-click convenience is becoming the norm, and there’s no time that’s more critical than when your customer is having an issue.

One of your biggest opportunities to deliver a superior experience is through customer service, and traditional CRM just isn’t cutting it anymore. Transforming customer service from a rant to a rave—and setting your company apart from the competition—requires an end-to-end customer service solution.

What does that mean, exactly?

  • Traditional CRM solutions for customer service prioritize engaging with customers reactively and tracking cases. Issues remain open because customer service is not connected with other parts of the organization.
  • End-to-end solutions create a seamless customer service experience where problems are identified proactively, and internal departments are connected to resolve customer issues faster—and for good.

We spoke with Farrell Hough, the senior vice president of customer workflow products at ServiceNow®, about how a customer service solution that focuses on service—not just call-logging—and connects all parts of your organization can help you deliver outstanding service that exceeds your customers’ expectations.

Q: Some companies are known for providing outstanding customer experiences, while others are notorious for their blunders. What can organizations do to create an experience that sets them apart (in a good way)?

A: Companies that do this well are constantly looking for ways to put the customer first, and they see customer service as a critical component to excellent customer experience. Those leaning into customer service as a key differentiator—pushing the envelope of what’s possible—are the ones gaining a competitive edge. The best tool a company can have is a service-oriented solution, one that brings together customer engagement with service operations to resolve customer issues and let customers engage in a way that works best for them.

Q: Describe a great customer service experience you had recently. Why did it stand out?

A: I reached out to a company after a case of credit card fraud. Once I logged the case, they showed me it had been received and the workflow it was going through. It didn’t go into a black hole. That transparency, letting me know where my case was in the workflow, put my mind at ease, and let me focus elsewhere. If you can start to be vulnerable with your customers and share a bit more by being more transparent, it increases their confidence and builds that relationship.

The pitfalls of using traditional CRM for customer service

Your sales CRM system simply wasn’t designed for customer service, and in a world where service can make or break your customer experience, your organization has to evolve beyond the old way of focusing only on customer engagement and tracking cases.

Instead, end-to-end customer service management:

  • Improves accountability for other departments to resolve customer issues
  • Automates workflows for faster and more efficient service
  • Spots issues early, proactively notifying customers of pending or major issues

Q: How is the customer service solution from ServiceNow different than traditional CRM?

A: CRM is great for sales, but it wasn’t designed for end-to-end service experience. CRM service modules allow you to log a case for an issue, but it stops there, which isn’t valuable for either party. By contrast, ServiceNow is very focused on service—it’s in our name. Our solution offers all parts of organization visibility into customer issues, enabling customer service to more readily work with other departments where the root cause of the issue lies. They can use workflow to assign tasks, deliberate on solutions, and ensure roadblocks and delays are avoided so that issues are solved faster. Our solution offers the kind of robust features and integration that help resolve customer issues quickly, seamlessly, and even proactively.

Q: Can you expand upon why using traditional CRM for customer service is a miss?

A: With a CRM system, the agent is primarily focused on the sale and the upside opportunity. When they log your call, there is no back-end connection to other parts of the organization that are going to be able to fix your issue. The emphasis tends to be more on “what more can we offer this customer,” and less on your experience, and “how can we very quickly fix this issue, get to root cause, and avoid it ever happening again.” It’s call reaction management— oftentimes with a lot of mistimed upselling or cross-selling.

Let’s say you’re talking with a customer service agent, and their CRM system is telling them to upsell or cross-sell to you. What they can’t see is that you just experienced a major outage in provided service over the past week. The agent has no real context for the situation they’re walking into—it’s just a setup for failure. If the agent’s priorities aren’t aligned with the customer at the moment of need, if they’re just trying to cross-sell or log the call, it won’t feel right from the beginning, and you won’t have a good customer experience.

The flip side of that is true as well: If the provided service is going well, and you see an uptick in its usage, there’s an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell. That gets missed with traditional CRM.

End-to-end service in the real world

Meet Shelly, a mother of two whose daughter was just diagnosed with autism and a seizure disorder. She’s feeling overwhelmed and calls her health care provider.

Shelly is routed to Morgan, a customer health care adviser. Morgan’s agent workspace, powered by ServiceNow, shows her that Shelly is calling about her daughter and that she has recently been browsing articles on the web regarding benefits and claims information. Shelly tells Morgan she wants to understand what programs are available and she also wants a referral to a provider in her area. Now Morgan can easily walk Shelly through that information. Benefits information, which used to be available in an entirely different application, is now right there in the same agent desktop. Shelly also asks for a referral to her therapist. That information is right there on the desktop, too. Morgan even offers to book the appointment.

As Morgan finishes up, she takes a look at prescription information and, yep, sees an indicator that there’s a prescription that needs to be filled. She asks Shelly whether she’d like it. Shelly loves this—she’d meant to get around to filling this prescription. This used to require transferring to an entirely different team to support the member.

Q: Is there anything a company that relies on CRM can do to enlist an end-to-end customer service solution?

A: If the company is using CRM for service currently, they likely are having challenges with inquiries and issues that can’t be answered by the agent during the interaction. By becoming service-oriented, they will have the processes and tools in place to connect agents with other teams to diagnose the issue, fix the issue, and find the root cause to avoid the issue for other customers in the future.

However, it doesn’t mean replacing CRM entirely. Our solution integrates with sales force automation data. Companies don’t need to replace their CRM investment in sales and marketing.

Q: ServiceNow is well known as a powerful IT solutions company. Why did you choose to enter the customer service space?

A: ServiceNow saw a gap in the marketplace because we couldn’t find a solution that met our standards for serving our customers. So, we created one. It also became very clear, especially as digital transformation has become a top business priority, that IT has all these learnings about service management inside the organization that could be applied to customer service outside the organization. The ServiceNow Now Platform® has long brought optimal experiences to IT teams through a single data model and database, with native integrations built-in. Now we’re bringing that to customer service organizations.

Q: Where is ServiceNow headed in the next two to five years with its customer service solutions? Where are you focusing on your R&D investments?

A: In addition to our focus on AI, chatbots, and proactive service, there are two areas we are heavily investing in. The first is the omnichannel experience. We want to deliver on the promise that customers can engage with customer service on their terms, the way they want. That means on their device of choice, the channel of choice, anytime, anywhere. It also means ensuring a continuum of care—having their needs met in threaded interactions from channel to channel and agent to agent. We have a long way to go as an industry in making those connections and ensuring it’s a good experience, so we will be investing heavily there.

The second area addresses the tsunami effect that digital transformation is having. Regardless of which side you’re on—whether you’re the disruptor or the one being disrupted—the digitization of workflows and services is creating demand for connected customer experience. There’s a huge opportunity in the area of field service. Companies should be able to use that connectivity to quickly and transparently address issues—even proactively—so that customers don’t experience a problem in the first place.

Customer service is key to meeting and exceeding today’s higher customer expectations, and it’s a powerful differentiator in today’s world. ServiceNow enables proactive, end-to-end service, and has the technical chops to handle complex environments, workflows, and legacy integrations—a winning combination for any company focused on customer experience.

Source: ServiceNow