From The Archives

Concepts become features, and in this 2005 interview extract, it's clear that the founders had a solid vision for the future.
TMCNet First Coffee for August 1, 2005, By David Sims

David Sims's Telecom & CRM Blog
Telecom News, VoIP Opinions, my blog analyzes the Telecom industry, CRM, call centers, and general technology.

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is three Frank Sinatra and two swing CDs on the changer. It’s going to be a good morning:

As part of First CoffeeSM’s occasional series of interviews with important types in the CRM and contact center space, we have an interview with CobbleSoft Chairman, CEO and minority owner Richard Stevenson.

A Brit living in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York state – if First CoffeeSM moves back to America that’s one place under heavy consideration, that and the Shenandoah Valley – Stevenson’s just overseen CobbleSoft’s release of Version 3 of its flagship product, COIGN, web-based help desk and service management software.

Excerpts are printed here, the complete interview appears as an article by First CoffeeSM’s mild-mannered reporter alter ego on the TMC site:

Richard, thanks for your time. What do you find are the best CDs to play at work?

A pleasure, David. Recently, I discovered Aria 3, Metamorphosis by Brit Paul Schwartz. It is incredibly powerful music, inspired by his love of rock and opera – you should play it for First Coffee… you never know when you walk into my office if you’ll hear The Who, South American salsa or classical.

To the uninitiated, in as plain English as possible, can you explain what it is that COIGN brings to the market that isn’t being, uh, brought anywhere else?

COIGN was one of the first truly web-based helpdesk products, and certainly the first to use Apache/Oracle for the middle tier, as opposed to Microsoft’s IIS. Developed exclusively for the Oracle Database… where COIGN adds value over and above other products is the sense of collaborative ownership it generates, whereby support does not have to be limited to IT or the helpdesk. CobbleSoft believes there are vast amounts of knowledge spread throughout any organization, and COIGN enables you to tap into that knowledge, resulting in faster and more accurate service and resolution.

In the past you’ve mentioned other products, that CobbleSoft is being asked to come in to deployments and do better. Exactly what is it that those users are wanting improvement on?

We are taking an increasing number of calls from companies that are re-assessing the practical value they get. The companies we’re talking to are being pressured to cut overhead costs, increase their ability to respond to change, and create greater service satisfaction. Ease-of-use, reducing IT headcount, web-based architecture, integrated knowledge base and search capabilities – all these are high on their lists.

You’ve said running a coffee shop is a great way to learn real-world customer service.

Some folks simply want to buy a regular cup of coffee and leave – and that’s okay. Others will request assistance or a recommendation. The point is, people have different ways of asking for the same thing, or expect different results from the same service. We, as the solution providers, have to be able to listen, learn and deliver.

As an industry observer, not necessarily as someone with (quite) a vested interest in CobbleSoft, what do you see as the two or three biggest challenges ahead for the self-serve help desk segment of the industry?

Self-service solutions must provide the ability to evolve and scale to an organizations’ growth. There are many products out there, but very few which are capable, for example, of integrating to other applications or to data warehousing. Integrating knowledge bases and content management with enhanced search capabilities is absolutely critical. People need, basically, useful information – and they aren’t getting it right now.

You talk about the need to build dynamic business rules processing into help desk and service management.

We’ve seen during the last few years, for example, how lean manufacturing has increased efficiency for companies. Too often today, people are using e-mail and instant messaging – which means no audit trails, no SOX compliance, and no knowledge capture or sharing.

Do most businesses really get it that you must support and empower employees with things like real-time access to real-time data?

I think that many of them do understand it, but have lacked the right tools or resources to achieve it. For many, the sheer volume of disparate applications and data silos is a huge barrier to empowering all employees, let alone IT or customer-facing departments.

I’ve heard you say “self-service is great, if you know how your users are serving themselves.” What do you mean by this?

You can’t just put up a knowledge base or FAQs and hope that employees and customers find what they want. You have to know what they are looking for, what they find, how satisfied they are. If they log a ticket, the technician should be able to see what the user has already tried in order to solve a problem. We’ve just introduced real-time analysis whereby technicians can see immediately what the user has downloaded, what they’ve searched for, and what feedback they provided.

Why don’t more Brits drink coffee?

If they’re like me, they grow up on lots of tea and really bad instant coffee!

Copyright TMCNet, published with permission