Coventry Building Society rethinks employee service during COVID-19 with ServiceNow

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez November 1, 2021
Coventry Building Society brings a virtual agent and a ‘genius bar’ experience to employees, using ServiceNow, to reduce demand on the service desk.

Image of a virtual agent answering a call
(Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay )

Coventry Building Society, the second largest building society in the UK, is adopting new approaches to service delivery across its organization through the use of ServiceNow. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the financial institution has been encouraging employees to pursue new routes to support - such as through the use of virtual agents - in order to reduce demand on its IT service desk. 

This isn't an experience that is unique to Coventry Building Society. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as organizations shifted to distributed work and employees adapted to their new digital work from home environments, IT service desks were placed under increased strain. As a result, many have been assessing their processes for getting employees the information and equipment they need, adopting automated tools and using sophisticated knowledge portals to support staff in ways that require less over the phone or face-to-face communication. 

Simon Holbrook, IT Service & ServiceNow Platform Manager at Coventry Building Society, was speaking at ServiceNow's recent Now at Work event, where he explained that he took over running of the platform a year ago. At the same time, the building society was going through a contract renewal negotiation with ServiceNow, which led to what he describes as a ‘perfect storm' to assess what the platform could be used for. 

The future priorities for ServiceNow at Coventry Building Society would focus on four pillars, which are: a growth mindset, collaboration, innovation and communication. Holbrook said: 

We decided that the ITSM Pro licensing model worked better for us, because we get things like the virtual agent, we get access to the walk up experience, we get access to features that are going to make a difference to our end users and their journey - our customers. How can we make life better for them? 

Virtual support

This was coupled with the impact of COVID-19, which Holbrook said was a "massive curveball and manic". The IT service team was suddenly tasked with supporting people working remotely, who had never before worked from home. One of the things the team immediately looked at was how it could make better use of its knowledge base and portal. Holbrook said: 

We've made very subtle enhancements to our knowledge base and service portal, to make it easier to find things. I wouldn't expect a customer to need more than three clicks to get to what they need. We've moved the search bar so that it's bang in the middle of the screen, so you can start typing what you're looking for and it starts to populate that list of knowledge base articles. 

In addition, Coventry Building Society has begun using the ServiceNow virtual agent functionality to deal with some service requests. The team did cluster analysis on the platform to see what types of requests or incidents were being raised, looking at volumes to work out what the big hitters are. 

It found that a lot of the requests could be handled with simple interactions and included things like: How do I escalate a ticket? Where is my ticket? How do I reset my password? All of these tasks could be handled via the knowledge base portal, with the virtual agent providing support. Holbrook explained: 

We saw a massive hit on our service desk, because they're the front line, they're the front door into IT. We saw call volumes go absolutely through the roof. So what we looked at was embracing that virtual agent. But, thinking about communication, we didn't just develop it and then launch it. 

It needed a name. It was called Derek throughout the development. But we decided we couldn't just leave it called Derek, so to get people talking we asked business users to suggest names of what it could be called. It planted that seed that something is coming, to help them get support. 

We've launched that now - it's called Cody - and it's taking about 10-15% of what we would normally have been calls to the service desk. That's taking pressure off. 

We're really trying to tell people that there are other routes to get that support, you don't have to just call the service desk. That's not to say we are dissuading people from calling the service desk, because some people just like that human element. But we are seeing a massive uptick in tickets that are being raised on the portal and then followed up via the virtual agent or on the portal itself. 

In addition to the platform analysis, Holbrook's team also carries out regular service reviews, where service managers go out to the business to have conversations about what could be improved. These service managers then bring back their ideas, common themes are pulled out, and then these are pushed out to the ServiceNow developers to enhance the platform and processes. 

But, key to all of this is communication, Holbrook said: 

I bang on about communication. Telling people regularly that it's still here. Telling them you don't have to call the desk. We have an internal portal intranet, so we regularly rent banner space on that, so that's regularly in peoples' faces. We are putting that message out at least every six weeks. Just to keep pushing the different routes.

Walk up support

With some employees now returning to the office, as part of the Vaccine Economy, Coventry Building Society is now also taking a leaf out of Apple's book and adopting what Holbrook describes as something similar to the ‘Genius Bar'. But with concerns over COVID-19 transmission, the team has sought to streamline how this works. Holbrook explained: 

We've realized that with offices starting to open up, we can't have hordes of people queuing up around the tech hub. So we've implemented a walk up experience, we've got an iPad sitting in reception, anybody can walk up to that, book a slot for whatever it needs to be. 

They then check in to say ‘I'm here', for their pre-booked slot, and are told to wait in the reception area, where facilities can help to maintain social distancing. They are then called through one by one into the tech hub where they can get that support, in a safe, COVID-compliant way. We've had really good feedback on that. 

We're going through an extended Windows 10 rollout, so we are going to bolt that onto the walk up experience as well, so people coming to collect their new Windows 10 equipment can check in and pick it up. It's proving a very simple solution and the benefits have been widespread. It's well adopted and people love it. 

Extending the platform

Following the success of the work with the service desk, Holbrook and his team are now looking at how ServiceNow can be extended into other departments to improve processes and reduce the reliance on manual intervention. One example is how ServiceNow is connecting with the building society's cloud-based HR tracking system, Eploy, for internal recruitment processes. Holbrook explained: 

We've made some other improvements internally. Our internal recruitment process was a little bit backwards, shall we say? It very much entailed keying the same information into three different systems. We've managed to streamline that now. 

We've got integration working with Eploy, so now you can raise one request in ServiceNow, that's approved, it gets the budget assigned to it, it pushes it to Eploy, and then HR can put the advert live and it's done. We've managed to cut down on so much human effort and data re-entry. 

It fires something back to the recruitment manager to say: ‘remember you need to put in that request for equipment for your new starter, don't forget to do this'. It's pushing people down the right avenues, so that it's not an emergency when the new hire starts on Monday. 

We are always looking at what's going on in the business, the processes, to see how we can fit it into ServiceNow and how we can workflow it. We're using ServiceNow to drive process efficiencies and make things lean every way we can. 

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