Forrester's Top Trends For Customer Service In 2016

Kate Leggett

It’s a no-brainer that good customer service experiences boost satisfaction, loyalty, and can influence top line revenue. Good service — whether it's to answer a customer's question prior to purchase, or help a customer resolve an issue post-purchase should be easy, effective, and strive to create an emotional bond between the customer and the company. Here are 5 top trends - out of a total of 10 - that I am keeping my eye on. My full report highlighting all trends can be found here:

Trend 1: Companies Will Make Self Service Easier. In 2015, we found that web and mobile self-service interactions exceeded interactions over live-assist channels, which are increasingly used by customers as escalation paths to answer harder questions whose answers they can’t find online. In 2016, customer service organizations will make self-service easier for customers to use by shoring up its foundations and solidifying their knowledge-management strategy. They will start to explore virtual agents and communities to extend the reach of curated content. They will start embedding knowledge into devices — like Xerox does with its printers — or delivering it via wearables to a remote service technician.

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Apple's Real Innovation And Responsibility Is The App Store

Ted Schadler

Apple announced today that it sold $144 million in its App Store on January 1st and more than $20 billion in 2015. Wow. This from a company that launched $0.99 songs in 2001 on iTunes and didn't even consider apps to be useful when it introduced the iPhone in 2007. From public filings, Apple App Store net revenues (the 30% that Apple makes on digital media and app sales plus some other bits and pieces) grew from nothing in 2000 to $19,909 in fiscal year 2015 (see Figure 1). As you can see, growth is slowing down (though from a large base).

Figure 1 Apple's Reported App Store Net Sales. Source: Apple 10-K Filings

This App Store revenue breaks down into:

  • Media, including music, video, and books. Apple launched iTunes (the original App Store) in 2001 with the blessing of the music industry. For the first time, publishers had a paid outlet for digital music. It's only grown from there.
  • Apps. I remember vividly when my neighbor John told me he was coding apps on his nights and weekends (it was a brunch with snow outside in early 2009). That phenomenon -- developers flocking to this new computer opened my eyes to the power of smartphones. Apps and in-store purchases are more than half of App Store revenues.
  • In-app purchases. Apple keeps 30 cents for every dollar spent in an app, too. (It's why Amazon won't let you buy books in the Kindle app -- it doesn't want to give Apple that 30 cents.) 
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Betwixt And Between: Finding Space For Sellers Squeezed By Marketing And Sales Enablement Automation

Steven Wright

A new analyst at Forrester quickly learns about some rites of passage: the first report (insert link to Brief: Sales Enablement Needs A Platform), the first research agenda, and the first blog post.

Of the three, the first report is the toughest — reviewed and edited by your Research Director (the inestimable Peter O’Neill) and other analysts, and sliced, diced, and improved upon by Forrester’s editing process before going live. And that report is now available -- Brief: Sales Enablement Automation Needs A Platform

That first report is a stake in the ground, or a line in the sand for future research. Since I focus on sales enablement, it’s more of a stake in the sand since technology and demands are shifting rapidly in the world of B2B marketing and selling.

The solutions that help enable sellers borrow from marketing automation, various forms of analytics, with a strong addition of CRM integration. Vendors in this space are many, the overlaps are great, and the competition is fierce. It’s difficult to easily understand what is needed to find the bridge between marketing and sales so both can be more effective and efficient; once a lead becomes a real opportunity, it needs the human touch that only a good sales person can bring.

In a perfect world, a single technology platform would provide all the necessary capabilities, including the ones you haven’t thought of, together in a single solution. Alas, Candide aside, we are not in that world. But if you are involved in selecting tools, whether from a marketing or sales enablement point of view, there are some key points that can help:

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Global Tech Market Will Continue To Grow At 4%-5% Rates In 2016 And 2017

Andrew Bartels

Forrester has just published our global tech market report for 2016 and 2017 (see “The Global Tech Market Outlook For 2016 To 2017- The Five Themes That Will Define Tech Spending In The Next Two Years”). For the first time, our January 2016 global forecast includes telecommunication services (voice and data, wireline and wireless), which increases the overall size of the global market for tech purchases by business and government by $625 billion to a total of $2.9 trillion in 2016. However, even the addition of telecomm services cannot pull the global tech market out of the 4%-5% growth track, with growth at 4.5% in 2016 and 4.7% in 2017 when measured in exchange-rate-adjusted US dollars.

The five main themes that define the global tech market over the next two years are:

1.       Moderate overall growth remaining below 5%. The global tech market in constant currency terms will continue to grow modestly throughout 2016 and 2017 at 4.5% and 4.7%, respectively. The strong US dollar will persist in 2016, resulting in lower dollar-denominated growth rates. However, we expect the dollar to lose some steam by 2017, so we project 4.9% growth in US dollar terms.

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Should Financial Services Firms Engage With Fintech Startups?

Oliwia Berdak

At least two dozen accelerators and incubators have been launched by financial services firms in the last two years. I believe that in five years’ time, most of these corporate accelerators will have disappeared. Why? A fully-fledged, multi-startup accelerator is expensive to run. The cost of searching, selecting, and providing seed investment and support for startups could easily reach $1 million a year.  Many accelerators aren’t focused enough on customer problems or business objectives to deliver return on that investment.

So why are so many banks, insurance, and wealth management firms eager to loosen their purse-strings? Some want to identify and co-opt future disruptors, others are looking to startups for innovation. There’s been a palpable change of tone in discussions of digital disruptors in retail financial services. The ubiquitous stories about voracious startups that want to eat incumbents’ lunch have been replaced by tales of successful collaboration. Financial technology startups deliver innovation, established firms bring customers, and together they live happily ever after.

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Three Billion Smartphone Customers Are Ready. Now Go Make Them Successful.

Ted Schadler

If I hear one more story about "the next big thing" only to find it's a niche product like a skateboard or a toy like a consumer drone or a convenience tool like a smartwatch or a fancy way to open a door or detect smoke, I think I'll puke. The last big product innovation was smartphones. And it was a doozy. Most people don't really need another gadget. They need the game-changing gadget they have to do more.

I believe we are still at the beginning the biggest technology-fueled shift we've every seen, the mobile mind shift. A smartphone in the hands over three billion people is a game-changer. But only if we embrace it as a platform to deliver everything someone needs in the mobile moments of their day.

On your smartphone today:

  • Can you always get a great Internet connection . . . you can afford?
  • Can you manage every aspect of your complex digital life?
  • Can you vote?
  • Can you schedule a doctor appointment, renew your dog license, apply for a mortgage, replenish your cupboard, or do your job?
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The US Holiday Shopping Season 2015 Sets New Online Records And Rebrands Black Friday

Kristopher Arcand

With the winter shopping holidays now behind us, Forrester is wrapping up its annual qualitative exploration of US consumers’ perceptions of the holiday season, both for their own behavior as well as what they observed across retailers. The retail industry has seen an increase in consumer spending compared to last year — possibly due to savings from lower gas prices. Overall, we saw that consumers felt less compelled to go out and buy gifts on Black Friday itself, but they still love a good bargain. Some other insights we gathered:

  • Black Friday sales effectively crossed over from in-store to online. While in-store shopping dropped on Black Friday, online shopping sales rose, resulting in an overall increase in sales. Consumers were quite conscious of the fact that online deals appeared even before the Thanksgiving holiday (and therefore before Black Friday). This year, these sales also carried the “Black Friday” label — traditionally an in-store-specific event. By re-associating Black Friday with deals first and foremost, this could restore positive sentiment and downplay what has otherwise become a stressful shopping event.
  • Targeted outreach drives online sales — but retailers shouldn’t overdo it. A smaller number of targeted deals and offers will help reduce the overall volume of email that consumers receive. This will in turn minimize the chances of consumer recipients being overwhelmed by holiday communications.
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Best Practices For Managing CX Via B2B Partner Networks

Ryan Hart

While much of the glitz and glam around customer experience has orbited around B2C organizations, Forrester believes that the imperative shift toward customer experience and subsequently, customer centricity, is creeping into the B2B space – sooner than we might expect.

Recognizably, there are inherent challenges in distributing through channel partners, not the least of which is a lack of direct contact with end customers and the complexity of trying to manage experiences that cannot ultimately be controlled. All of which pose sizable obstacles to CX professionals in such organizations. My most recent report describes six principles and examples that companies selling via channel partners should consider to better manage their prescribed end user experiences so as to align with the company’s CX strategy.

Here are several of the key collaborative principles that can help B2B companies foster better partner alignment:

·         Apply B2C tools to understand your partners.  More and more firms are creating B2B personas from stakeholder maps, co-creating customer journey and empathy maps with their channel partners, and implementing voice of the partner (VoP) programs to capture CX sentiment from their intermediaries.

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Only Sophisticated And Innovative P2P Lending Platforms Will Survive In China

Zhi-Ying Ng

China is now the largest P2P lending market in the world. In just the first half of 2015, people exchanged RMB 300 billion ($47 billion) on more than 2,000 P2P lending platforms. As P2P lending in China reaches a tipping point, we expect many platforms to fail, and only sophisticated and innovative platforms will survive and thrive.

The “Q&A: Peer-To-Peer Lending Platforms In China” report takes an in-depth look at P2P lending platforms in China,  including the main players, key differences between Chinese P2P lending platforms and those in the UK and US, the problems that Chinese P2P lending marketplaces address, challenges P2P lending platforms face, as well as best practices in the P2P lending industry.

While the potential for P2P lending in China is huge, the challenges that lie ahead for these companies are significant. To succeed, P2P lending companies must overcome barriers related to the external environment that they operate in and the operational obstacles that their platform face such as:

  • Fraud. Widespread fraud and embezzlement in P2P lending tarnishes the entire industry, damaging well-run marketplaces as well as the immediate victims of fraud. Many of China's P2P lending platforms are not transparent, failing to disclose their revenues, expenses or fund allocation.
  • Regulation. In late December last year, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) published new draft rules calling for closer supervision of the P2P lending sector. Some of these regulations include establishing a third-party depository of customer funds, requiring P2P lending platforms to improve disclosure, and prohibiting platforms from building capital pools.
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Just published -- The Forrester Wave: Customer Loyalty Solutions For Large And Midsize Organizations, Q1 2016

Emily Collins

I recently wrapped up my third evaluation of customer loyalty vendors, and the market has evolved slightly since 2013. First, the lines between loyalty technology and services are fading: vendors that were traditionally considered service providers continue to productize and improve their technology platforms, and pure-play loyalty technology platform providers are shoring up their professional services offerings. Second, on the user side, I talk to clients who are looking for more holistic solutions and including a combination of service providers, agencies, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology platforms in the same request for proposal (RFP).

Given the hybridization of the market and evolving customer demands, we took a slightly different approach and conducted two evaluations of end-to-end loyalty solutions: one for large organizations including Aimia, Bond Brand Loyalty (formerly Maritz Loyalty Marketing), Brierley+Partners, Comarch, Epsilon, ICF Olson 1to1, Kobie Marketing, and TIBCO Software; and one for midsize organizations including 500friends, a Merkle company; Aimia; Clutch; CrowdTwist; DataCandy; Deluxe Corporation; and Inte Q Global.

What did we learn?

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