Is "Good Enough" Customer Service Good Enough?

Kate Leggett

Eighty-six percent of customer service decision-makers say that a good customer experience is one of their top strategic priorities. Sixty-three percent say that they want their customer experience to be the best in their industry. Yet few companies deliver a good customer experience.

In our recent survey, just over one-third of the 160 large North American brands questioned were found to provide a positive customer experience — a number that hasn’t significantly moved for the past five years.

We know that a bad service experience has quantifiable negative impacts, as measured by monitoring the wallet share of each customer over their engagement lifetime with a brand. But when is a service experience good enough? A recent Harvard Business Review blog says that delighting your customers is a waste of time and energy, and exceeding customer expectations has a negligible impact on customer loyalty — that customers just want simple, quick solutions to their problems.

What customers also want is a consistent, reproducible experience across all touchpoints.

What this means is that a customer wants to receive the same data, the same information, over any voice, electronic, or social communication channel used. Customer service agents supporting customers across these channels should follow the same business processes. And channels should be linked — either from a technology perspective or a business process perspective — so that customers can start a conversation on one channel and move it to the next without having to restart the conversation.

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The Big Mistake With Business Architecture

Randy Heffner

There’s a big mistake often made with business architecture — a very big mistake, yet a very subtle mistake. As you might expect, there are a number of mistakes one might make with business architecture, but there’s a particularly big and common one that multiplies its effect through all the others.

The mistake is this: To position business architecture as a new layer on top of your existing processes and structures for EA domains such as application architecture, information architecture, and infrastructure architecture.

Here’s the issue: The traditional way many organizations have pursued EA, it should have been called “enterprise technical architecture” — ETA. The central focus has been on the likes of technical standards and reference architectures for application implementation — i.e., on the technology — and not on the enterprise itself. In a phrase, ETA is “technology-centered,” leading us to odd behaviors like assuming it’s only natural that business users, product data, customer data, and the rest will be fractured and split across multiple applications. We put applications at the center and make the business gyrate and adapt around our siloed and broken applications.

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Choosing A Contact Center Outsourcer Is Hard; Evaluate Candidates Over 8 Dimensions

Kate Leggett

Outsourcing contact center operations helps organizations deliver better customer service. In Forrester’s recent survey of 304 North American and European network and telecommunications decision-makers, we found that nearly 20% have already outsourced some or all of their contact center seats or are very interested in doing so. Choosing to outsource should not be based on cost considerations alone. Select an outsourcer carefully. Outsourcers need to provide an environment that delivers quality customer service in a cost-effective manner. When looking for providers, evaluate their capability to:

  • Onboard new customers. Outsourcers should be able to communicate a well-defined process and timeline for onboarding a new customer and articulate the commitments that both the outsourcer and the customer need to meet for a successful onboarding process. The outsourcer should also be able to guarantee phased service-level agreements (SLAs) for the length of the onboarding process.
  • Report key metrics. Comprehensive reporting should accompany all engagements and should be available for review at any time. Identify the types of operational reports that you will have access to. Evaluate the ability to customize reports.
  • Adhere to quality standards. Make sure that outsourcers comply with quality standards such as Six Sigma and the Customer Operation Performance Center (COPC) that provide guidelines for managing operations and that ensure consistency for delivering services.
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Understanding Cloud's Multitenancy

John R. Rymer

Forrester’s James Staten and I collaborated on this research.

True cloud services all use some mode of multitenancy — the ability for multiple customers (tenants) to share the same applications and/or compute resources. It is through multitenant architectures that cloud services achieve high cost efficiencies and can deliver low costs. Multitenant architectures must balance these cost benefits with the need for individual tenants to secure their data and applications. Forrester finds that few application development and delivery (AD&D) pros understand how multitenant architectures balance sharing with security, and many have other concerns as well. This research clarifies the picture and guides good decisions about cloud services.

Our definition: Multitenancy defines IT architectures that let multiple customers (tenants) share the same applications and/or compute resources with security, reliability, and consistent performance.

Our research yielded three major findings about multitenant architectures. These are:

  1. Multitenant architectures must strike a balance between sharing and security. To deliver cost savings and scalability, a multitenant architecture must be able to manage dynamic resource consumption by its tenants without violating their security. These two goals ultimately conflict with one another, since shared resources and individual security rarely go hand in hand.
  2. Two common multitenant architecture models have arisen. Dedicated resource models stake boundaries within shared infrastructure, defining the resources a tenant can access, allowing for tangible and secure walls but lower flexibility. Metadata map models chart protected pathways to shared resources, allowing for increased flexibility, but they ultimately may feel less secure.
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Agile Development Makes Business Technology Come True; It Embodies Business Value In Software

Diego Lo Giudice

There is no doubt that Agile growth in the market is significant, and the growing daily number of inquiries I’ve been getting on Agile from end user organizations in 2012 gives me the impression that many are moving from tactical to strategic adoption. Why’s that? Many reasons, and you can read about them in our focused research on Agile transformation on the Forrester website. But I’d like to summarize the top five reasons from my recent research “Determine The Business And IT Impact Of Agile Development” :

  • Quality was the top — quite astonishing, but both the survey we ran across 205 Agile “professional adopters” and the interviews across some 21 organizations confirmed this. My read is that this is about functional quality.
  • Change was second to quality. We live in an era where innovation strives and organizations are continuously developing new apps and projects. But your business does not necessarily know what it needs or wants upfront. The business really appreciates the due-course changes that Agile development allows, as they enable the business to experiment and try out various options so it can become more confident about what is really right for the organization. Cutting edge cutting edge systems-of-engagement (Mobile, Web-facing, Social-media, etc) require lots of Change in due course.
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Turning Data Into Business Value

Holger Kisker

Join us at Forrester’s CIO Forum in Las Vegas on May 3 and 4 for “The New Age Of Business Intelligence.”

The amount of data is growing at tremendous speed — inside and outside of companies’ firewalls. Last year we did hit approximately 1 zettabyte (1 trillion gigabytes) of data in the public Web, and the speed by which new data is created continues to accelerate, including unstructured data in the form of text, semistructured data from M2M communication, and structured data in transactional business applications.

Fortunately, our technical capabilities to collect, store, analyze, and distribute data have also been growing at a tremendous speed. Reports that used to run for many hours now complete within seconds using new solutions like SAP’s HANA or other tailored appliances. Suddenly, a whole new world of data has become available to the CIO and his business peers, and the question is no longer if companies should expand their data/information management footprint and capabilities but rather how and where to start with. Forrester’s recent Strategic Planning Forrsights For CIOs data shows that 42% of all companies are planning an information/data project in 2012, more than for any other application segment — including collaboration tools, CRM, or ERP.

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Software Is Your Business - Forrsights Survey Data To Help Bust "No Software" And "Software Development's Not Important" Myths

Kyle McNabb

Just over 3 months ago, I made note of three things I'd tell your CIO, all of which focused on your need to build a software development competency to help your firm thrive in this age of software-fueled, consumer-led disruption. Since then, we've heard from a number of clients stating that they're having a tough time convincing their executives, from COOs and CFOs through to CIOs, that they need to stop looking at software and app development as a commodity. 

Vendors you work with aren't helping. System integrators and consultancies continue to tell your CFO and CEO to outsource your software development work to them, that they can deliver more quickly, and more cheaply, than you can. Software application vendors build their marketing around needing no customization, even "no software." This helps fuel the perception and myths many executives hold that software development, especially app dev, is a commodity.

Recent research published by Phil Murphy and survey data we recently collected in our Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2011 can help you bust those perceptions and myths and help you show your executives the importance of software development. 

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Don't Outsource Your Customer Service Operations To Cut Costs

Kate Leggett

Outsourcing contact center operations helps organizations deliver better customer service. In Forrester’s recent survey of 304 North American and European network and telecommunications decision-makers, we found that nearly 20% have already outsourced some or all of their contact center seats or are very interested in doing so. Outsourcing doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition — organizations can leverage outsourcers to fill language gaps or react quickly to seasonal volume changes. Organizations can also choose to outsource only a subset of non-mission-critical customer service processes.

In all cases, outsourcing is major decision which carries a significant amount of management overhead, and should not be pursued solely as a cost-control strategy. Look to outsource if you want to:

  • Improve the quality of services delivered. Leading outsourcers adhere to strict quality measures that allow them to support customers more consistently and use tools and techniques that promote cost-effective and reliable standards.
  • Focus on core business activities. Using the expertise of an outsourcer whose primary business is managing contact centers allows you to focus on core business activities that strengthen your value proposition.
  • Deliver a consistent customer experience. Many companies use processes that are inefficient and don’t deliver the same customer experience across the voice, electronic (e.g., email, chat, SMS), and social (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) customer interaction channels. Outsourcers can help standardize this experience.
  • Scale capacity up and down. Organizations can’t always predict the volume of interactions they anticipate over time. Outsourcers allow you to quickly ramp up or contract enabling you to deliver service in line with your  target service levels.
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Decide Now: Is SharePoint In The Cloud For You?

John R. Rymer

Rob Koplowitz and I collaborated on this research.

The days of Microsoft SharePoint being only a locally installed software product are over. Microsoft's commitment to SharePoint in the cloud is evident in its massive data-center investments, its costly retrofitting of the code base to support multitenancy and access via subscription, and its emphasis on "cloud" in sales and marketing efforts. SharePoint Online's potential value is intriguing: lower costs, faster implementations, automatic upgrades, and more. The reality: Office 365/SharePoint Online are still only release two, and Microsoft usually needs three releases to get a product right. The questions you face: Will SharePoint in the cloud work for your organization? Is your organization ready to capture the benefits now? Should you wait for the proverbial release three of this Microsoft product — or should you engage now? This research answers these questions using the experiences of early SharePoint Online adopters and analysis of Microsoft's product capabilities today.

In Forrester's experience, most application development and delivery (AD&D) professionals do not fully understand either the significance or impact of SharePoint's shift into the cloud. How could they? Most have no experience with either of Microsoft's SharePoint-in-the-cloud offerings — Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) or its successor, the SharePoint Online component of the Office 365 suite. Those who do have experience with SharePoint in the cloud can help the rest of us begin to plan for the shift ahead — and according to them, we'll need very thorough plans to succeed.

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Thoughts On Customer Service Solutions For The SMB Market

Kate Leggett

In a conversation with Alex Bard, CEO of Assistly (now desk.com, part of salesforce.com), I learned a few interesting things about customer service solutions for small to medium-size businesses (SMBs): (1) Companies can be too small to have customer service organizations; (2) the main competition of vendors of SMB customer service solutions is not each other, but Post-It notes and Gmail; and (3) the service that SMB customers demand is exactly like the service that enterprise customers demand.

So what do each of these points mean?

  • Companies can be too small to have customer service organizations. Without a formal customer service organization, customer-facing personnel such as customer relations managers, CEOs, and marketing folks are on the hook to answer customer inquiries. These employees wear many hats, are on the road a lot, and communicate constantly with one another. And, more than likely, their companies also don’t have formal IT organizations. This means that customer service software must be tailored to a business user: easy to deploy, easy to configure, and supporting a multitude of mobile devices. Customer service software must also have built-in collaboration features, alerts, and notifications allowing personnel to quickly work together on a customer issue for quick resolution.
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