Forrester’s Tech Radar Assessment Of 24 Contact Center Technologies For Customer Service

Kate Leggett

The contact center technology ecosystem for customer service is a nightmare of complexity. At a high level, to serve your customers, you need to:

  1. Capture the inquiry, which can come in over the phone, electronically via email, chat, or SMS, and over social channels, like Twitter, Facebook, or an interaction escalated from a discussion forum.
  2. Route the inquiry to the right customer service agent pool.
  3. Create a case for the inquiry that contains its details and associate it with the customer record.
  4. Find the answer to the inquiry; this can involve digging through different information sources like knowledge bases, billing systems, and ordering databases.
  5. Communicate the answer to the inquiry to the customer.
  6. Append case notes to the case summarizing its resolution and close the case.
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CSC Acquires AppLabs - Building Bench Strength In The Testing-As-A-Service Market, Especially If CSC Looks At The Bigger Picture

Margo Visitacion

CSC announced today that it is acquiring AppLabs, a US-based IV&V testing vendor. At first glance, it's a win, maybe a win for both sides. CSC states that one of the reasons that it acquired AppLabs is to augment its horizontal application strategy - due to AppLabs' presence in the US and UK (both vendors have firmly rooted practices in both markets) and to leverage AppLabs' testing strength in both custom and package applications. It's clearly a win for CSC:

  • This acquisition brings the larger vendor something new - a foot into the ISV market. AppLabs has had a pretty successful track record in testing software products. Historically, CSC's focus has been supporting internal IT for both private and public sectors. 
  • AppLabs is one of the vendors that has been consistently successful in adapting both iterative and Agile practices to its test methodology. This allows it, if it can transfer AppLabs' approach into its current testing practices, to better poise itself to support testing continuous build and integration environments.
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The Relationship Between Dev-Ops And Continuous Delivery: A Conversation With Jez Humble Of ThoughtWorks

Jeffrey Hammond

If you've been reading the research I've been writing over the past year, you know that I'm a fan of implementing an application life-cycle management strategy that focuses on increasing development flow and supports high-performance teams. You don't need to religiously implement all 22 CMMI processes or deliver dozens of intermediate development artifacts like some leading processes advocate. Rather, there are certain important processes that you should spend your time on. We wrote about change-aware continuous integration and just-in-time demand management in last year's Agile Development Management Tools Forrester Wave™. They are two of my favorite areas of focus, and they are great areas to invest in, but once you have them working well, there are other areas that will require your focus. In my opinion, the next process where you should focus on flow is everything that happens post build and preproduction. Most folks think about this process as release management or configuration management, but I think there's a better term that focuses on how quickly software changes move through both processes. It's called continuous delivery. When you focus on establishing a process of continuous delivery, you'll find that your capacity to release changes will increase, your null release cycle will shrink, and a larger proportion of the productivity gains you've seen from your Agile development efforts will flow through into production.

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Salesforce Embraces The Social Customer — Deploying This Business Model Will Be Harder Than Deploying The Software

Kate Leggett

The statistics that salesforce.com broadcast at Dreamforce last week are impressive: a $2.2 billion annual run rate; 104,000 customers; and 35 billion transactions per quarter (see Benioff's keynote slides here). The conference was attended by 40,000 users, with a further 35,000 joining online. Salesforce.com’s cloud messaging is mature and no longer a focal point. However, what was most interesting from a customer service/CRM standpoint was the focus on the “social customer” and the way that CRM applications need to adapt to accommodate them.

Traditionally, CRM software has been anything but focused on the customer. It has been positioned as software aimed at the business user to increase their productivity and efficiency as they interact with customers, clients, and sales prospects.

Salesforce.com’s new CRM messaging spotlights the customer and the way that customers interact today using the new social channels and loose social processes to research and select products to purchase and get answers to their questions. Customers are also company employees and want to use these channels to collaborate with other employees at work in the same way they use these channels in their personal lives. This means that these social channels and processes need to also extend inside the enterprise. Check out salesforce.com’s interaction map for the social customer:

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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road?

George Lawrie

Most Forrester readers certainly understand the importance of empowering their employees to contend with highly informed and increasingly demanding customers. But I’m often asked just how to overcome the process and data integrity challenges of apps or services that empower employees and/or drive continuity of experience for consumers across channels. With the rise of mobile as well as web and call center interactions and with a proliferation of new tools for managing distributed processes and data, most application development and delivery professionals as well as their business process and applications colleagues have to absorb all the arguments before they make decisions that could be critical to their firms’ futures – to say nothing of their own careers.

One pioneer whom I interviewed was immensely proud of his lightning rollout of a guerilla app to support his firm’s front office in advising clients on complex product choices. I asked him about future plans and sheepishly he admitted they would be starting again from scratch because the guerilla app was unable to leverage enterprise services exposing critical data about product offerings. He remarked ruefully that sometimes you do have to follow the IT standards “yellow brick road” rather than just head for the hills, but wouldn’t it be great to have the best of both worlds, with both agile deployment and full advantage taken of enterprise assets and data?

If you need a deeper understanding of the issues and options, then I’d like to invite you to join us at Forrester's Application Development & Delivery Forum, where my colleague Clay Richardson and I will discuss in practical terms how to deliver integrated experiences across multiple touchpoints.

Plea For Sanity. Ban The *-As-A-Service Moniker

Mike Gualtieri

Guilty! You will find SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS terms in my past research documents and blogs posts. But I have decided to stop using the *-as-a-service moniker because it is a redundant pleonasm like horseless carriage, wireless phone, and absolutely necessary - meaningless because it is excruciatingly redundant.

 Does “as-a-service” merely mean that “it”:

  • Resides in the cloud?
  • Is pay-per-use?

Stop the insanity.

Join me in pledging to eliminate-as-a-service (EaaS) the *-as-a-service term. Darn. There I go again.

Update Your Application Development Sourcing Strategy To Drive Innovation And Differentiation

Forrester Technographics Data Points To Increased Communication Channel Usage With Inconsistent Satisfaction Ratings

Kate Leggett

The most recent data cuts from Forrester’s North American Technographics® Customer Experience Online Survey, Q4 2010 of how more than 3,400 consumers interacted with customer service organizations in the last 12 months highlight some interesting trends:

  • For the first time, web self-service topped the phone channel as the communication channel most widely used by customers to interact with customer service organizations.
  • Consumers use the phone channel 50% of the time. However, other channels are more widely used than the voice channel: 58% of the time, consumers search for an answer on the Web; 61% of the time they send an email to customer service; and 66% of the time they search a company’s FAQ.
  • Social channels are used for customer service, but numbers are very low (1% of customers used Twitter, but 6% of customers used forums).
  • Live-assist communication channels (phone, chat, cobrowse) have much higher satisfaction ratings than asynchronous electronic channels (email, web self-service). Satisfaction ratings are:  phone (74%), chat (69%), cobrowse (78%), email (54%), and web self-service (47%).
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Optimizing Software Development Sourcing To Drive More Customer Value

Diego Lo Giudice

The past few years haven’t been kind to software developers. Having the equivalent of a US master’s in computer science and having spent the first 20+ years of my professional life developing mission-critical software products and applications, I have had a hard time adjusting to the idea that developing software applications is a cost to avoid or a waste of time for many CIOs and application development leaders. It seems to me that we have been giving more emphasis to contracts, legal issues, SLAs, and governance concerns but forgetting about how IT can really make a difference – through software development. 

Nevertheless, outsourcing kept increasing, and packaged apps exploded onto the scene, and software developers “outplaced” from enterprises. People started to believe they could get more value and good-quality software cheaper…but could they really?

With BT, digitalization, and customer centricity exploding, today is the perfect moment for application development leaders to review their application development sourcing strategy and align it to their BT strategy.

Why? Many reasons, including:

  1. Software is the most important enabling technology for business innovation.
  2. Clients use software every day. It’s become part of their life, and they enjoy the experience. Better software makes a better experience.
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May Force.com Not Be With You

Mike Gualtieri

Lack Of Infrastructure Portability Is A Showstopper For Me

Salesforce.com bills Force.com as "The leading cloud platform for business apps." It is definitely not for me, though. The showstopper: infrastructure portability. If I develop an application using the Apex programming language, I can only run in the Force.com "cloud" infrastructure.

Don't Lock Me In

Q: What is worse than being locked-in to a particular operating system?

A: Being locked-in to hardware!

In The Era Of Cloud Computing, Infrastructure Portability (IP) Is A Key Requirement For Application Developers

Unless there is a compelling reason to justify hardware lock-in, make sure you choose a cloud development platform that offers infrastructure portability; otherwise, your app will be like a one-cable-television-company town.

Bottom line: Your intellectual property (IP) should have infrastructure portability (IP).