Why Don't Agents Collaborate More Often? It's Been Shown To Increase Call Resolution And Satisfaction Scores

Kate Leggett

Empowering customer service agents with relevant, complete, and accurate answers to customer questions remains one of the major challenges in contact centers today. The past 10 years have seen efficiency and productivity gains squeezed out of the mechanics of routing and queueing a call to the right agent pool, screen-popping the customer information to the agent’s desktop, case management, and workforce optimization. Less attention has been placed on allowing agents to access information and informally collaborate with one another. Its no wonder that more than 70% of the time of an average call is spent locating the right information for the customer.

In many contact centers, content is created by groups of authors who are disconnected from the day-to-day conversations that agents are having with customers and who are unfamiliar with the language and terms that customers use. All content follows the same basic create-edit-publish cycle, irrespective of its usefulness in answering customer questions.

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Progress Software Lowers Its Sights

John R. Rymer

Clay Richardson, Mike Gilpin, and I collaborated on this blog post.

I don’t normally blog in response to news events, but I feel obligated to blog about Progress Software’s strategy shift, announced last week (April 25, 2012). The reason: Before the shift, Progress was an independent alternative to the top-tier vendors of enterprise application platforms (Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and SAP); after the shift, it is not (see the figure below). Progress will now be a much more narrowly focused, specialist vendor.

Henceforth, Progress will provide its established OpenEdge application development platform (including OpenEdge BPM and a cloud-based version), its DataDirect Connect database drivers and integration tools, and its Apama (complex event processing) and Corticon (business rules management) platforms primarily for financial trading. Progress will no longer provide the following products, seeking to either sell them to other vendors or spin them out as independent companies:

  • Savvion BPM
  • Sonic ESB
  • Actional services management
  • Artix object request broker
  • DataXtend data integration server
  • FuseSource object request broker
  • ObjectStore database
  • Orbacus object request broker
  • Orbix object request broker
  • Shadow host integration products
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Mobile Backend-As-A-Service: The New Lightweight Middleware?

Michael Facemire

It’s no secret that demand for mobile applications is skyrocketing in both the consumer and enterprise space. To meet that demand, application development shops are continually looking for new ways to accelerate development of apps that meet their consumers’ needs. In response, many new ISVs are beginning to offer a set of cloud-based, server-side mobile services to make app development quicker and easier to deploy. ISVs are referring to those services as “mobile backend-as-a-service” (not a particularly good name, but we’ll use it for now). MBaaS offerings sit squarely between the existing platform-as-a-service vendors and the full end-to-end solution space occupied by mobile enterprise/consumer application platforms (see Figure). I’ll go into more detail on the other layers of this mobile service triangle in the future, but for now let’s take a look at the MBaaS space.

Why should I use an MBaaS solution?

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Data Discovery And Exploration - IBM Acquires Vivisimo

Boris Evelson

Today IBM announced its plans to acquire Vivisimo - an enterprise search vendor with big data capabilities. Our research shows that only 1% to 5% of all enterprise data is in a structured, modeled format that fits neatly into enterprise data warehouses (EDWs) and data marts. The rest of enterprise data (and we are not even talking about external data such as social media data, for example) may not be organized into structures that easily fit into relational or multidimensional databases. There’s also a chicken-and-the-egg syndrome going on here. Before you can put your data into a structure, such as a database, you need to understand what’s out there and what structures do or may exist. But in order for you to explore the data in the first place, traditional data integration technologies require some structures to even start the exploration (tables, columns, etc). So how do you explore something without a structure, without a model, and without preconceived notions? That’s where big data exploration and discovery technologies such as Hadoop and Vivisimo come into play. (There are many others vendors in this space as well, including Oracle Endeca, Attivio, and Saffron Technology. While these vendors may not directly compete with Vivisimo and all use different approaches and architectures, the final objective - data discovery - is often the same.) Data exploration and discovery was one of our top 2012 business intelligence predictions. However, it’s only a first step in the full cycle of business intelligence and

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How To Partner With Data Quality Pros To Deliver Better Customer Service Experiences

Kate Leggett

Customer service leaders know that a good customer experience has a quantifiable impact on revenue, as measured by increased rates of repurchase, increased recommendations, and decreased willingness to defect from a brand. They also conceptually understand that clean data is important, but many can’t make the connection between how master data management and data quality investments directly improve customer service metrics. This means that IT initiates data projects more than two-thirds of the time, while data projects that directly affect customer service processes rarely get funded.

 What needs to happen is that customer service leaders have to partner with data management pros — often working within IT — to reframe the conversation. Historically, IT organizations would attempt to drive technology investments with the ambiguous goal of “cleaning dirty customer data” within CRM, customer service, and other applications. Instead of this approach, this team must articulate the impact that poor-quality data has on critical business and customer-facing processes.

To do this, start by taking an inventory of the quality of data that is currently available:

  • Chart the customer service processes that are followed by customer service agents. 80% of customer calls can be attributed to 20% of the issues handled.
  • Understand what customer, product, order, and past customer interaction data are needed to support these processes.
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The North Plains/Xinet Acquisition: Not A DAM Game-Changer

Stephen Powers

Guest post from Researcher Anjali Yakkundi

North Plains, a legacy pure-play digital asset management (DAM) vendor based out of Toronto, Ontario, announced today that it has agreed to buy fellow pure-play DAM vendor Xinet. The DAM market is fragmented and, with a few exceptions (Adobe, Autonomy, EMC, and OpenText), is littered with smaller, proprietary players. We’ve long expected moves in this market, but most of the focus has been on the larger DAM players in the market or the larger content management or customer experience vendors that have no DAM solution (such as IBM).

With this acquisition of Xinet, North Plains moves to become one of the few, if not only, midmarket pure-play DAM player in between the big guns and the pure-play small vendors. What else does North Plains get out of the acquisition?

  • A platform solution aimed at creative professionals. Xinet has found success targeting creative professionals and supporting assets at the beginning of the content life cycle.
  • Increased regional reach. More than many other pure-play North American-based DAM vendors, Xinet targets European and Asian customers. North Plains gains a much more global customer base and will inherit channels partners across the globe. Watch for this to be just the first of many moves to make North Plains a global, pure-play DAM vendor.  
  • A stronghold among advertising agencies. Xinet has penetrated the advertising vertical and counts many of these larger names among its clients. With the acquisition, North Plains gains a foothold into this coveted vertical.
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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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