Chat For Customer Service: Many Options, But How Do You Choose The Right Vendor?

Kate Leggett

Customers are very comfortable using chat for customer service. Usage rates have risen in the past three years — from 30% in 2009 to 43% in 2012 — and we see this increase in all consumer demographics. Chat also has excellent satisfaction ratings, as it allows customers to quickly get answers to questions with a streamlined agent interaction.

Companies have embraced chat because it delivers quantitative cost savings and better customer satisfaction numbers. Chat also helps optimize agent utilization, improve the consistency of service delivered, and can be used to to selectively target customers for increased sales.

The chat vendor landscape is crowded. We surveyed 20 chat customer service vendors for a recent report, and the number of chat vendors is easily triple this number. Vendor categories span from standalone chat vendors, to online engagement solutions who use chat to personalize interactions, to multichannel customer service vendors and CRM vendors who offer chat as a component of their engagement solutions, to unified queuing and routing vendors which manage chat interactions inline with voice, digital, and social interactions. In addition, different vendors target different deployment sizes, industry verticals, and engagement models. In order to choose the right chat solution for your business, you should ask questions like:

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Mobile BI: A Stealth Revolution In Information Delivery?!

Martha Bennett

Having business applications available while away from the office is nothing new; neither is using mobile devices as an integral part of a business process. Until recently, however, the former has mostly consisted of standard PC applications running on a laptop, and the latter has largely been the realm of specialist, often ruggedized mobile devices used for a single purpose, such as delivery tracking or stock-taking. The advent of smartphones and tablets has changed the dynamics of what mobility means in a business context.

One driver clearly has been the desire of business professionals to stay in touch and keep workflows moving even when not at their desk: 58% of information workers use a smartphone and 30% use a tablet for work (either employer-provided or personal). Even more importantly, the executives holding the purse strings have discovered the power of mobile. Not that tablet-toting business leaders are anything new; the “cool factor” of the iPad in particular meant that it quickly became a status symbol. But there’s been a more subtle revolution behind the scenes: once early adopters had started moving towards the electronic distribution of board papers, board members themselves started spreading the message, challenging organizations that were still paper-bound to go digital.

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What Is Salesforce1 Anyway?

John R. Rymer

Salesforce1 was the big development revealed at salesforce.com's huge Dreamforce 2013 conference. But many left the conference wondering the same thing: What exactly is Salesforce1? A new mobile app? New sales, service, and marketing applications? A new set of application programming interfaces (APIs)? New development tools? Our analysis gets under the hood of the announcement, finding that Salesforce1 is “all of the above” and a big step forward for the company, cementing its position as a top choice among public cloud development platforms.

Why?

Salesforce1 consolidates and modernizes salesforce.com's mobile client efforts into a single extensible app. There's a gap in offline work still to be fixed.

  1. The Salesforce1 mobile app required a major refactoring and expansion of salesforce.com's APIs. Developers now have a much wider range of functions available to work with salesforce.com's various Web properties. The new APIs are RESTful.
  2. The new APIs opened the door for much better integration between Heroku and salesforce.com's Web properties. Heroku is the company's environment for Ruby, Java, and other developers who don't or won't work in Force.com. Now both development environments are integrated with salesforce.com's applications and underlying application services. 
  3. Salesforce1 is a big set of developments, and addresses one of our biggest criticisms of the company's cloud platforms: that Force.com, Heroku, Chatter, and other services aren't well integrated. Well, now they are.
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Evaluating BI Services In Asia Pacific

Michael Barnes

Business decision-makers in Asia Pacific (AP) are increasingly aware of the importance of business intelligence (BI) and broader analytics to business strategy and execution. However, lack of internal expertise remains a significant barrier to BI project success.

In response, Fred Giron and I have just published The Forrester Wave™: Business Intelligence Service Providers In Asia Pacific, Q4 2013. In it, we identified eight companies that offer strong capabilities and services for AP-based organizations seeking BI service support.

To succeed in the region, BI service providers must provide guidance on how to translate data access into actual insight and information into business value. This requires a strong understanding of local cultures, business practices, regulatory frameworks, and market dynamics. When evaluating providers, understand how their capabilities are likely to evolve across five categories:

  • People. To minimize project risks, understand who will be the on-site business and technical leads on BI projects and how many successful implementations this staff has led in a similar industry and similar technical environment within the region.
  • Technical expertise. Service providers need to demonstrate region-specific knowledge of the technical characteristics of various BI tools, platforms, architectures, and applications. Most companies will not have all of the necessary skills on site, so closely evaluate ease of access to remote staff from the service provider as well.
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Content, Commerce, And The Sitecore News

Stephen Powers

In-line editing? Check. Personalization? Check. Testing and optimization? Check. As the web content management market matures, functional differentiators have become tougher to find. One of the remaining functional gaps in the market is a digital customer experience platform that supports complex but unified commerce-based and marketing-based experiences. Currently, these experiences tend to be disconnected due to technical (and organizational) silos.

But how best to do this? With a content platform only? A commerce platform? Some sort of integration? Or some new hybrid? Peter Sheldon and I explore the issue in a new report that we published this week, “Content And Commerce: The Odd Couple Or The Power Couple?

Count Sitecore among the vendors — such as Oracle and IBM — hoping that a hybrid commerce and content platform will make an impact on the marketplace. This week, Sitecore acquired commerceserver.net. This marks the first marriage of significant .NET content and commerce (the other commerce/content combinations available — Oracle and IBM — are built on Java).

Good move? It is significant that another vendor has taken the step towards building a digital customer experience platform that includes both commerce and content offerings. And that’s where the challenge will come in. Both IBM and Oracle have faced the challenge of integrating commerce and content products that weren’t designed and built on the same architecture. Sitecore’s challenge won’t be any different. Time will tell if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Microsoft's Asia Pacific Analyst Summit 2013: A Tale Of Two Days

Michael Barnes

Forrester attended Microsoft’s second annual Asia Pacific Analyst Summit in Singapore last week for an update on the company’s progress in transforming into a devices and services company. The event highlighted Microsoft’s strengths and exposed some obvious challenges, which I’ve shared below. Forrester clients can access further event-related analysis and implications here.

Day One: Impressive Capabilities And A Strong Understanding Of Customer Needs

Day one was well designed and delivered, with a clear focus on customer and partner case studies and go-to-market strategies based on three core imperatives:

  • Transforming IT. Focusing primarily on Cloud OS, Windows Azure, and Office 365, this imperative highlights Microsoft-enabled capabilities and resources to help IT organizations transform both internal data centers and IT delivery.
  • Engaging customers and employees. This imperative essentially combines mobility and social to help organizations thrive in the age of the customer by delivering improved customer service and customer and user experiences.
  • Accelerating customer insight and business process improvement. This imperative targets the changing needs and expectations for data and information access and real-time decision making via a combination of traditional analytics and big data.
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CenturyLink May Finally Have Figured Out the Cloud

James Staten

After a couple less-than-home-runs in the cloud game, it looks like CenturyLink might just have a real contender. The US midwestern telecommunications leader pulled the trigger on yet another acquisition this morning - Tier 3, a legitimate cloud platform provider. The real question is whether this is the latest in a long string of acquisitions that have failed to hit the mark, or a sign that they finally got it right.

CenturyLink is a Lego company built through a string of acquisitions all bolted together. It rolled up several telecom players to get to its current size and presence in that market. And it has bought now three cloud companies. 

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Enterprise Mobile Development: Embrace APIs Or Dig Your Grave

Michael Facemire
You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. — Morpheus, The Matrix
 
Mobile development, like Morpheus in The Matrix, offers two options: Take the blue pill and assume that mobile is just another screen size to front ends that we’ve already created. Take the red (with me) and understand that mobile changes not just the front end, but your entire technology stack! Ready to look down the rabbit hole?
 
A new supply/demand paradigm is driving enterprise architects and application development professionals to a technology inflection point. The demand is for mobile apps — consumers have an insatiable appetite for more apps, developed and updated at breakneck speeds that deliver mind-blowing experiences. And the mobile app consumers aren’t just external — they’re also employees and business partners. As app-dev pros, where do we turn to supply this growing demand? Application programming interfaces, better known as APIs.
 
Before we get into details of this challenge in the real world, I’ll promote my four-tier architecture that looks at this API layer within the entire technology stack used to support your mobile efforts. You’ll find it in my report Mobile Needs A Four-Tier Engagement Platform.
 
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The Age Of The Customer Will Reshape Your App Dev & Delivery Landscape

Phil Murphy

As outlined in Technology Management In The Age Of The Customer, the age of the customer will fundamentally change how app-dev groups operate and interact with business leaders. This post is intended to open a discussion around the likely changes that the age of the customer will bring in the next few to several years — a reasonable planning window. I’ve seen a fair amount of change in this industry. As background, my tenure in the IT industry dates back to 1982, when at the tender age of 25, I left the Cambridge Institue for Computer Programming with a full head of hair and a fire in my belly to do great (programming) things. My first job as a batch programmer for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health lasted long enough to land my next job at Boston University, where I wrote batch and online Natural/Adabas code for a few years. In 1985, I joined Cullinet Software in Westwood, Mass. to develop commercial ERP applications in ADSO/IDMS (before the “ERP” acronym even existed). Online, fully integrated manufacturing, HR, and financial apps based on a network DBMS — it was cutting-edge technology at the time, as were the IBM PCs that began gracing our desktops circa 1987. Ironically, today my iPhone has more power than these early XT machines.

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The Death Of Adaptive Mobile Websites . . . At The Hands Of Hybrid Apps?

Mark Grannan

A little more than a week ago at Forrester’s Application Development and Delivery Forum, an executive from a digital agency raised the notion that hybrid apps should kill two birds with one stone, eliminating the need for one-off, adaptive, mobile website development. In short, your hybrid app development efforts will create the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which will then double as your adaptive mobile website code base (sans native wrapping via PhoneGap).

This got me thinking: Should efficient code management be the primary rationale when developing for the mobile Web or mobile apps?  

IMHO, no. Judging from my conversations with vendors, agencies, and end users, manageable code bases are a solid goal when developing mobile strategy for digital customer experiences, but by no means the top priority (AKA “strategy first, execution second”). On the flip side, customer experience, customer intelligence, and digital marketing professionals are unlikely to put code considerations up front — or anywhere in the top 10, for that matter — and thus AD&D needs a voice when mobile strategy is discussed (AKA “iterative strategy should be based on execution feedback loops”).

I spoke with the “two birds with one stone” exec after the presentation and he clarified: If the use cases for the adaptive mobile site and a mobile app are largely the same, then it makes sense to leverage the hybrid app code base as your mobile website. OK, that makes sense now: The content and audience will be the same, and therefore repurposing the code base is a worthy effort.

My takeaway: A great deal of confusion persists around mobile — even when experts present to informed audiences. Forrester has been thinking about this question re: mobile development at length to help reduce the confusion:

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