Communication Channel Preferences For Customer Service Are Rapidly Changing. Do You Know What Your Customers Need?

Consumers’ preferences for customer service channels are rapidly changing. And it’s not just the younger generation of consumers — there’s disruption and change across all ages and  demographics. Our 2013 data about communication channels that customers use for customer service is available in my latest report. Here are some key data points:

  • Customers want companies to value their time. 71% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.
  • Voice is the most used communication channel for service. Voice, which 73% of customers use for customer service, is still the most widely used channel. However, web self-service and digital channels like chat and email are following close behind.
  • Chat is increasingly popular. Online chat adoption among customers has risen from 30% in 2009 to 43% in 2012. In addition, it has the highest satisfaction rating of any channel used, after voice.
  • The demise of email is premature. Email remains the third most widely used communication channel among US online adults. In the past three years, email usage has increased by two percentage points, from 56% to 58%.
  • Social channels are increasingly important. Online communities and Twitter have seen increases in usage rates in the past three years. However, satisfaction remains low for these channels, as companies have not invested in best practices for managing interactions on these channels.
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What's Your Digital Experience X Factor?

I recently had the pleasure of participating in Mike Gualtieri’s Technopolitics podcast. We discussed why digitally enabled customer experiences are no longer a nicety; they’re an obligation. But the problem is that IT and business don’t always work well together because:

  • Business relegates IT to a uncreative computing utility.
  • IT chuckles at business’s technology naïveté.

I think the gulf between business and IT is closing — I don’t see that the clash is quite as big as it used to be, and the IT pros I speak with already have been working on getting closer to the business. But often, they’re not going fast enough. Why? You cannot separate technology from customers’ digital experience and you cannot separate business from technology.

My solution: You need to hire IT pros who have the digital experience X factor. This is going to be increasingly important as the emerging role of “marketing technologists” and tech-savy customer experience professionals continues to evolve. I discuss in the podcast what I think the X factor is, but some of its major components are:  

  1. Customer-oriented, customer-centric values (even if they’re not customer-facing or customer service agents)
  2. A marketing and business mindset
  3. Creative and design thinking (not just technology-minded)
  4. Strength in strategic and design skills
  5. A “digital first” mindset
  6. Competancies in a  breadth rather than depth of skill sets (e.g., developers with knowledge of multiple programming languages instead of just deep knowledge of Java)
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Galaxy S 4 Launch Reveals Samsung's New Market Position

At Samsung's New York City launch event for its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S 4, the company continued the "thumb in Apple's eye" approach that has characterized its marketing campaigns of the past six months. Apparently using the same time machine that every other smartphone and tablet OEM employs to transport us back to the PC market of the late 1990s, Samsung revealed to attendees (and gobs of live blog observers) the usual deluge of tech specs that — for some unfathomable reason — populate the initial paragraphs of every device review: 8 core processor, 13 megapixel camera, 5 inch AMOLED display…

BO-RING! Every Android phone and tablet maker touts these specs because CPUs, image sensors, and displays are the rapidly evolving technology waves that they ride and where most of their evolution resides. To be fair, Apple too is quick with its own spec comparisons, but because Cupertino controls the entire platform from hardware to OS to APIs to cloud and other services, they have a much greater playing field on which to innovate.

With Samsung staking out its ground as Apple's foremost competitor, the Galaxy S 4 and its launch event reveal several insights into the state of this competition today:

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Refactoring the Product Owner

 

In theory, the agile Product Owner is a simple yet compelling solution to a tough problem: the development team needs, and often does not get, clear direction from the business. The ability to eliminate the confusion caused by the cacophony of voices of multiple stakeholders, and the ability to have continuous engagement with the business, certainly make the Product Owner attractive to the development team. And the business benefits, too: they, in theory, get continuous visibility into project health and status. Buried in that last sentence is the phrase that often sinks good ideas: "in theory", and therein lies a problem.
 
When we are developing software and find components that have responsibilities too broad for one component to encompass, we "refactor" it, breaking it down into a set of components with more manageable and cohesive sets of responsibilities.  We have an analogous problem with the Product Owner, whose responsibilities are so broad as to be nearly impossible for one person to fulfill.  In brief, the Product Owner is expected to:
 
  • Understand the needs and desired outcomes of the business
  • Negotiate consensus among stakeholders
  • Represent the interests of all stakeholders to the development team
  • Define the characteristics of solutions that meet the desired outcomes
  • Be a change agent in the organization to support the solution
  • Communicate and promote the vision to all interested parties
  • Define and prioritize items on the Product Backlog
  • Drive iteration and release plans
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The Evolving Role Of Business Architecture

Business architecture has become a bit of a watchword for organizations thinking about their future. It’s about all sorts of things – the “what” we do and “why” we do it. It’s about the “who with”, or more importantly “who for.” But it’s also about the “how we do it”, and “how we build engagement” to ensure we “do the right things,” rather than just “doing things right.”

Given that I focus on the methods and techniques that help organizations translate strategy into action (business architecture, process architecture, business engagement, etc.), I want to talk a little about the trends, methods and approaches that we see in the practice of business architecture.

I have to say recent engagements have been a real eye opener … some folks are very advanced in some areas – say capturing strategic intent, but then struggle to translate that into meaningful plans that energize colleagues in the business. Some are talking a good story of target operating models – focused around the experiences they deliver to their customers, but then miss the link to current day project portfolio that’s singularly focused on reducing the employee headcount. And as we saw in our recent BPM Suites Wave, business architecture principles are becoming more important at the process execution layer too.

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VMware Announces New Hybrid Cloud Service

So VMware is not afraid of the public cloud after all. With the announcement of a forthcoming (later in 2013) VMware vCloud Hybrid Service, the virtualization leader reboots its cloud message for the enterprise. VMware will offer its own public cloud infrastructure service built on the same technology stack it offers to vCloud Datacenter service provider partners. That includes the vSphere foundation and the vCloud Director (with vCloud Connector) multi-tenancy and on-boarding tools, plus vCloud Networking and Security. VMware will add on a new public-focused portal and additional provisioning tools, and promises to share those capabilities with service providers as well, but it's not yet clear how and where VMware will differentiate and compete. If VMware offers better access controls and financial management tools, for example, than its partners, on the same platform, why would the partners not look to an open source alternative? That’s certainly a risk.

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Storage QoS Is A Must-Have Feature For Enterprises And The Cloud

Later this year, many of the established storage players will finally be adding Storage QoS (Quality of Service) functionality to their systems.  Though startups such as SolidFire and NexGen Storage (and some platforms such as IBM's XIV) have been touting this functionality for a few years now, most storage systems today currently lack Storage QoS.  If your primary storage vendor does not have Storage QoS on its roadmap, now is the time to start demanding it.

Normally, when I bring up the topic of Storage QoS with All-Flash Array startups or other high-end array vendors, the typical response I get is "We don't need Storage QoS. Our system is so fast - there are IOPS for everyone!"  While this statement may or may not be true (it isn't!), even if a system had a seemingly infinite amount of performance, this would only solve part of the problem with storage performance provisioning.  Here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate Storage QoS:

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Avoid Becoming A One-trick Pony: Embrace Your Business' Need For Real-time

 

The term “one-trick pony” allegedly originated back in the 19th-century days of the traveling circus, where low-end ones were sarcastically called “dog and pony shows.” The really bad ones got the reputation of having a pony that only knew one trick. Today many IT shops are in danger of becoming like those sad circuses, having one or at least a very limited set of technology tricks to help their firms seize opportunities quickly. For example, I routinely talk to business people who say they avoid IT at all costs when they have new analytic needs; at these firms, IT has only one response to all new requests for data – update the data warehouse or a data mart in a slow and expensive waterfall development process.

One term keeps occurring, as I talk to businesses about this issue — they want to be real-time.  We’ve been using the term for years to talk about a wide range of things, from embedded C to extreme, low-latency analytics. I think all of these miss what the business is really after — the ability to use more information more quickly to take rapid action in response to unanticipated changes in their environment. Five-year technology strategies are out; but many can’t get their head around this new world, which is why a recent Forrester study showed that IT is increasingly losing control of technology spend. How do we get back in the game?

Companies like Barclays Wealth Management, Sears, and USAA are redefining their architecture with new tricks to be responsive in real-time by:

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VMware Takes the Cover Off Its Public Cloud

Sometimes you can only coax a reluctant partner and I&O customer community for so long before you feel you have to take matters into your own hands. That is exactly what VMware has decided to do to become relevant in the cloud platforms space. The hypervisor pioneer unveiled vCloud Hybrid Service to investors today in what is more a statement of intention than a true unveiling.

VMware's public cloud service — yep, a full public IaaS cloud meant to compete with Amazon Web Service, IBM SmartCloud Enterprise, HP Cloud, Rackspace, and others — won't be fully unveiled until Q2 2013, so much of the details about the service remain under wraps. VMware hired the former president for Savvis Cloud, Bill Fathers, to run this new offering and said it was a top three initiative for the company and thus would be getting "the level of investment appropriate to that priority and to capitalize on a $14B market opportunity," according to Matthew Lodge, VP of Cloud Services Product Marketing and Management for VMware, who spoke to us Tuesday about the pending announcement. 

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IBM Pulse 2013: IBM Talked Of Its Customers' Customers And I Liked It

I didn't get the chance to jot down my thoughts after a couple of days at IBM Pulse last week but I didn't want to not share my observations and thoughts. So here we go as I fly off to itSMF Norway's annual conference ... It's somewhat random but what did you expect from me? A Katy Perry inspired title?

My view of the IBM Pulse keynotes …

The IBM keynotes covered many of the things you would expect (see my pics below) such as: big data, cloud, mobile, smart-things, and big data. And did I mention big data? It's a key challenge/opportunity for IBM and its customers.

What really resonated with me during the keynotes, however, was not big data but the use of a certain lexicon – with words like "value," "customer-centricity," business outcomes," and even "Outside-In." It was my first proper IBM Pulse so I was unsure whether this was the norm or whether IBM has started "thinking outside the data center" – a criticism I have previously used with other vendors.

Given IBM's traditional focus on enterprise-spanning deals and business, rather than IT challenges/opportunities, it's probably the former but IMO a key part of helping enterprise IT organizations support their customers is IT service management (ITSM). And IBM despite having a fit for purpose ITSM offering and probably thousands of ITSM "experts" throughout its organization has just not been in people's minds and ITSM conversations the last two years.

IBM markets at the enterprise level and this means many potential customers don't think “IBM” and then think “ITSM” (or the reverse) as they would with other ITSM tool vendors. It might seem a harsh thing to say but I believe it to be the reality. I think this might be about to change though – I'll come back to this after a quick detour.

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