Forrester's Top Trends For Customer Service In 2016

Kate Leggett

It’s a no-brainer that good customer service experiences boost satisfaction, loyalty, and can influence top line revenue. Good service — whether it's to answer a customer's question prior to purchase, or help a customer resolve an issue post-purchase should be easy, effective, and strive to create an emotional bond between the customer and the company. Here are 5 top trends - out of a total of 10 - that I am keeping my eye on. My full report highlighting all trends can be found here:

Trend 1: Companies Will Make Self Service Easier. In 2015, we found that web and mobile self-service interactions exceeded interactions over live-assist channels, which are increasingly used by customers as escalation paths to answer harder questions whose answers they can’t find online. In 2016, customer service organizations will make self-service easier for customers to use by shoring up its foundations and solidifying their knowledge-management strategy. They will start to explore virtual agents and communities to extend the reach of curated content. They will start embedding knowledge into devices — like Xerox does with its printers — or delivering it via wearables to a remote service technician.

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Enterprise And Midsize Customer Service Solutions - What's The Difference?

Kate Leggett

When looking to purchase a customer service solution, buyers have to remember that more features is not better; many times more is just more. In fact, when you don't need or can't use extra features, more is sometimes worse.

With this in mind, we see that customer service solutions fall into two primary groups to choose from: 

  • Customer service solutions for enterprise organizations. Customer service vendors focused on large organizations — organizations with typically 1,000 or more agents who are primarily phone agents — offer robust case management, agent guidance in addition to CTI integration, reporting, analytics and data management capabilities. These vendor solutions can scale to serve very large agent populations, in the tens of thousands or higher. These products have been traditionally been sold as on-premise products, but many deployments are now shifting to the cloud. Many vendors offer deeply vertical solutions, and have pre- and post-sale company resources dedicated to support their vertical products. Vendors in this category also target midsize organizations, offering prepackaged versions of their solutions with more affordable price tags. The leading vendors in this category are highlighted our most recent Customer Service Wave for enterprise organizations.
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The Time Is Now To Invest In Knowledge Management

Kate Leggett

All that customers want these days is effortless engagement. 55% of US online adults say that they are very likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question. 77% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service

Customers increasingly use web self-service as a first point of contact with a company. In fact, last year, web self-service was the most commonly used communication channel for customer service, exceeding phone use for the first time ever.

Companies are not only investing in customer-facing knowledge. They are also using knowledge management solutions to add order and easy access to content for customer-facing personnel - specifically for customer service agents. Our data shows that 62% of technology decision-makers say that they have implemented or are expanding their implementation, and 21% plan to implement their knowledge implementation in the next 12 months.

Knowledge delivered to the customer or the customer-facing employee at the right time in the customer engagement process is critical to a successful interaction. When done correctly, deeper knowledge can be used to personalize an interaction, increase customer satisfaction, reduce call handle time, lead to operational efficiencies, increase customer engagement, and ultimately drive conversion and revenue. 

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CRM is Fragmenting. It's A Controversial Topic

Kate Leggett

CRM purchasing is undergoing a sea change. I see that companies are no longer purchase heavyweight, end-to-end CRM solutions that have had the reputation of being complex, expensive and hard to implement - even if they have great industry specific capabilities. They itend to mpede user productivity with a bloated set of capabilities that many users can't leverage. A number of dynamics driving this change in purchasing behavior:

  • CRM purchases are moving to the cloud. Companies are replacing legacy CRM with SaaS solutions at a higher rate than before.  Cloud CRM has gained traction, as it provides lower upfront costs, better flexibility, and faster time-to-value compared with traditional on-premises applications. It also shifts the burden of software maintenance to the vendor.

  • Cloud CRM extends the life of legacy CRM. Modernizing legacy CRM to support omnichannel customer journeys is a critical priority. Companies are using cloud CRM  to complement and extend on-premises implementations. Cloud  CRM provides the systems of engagement while legacy CRM provides business process support and data management capabilities.

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Choose Your Chat Vendor From These 5 Categories

Kate Leggett

Customers are increasingly leveraging chat. But its difficult to determine what chat vendor solution to use as the market is crowded and chat vendors offer a breadth and depth of capabilities. Forrester groups chat vendors into 5 broad categories based on how their customers use these technologies. They are:

  • Standalone Chat Vendors.  These vendors  provide full-featured chat solutions that are easy to deploy and can support  to small to midsize chat teams, but rarely are used by large teams. They tend to be purchased by eBusiness, and eCommerce organizations.Representative vendors for this category include Netop, Olark, and Velaro.
  • Online engagement vendors. These vendors provide proactive and personalized customer interactions. Some use sophisticated proactive rules engines, while others use predictive analytics to target visitors and customers with offers, multimedia content, and chat invitations optimized for whatever device the visitor is using or to predict intent to optimize customer journeys. In these scenarios, chat aims to increase sales conversion, support customers in pre- and post-purchase scenarios, and increases customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.Representative vendors for this category include [24]/7,  LivePerson, BoldChat by LogMeIn, Needle, and TouchCommerce.
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The Customer Success Vendor Ecosystem Shows Signs Of Consolidation. Zuora Acquires Frontleaf

Kate Leggett

Our world is quickly moving to a subscription economy. In a subscription economy, the economic value of a customer is realized over time, instead of up-front at the initial sale. This means that the duration of the customer relationship has an increasingly large economic impact on the company’s financial health. Being successful in this new economy requires that companies actively manage their customers during their engagement relationship to ensure that they are realizing the economic value of their purchase.  Why? Because if you don't, customers churn. 

A new organizational role, called customer success, has emerged which is dedicated to actively managing the post-sale journey that a customer has with a product or service that they have bought. One measure that customer success organizations use to track a customer's success is a "health score." The health score is a composite number created from product usage data (who's using the product, how is the product used), customer interaction data (support tickets, customer feedback) and contractual data. This data is pulled from systems like CRM, ERP, billing, customer survey solutions. It is tracked at a user and company level and the way it trends, and sudden changes to the score are used to understand a customer' health.

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Gainsight's Pulse Conference Underlines The Importance Of Customer Success In A Subscription Economy

Kate Leggett

I attended Gainsight’s Pusle conference on customer success, held in San Francisco, on May 12 and 13. This conference, which focused on the economic value of customer success, actionable customer success best practices and insight from customer success practitioners, drew over 2000 attendees across 20 countries. This was more than double the size of last year's conference. The speaker list read like a who’s who in the world of young B2B SaaS companies: Apttus, Box, Zuora, Yelp, Satmetrix, MindTouch, Zendesk, Influitive, InsideSales, Docusign, Atlassian amongst others, as well as more established companies such as SAP,  ATT, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Workday. It also drew a long list of VC luminaries including Roger Lee from Battery Ventures, Jason Lemkin from Storm Ventures and SaaStr, Tomasz Tunguz from Redpoint Ventures and Ajay Agrawal from Bain Capital Ventures,. 

So why the interest in customer success? 

  1. Our world has moved to a subscription economy. Categories like media and entertainment and telecommunications have fully embraced this model. Other industries like  publishing, computer storage, healthcare, are moving in this direction. This shift is most notable in B2B software.  
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Contact Centers Must Go Digital Or Die

Kate Leggett

Customers are impatient with poor service. They want an accurate, relevant, and complete answer to their question upon first contact so they can get back to what they were doing before the issue arose. Forrester data shows that 55% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question.77% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.

It's no surprise that our recent survey data shows that customers of all ages are increasingly using self-service channels (web, mobile, IVR)  for a first point of contact for customer service. In fact, for the first time in the history of our survey, respondents reported using the FAQ pages on a company's website more often than speaking with an agent over the phone. Self-service gives you that "pain-free" or effortless experience that consumers want. Customers escalate the harder questions to a live agent - whether its chat, email or a phone agent - and these calls become opportunities to help build stronger relationships with your customers to garner their long-term loyalty.

But contact centers are not delivering to expectations. We find that:

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Oracle Aims To Put “The Customer” At The Core Of The Oracle CX Cloud

Kate Leggett
This is a guest post by Fraser Tibbetts, Researcher on the AD&D team covering sales force automation software.
 
Oracle’s first ever Modern CX Conference in Las Vegas last week, with roughly 3,000 attendees, focused on Oracle’s vision for the CX Cloud suite of products. Instead of the usual focus on technology, executives focused on products that recognize how the customer has more power than ever. This aligns with Forrester's age of the customer research. It is encouraging to hear that same message from Oracle’s CEO, Mark Hurd, and from the Oracle product team leads.
 
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Contact Center And Customer Service Metrics Must Support Broader Company KPIs

Ian Jacobs

OK, it is certainly a cliché and clearly suffers from an incomplete view of the world, but many contact center executives would still nod their heads in agreement with the statement, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Contact centers generate a huge volume of data, and everyone from agents on the floor to CEOs in their corner offices would benefit from being presented with actionable analytics based on that data. However, turning that data consistently into actionable knowledge that is useful to improving performance remains challenging. The key questions for contact center professionals around this data are: 

  • What do you measure?
  • How do you present the data from those measurements?
  • What do you do with those measurements?
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