Welcome to my Forrester blog. My career has been a blend of business strategy and technology, whether it was preparing people and processes for new technology eras as a consultant or diving deep into the technology while working in business operations and application development for a CRM vendor. What may surprise many of you reading this is although my blog is new, I am not new to Forrester; I’ve been with Forrester for close to two years working with Application Development & Delivery leaders as an Advisor with Forrester’s Leadership Boards. In that role, I worked directly with 50+ enterprise-level leaders from across all verticals to help define their customer-obsessed strategies and identify the best and next practices to give them a competitive edge. It was this connection with clients around solving critical business problems and using technology to gain an edge that attracted me to research and more specifically, diving back into the world of CRM.
There’s a very large graveyard of failed CRM projects. There’s more CRM initiatives that have spiraled out of control to become multimillion-dollar investments that negatively affected large numbers of customer-facing employees and didnt deliver any real results. The cost of poor CRM adoption is twofold: underutilized investment and unmet business objectives.
We recently ran a survey in partnership with CustomerThink to understand the risks and pitfalls that CRM professions need to navigate to achieve a successful CRM technology project. We surveyed 414 individuals who had been involved in a CRM technology project as a business professional in sales, marketing, customer service, or technology management within the past 36 months. Not surprisingly, we found that successful CRM technology projects are not only about choosing the right software. They demand a balanced, multifaceted approach that addresses four critical fundamentals:
People issues.Nearly two-fifths (38%) of respondents stated that their problems were the result of people issues such as slow user adoption, inadequate attention paid to change management and training, and difficulties in aligning the organizational culture with new ways of working.
CRM Process. One-third (33%) of respondents faced problems because of poor or insufficient definition of business requirements, inadequate business process designs, and the need to customize solutions to fit unique organizational requirements.
CRM Strategy. One-third (33%) of respondents had challenges related to CRM strategy, such as a lack of clearly defined objectives, a lack of organizational readiness, and insufficient solution governancepractices.
In the age of the customer, executives don't decide how customer-centric their companies are — customers do. And while good customer experiences can help control costs, executives are more interested in the potential for sustainable top-line growth.
Forrester defines CRM as:
The business processes and supporting technologies that support the key activities of targeting, acquiring, retaining, understanding, and collaborating with customers.
CRM is the foundational building block of a company's customer experience strategy to win, serve, and retain customers. It allows empowered consumers and connected employees to do business in ways we just couldn’t conceive of just a few years ago.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 /7, LivePerson, BoldChat by LogMeIn, Needle, and TouchCommerce.
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.
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?
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.