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.
If you wanted to see the full spectrum of cloud choices that are coming to market today you only have to look at these two efforts as they are starting to evolve. They represent the extremes. And ironically both held analyst events this week.
OpenStack is clearly an effort by a vendor (Rackspace) to launch a community to help advance technology and drive innovation around a framework that multiple vendors can use to bring myriad cloud services to market and deliver differentiated values. Whereas Oracle, who gave analysts a brief look inside its public cloud efforts this week, is taking a completely closed and self-built approach that looks to fulfill all cloud values from top to bottom.
Just over 3 months ago, I made note of three things I'd tell your CIO, all of which focused on your need to build a software development competency to help your firm thrive in this age of software-fueled, consumer-led disruption. Since then, we've heard from a number of clients stating that they're having a tough time convincing their executives, from COOs and CFOs through to CIOs, that they need to stop looking at software and app development as a commodity.
Vendors you work with aren't helping. System integrators and consultancies continue to tell your CFO and CEO to outsource your software development work to them, that they can deliver more quickly, and more cheaply, than you can. Software application vendors build their marketing around needing no customization, even "no software." This helps fuel the perception and myths many executives hold that software development, especially app dev, is a commodity.
Recent research published by Phil Murphy and survey data we recently collected in our Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2011 can help you bust those perceptions and myths and help you show your executives the importance of software development.
In a recent report, my colleague Robert Brosnan correctly spotlights that marketers require ever more technology to capture, integrate, analyze, and apply customer data to marketing programs. Indeed, the technology portfolio that marketing leaders must understand and manage is exploding. Marketers typically have a portfolio of technology assets to support marketing planning, marketing asset management, campaign management, segmentation, and predicative modeling. And most marketers work with online marketing tools for email, mobile, social, and web analytics.
Rob recommends that marketers establish an enterprisewide marketing technology office (MTO) to ease and take advantage of technology development. The office, working through a chief marketing technology strategist, sets marketing technology strategy, makes the business case for embedding new technology within marketing programs, and manages technology-related partnerships. The marketing technology strategy should summarize the road map for how you plan to employ the technologies necessary to understand and engage more deeply with your target customers.
Forrester defines the marketing technology road map as:
A plan that matches short-term and long-term marketing goals with specific technology solutions to help meet those goals.
So how do you formulate the marketing technology strategy and road map?
My Twitter feed is going wild with #social, #mobile, #CX, and #bigdata hype. But Forrester clients want practical advice for today, in addition to spotting changes on the horizon.
One of the most common questions I get is: “What are the CRM pitfalls I need to watch out for?” I surveyed nearly 150 companies to find out the problems they faced with their CRM initiatives. Here is what you need to pay attention to:
Crafting a customer relationship management strategy. Eighteen percent of the problems at the companies I surveyed pertain to CRM strategy. Within the CRM strategy category, specific pitfalls identified include: inadequate deployment methodologies (40%), poorly defined business requirements (25%), and not achieving organizational alignment on objectives (18%).
“Reaching a consensus between IT’s objectives and those of the business unit was a problem.” (Marketing manager, manufacturing company)
“Internal disagreements on how to implement were the cause of our problems.” (Senior director, customer support, media, entertainment, and leisure company)
Rearchitecting critical customer-facing processes. CRM processes consist of the work practices associated with major customer-facing business functions within an organization. Twenty-seven percent of the problems reported center on difficulties with business process management. Within the business process category, specific pitfalls to watch out for include: technical/integration difficulties in supporting company processes (48%), poor business process design (31%), and the need to customize solutions to fit unique organizational requirements (21%).
In a conversation with Alex Bard, CEO of Assistly (now desk.com, part of salesforce.com), I learned a few interesting things about customer service solutions for small to medium-size businesses (SMBs): (1) Companies can be too small to have customer service organizations; (2) the main competition of vendors of SMB customer service solutions is not each other, but Post-It notes and Gmail; and (3) the service that SMB customers demand is exactly like the service that enterprise customers demand.
So what do each of these points mean?
Companies can be too small to have customer service organizations. Without a formal customer service organization, customer-facing personnel such as customer relations managers, CEOs, and marketing folks are on the hook to answer customer inquiries. These employees wear many hats, are on the road a lot, and communicate constantly with one another. And, more than likely, their companies also don’t have formal IT organizations. This means that customer service software must be tailored to a business user: easy to deploy, easy to configure, and supporting a multitude of mobile devices. Customer service software must also have built-in collaboration features, alerts, and notifications allowing personnel to quickly work together on a customer issue for quick resolution.
In talking with nearly 30 organizations, consulting companies, and solution vendors, I found that instead of deploying slow-to-change packaged applications or building difficult-to-change custom solutions, leading organizations are embracing business process methodologies — supported by process-centric IT platforms. They are striving to drive rapid process change, increased business engagement in IT projects, and achieve dramatic improvements in worker productivity.
In my new report, I define more than 30 best practices that organizations can use to support their transition to process-centric customer CRM. Here are few of them:
What are the key trends that CRM trends that business and IT professionals need to pay attention to in setting their plans during 2012? Here are the top trends that I am tracking. My full report that spotlights our latest research and recommendations for how to compete in The Age of the Customer will be published in late January.
1. Customer experience management will move beyond aspiration to strategy. More organizations will move beyond empty goals like becoming “customer-obsessed” to define clear and actionable customer experience strategies. The strategy must meet three tests: 1) It defines the intended experience; 2) it directs employee activities and decision-making; and 3) it guides funding decisions and project prioritization.
2. Brands will embrace the experience ecosystem. Firms will move to break free from their organizational silos, invest in understanding customer moments of truth through journey-mapping, and embrace the concept of the “customer experience ecosystem” — one that considers the influence of every single employee and external partner on every single customer interaction.
3. Experience management will emerge as a management discipline. There is increasing acceptance of the idea that customer experience management can be thought of as a discipline — a set of sound, repeatable practices such as those are defined in Forrester’s Customer Experience Maturity Framework.
We live in a world of increasing complexity: an increasing number of communication channels, an explosion of social data, the intertwining of sales, marketing, and customer service activities, and a growing amount of information and data that customer service agents need to answer customer questions. These issues complicate the challenge of being able to provide customers the service that is in line with their expectations — service that keeps customers loyal to your brand yet that can be delivered at a cost that makes sense for your business.
Being able to deliver the right customer service involves:
A good knowledge program is one of the foundational elements of a good service experience. Many informational requests can be easily handled using a simple FAQ, which deflects calls from your contact center and keeps your customers satisfied with relevant answers. Agent knowledge that is the same across communication channels guarantees that your customers receive consistent and accurate answers.
But getting your arms around your knowledge assets and maintaining them is hard work. I use a six-step best-practice framework to get you going with knowledge management:
Align the organization for success. To be successful, you need an executive sponsor who will fund your knowledge program and allocate resources to the effort. You also need to put together a project team, follow proper project management practices, and define a rollout and adoption strategy.
Design a framework for knowledge management. Knowledge base content must be easy to find and use. Before starting to create content, you need to determine usage roles, content sources (i.e., what content lives inside the knowledge base and what content lives outside of it but is accessible via knowledge base searches), content standards, and information architecture and localization requirements.