The emergence of ubiquitous high-speed broadband connectivity, smartphones, and tablet devices with enormous computing power and longer battery life, along with increased employee adoption of touchscreen devices (iPhone/iPad/BlackBerry) in every sphere of life, are all trends that serve to “liberate IT from the desktop.”
I am currently midway through a major research cycle on the topic, talking with CRM vendors, systems integrators, and end users. My goal is to define mobile CRM best practices and spotlight the pitfalls that can get in way of capitalizing on the mobile technology revolution.
I recently talked with Model Metrics, Wipro’s CRM consulting practice leaders, and Tata Consultancy Services’ CRM practice leadership team. These consulting and development firms are all doing a lot of mobile CRM projects for their clients. We brainstormed about the critical considerations that that must be addressed when defining a mobile CRM strategy:
Who are the intended users and targeted business community for mobile app use?
The Customer’s Bill of Rights: The Right to Choose
Customers know what good service is and expect it from every interaction they have with a company’s customer service organization, over all the interaction channels that the company supports. More often that not, they are disappointed, and are quick to voice their disappointment. And in this world of social media, this disappointment gets amplified — which leads to brand erosion.
Let’s focus on the way customers want to interact with your customer service organization:
Customers expect to interact over all the channels that customer service organizations offer, including the traditional ones like phone, email, and chat, and the new social ones like Faceboook and Twitter.
Customers expect the same experience over all the communication channels that they use.
Customers expect the same information to be delivered to them over any channel.
Customers expect to be able to start a conversation on one channel and move it to another channel without having to start the conversation over.
Customers expect you to know who they are, what products they have purchased, and what prior interactions they’ve had with you.
Customers expect you to add value every time they interact with you.
Customers expect you to offer them only new products and services that make sense to them and fit with their past purchase history.
NetSuite was kind enough to invite me to the analyst day at its SuiteWorld 2011 user conference — an event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. The focus was clearly on its platform and ERP solutions. Here are my thoughts and takeaways:
NetSuite wants to ride the SaaS wave into the enterprise. NetSuite is the only SaaS-based ERP suite of scale. It reports that its data centers get 2.2 million unique logins and 4 billion customer requests a month. However, NetSuite wants to do better. It wants to take its well-tested and well-adopted solution in the midmarket and extend into the enterprise. The timing is right, as Forrester reports that enterprises are ready to consider SaaS-based ERP solutions. In fact, NetSuite reports that sales to enterprise customers increased 37% between 2009 and 2010.
NetSuite has a solution package targeted at the enterprise. NetSuite announced a new “Unlimited” package for about $1 million, which includes all modules, unlimited storage, applications, SuiteCloud customizations, subsidiaries, and unlimited users. The exact pricing is based on functionality and number of users (which starts at 500), and scales up from there. It is a package targeted to compete with traditional on-premise ERP vendors as well as SAP’s on-demand solution, Business ByDesign.
In the midst of all the buzz in the CRM space about “social” and “mobile” CRM spotlighted in my recent reports, I am observing another important trend. There is a convergence of customer relationship management (CRM) and business process management suite (BPMS) solutions to support better customer experiences and deeper customer engagement.
Our research shows that only 10% of companies deliver outstanding customer experiences. The laggards have a choice: They can either continue to whistle while passing the graveyard, or make a bold, sweeping stroke by focusing on deeper engagement with their customers. How? By taking a hard look at business processes that traverse organizational silos, bringing the back office closer to the front office while transforming strategic cross-functional processes.
Customer service managers in particular struggle to balance customer experience and cost: siloed communication channels, impersonal service, and an inability to enforce company processes or meet regulatory compliance negatively affect satisfaction and increase costs.
To resolve this dilemma, there is continued interest in traditional “record-centric” CRM solutions, but I also see more adoption of “process-centric” BPMS solutions. In fact, the characteristics of these two are converging in the latest releases from the respective vendors.
The right knowledge, delivered to the customer or the customer service agent at the right time in the service resolution process, is critical to a successful interaction. When done correctly, knowledge personalizes an interaction, increases customer satisfaction, reduces call handle time, and leads to operational efficiencies.
Embarking on a knowledge management project is hard. Concerns include:
Worries about cultural readiness and adoption. Many executives don’t understand how activities done by a knowledge team translate into real business outcomes and don’t support these programs with the adequate resources for success.
Concerns about making content findable. The best content is useless if it can’t be found when needed. “Findability” has to do with search technology, a solid information architecture, and giving users alternate methods to search for retrieving knowledge.
Questions about keeping content timely. Knowledge must be kept current, and new knowledge must be published in a timely manner so that it can be used to answer new questions as they arise.
Today, salesforce.com announced the intent to acquire Radian6, a leader in the social media monitoring space. You can find the details of the definitive agreement here. What I want to focus on is what this acquisition means to customer service.
First, the social listening vendor landscape is crowded and ripe for consolidation. Salesforce.com has just picked off the best vendor in this category of vendors, according to a recent Forrester Wave™ report. Radian6 helps salesforce.com extend its core customer service capabilities to the social channels like Facebook and Twitter, which are becoming increasingly important for companies looking to offer a differentiated customer service experience. This is not the first acquisition of this type; however, it is the most significant one, based on salesforce.com's market share and customer base. Expect to see similar acquisitions by CRM and customer service vendors in the future.
Ironically, while the CRM pundit hysteria about “social CRM” seems to be abating a little bit, many concrete use-cases are emerging that demonstrate the business value of the social web phenomenon. I just published a new report that defines the key characteristics of social CRM and provides examples of how Social Computing technologies expand the possibilities for delivering customer and company value through the key business processes of targeting, acquisition, retention, understanding, and collaboration. Forrester's annual Groundswell Awards provide over 130 examples of how organizations use Social Computing to engage and collaborate with customers in new ways.
Here are some highlights:
Customer targeting. Social media channels such as Twitter and YouTube and communities such as Facebook and Groupon offer new ways to communicate with customers through an Internet community context. And we now see the rising use of community-based market research techniques. For example, Godiva Chocolatier created a private, invitation-only community so Godiva could better understand its chocolate consumers. The community led Godiva to create an affordable product line, individually wrapped chocolates called Gems, and sell them in a new channel — grocery and drug stores. Gems was the biggest global launch ever for Godiva, ringing up $35 million in its first year.
You have to admit that knowledge management (KM) is hard — it’s hard to explain, hard to implement, hard to do right. It’s not just technology. It is a combination of organizational realignment, process change, and technology combined in the right recipe that is needed to make KM successful. And when it is successful, it delivers real results — reduced handle times, increased agent productivity and first closure rates, better agent consistency, increased customer satisfaction. Check out the case studies on any of the KM vendors' sites to see real statistics. Yet despite these success stories, and despite there being commercially viable KM solutions on the market for over 10 years, I am unsure whether KM really ever crossed the chasm.
Why is it then that we are seeing renewed interest in KM in 2011? I believe it’s attributed to listening (and acting on) the voice of agents and customers, coupled with loosening the strings of tightly controlled content that has breathed new life into KM. Most common trends include:
Using more flexible authoring workflows. In the past, knowledge was authored by editors who were not on the frontlines of customer service, who foreshadowed questions that they thought customers would ask, and who used language that was not consistent with customer-speak. Authored content would go through a review cycle, finally being published days after it was initially authored. Today, many companies are implementing “just-in-time” authoring where agents fielding questions from customers, not backroom editors, create content that is immediately available in draft form to other agents. Content is then evolved based on usage, and most frequently, used content is published to a customer site, making knowledge leaner and more relevant to real-life situations.
I got a lot of feedback from my last blog post, and I’d like to share my thoughts on each of these statements about customer service. I am sure my point of view is contentious, so please keep comments coming. It will force me to rethink my stance. I’ll cover each of my categories in a separate blog post.
Social Customer Service Myths
Reason behind my POV
Social CRM is giving customers control
Paul Greenberg defines social CRM as the The "company's programmatic response to the customer's control of the conversation." Its about the company taking hold of the reins of the conversation, not the other way round.
Have a look at what Paul Greenberg says here about this topic:
Twitter works for customer service
It sometimes does if the answer can be communicated in 140 characters. It shows that you, as a company are listening and acting on comments.
However, instead of engaging in customer service over Twitter, it is often more effective to take the conversation offline to a more suitable communication channel based on the issue at hand and the customer’s channel preference.
In 2011, organizations will ramp up their multichannel customer service initiatives. This will be harder to do than in the past, as customers now expect more: They are increasingly online, want self-service options, and demand responses in real time, often through their mobile devices. Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, has also grown to be an important new channel for interacting with customers and engaging in innovative ways.
Navigating the complex customer service solution ecosystem is difficult, as there are many good solutions available. One category of solutions to consider is the customer service capabilities provided by leading CRM suite software solutions providers. These vendors provide core customer service transactional and data management capabilities. There are also many specialty solution providers that provide best-of-breed capabilities that are good options to fill specific gaps in your customer service technology infrastructure.
To help you sort though the choices, I recently investigated 24 specialty customer service solution providers that offer solutions for cross-channel interaction management, knowledge management for customer service, business process management for customer service, customer communities, and customer feedback management, both traditional and via social listening platforms. In summary, I found that:
eGain, Genesys, Moxie, Parature, and RightNow offer mature and comprehensive solutions for multichannel management. LivePerson and FrontRange also provide multichannel communications capabilities, if your needs match their offering.