Microsoft was kind enough to invite me to Microsoft's Dynamics Fall Analyst Event — a two-day event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. The focus was clearly on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. This product and the go-to-market strategy are clear and focused. Here are my thoughts:
The Dynamics CRM 2011 product is good. Today, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is used by 23,000 customers, 1.4 million end users in 80 countries and 40+ languages. That in itself is impressive. However, Microsoft wants to do better. It has focused on the user experience and UI in the 2011 product in hopes of driving increased adoption. Dynamics CRM 2011 is deeply integrated with Outlook, Office Communicator, SharePoint, Office 365, and Bing. It can be easily personalized. A business user, without the help of IT, can set up a dashboard. It has rich reporting analytics. It works on mobile devices, including the iPhone. Microsoft realizes that this product still has limitations, especially around Web self-service customer service capabilities. Its near-term plans are to address this, as well as adding capabilities around support for the phone channel and for social customer service. However, right now, these holes offer a chance for specialty customer service vendors to make inroads.
Consumers generally hate email for customer service - so much so that some analysts have said that email is dead, and has been replaced by the live assist channels like chat or SMS/MMS. Or in the new world, there is Twitter and customer service from Facebook.
Why does email get such a bad rap? It's because we don’t trust this channel – we have all had the experience of emailing a company’s customer service department and not getting an answer back. Or getting an answer that addressed only half of our question.
Email’s poor performance as a customer service channel is typically a result of the tool’s history. These systems were typically deployed years ago and have had little care and feeding to maximize their productivity, or align operations to best practices.
Yet, customer service managers want you to use email. It’s a cheaper alternative than live-assist channels. And the automation features built into modern tools make email processing quick and reliable.
So, even with history working against you, if you are offering email to your customers, make sure it works. Follow these these basic steps to restore your customers' faith in this communication channel.
Make email part of your multichannel strategy - Don’t think of email as a siloed channel. Provide escalation pathways between your web self-service site and email, and be sure to have a single source of knowledge that is used across all your communication channels. That means that your customers will get the same answer across all touchpoints.
Wired Magazine states that the four most heavily trafficked sites on the Internet are Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google. Facebook alone has 500 million users, and users collectively spend more than 3 billion hours on this site, or more than 55 minutes a day per person. It’s a vertitable interaction hub, where many businesses have a significant presence, and their pages are an integral part of their brand identity.
Many of these fan pages offer information pertinent to their consumers, as well as coupons to entice customers to their brand. Dell, for example, has done a great job with its social media resource for small businesses. Understanding that small business owners buy computers, by offering them this resource, small business owners interested in social media keep Dell top of mind.
As consumers spend more time on these Facebook pages, a natural extension is for companies to be able to provide sales and customer support directly from these pages. Check out, for example, 1-800-Flowers’s Facebook page, where you can do just that.
Multichannel customer service vendors understand that Facebook is now a shopping and service destination, and they're extending their core multichannel products to offer apps that install a “Support" tab on a company’s wall.
Once a user (customer or prospect) clicks on this tab, they can engage with the community or a customer service agent without ever leaving the site. Capabilities that will become standard include:
Searching for an answer in forum posts as well as in a corporate knowledgebase.
Rating forum and knowledge posts.
Recommending forum posts to be added to the corporate knowledgebase.
Part of managing your brand is making sure that your customer service experience is consistent across all touchpoints that you use to interact with a company – traditional ones such as voice, email, chat, web self-service and now the social interaction channels.
What does a "consistency of experience" mean? It means that:
The knowledge a customer or agent has access to must convey the same message across all touchpoints. The voice will understandably be different for, for example, a chat session and an email session.
The agent must have a full view of the customer’s interactions across all touchpoints — traditional and social ones. Another way of saying this is that customer data should not live in independent technology silos.
The processes that an agent follows must be the same for interactions coming in across all touchpoints — traditional and social.
Technology innovation and business disruption are changing the software market today. Cloud computing is blurring the line between applications and services, and smart solutions are combining hardware with software into new, purpose-engineered solutions. We are happy to announce that we have launched our Forrester Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2010, to predict and quantify the future of the software market and help IT vendors to tap into the insights from approximately 2,500 IT decision-makers across North America and Western Europe.
The survey will provide insights on the strategic direction and spending plans of enterprises from very small businesses to global enterprises, segmented by industry and country. In comparison with last year’s survey, we significantly boosted the sample size this year for the energy (oil and gas, utilities, and mining) and healthcare industries; we’ll be able to provide an in-depth analysis for these industries along with retail, financial services, high tech, and other industries.
Key themes for this year’s software survey include the following topics:
Cloud computing. Besides a 360-degree overview on current and future adoption rates of software-as-a-service (SaaS) for different software applications, we are going much deeper this year and have asked IT decision-makers about their cloud strategy for application replacement as well as for different data and transaction types.
Integrated information technology. Purpose-engineered solutions combining hardware with software are promising higher performance and faster implementation times. But do IT users really buy into single-vendor strategies?
Your service processes must be the same across all communication channels – traditional and social – in order to deliver a consistent experience and value proposition to your customer base. At the moment, this is downright hard to do, as almost no company offers a solution that tightly integrates the social and traditional communication channels. RightNow saw this need and has delivered a solution that allows customer support agents to engage with customers on Facebook.
Facebook has 500 million registered users that spend more than 3 billion hours a month on their site, says Nielsen. It’s a veritable interaction hub, where many businesses have a significant presence. Some have hundreds of thousands of fans. Other businesses have smaller, yet very loyal followings.
RightNow’s CX for Facebook product, to be released in November, will allow companies to install an app that creates a “Support” tab on their wall. Once a user (customer or prospect) clicks on this tab, they will be able to find answers from community content or from the corporate knowledgebase, ask the community questions, follow, participate and track discussions, propose an idea, ask an agent (either in a public or a private conversation), and more without leaving the Facebook site. Agents as well will be able to monitor and respond to wall posts: RightNow’s SmartSense sentiment analysis will be able to detect the tone of posts and flags high-priority comments for immediate follow-up.
One of the pillars of crafting an “ideal customer service experience” is to offer a consistent service experience across the communication channels that you support. So what does this mean for the service manager who needs to think about this problem from a pragmatic perspective? It means that:
Service agents must have access to the customer history across all interaction channels for a full view of the customer.
Service agents must use the same processes and have access to the same knowledge so that the service resolution process is the same regardless of channel.
We’ve all heard about ideal customer service — the mantra of customer service vendors as they tout their wares. But what does this actually mean? Service at all costs (ideal for the customer)? Service at minimal cost (ideal for the business)? Or does “ideal” to a customer service manager mean the ability to deliver “good enough customer service” — where the cost of doing service is balanced with the ability to satisfy and retain a customer? Or is it something else — like providing a customer service experience that parallels a company’s business model?
Think about Saks Fifth Avenue — High-style, high-cost apparel. You would expect their customer service to be in line with their business model: Customer service on the customer’s terms — where you can arrange a phone call with a shopping consultant. You can talk with them now or later, at your convenience. You can email them and they will get back to you very quickly, or you can chat with them at any time of day or night.
Now think about IKEA — the provider of “affordable solutions for better living.” You shop at IKEA because you are comfortable with serving yourself — from pulling furniture off shelves to self-checkout to assembling them yourself. And, IKEA’s service mirrors their brand. They have exhaustive web self service in a multitude of languages, a chat bot, some email support and limited phone support. You are not disappointed with their lack of white-glove service because you would never expect it from IKEA — it is not their business model.
One of the things that continues to surprise me about many banks’ multi-channel strategies is how little most banks have integrated their ATMs into those strategies. Cash machines are by far the most commonly used banking channel. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data, 74% of adults in Western Europe use a cash machine at least once a month, far more than use either branches or online banking that often.
Despite the introduction of Windows-based operating systems and colour screens, most banks aren’t doing much to engage customers on this most-frequent touchpoint. Most do little more than promote the product of the month to all comers. Only a few leaders, like Singapore’s OCBC Bank and Spain’s La Caixa, have integrated ATMs into their CRM systems, which lets them do clever things like remembering customer’s normal withdrawal amount, wishing customers a happy birthday and making products offer that are relevant to that particular customer.
Hello customer service world – I’ve just joined at Forrester Research, responsible for customer service and call center business processes. I’ll be watching the customer service vendors – both the traditional multichannel ones as well as the new social/community ones. I’ll be working with clients to justify new customer service projects and to recommend best practice adoption as well as sharing my thoughts and opinions of the impact of the customer service experience on your brand.
Even though I am new to Forrester, I am not new to customer service, having spent years at KANA and as a regular contributor to the CRM magazine and blog-sphere.
One topic that has interested me is how the customer service manager must balance the needs of his ever-evolving customer with the economic constraints imposed on him by the business. Customers today demand instant service on-the-go, and are quick to voice their displeasure when service doesn’t meet their expectations. And in this world of social media, this displeasure is easily amplified, which can negatively impact your business.
So what are the tools and business processes that a service manager must embrace to be successful? New knowledge tools? New delivery channels for the mobile customer or the impatient one? More process in the front office to help standardize the experience? A better cross-channel customer experience? More sophisticated analytics to microtarget your customer?
I know there are a lot more answers to this question. I hope you will start reading my blog, offer your suggestions and feedback, and pass on a good word if you like what you see. I look forward to your insights.