On January 6, Microsoft announced their intentions to purchase Paraturefor a reported $100M. This event is a good thing all around. Net, net, it plugs some holes in the MS Dynamics CRM product, and gives Parature, a 13 year old company, a viable exit strategy.
Microsoft Dynamics is a strong CRM product for customer service. Forrester considers it a leader in our most recent CRM Suites Customer Service solution wave. Microsoft Dynamics is also doing well. At their recent analyst event, they communicated the following statistics: 12% revenue growth in FY13; Dynamics AX and CRM growing by double digits worldwide and 30% in the Americas and Asia; and CRM Online growing by 80% in FY13, with two out of every three new customers opting for cloud. Microsoft Dynamics has 359,000 customers and 5 million users, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM has 40,000 customers and 3.5 million users. Read more about this event here.
Microsoft was kind enough to invite me to its fall analyst event at its headquarters in Redmond, WA on October 22. It’s a two-day event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. About two dozen industry and independent analysts attended this event, including Forrester’s Paul Hamerman. Here are my thoughts of this event with a focus on the CRM news:
The Dynamics product is doing well. The numbers speak for themselves: 12% revenue growth in FY13; Dynamics AX and CRM growing by double digits worldwide and 30% in the Americas and Asia; and CRM Online growing by 80% in FY13, with two out of every three new customers opting for cloud. Microsoft Dynamics has 359,000 customers and 5 million users, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM has 40,000 customers and 3.5 million users.
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 product solidifies.The Dynamics CRM 2013 product, available in the cloud in July and on-premises this month, delivers a cleaner, more usable UI, simplified data entry, an integrated business process workflow, consistent experiences across devices, integration of Yammer, and more. A writeup of the new version’s features are available in its release preview guide. These enhancements mature the product, yet still leave gaps in multichannel management, knowledge management, and web self-service.
This is my fourth time attending Oracle OpenWorld in as many years. The show drew a large crowd this year, topping 60,000 attendees. I focused on customer service sessions highlighting the Oracle RightNow, Oracle Siebel, and Oracle Knowledge (InQuira) products. I went to high-level vision sessions, road map sessions, and customer testimonials. I also spent a lot of time talking to systems integrators that have recently deployed these solutions. This year was by far the most enjoyable conference experience. Here is why — and keep in mind that all of my comments are about its customer service portfolio:
I was at Oracle’s Analyst day today, and spent time with the Customer Experience Team drilling into the technology that allows organizations to deliver consistent, cross-channel, cross-touchpoint experiences across what Oracle terms the buying and owning journey – and which parallels Forrester’s viewpoint quite nicely. Here is Oracle's view of this journey:
Why is it so difficult to deliver consistent, effortless customer service interactions across communication channels and touchpoints. A fundamental reason has to do with how companies are internally organized. In many companies, sales, marketing, and customer service are discrete functional silos that don’t necessarily share the same technologies, business processes, data, or even the same definition of measures of success.
Let’s take a quick look at the organizations that make technology purchases for customer service. Obviously, the customer service operations group makes most of these purchases. Yet marketing and eBusiness organizations also purchase many technologies that are valuable to customer service such as social listening solutions, enterprise feedback management solutions, and social media technologies. Here are some numbers to back this up: in a survey of eBusiness and channel strategy executives, 91% said that they were responsible for the website and digital channels like email, chat, and web self service, and another 69% said they were responsible for the mobile operations, including the required technology purchases.
We all know the 4 P’s of marketing – product, price, placement, promotion – that dictate the success of your marketing initiative. But, what about customer service? To me, 4 different P’s apply, which are:
Pain – Or more specifically, lack of pain. Customers want effortless service from the touchpoint (web, tablet, in person, etc.) and communication channel of their choice (ex. voice, chat, email, social). They want to receive an accurate, relevant, and complete answer to their question upon first contact with a company. They want to be able to start a conversation on one touchpoint or channel and continue it on another without having to repeat themselves. Forrester data backs this up: 66% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service. 45% of US online adults will abandon their online purchase if they can't find a quick answer to their question.
Personalization – Customers don’t want a “one size fits all” service experience. They want the interaction to be tailored to the products and services that they have purchased, to their specific customer tier, to their past interaction history, and to their specific issue at hand.
Productivity – Customer service organizations must pragmatically walk the balance between customer satisfaction and cost. A customer service experience has to be reliable and efficient. This is a service experience that gets positive customer satisfaction ratings and that can also be delivered at a cost that makes sense to the business.
Eighty-six percent of customer service decision-makers say that a good customer experience is one of their top strategic priorities. Sixty-three percent say that they want their customer experience to be the best in their industry. Yet few companies deliver a good customer experience.
In our recent survey, just over one-third of the 160 large North American brands questioned were found to provide a positive customer experience — a number that hasn’t significantly moved for the past five years.
We know that a bad service experience has quantifiable negative impacts, as measured by monitoring the wallet share of each customer over their engagement lifetime with a brand. But when is a service experience good enough? A recent Harvard Business Review blog says that delighting your customers is a waste of time and energy, and exceeding customer expectations has a negligible impact on customer loyalty — that customers just want simple, quick solutions to their problems.
What customers also want is a consistent, reproducible experience across all touchpoints.
What this means is that a customer wants to receive the same data, the same information, over any voice, electronic, or social communication channel used. Customer service agents supporting customers across these channels should follow the same business processes. And channels should be linked — either from a technology perspective or a business process perspective — so that customers can start a conversation on one channel and move it to the next without having to restart the conversation.
Multichannel commerce is dead, says fellow analyst Brian Walker in Forbes . The essence of this article is that customers don’t choose to interact with you on a single communication channel from start to finish. They interact with you over the most suitable channel for them at that point in time — which could be their mobile device, or a chat session, or a phone call, or email, or web self-service from their iPad. Brian calls this agile commerce.
I agree that it is an agile world out there. And yet, agility does not stop at commerce — it extends to everything that we do, from buying to receiving marketing offers to customer service. Think, for example, about the process you follow to fix an issue with one of your electronic devices. You may browse a community forum, browse the company’s Facebook page, then their official website, contact an agent who can't help you, tweet about it, get contacted by a better-skilled agent who figures out that you need to purchase a new driver and transfers you to someone who can process your order, which you receive on your mobile phone.
The point is that a customer does not make a distinction between a sales transaction or a customer service transaction. All they expect is to be able to receive the same customer experience every time they interact with a company, over any communication channel that they use.