Which Contact Center Technologies For Customer Service Are Being Adopted?

Kate Leggett

The contact center solution ecosystem that customer service organizations use has grown more complex over time, as highlighted in our latest TechRadar™ on these solutions. Customer service executives struggle to enforce consistent processes for their agents to follow so that those agents can deliver optimal customer experiences. The amount of data and information that agents need to use to resolve customer inquiries is exploding. Vendor mergers and acquisitions as sectors consolidate are creating product and support risks.  And new contact center solution delivery models, including managed services, outsourcing, and cloud-based offerings, are presenting new opportunities.

To define the context for making smart contract center strategy and technology decisions for customer service, Forrester partnered with CustomerThink to survey 75 contact center professionals to understand which technologies were being used and who was making purchasing decisions. We found that:

  • A set of core technologies are must-haves for contact centers. Core contact center technologies enable agents to manage voice calls, email and chat requests from customers, log and manage inquiries via case management systems, and manage and optimize agent workforces. These solutions are mature and continue to deliver significant business value. 53% use case management solutions; 58% use workforce management solutions; 48% use quality monitoring; 62% use voice IVR or self-service speech platforms; 44% use email response management systems; and 50% use chat solutions.
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Yes, Gamification Can Help Your Business Internally

TJ Keitt

Happy New Year, everyone. As I customarily do, I'm looking back on 2011 with an eye toward emerging trends that bear watching. In the latter half of last year, I started to receive a lot of questions from content & collaboration professionals and journalists regarding gamification. The fuel for this undoubtedly comes from businesses' burgeoning love affair with gaming dynamics in consumer web marketing efforts (chronicled by Forrester here, here, here, and here). The questions I get, though, are from individuals looking to understand if gamification has business uses outside of enticing consumers to engage more deeply with the company.

As an analyst who has covered serious gaming (the use of games and gaming dynamics to teach, change attitudes and behaviors, and inspire action) for five years, these inquiries bring a smile to my face. As you may guess, my answer to these interested parties is, "Of course you can use gamification to enhance other processes in your business." My confidence in gamification's utility to internal business processes comes from the fact that, at its core, this is an old idea in business. You might have just said "huh?" Permit me a moment to explain.

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The Top Ten Tech Events Of 2011

Andrew Bartels

New Year’s Eve is the time for looking back at the past year before preparing for the next on New Year’s Day. So, I’m taking the time before the festivities tonight to take stock of 2011 and put down my thoughts on what were the top 10 events in the tech world. This is one person’s opinion, so feel free to voice your own counterpoints.

In reverse order (and with apologies to David Letterman):

10. Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype. I’m still not clear about how Microsoft is going to use Skype, but Skype’s expanding role as a platform for person-to-person videochats may make this one of Microsoft’s better acquisitions.

9. IBM’s Watson wins Jeopardy!, setting stage for creating deep analytical solutions for other business problems. The average person doesn’t understand technology. But many people follow the Jeopardy! game show on TV. By developing an artificial intelligence system that could successfully beat the best human contestants in Jeopardy and giving it the human name of Watson, IBM did a brilliant job of showing its technologies’ potential in a way the average person could understand. More importantly, it has followed up by building new Watson-based solutions for healthcare diagnostics, financial services risk management, and other business situations.

8. Microsoft/Nokia partnership for Nokia to adopt the Microsoft Phone operating system for its smartphones. Both Microsoft and Nokia have struggled in keeping up with Apple and Google in the smartphone market. By combining forces, they gave themselves another chance to become a credible third option in the smartphone market.

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Match Cloud Expectations With Customer Realities In The New Year

Bill Martorelli

Few would dispute that cloud computing has a huge potential for making IT service expenditures more cost-effective and flexible. But as is often the case, what is now possible is not necessarily practical or even desirable from the standpoint of the buying customer in terms of both accommodating longstanding preferences as well as specific contractual terms.

For example, consider these aspects of cloud computing:

  • Variable pricing means unpredictable in spending. One of the lessons of the early utility models of the early 2000s was that customers’ preference for predictable expenditures often trumped variability based on consumption. The same is true today with even more inherently fungible cloud services. Moreover, a sudden, wholesale shift from capital spending to expense spending is impractical for many customers.
  • Rapid provisioning taxes customer lead times. Rapid provisioning, one of cloud computing’s principal calling cards, presents huge advantages compared to server provisioning times measured in months, but customer provisioning systems cannot usually take full advantage of provisioning times measured in mere minutes.
  • Pricing based on resource units can bring challenges. For example, testing-as-a-service allows customers to pay on the basis of test cases executed, but few customers are as yet ready or comfortable paying in this manner.
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Lack Of Vision And Planning Prevent Organizations In Emerging Markets From Technology Leapfrogging

Fred Giron

When I moved to India about two years ago, I arrived with my own expectations regarding emerging markets. One of them was that the lack of legacy IT applications and infrastructure would make these markets an ideal place for new technologies and delivery models like as-a-service to thrive. In other words, organizations in emerging markets would “leapfrog” to new technologies without going through some of the prior technology investments witnessed in developed markets. Unfortunately, the reality is not that simple.

One of the key takeaways of my recent reports (Australia, China, India Set The Pace For Asian IT Services and The Changing Face Of ASEAN IT Services — to be published in January 2012) is that most of the growth in emerging countries will come from traditional IT services such as ERP implementation, infrastructure deployment, and system integration. Against common belief, emerging services — including cloud and mobility — will represent less than 20% the total annual growth in emerging markets in 2015.

I see several reasons for this:

  • Lack of governance and planning. An IT department’s role is merely one of provider of applications and infrastructure, whose main objective is to react to business needs.
  • Lack of internal skills. Client organizations do not have the adequate skills internally to take on complex transformational projects involving new technologies such as virtualization, business analytics, and mobile enterprise application integration platforms.
  • Lack of IT services culture. Most client organizations in emerging markets leverage external skills to help them with basic tasks such as hardware maintenance and software deployment.
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"iMessage Killed The SMS Star"

Ted Schadler

Yeah, the tune is playing in my head. Video Killed the Radio Star. But in this case, it's Apple's iMessage service that's killing the SMS cash cow. For those of you haven't experienced it yet, check out this picture.

It's my riding buddy Joe sending me a text message, or in this case, an iMessage. The blue box is the giveaway -- it came over Apple's texting service, not AT&T's SMS service. It's "free." That is, it travels over the Internet, not the SMS network, and it's free on Wi-Fi or included in my wireless data plan. And while I have unlimited texting, I do pay $30/month for the family plan, about $0.10/message last month. (I know, some of you text so much that it's probably a penny a message or less.)

So, let's do the math:

100 million iOS users.

Sending 50 messages a month to another iOS user. (iOS users move in packs.)

Each person pays for the SMS message, so that's 100 messages per person.

Each SMS message costs (let's say) $0.05.

So 100,000,000 iOS users x 100 iMessages/month x $0.05/message = $500,000,000/month.

Said another way, that's $6B taken out of the SMS value chain by the iOS iMessage service every year. Then there's the BlackBerry Messenger service for inter-BlackBerry messages. And the Magic SMS app for iPhone and Android. And probably a hundred other SMS alternatives that I'll never know about. Add it all up, and 10 billion dollars in SMS value (not revenue) could be siphoned off to the wireless data market in 2013.

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Oracle Delivers A Lump Of Coal To The Tech Market, But It's Too Soon To Call It A Harbinger Of A Tech Downturn

Andrew Bartels

Oracle yesterday reported surprisingly weak results for its fiscal quarter ending on November 30 (see December 20, 2011, "Oracle Reports Q2 GAAP EPS Up 17% to 43 Cents; Q2 Non-GAAP EPS up 6% to 54 Cents"), with total revenues up just 2%, software revenues up 7%, hardware revenues down 10%, and services revenues flat. Even worse, hardware product sales were down 14%, new software license revenues rose just 2%, and license revenues for Oracle applications actually fell by 4%. Oracle had set expectations for revenue growth of 5% to 15%, and most financial analysts had projected growth at the high end of that range, based on Oracle's license revenues in prior quarters growing by 22% to 34% for applications, and 14% to 27% for database and middleware revenues. Oracle attributed the shortfall in revenues to potential deals that failed to close by the end of the quarter due to buyer caution.

For the tech sector, this is a worrisome report. Oracle's software revenues had been consistently stronger than the overall tech market, growing by 17% in US dollars in the prior quarters in 2011. If Oracle's software revenue growth slips to 7%, does that imply that the rest of the tech market is going to see little or no growth in Q4 2011?

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A Dropped Call: AT&T And Deutsche Telekom Put US Merger Plan To Rest

Dan Bieler

It does not come as a real surprise that the deal aimed at merging AT&T's and Deutsche Telekom's US wireless operations got nowhere. We were expecting as much back in autumn. In our view, there are no winners as a result of this dropped deal, not even the US consumer. The US consumer can look forward to poorer network infrastructure and a weakened T-Mobile as the low-end market provider. Hence, the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department attained somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory.

Whilst the collapsed deal is a major irritant for AT&T, it is a disaster for Deutsche Telekom, as it leaves T-Mobile US in a very difficult position. With about 10% of the US wireless subscribers, T-Mobile US remains subscale. Its image is increasingly trending toward cheap rather than good value, given its patchy network coverage, especially in rural areas.

The reluctance by Deutsche Telekom to prepare for a "no-deal scenario" leaves T-Mobile without a clear strategy. This lack of direction is very risky and only pushes T-Mobile further down a slippery slope toward increasing churn and revenue and margin challenges. Deutsche Telekom needs to communicate its plans for 4G roll-out, spectrum purchases, partnerships for network sharing, and device portfolio. Above all, Deutsche Telekom needs to decide soon whether to pursue an IPO, a sale to another operator or a financial investor, or target a merger with the likes of Dish, Leap, Clearwire, Sprint, or even LightSquared. Ultimately, we expect Deutsche Telekom to opt for a merger scenario.

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Nokia Siemens Networks Outlines More Details Of Strategy At Analyst Event

Dan Bieler

At its 2011 Analyst Event in Boston, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) outlined more details of its recently announced strategy review. In our view, the new focus NSN is taking is right. NSN is focusing on growth segments of the infrastructure market and will generate large savings from operating expenses and production overheads. In addition to its focus on providing the most efficient mobile broadband network infrastructure, NSN also highlighted the importance of customer experience management (CEM) as an integral part of its strategy.

NSN also provided more guidance on which market segments it no longer considers core. These include wireline, microwave, Wimax, perfect voice, and business support systems. Some of these, microwave and Wimax, it already spun off. NSN estimates that the overall revenue impact of its non-core disposals will total 10% of its current revenue base. The impact on profit will be less than 10%, as these non-core disposals are low-margin operations.

NSN believes that telcos increasingly demand end-to-end solutions from their equipment vendor partners. No equipment vendors can credibly deliver such end-to-end solutions on their own. Hence, NSN is positioning itself as an ecosystems manager for end-to-end solutions. As part of its innovation drive, NSN increasingly focuses on devising concepts for solutions rather than simply focusing on product upgrades. For instance, Liquid Net is a concept for network infrastructure design that supports a more efficient usage of underutilized infrastructure capacity based on a range of NSN products. Similarly, NSN places great emphasis on its CEM solution, which helps telcos to transform their services offerings by enhancing network-related features that affect customer experience and satisfaction.

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A Copernican Shift (And A Tip Of My Hat To Randy Heffner)

Brian  Hopkins

As my first calendar year as an analyst draws to a close, I wanted to thank everybody who has read and commented on my blog and say that I look forward to even more next year. In closing out the year, I turn for a moment away from emerging technology to share an email I wrote to one of our clients in response to some questions he had about the changing nature of EA. In describing the future, I'm going to blatantly pirate a term that Randy Heffner has been using for a while because as I sought to answer this client's questions, I realized how absolutely spot on it is. here is the relevant text of that email:

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Happy to answer your questions as outlined below in the inquiry request. We have published a report along similar lines, BT 2020: IT's Future In The Empowered Era, that I recommend for additional ideas. Regarding timing, 2015 will be a stepping stone towards 2020, so I’ll focus answers on 2020, and you can extrapolate to 2015 in terms of the migration that needs to occur.

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