Field Service: Increasingly Important For Differentiated Customer Service Experiences

Field service technologies are more than two decades old. Companies have leveraged them to coordinate the flow of work orders that came in as service requests to the contact center. They were able to reap real ROI by using these technologies to schedule technicians, manage their routes and their flow of work. 

Today, with the rise in importance of delivering differentiated customer experiences, field service technologies are become increasingly important. This is because, the service tech who ends up on your doorstep, or at the site of faulty equipment represents the face of your company. They are your brand ambassadors. These interactions are by far the most personal channel for customer engagement, and they can help make or break a relationship.

This means that: (1) you want to equip your service techs with all the information and data that they need to easily address the reported issue, and (2) you want to use cutting edge technologies to deliver great engagement.  These technologies include:

  • Mobility for field service effectiveness - Companies communicate to field techs, increasingly via mobile apps, the location, timing, and details of their jobs. They also allow techs to provide dynamic pricing of labor, parts, and products. Mobile applications must be easy for techs to use, often with gloved hands, in challenging conditions including low lighting and hazardous job sites. They must also work in disconnected environments.
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The Demand For Industry-Specific CRM Explodes

Horizontal CRM solutions — as mature as they are (and they have been around for 20+ years) — don't always do a good job at supporting industry-specific business processes. Consider these examples: CRM users in manufacturing need capabilities to track projects, schedules, time sheets, labor efficiencies, and equipment inventory in addition to core CRM attributes. Alternatively, a real estate professional would like to use CRM to track not only client contact information but also additional data elements such as properties, lease/sales comps, and stacking plans, which illustrate how healthy a property is in terms of tenants and leases.

So, over the years, CRM vendors have built vertical market software applications from the ground up for specific industries. Historic, heavyweight on-premises applications — like Oracle Siebel, with 21 built-on industry verticals — are giving way to newer, more agile software-as-a-service vertical offerings that offer scripted best practices. And other vendors have taken a different tactic and developed lighter-weight systems of engagement to consolidate and visualize data from disparate systems to drive better decision-making. This leaves a CRM buyer with three options to choose from:

CRM Type




Horizontal CRM

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The Democratization Of Customer Service Forces Vendor Consolidation

Today, customers expect easy, effective customer service which build positive emotional connections.  And they expect this type of service from all companies that they do business with – companies that are both big and small.  

Companies use complex software from different vendors to support customer service operations. They use:

  1. Queuing and routing technologies. They capture the customer inquiry, which can be via voice, digital, or social channels, and route and queue the inquiry to the right agent pool.
  2. CRM customer service technologies. They enable customer service agents to create and work the incoming service request.
  3. Workforce optimization technologies. They record agent interactions with customers, evaluate the quality of these interactions, recommend targeted training based on quality scores, manage agent schedules, forecast future schedules and more.
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It's About Time That Salesforce Fixed Its Gaping Commerce Hole

Salesforce announced today their intent to acquire Demandware for $2.8 billion – its largest acquisition to date. This move adds commerce to its CRM portfolio. It's an acquisition long due, with the question of why it took Salesforce so long to fill their gaping hole in CRM functionality – commerce functionality that its formidable CRM competitors such as Oracle and SAP already have - and that Microsoft sorely lacks.

Demandware offers an enterprise cloud commerce suite (digital commerce, order management, point-of-sale, store operations), and together, in conjunction with other Salesforce clouds – marketing, sales, service, communities, analytics and IoT – allows companies to support the end-to-end customer journey which include scenarios like asking a product question during an online purchasing process, or purchase a purchase a product or service during an online customer service interaction.

The positives of this acquisitions are:

  • It's a software category with a bright future. The market for B2C commerce suite technology is mature, yet it is growing, and set to exceed more than $2.1 billion in the US alone by 2019. This acquisition allows Salesforce to tap into a growing market, and coupled with their IoT cloud, allows them to also explore personal, high touch retail experiences.
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Modern CRM Drives Engagement, Relationship And Revenue

CRM technologies are more than two decades old. In the early days of CRM, companies leveraged these solutions to provide "inside-out" efficiencies -  operational efficiencies for sales, marketing, and customer service organizations. CRM aggregated customer data, analyzed that data, and automated workflows for front line personnel.  Companies could easily argue business benefits by measuring operational metrics that were important for the company - like reducing marketing costs, increasing revenues from salespeople, decreasing sale cycle times, better pipeline visibility, decreasing service resolution times, and more.

Because of this quantifiable return on investment (ROI), CRM became a must-have in large organizations and today more than 2/3 of large companies use CRM.

Today, being successful at CRM builds on  yesterday's internal operational and extends the power of these solutions to better support customers through their end-to-end journey to garner their satisfaction and long-term loyalty — a “customer-first” or “outside-in” perspective.

Our data at Forrester shows that good customer experiences correlate to customer loyalty. And loyal customers are more willing to consider another purchase from a company, are less likely to switch business to a competitor, and are more likely to recommend to a friend or colleague – all dimensions that have a direct impact on top line revenue.

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For Customer Service Solutions, Bigger Is Not Always Better

Years ago, I worked at a large customer service vendor. Our CEO had tasked us to "eat our own dog food" - that is implement our own solutions for our customer service operations which comprised of 40 or so tier 1 and 2 customer service agents. With these marching orders, I put a group of consultants and business analysts together to get this done. And after several months, the project stalled; got restarted; stalled again; then finally died. We limped on with our old systems in place for many more years.

Why did this project fail? It was because of a mismatch between the complexities of the solution that we were trying to implement, and the company's business needs. The customer service company that I worked for made enterprise software solutions, suitable for large organizations, which was typically implemented in call centers of many hundreds, if not thousands of call center agents. These solutions offered robust case management, with very customizable workflows, queuing and routing rules. These solutions also offered complex knowledge management, email and chat engines that could support millions of interactions a month. Implementation tended to span many months, where professional services consultants dove into the business processes that agents followed, and then reproduced them in these enterprise solutions.

Yet these solutions - as powerful as there are - were too complex for our simple needs. There were no simple "out of the box" best practice process flows. There were no rapid deployment options to get a company up and running quickly. There were no simple ways of setting up FAQs or simple knowledge, or creating simple email and chat routing rules for a moderate volume of digital interactions. What we needed was a highly usable solution, with a quick time-to-value, which contained just the most common functions of the enterprise solution.

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Your Customers Don't Want To Call You For Support

Your customers just want an accurate, relevant, and complete answer to their question upon first contact so they can get back to what they were doing before the issue arose. Our data backs this up: 53% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can't find a quick answer to their question; 73% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service. 

It's no wonder that customers increasingly leverage self-service and agent-assisted digital communication channels for customer service, as these channels have the least amount of friction. Our recent data from December 2015 shows that: 

  • Web and mobile self-service interactions overtake all other channels. For the second year running, survey respondents reported using web or mobile self-service more than speaking with an agent over the phone. Use of help or FAQs on a company's website increased from 67% in 2012 to 81% in 2015 among US online adults. 
  • Other self-service channels are also on the rise. We see a rise in adoption across all self-service communication channels — not only web or mobile self-service. For example, fo US online adults, online forum/community use jumped from 31% in 2012 to 56% in 2015.
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CRM Success Requires Focus On People, Not Only Technology

There’s a very large graveyard of failed CRM projects. There’s more CRM initiatives that have spiraled out of control to become multimillion-dollar investments that negatively affected large numbers of customer-facing employees and didnt deliver any real results.  The cost of poor CRM adoption is twofold: underutilized investment and unmet business objectives.

We recently ran a survey in partnership with  CustomerThink to understand the risks and pitfalls that CRM professions need to navigate to achieve a successful CRM technology project. We surveyed 414 individuals who had been involved in a CRM technology project as a business professional in sales, marketing, customer service, or technology management within the past 36 months. Not surprisingly, we found that successful CRM technology projects are not only about choosing the right software. They demand a balanced, multifaceted approach that addresses four critical fundamentals: 

  • People issues. Nearly two-fifths (38%) of respondents stated that their problems were the result of people issues such as slow user adoption, inadequate attention paid to change management and training, and difficulties in aligning the organizational culture with new ways of working.
  • CRM Process. One-third (33%) of respondents faced problems because of poor or insufficient definition of business requirements, inadequate business process designs, and the need to customize solutions to fit unique organizational requirements.
  • CRM Strategy. One-third (33%) of respondents had challenges related to CRM strategy, such as a lack of clearly defined objectives, a lack of organizational readiness, and insufficient solution governancepractices.
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Forrester's Top CRM Trends For 2016 And Beyond

In the age of the customer, executives don't decide how customer-centric their companies are — customers do. And while good customer experiences can help control costs, executives are more interested in the potential for sustainable top-line growth. 

Forrester defines CRM as:

The business processes and supporting technologies that support the key activities of targeting, acquiring, retaining, understanding, and collaborating with customers.

CRM is the foundational building block of a company's customer experience strategy to win, serve, and retain customers. It allows empowered consumers and connected employees to do business in ways we just couldn’t conceive of just a few years ago.

Here is a snapshot of 3 of our top 10 trends that you should pay attention to in 2016 and beyond. You can access our full report here.

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Online Self Service Dominates Yet Again. Why? Its An Effortless Way To Get To Your Answers

Customers demand accurate, relevant, and complete answers to their questions upon first contact - served up as painlessly as possible -  so they can get back to what they were doing before the issue arose.

Forrester data backs this up: In our December 2015 "Customer Lifecycle Survey," we found that 53% of customers are likely to abandon their online purchases if they can't find quick answers to their questions. 73% say that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with good customer service. We also found that older customers are just as, if not more, intolerant to friction in their customer service interactions as younger consumers.

Customer service organizations have to deliver easy and effective service. If they don't, customers will leave the brand. They will also complain to their networks about their experience. These emotions can get rapidly amplified in the world of social media and ultimately lead to brand erosion.

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