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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Forrester's Top Trends For Customer Service In 2016

It’s a no-brainer that good customer service experiences boost satisfaction, loyalty, and can influence top line revenue. Good service — whether it's to answer a customer's question prior to purchase, or help a customer resolve an issue post-purchase should be easy, effective, and strive to create an emotional bond between the customer and the company. Here are 5 top trends - out of a total of 10 - that I am keeping my eye on. My full report highlighting all trends can be found here:

Trend 1: Companies Will Make Self Service Easier. In 2015, we found that web and mobile self-service interactions exceeded interactions over live-assist channels, which are increasingly used by customers as escalation paths to answer harder questions whose answers they can’t find online. In 2016, customer service organizations will make self-service easier for customers to use by shoring up its foundations and solidifying their knowledge-management strategy. They will start to explore virtual agents and communities to extend the reach of curated content. They will start embedding knowledge into devices — like Xerox does with its printers — or delivering it via wearables to a remote service technician.

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Enterprise And Midsize Customer Service Solutions - What's The Difference?

When looking to purchase a customer service solution, buyers have to remember that more features is not better; many times more is just more. In fact, when you don't need or can't use extra features, more is sometimes worse.

With this in mind, we see that customer service solutions fall into two primary groups to choose from: 

  • Customer service solutions for enterprise organizations. Customer service vendors focused on large organizations — organizations with typically 1,000 or more agents who are primarily phone agents — offer robust case management, agent guidance in addition to CTI integration, reporting, analytics and data management capabilities. These vendor solutions can scale to serve very large agent populations, in the tens of thousands or higher. These products have been traditionally been sold as on-premise products, but many deployments are now shifting to the cloud. Many vendors offer deeply vertical solutions, and have pre- and post-sale company resources dedicated to support their vertical products. Vendors in this category also target midsize organizations, offering prepackaged versions of their solutions with more affordable price tags. The leading vendors in this category are highlighted our most recent Customer Service Wave for enterprise organizations.
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The Forrester Wave: Customer Service Solutions For Enterprise Organizations, Q4 2015

The customer service vendor space is a mature space. Yet there have been many changes in the last five years and clearly more to come. Two driving factors will accelerate these changes:

  • Big fish eat little fish, and each bite broadens the reach of the big fish. The customer service market has consolidated in the last five years. Big vendors like Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce and SAP have made acquisitions to round out their core customer service or broader CRM portfolios.
  • Vendors from adjacent markets emerge as competitors. The most interesting disruptor to the current customer service market is coming from cloud contact center providers. They provide an end-to-end solution for customer service: a unified communications infrastructure, routing, and queuing engines for omnichannel interactions. Many offer integrated workforce optimization for agent quality management, scheduling, and forecasting. They also have lighter-weight agent desktops that can be easily hardened or acquired. These vendors were not included in this years wave, but they may well be candidates for the next evaluation round.
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Knowledge Management Delivers Real Results For Customer Service

Why the continued focus on knowledge management? It’s because customers increasingly leverage web self-service as a first point of contact with a company. In 2014, web self-service was the most commonly used communication channel for customer service, exceeding phone use.  And good web self-service relies on a solid foundation on knowledge management. Companies are also investing  in knowledge management solutions to add order and easy access to content for customer service agents.

Knowledge delivered to the customer or the customer-facing employee at the right time in the customer engagement process is critical to a successful interaction. When done correctly, knowledge delivers real, quantifiable results like:

Reducing customer service costs: For example,  Dignity Health, a California medical group  relies on a knowledge base to help them maintain a 73% call resolution rate and has resulted in a $580,000 annual savings. 

Increasing customer satisfaction: For example, Zuora, a US-based subscription billing provider, uses web self-service to deliver knowledge relevant to the stage in the customer journey — including sales and onboarding — to drive product adoption and decrease churn. Zuora structures knowledge to encourage customers to learn how to use the product, instead of simply providing a fix. Increased customer engagement moved Zuora's NPS by 20 points, increased site traffic by nearly 100% year-over-year, with 55% of traffic driven by their self-service site.

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The Time Is Now To Invest In Knowledge Management

All that customers want these days is effortless engagement. 55% of US online adults say that they are very likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question. 77% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service

Customers increasingly use web self-service as a first point of contact with a company. In fact, last year, web self-service was the most commonly used communication channel for customer service, exceeding phone use for the first time ever.

Companies are not only investing in customer-facing knowledge. They are also using knowledge management solutions to add order and easy access to content for customer-facing personnel - specifically for customer service agents. Our data shows that 62% of technology decision-makers say that they have implemented or are expanding their implementation, and 21% plan to implement their knowledge implementation in the next 12 months.

Knowledge delivered to the customer or the customer-facing employee at the right time in the customer engagement process is critical to a successful interaction. When done correctly, deeper knowledge can be used to personalize an interaction, increase customer satisfaction, reduce call handle time, lead to operational efficiencies, increase customer engagement, and ultimately drive conversion and revenue. 

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CRM is Fragmenting. It's A Controversial Topic

CRM purchasing is undergoing a sea change. I see that companies are no longer purchase heavyweight, end-to-end CRM solutions that have had the reputation of being complex, expensive and hard to implement - even if they have great industry specific capabilities. They itend to mpede user productivity with a bloated set of capabilities that many users can't leverage. A number of dynamics driving this change in purchasing behavior:

  • CRM purchases are moving to the cloud. Companies are replacing legacy CRM with SaaS solutions at a higher rate than before.  Cloud CRM has gained traction, as it provides lower upfront costs, better flexibility, and faster time-to-value compared with traditional on-premises applications. It also shifts the burden of software maintenance to the vendor.

  • Cloud CRM extends the life of legacy CRM. Modernizing legacy CRM to support omnichannel customer journeys is a critical priority. Companies are using cloud CRM  to complement and extend on-premises implementations. Cloud  CRM provides the systems of engagement while legacy CRM provides business process support and data management capabilities.

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