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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The Fragmenting SFA Ecosystem

Sales organizations, for the last couple of decades, have used sales automation (SFA) to manage account and contact data, sales pipelines, territories and more – all inside-out capabilities that help optimize their productivity, The problem is that today, customers control the conversation that they have with companies. Customers increasingly demand effortless sales interactions that increasingly trend toward self-service. They demand interactions tailored to their particular industry, pain point, and profile. They want streamlined interactions that value their time, such as a simple, efficient quote-to-order process or a contract renewal process.

Today sales organizations struggle to provide sales experiences in-line with customer expectations. They cant:

  • Support buyers on their terms. Buyers increasingly leverage mobile touchpoints, self-service, and digital channels to interact with companies which sales organizations cannot support.
  • Get sales representatives to follow consistent processes. Sales managers have sales reps of different calibers, and they must up-level a team’s performance. Also, without a consistent sales process that clearly articulates conditions for the different stages, managers can’t accurately qualify their pipeline. This affects forecasts, valuation, and profitability.
  • Personalize conversations with stakeholders. Sales reps don’t have near real-time information about their prospect’s company or industry or about a particular stakeholder to make conversations more relevant. They may not understand relationships between stakeholders that are involved in a purchase. They often lack insight about the effectiveness of sales collateral for different stages of the sales journey.
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Choose Your Chat Vendor From These 5 Categories

Customers are increasingly leveraging chat. But its difficult to determine what chat vendor solution to use as the market is crowded and chat vendors offer a breadth and depth of capabilities. Forrester groups chat vendors into 5 broad categories based on how their customers use these technologies. They are:

  • Standalone Chat Vendors.  These vendors  provide full-featured chat solutions that are easy to deploy and can support  to small to midsize chat teams, but rarely are used by large teams. They tend to be purchased by eBusiness, and eCommerce organizations.Representative vendors for this category include Netop, Olark, and Velaro.
  • Online engagement vendors. These vendors provide proactive and personalized customer interactions. Some use sophisticated proactive rules engines, while others use predictive analytics to target visitors and customers with offers, multimedia content, and chat invitations optimized for whatever device the visitor is using or to predict intent to optimize customer journeys. In these scenarios, chat aims to increase sales conversion, support customers in pre- and post-purchase scenarios, and increases customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.Representative vendors for this category include [24]/7,  LivePerson, BoldChat by LogMeIn, Needle, and TouchCommerce.
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Chat - Core To The Promise Of Effortless Service

Customers today simply want efficient, effortless service, and are increasingly using chat as a way to get to the information that they are seeking. Chat usage rates have risen in the past three years — from 38% in 2009 to 43% in 2012 to 58% in 2014. We find that all demographics - young and old - are comfortable with chat. Chat can cost less than a voice call, especially for organizations that allow their agents to handle multiple chat sessions simultaneously. Its no wonder that there are hundreds of case studies that showcase the power of chat.

The chat vendor landscape is crowded, and recently I profiled the capabililties of 21 vendors. Because of the wealth of vendors in this space, you have to be clear about your chat strategy, and your core requirements. Here are 5 questions to help you articulate your goals for chat.

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The Customer Success Vendor Ecosystem Shows Signs Of Consolidation. Zuora Acquires Frontleaf

Our world is quickly moving to a subscription economy. In a subscription economy, the economic value of a customer is realized over time, instead of up-front at the initial sale. This means that the duration of the customer relationship has an increasingly large economic impact on the company’s financial health. Being successful in this new economy requires that companies actively manage their customers during their engagement relationship to ensure that they are realizing the economic value of their purchase.  Why? Because if you don't, customers churn. 

A new organizational role, called customer success, has emerged which is dedicated to actively managing the post-sale journey that a customer has with a product or service that they have bought. One measure that customer success organizations use to track a customer's success is a "health score." The health score is a composite number created from product usage data (who's using the product, how is the product used), customer interaction data (support tickets, customer feedback) and contractual data. This data is pulled from systems like CRM, ERP, billing, customer survey solutions. It is tracked at a user and company level and the way it trends, and sudden changes to the score are used to understand a customer' health.

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Gainsight's Pulse Conference Underlines The Importance Of Customer Success In A Subscription Economy

I attended Gainsight’s Pusle conference on customer success, held in San Francisco, on May 12 and 13. This conference, which focused on the economic value of customer success, actionable customer success best practices and insight from customer success practitioners, drew over 2000 attendees across 20 countries. This was more than double the size of last year's conference. The speaker list read like a who’s who in the world of young B2B SaaS companies: Apttus, Box, Zuora, Yelp, Satmetrix, MindTouch, Zendesk, Influitive, InsideSales, Docusign, Atlassian amongst others, as well as more established companies such as SAP,  ATT, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Workday. It also drew a long list of VC luminaries including Roger Lee from Battery Ventures, Jason Lemkin from Storm Ventures and SaaStr, Tomasz Tunguz from Redpoint Ventures and Ajay Agrawal from Bain Capital Ventures,. 

So why the interest in customer success? 

  1. Our world has moved to a subscription economy. Categories like media and entertainment and telecommunications have fully embraced this model. Other industries like  publishing, computer storage, healthcare, are moving in this direction. This shift is most notable in B2B software.  
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Contact Centers Must Go Digital Or Die

Customers are impatient with poor service. They 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. Forrester data shows that 55% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t 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 online customer service.

It's no surprise that our recent survey data shows that customers of all ages are increasingly using self-service channels (web, mobile, IVR)  for a first point of contact for customer service. In fact, for the first time in the history of our survey, respondents reported using the FAQ pages on a company's website more often than speaking with an agent over the phone. Self-service gives you that "pain-free" or effortless experience that consumers want. Customers escalate the harder questions to a live agent - whether its chat, email or a phone agent - and these calls become opportunities to help build stronger relationships with your customers to garner their long-term loyalty.

But contact centers are not delivering to expectations. We find that:

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Oracle Aims To Put “The Customer” At The Core Of The Oracle CX Cloud

This is a guest post by Fraser Tibbetts, Researcher on the AD&D team covering sales force automation software.
Oracle’s first ever Modern CX Conference in Las Vegas last week, with roughly 3,000 attendees, focused on Oracle’s vision for the CX Cloud suite of products. Instead of the usual focus on technology, executives focused on products that recognize how the customer has more power than ever. This aligns with Forrester's age of the customer research. It is encouraging to hear that same message from Oracle’s CEO, Mark Hurd, and from the Oracle product team leads.
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The Forrester Wave: CRM Suites For Midsize Organizations, Q1 2015

The CRM market for enterprise organizations has consolidated in the last five years. Similarly, there's been a lot of movement with CRM vendors that target mid-sized organizations. Here are a couple of examples of note: Microsoft, acquired Marketing Pilot in 2012 to round out its marketing capabilities, and Parature in 2014 to fill in customer service gaps. Aptean was formed as  a new company in 2012 by merging CDC Software and Consona. Infor acquired SalesLogix from Swiftpage in 2014, which had acquired it from the Sage Group in 2013. SAP released a brand new product in 2012 – Cloud for Customer – aimed at the high end of the midmarket and the enterprise.

At the same time that all these market movements are happening, we are seeing  new point solution vendors pop up at an unprecedented rate and are delivering modern interfaces and mobile-first strategies that address specific business problems such as sales performance management, lead to revenue management, and digital customer experience.

So, with the breadth of CRM capabilities available from vendor solutions, how do you choose what CRM best suits your needs? In the Forrester Wave: CRM Suites For Midsize Organizations, Q1 2015, we pinpoint the strengths of 10 leading vendors that offer solutions suitable for midsized teams. Here are some of our key findings:

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