Forrester's 5 Key Capabilities For Customer Service

Businesses, in 2011, are refocusing on strategies that differentiate them from their competitors. One way to do this is by focusing on customer service. We see that organizations are ramping up their multichannel customer service initiatives. In fact, 90% of customer service decision-makers told Forrester last year that a good service experience is critical to their company’s success, and 63% think the importance of the customer service experience has risen. However, customer expectations are getting higher. Customers are increasingly online, want self-service options, and demand responses in real time, often through their mobile devices. Moreover, social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, has grown to be an important new channel for interacting with customers and engaging in innovative ways.

To meet these challenges, organizations continue their search for solutions to address their most pressing customer interaction management problems. Leaders of customer service and product support organizations tell us that they want to strengthen five key capabilities:

  • Delivering the same customer service across communication channels. It is critical to standardize the resolution process and customer service experience across communication channels (email, phone, web self-service, chat, etc.)
  • Empowering agents and customers with knowledge management (KM) tools. Advanced knowledge management and search tools are a critical necessity for delivering contextual, personalized self-service and agent/customer experiences.
  • Supporting agile customer service with a strong foundation of business process management. Organizations are extending BPM to customer service to standardize service delivery, minimize agent training times, ensure regulatory and company policy compliance, and control costs.
  • Integrating with customer communities as a natural escalation point to a contact center. Customers today expect to be able to interact with companies through community-based interactions. Customer communities, ideally with extensions to company employee communities, must be included in the overall customer service solution. In fact, we predict that over 85% of tech companies will have launched customer communities by the end of 2011, with other industries not far behind.
  • Strengthening customer feedback management. It is critical for a company to receive feedback about its products, services, and organizational processes so that the customer experience can be optimized. This can be done via traditional channels such as surveys as well as by listening to the explosion of customer comments and sentiments over social channels.

Navigating the complex customer service solution ecosystem is difficult, as there are many good solutions available. One category of solutions to consider is the customer service capabilities provided by leading CRM suite software solutions providers. These vendors provide core customer service transactional and data management capabilities. Another category to explore is the capability of specialty customer service solution providers to fill the gaps. Understand your pain points, create a business case, and create a checklist of capabilities to assess the strengths of the different vendor solutions. Most importantly, always ask for customer references to see how vendors fare in real life.


Hi Kate - great summary.

Hi Kate - great summary. It's hard not to see 2011 shaping up as the "year of customer service." As a consumer, this is a fantastic thing for me. Companies are finally realizing that it's getting easier and easier for their customers to be transient; for example telco's are now seeing more customers willing to pay for a phone to ensure there's no contract lock-in.

Companies like telco's, retailers and banks have long understood it's cheaper to keep an existing customer happy than try and get a new customer. The companies who operate in what I call the "Low Loyalty Vertical" are now starting to focus their efforts in understanding the technologies that can be applied to improve the customer experience.

One further area I'd suggest you consider adding to your list is that of "text" or "content" analytics. These technologies can be used to not only support delivering an enhanced customer experience, but also in understanding trends within (for example) customer complaints about a product or service.

One major Japanese telco I've worked with has successfully used content analytics technologies for the past 5 years to dramatically reduce customer churn through better service and increase revenue through identifying new business opportunities.

Paul O'Hagan
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Thanks for the feedback

Yep, you're right Paul. I see analytics as a real must-have, and I include it in my top 10 trends for customer service in 2011. I still see it behind in need from the 5 key capabilities that I list in this post, but that is debatable, and dependent on the type of industry you are in as well as the maturity of your customer service deployment. Thanks for the comment, and thanks for reading.

Dang, I hate to be pre-empted...


Excellent post, and almost word by word the one I was going to write tonight - I was going to go even further and add Paul's comment (analytics) in there as well.

Darn, I hate it when someone smarter writes what I was thinking - better and faster. Well done.

Only one thing that I would've add, more as an emphasis that anything, is that the providing customer service across communication channels is not a multi-channel initiative (many channels, each one works independently and are integrated in the back end) but rather a cross-channel solution - where service can begin in one channel, continue onto another one, and finish on a third (or fourth even) and still be considered the same transaction. This is a critical differentiation that will make the companies that embrace the concept provide much better experiences.

Of course, as you mention above, it is all about the experience - right?