What I Have Learned Being A Customer Service Analyst

The anniversary of my two-year tenure at Forrester quietly snuck by me last week, and when I remembered about the milestone, it gave me pause to think about how much the customer service landscape has changed these past years and how quickly it keeps on changing. Here are my key thoughts:

  1. The customer service landscape is complex. We mapped the maturity and business value of 24 key contact center technologies in our Forrester TechRadar on this topic and found a number of technologies – case management, channel management, WFM, IVR, etc. – at the peak of the maturity curve, which is no surprise given that contact center operations are focused on productivity and process optimization. However, there are newer technologies such as real-time decisioning, process guidance, interaction analytics, VOC, and social service that are starting to be leveraged by companies needing to differentiate themselves on customer experience. I expect to see an acceleration of technologies used in organizations outside of customer service to start being leveraged by contact centers.
  2.  The CRM customer service vendor landscape is maturing. Check out our latest Forrester Wave evaluating CRM customer service solutions. It shows many vendors such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, salesforce.com, and Pegasystems in the Leaders quadrant and many more not far behind. The maturity of the customer service capabilities that these vendors offer is reflected in the depth and breadth of deployments in the marketplace. You have to dig deep to surface the differences between them.
  3. The customer service vendor landscape is flattening. Organizations don’t want to have to knit different technologies together, and manage a set of different vendor contracts. Vendors recognize this and are acquiring technologies that deliver greater value combined than when deployed separately. (For example, knowledge management is more powerful when coupled with CRM - hence the acquisition of InQuira by Oracle and Q-go by RightNow. Enterprise feedback management has more value when results can be used for agent coaching - hence the acquisition of Fizzback by Nice and Vovici by Verint. Customer experience management is more powerful than CRM, hence the acquisition of Endeca, RightNow, and ATG by Oracle.) More than that, acquisitions and mergers are being made outside of vendors’ core focus areas and are broadening and overlapping the traditional footprint of UC (that own the routing and queuing of interaction), CRM, and WFO vendors. I expect these spaces to merge much more closely together in the next years.

We are at a point in time where customer expectations are high; where customers demand effortless, consistent experiences during the engagement cycle; where they expect companies to know who they are and deliver value-added, personalized experiences targeted to their persona and situation at hand. Vendors' technology will be put to the test to deliver on these expectations, and I expect more bold acquisitions and shifts in vendor strategy to occur over the next year.  

Comments

Congratulations

Kate,

Congratulations on your two year anniversary - you have done a tremendous amount of work and the industry is definitely better for having you in this position.

Done with the sappy stuff, now get to work on the next three years - these is soooooo much to do!

Esteban

Congrats!

Wow, that was fast!

I think you have impeccable timing on joining the analyst ranks, as I think the next few years are going to be very exciting for the customer service space.

Thanks Nitin and Esteban

I agree - we are on a cusp of a huge transformation wave in the customer service, CRM, WFO and unified communications space. There are 2 drivers - customers have too much power today and demand better experiences across all touchpoints and channels. Organizations are looking to simplify and consolidate their technology infrastructure. I see the market ripe for consolidation and I am looking forward to watching the exciting moves that vendors are going to make.

Interesting

The question I would pose to you is do you think this consolidation you are seeing is a long term trend? Or do you think it is simply the calm before the storm/explosion of software that eats old technology?

My sense is that customer service technology is in the same place it has always been, the laggard position. Which means that there may be a coming wave of technology disruption based on consumer like interfaces and design that looks and feels a lot like the Box.net of the world. Which will place executives in service in a similar position as their CIO brethren right now, weighing whether or not it is better to have multiple quick, nimble, cloud based services that people actually use or have one large old line software company that users deplore but makes management easier for IT.

Congrats!

Two years is a long time in this space. Glad to see you still have the passion...and looking forward to seeing your insights and hopefully chatting in person again this year!

Your Two Years

Kate, just two years, wow, it seems like much more. Please keep up the good work, sure you will, we need you and your focus on what matters.