The Forrester Wave: CRM Suites For Large Organizations, Q1 2015

The CRM market serving the large enterprise is mature. A great amount of consolidation has happened in the last five years. For example, Oracle, focused on providing consistent end-to-end customer experiences across touchpoints, has acquired a great number of point solutions to round out its customer experience portfolio. SAP, like Oracle, aims to provide consistent end-to-end customer experiences via its breadth of products and has also made a few key acquisitions. Similarly, Salesforce has made a series of moves to round out the Service Cloud. It has used this same tactic to broaden its CRM footprint with the notable acquisition of ExactTarget for business-to-company (B2C) marketing automation (2013).

The large CRM vendors increasingly offer broader and deeper capabilities which bloat their footprint and increase their complexity with features that many users can't leverage. At the same time, new point solution vendors are popping 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.

The breadth and depth of CRM capabilities available from vendor solutions makes it increasingly challenging to be confident of your technology choice. In the Forrester Wave: CRM Suites For Large Organizations, Q1 2015, we pinpoint the strengths of leading vendors that offer solutions suitable for large and very large CRM teams. Here are some of our key findings:

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Get Input From The Right Stakeholders When Creating A Business Case For CRM

This year, organizations across industries show strong interest in revamping the technologies that they use to engage with customers. Our recent data indicates that over half of enterprise organizations have already implemented a CRM solution — and a high percentage are investing more to upgrade and expand their tool sets in the next few years. But even in this improving economy, senior business leaders are closely scrutinizing the ROI they expect from overhauling customer-facing processes and supporting technologies.

You need to build a business case correctly or risk launching CRM initiatives with a low chance of delivering clear business results. Almost as bad, poor communication of anticipated payback can prevent you from gaining funding for projects that would provide strong benefits.

So, what does a solid business case do for you?

  • It speeds up the project approval process. Clear communication leads to fewer passes through the funding process as everyone understands the goals and benefits of the project.
  • It increases  project success. When everyone knows the reasons, goals, and bounds of an initiative, project success improves. The business case serves as the North Star that keeps the project focused on key business goals and outcomes which are measurable and quantifiable.
  • It takes (some) emotion out of decisions. Decisions that involve a choice among competing platforms of large and powerful technology vendors often turn into emotionally charged battles between opposing camps within the organization. Moving the discussion to one of metrics and numbers minimizes the emotion and returns some level of objectivity back into the process.
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Consumer Expectations For Customer Service Don't Match What Companies Deliver

Customers 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 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 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" 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.

What is comforting is that the 2015 survey results from Dimension Data is saying the same thing too. This report is based on responses from over 900 global contact center decision makers covering 12 industry verticals. Some of their key findings say that "Customers want a frictionless, easy, and immediate journey on channels of their choice. They want a connected omnichannel journey across channels. Complexity levels are intensifying as contact centers evolve into channel resolution hubs."

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With So Much Commoditization In The CRM Landscape, How Do You Choose The Right CRM?

I have been working on evaluating a range of vendors for the CRM Wave which will be published in March. What I am seeing is that core CRM capabilities are very, very commoditized. Just about every vendor can check the box on core SFA and marketing automation features. There's a bit more difference if you look at customer service capabilities over social, digital and self service channels but all evaluated vendors handle core case management adequately. So what does this mean to the buyer who is looking for a CRM?

  • Choose a solution that is right-sized for your business. Some CRM vendors target the complex, global enterprise. These solutions are typically heavyweight and replete with features that are often customized to meet specific business requirements. Other CRM vendors target small to midsize organizations with a breath, but not necessarily a depth of capabilties. For smaller organizations too many features are often an overkill for organizations with lightweight needs, so make sure you understand the target user of the CRMs under evaluation.
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Forrester's Top CRM Trends For 2015

CRM is the foundational building block that allows empowered consumers and connected employees to do business in ways we could not imagine just a few years ago. Historically, CRM strategies have focused around operational efficiency gains like reduced marketing costs, increased revenues from salespeople, shorter sales cycles, or better customer service productivity. Its no wonder that CRM is widely deployed in all companies – both big and small.


Today CRM is evolving, and companies are using it to support their customers in their end-to-end journeys. This customer obsession delivers business results that far exceed productivity and efficiency measures.CRM, used the right way, delivers higher levels of revenue and company profitability through winning, serving, and retaining customers.

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Customer Service Channel Usage Highlights The Importance Of Good Self-Service

Customers are using more communication channels for customer service than ever before. They are also contacting customer service organizations more frequently. Companies are rising to this challenge as overall satisfaction with the quality of service over all communication channels is trending upwards.

Moreover, customers have little appetite for long or difficult service interactions, including navigating arduous interactive voice response (IVR) menus to connect with an agent or waiting in queues to be connected to a phone agent; and are increasingly turning to self-service as the easiest path to service resolution. Here are some key takeaways from our latest consumer survey about channel  usage for customer service.

  • 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. Use of the help/FAQ pages on a company's website for customer service increased from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014, while phone interactions have remained constant at a 73% usage rate.
  • Other self-service channels also see increased usage since 2012. For example, use of communities and virtual agents jumped by over 10 percentage points each. We also see robust uptake of speech and mobile self-service channels.  
  • Self-service adoption increased across all generations from 2012 to 2014, with the largest increases attributable to older boomers (ages 59-69)  and the golden generation (ages 70+).
  • Online chat adoption continues to rise – from 38% in 2009 to 43% in 2012 to 58% in 2014. Screensharing, cobrowsing and SMS are other channels that are increasing in popularity among the young and old alike.
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Forrester's Top Trends For Customer Service In 2015

As 2014 winds down, I have taken the time to pause, and look ahead to what top customer service trends are surfacing for 2015 and beyond. 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 pain-free, proactive at a minimum and preemptive at best, deeply personalized, and delivered with maximum productivity. Here are 6 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: Customers Embrace Emerging Channels To Reduce Friction. In our recent survey, we found that web self-service was the most widely used communication channel for customer service, surpassing use of the voice channel for the first time. In 2015, we predict that customers will continue to demand  effortless interactions over web and mobile self-service channels. They will also explore new communication channels such as video chat with screen sharing and annotation.

Trend 2: Companies Will Explore Proactive Engagement. Proactive engagements anticipate the what, when, where, and how for customers, and prioritize information and functionality to speed customer time-to-completion. In 2015, we expect organizations to explore proactive engagement - whether it's proactive chat, proactive offers, or proactive content  - delivered at the right time in a customer's pre-purchase journey to help answer customer questions. They will use learnings from these proactive engagements to improve operational performance and to predict future customer behavior.

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Customer Success: A Hot New Software Category That Helps You Manage Your Customers

We live in a subscription economy, thanks to the internet and cloud-based computing. Industries like media, entertainment, and telecommunications have fully embraced a subscription software model, while others, such as publishing, computer storage, financial services, healthcare services, transportation, and business-to-business (B2B) software, are moving in this direction.

What has also happened in parallel is the arrival of the "age of the customer." Customers have become more demanding, staying loyal to companies only when they deliver value. If you offer your products as services, you must manage customer relationships to make sure that your customers are satisfied and will stay loyal to your brand. You must do this to:  

  • Preserve revenue. Managing customer churn becomes increasingly important as you move out of an early-stage, high-growth mode. This is because focus shifts to more steady growth, and customer retention becomes a significant metric for financial success.
  • Expand revenue. If a customer is obtaining value from their purchase, renewal and upsell conversations become easier. For example, you can collect data on how a customer is using a product to realize their business goals and use it to present the appropriate cross-sell and upsell to the customer.
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Right Size Your CRM To Your Needs

CRM solutions have been on the market for a long time. The first products were introduced over two decades ago, and many features are commoditized. New vendors are continually pushing the envelope on CRM capabilities and exploring the “white space” of capabilities that are not necessarily core to CRM. Old stalwarts are working on capabilities that differentiate them from others - like verticalized offerings, offerings tuned to to mobile user, offerings tuned to a certain size or complexity of organization.

CRM buyers need to remember that more capabilities these days is not better; more is simply more. In fact, when you don't need — or perhaps can't use — extra functionality, more is sometimes worse. Small businesses — and small customer-facing teams in larger enterprises — need to carefully evaluate vendors that they are evaluating in order to pick a solution that is right-sized for their needs. Categories and criteria that should be closely evaluated include:

  • Ease of use. Our research finds that 58% of employees interface directly or indirectly with customers. Small customer-facing teams don't have the luxury of deeply configuring or customizing CRM user experiences. Make sure the user experiences that come "out-of'the-box" from your CRM vendor are highly intuitive; that they work on the devices and platforms that your team use; and that they don't impede your productivity in any way.  
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Oracle Open World 2014: Focus on Cloud CRM

This is my fifth time attending Oracle OpenWorld in as many years. The show, held on September 28-October 2 in San Francisco, drew a large crowd this year, topping 60,000 attendees from over 145 countries. I spent my time at the CX Central conference-within-a-conference, dedicated to Oracle's Sales, Service and Marketing cloud. I went to high-level vision sessions, road map sessions, and customer testimonials. I also spent a lot of time talking to systems integrators that have recently deployed these solutions. My impressions of this year are mixed. Here is why:

  • Oracle has deeply solidified its customer experience messaging. The vendor explains the importance on being focused on customer experiences that are in-line with customer expectations through the entire customer engagement journey, from researching to buying to using, and how few companies are doing a good job at delivering on expectations — a point that Forrester backs with a tremendous amount of research and data. Each session I attended led with a quick recap on the importance and value of delivering good CX, and this consistency was much appreciated.
  • There was an over-emphasis on technology as opposed to the business value that Oracle’s CRM solutions deliver. The banners and posters were about infrastructure, platform, cloud. Customer case studies were about “30% less customization; “20% greater efficiency; 40% faster.” What I found missing was the business value for the customer, articulated in better experiences that impacted top-line revenue.
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