Microsoft Acquires Parature To Better Position Against Multichannel Customer Service Vendors

On January 6, Microsoft announced their intentions to purchase Parature for a reported $100M. This event is a good thing all around. Net, net, it plugs some holes in the  MS Dynamics CRM product, and gives Parature, a 13 year old company, a viable exit strategy.

Microsoft Dynamics is a strong CRM product for customer service. Forrester considers it a leader in our most recent CRM Suites Customer Service solution wave.  Microsoft Dynamics is also doing well. At their recent analyst event, they communicated the following statistics: 12% revenue growth in FY13; Dynamics AX and CRM growing by double digits worldwide and 30% in the Americas and Asia; and CRM Online growing by 80% in FY13, with two out of every three new customers opting for cloud. Microsoft Dynamics has 359,000 customers and 5 million users, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM has 40,000 customers and 3.5 million users. Read more about this event here.

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Verint Acquires KANA And Ushers In The Next Wave Of Consolidation In The Greater Customer Service Space

Today's news of  Verint's  intent to acquire KANA ushers a new wave of consolidation in the greater customer service space. Today’s customer service technology ecosystem is complex and comprised of a great number of vendors that provide overlapping and competing capabilities. I’ve previously blogged about what these critical software components are.  In a nutshell, the core capabilities needed for customer service include:

  • Routing and queuing: providing the ability to route and queue an inquiry – whether voice, digital (ex. email, chat), or social to an agent or a group of agents
  • Agent desktop/case management: Allowing cases to be created, workflowed, and resolved.
  • Workforce management and optimization: Allowing agent interactions with customers to be monitored for quality; allowing agent scheduling, forecasting, performance management, coaching, learning etc.
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Chat For Customer Service: Many Options, But How Do You Choose The Right Vendor?

Customers are very comfortable using chat for customer service. Usage rates have risen in the past three years — from 30% in 2009 to 43% in 2012 — and we see this increase in all consumer demographics. Chat also has excellent satisfaction ratings, as it allows customers to quickly get answers to questions with a streamlined agent interaction.

Companies have embraced chat because it delivers quantitative cost savings and better customer satisfaction numbers. Chat also helps optimize agent utilization, improve the consistency of service delivered, and can be used to to selectively target customers for increased sales.

The chat vendor landscape is crowded. We surveyed 20 chat customer service vendors for a recent report, and the number of chat vendors is easily triple this number. Vendor categories span from standalone chat vendors, to online engagement solutions who use chat to personalize interactions, to multichannel customer service vendors and CRM vendors who offer chat as a component of their engagement solutions, to unified queuing and routing vendors which manage chat interactions inline with voice, digital, and social interactions. In addition, different vendors target different deployment sizes, industry verticals, and engagement models. In order to choose the right chat solution for your business, you should ask questions like:

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Good Momentum For Microsoft Dynamics CRM Reported At Their Fall Analyst Event

Microsoft was kind enough to invite me to its fall analyst event at its headquarters in Redmond, WA on October 22. It’s a two-day event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. About two dozen industry and independent analysts attended this event, including Forrester’s Paul Hamerman.  Here are my thoughts of this event with a focus on the CRM news:

  • The Dynamics product is doing well. The numbers speak for themselves: 12% revenue growth in FY13; Dynamics AX and CRM growing by double digits worldwide and 30% in the Americas and Asia; and CRM Online growing by 80% in FY13, with two out of every three new customers opting for cloud. Microsoft Dynamics has 359,000 customers and 5 million users, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM has 40,000 customers and 3.5 million users.
  • The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 product solidifies.The Dynamics CRM 2013 product, available in the cloud in July and on-premises this month, delivers a cleaner, more usable UI, simplified data entry, an integrated business process workflow, consistent experiences across devices, integration of Yammer, and more. A writeup of the new version’s features are available in its release preview guide. These enhancements mature the product, yet still leave gaps in multichannel management, knowledge management, and web self-service.
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7-Part Series On Customer Service Technology, Part 7: Next Steps For Moving The Needle On Customer Service Operations

Good customer service is the result of the right attention to strategy, business processes, technology, and people management. This seven-post series focuses on customer service technology and explains the what, why, how, and when technology questions.

Part 1 reviewed the customer service technology ecosystem.

Part 2 reviewed the challenges caused by the complexity of this technology ecosystem.

Part 3 reviewed the tactical outcomes of poor customer service.

Part 4 focused on the ways that the customer service technology ecosystem is changing.

Part 5 categorized technologies based on their ecosystem maturity.

Part 6 focused on what this analysis means to customer service managers.

In this final post, I will focus on where do you go from here, now that we know what the core customer service technologies are, how mature they are, and what their business value is. I recommend a three-step process:

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Oracle Open World 2013: Focus On Oracle's Customer Service Portfolio

This is my fourth time attending Oracle OpenWorld in as many years. The show drew a large crowd this year, topping 60,000 attendees. I focused on customer service sessions highlighting the Oracle RightNow, Oracle Siebel, and Oracle Knowledge (InQuira) products. 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. This year was by far the most enjoyable conference experience. Here is why — and keep in mind that all of my comments are about its customer service portfolio:

  1. Oracle has matured 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.
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7-Part Series On Customer Service Technology, Part 6: What Does This All Mean?

Good customer service is the result of the right attention to strategy, business processes, technology, and people management. This seven-post series focuses on customer service technology and explains the what, why, how, and when technology questions.

Part 1 reviewed the customer service technology ecosystem.

Part 2 reviewed the challenges caused by the complexity of this technology ecosystem.

Part 3 reviewed the tactical outcomes of poor customer service.

Part 4 focused on the ways that the customer service technology ecosystem is changing.

Part 5 categorized technologies based on their ecosystem maturity.

So what does this all mean?

Many companies are focusing on delivering differentiated customer service experiences to their customers. But enhancing the quality of service delivery is a really difficult proposition given the complexity of the contact center technology ecosystem. Here are five recommendations to help you out:

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7-Part Series On Customer Service Technology, Part 5: Technology Maturity

Good customer service is the result of the right attention to strategy, business processes, technology, and people management. This seven-post series focuses on customer service technology and explains the what, why, how, and when technology questions.

Part 1 reviewed the customer service technology ecosystem.

Part 2 reviewed the challenges caused by the complexity of this technology ecosystem.

Part 3 reviewed the tactical outcomes of poor customer service.

Part 4 focused on the ways that the customer service technology ecosystem is changing.

Let’s now focus on the how we categorize customer service technologies by their maturity and business value delivered.

 

Technology ecosystem phase

Technologies for customer service

Why technologies are categorized in  this way

Survival

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7-Part Series On Customer Service Technology, Part 4: How Is The Customer Service Technology Ecosystem Changing?

Good customer service is the result of the right attention to strategy, business processes, technology, and people management. This series of seven blog posts focuses on customer service technology and explains the what, why, how, and when technology questions.

Part 1 reviewed the customer service technology ecosystem.

Part 2 reviewed the challenges caused by the complexity of this technology ecosystem.

Part 3  reviewed the tactical outcomes of poor customer service.

Let’s now focus on how the customer service ecosystem is changing.

  • The customer service vendor landscape is consolidating. Nice Systems, Oracle, salesforce.com, and SAP are just a few examples of leading customer service solution vendors that have aggressively acquired other vendors in order to support consistent, effortless multichannel customer service experiences. For example, in 2011, Oracle acquired InQuira, a leading knowledge management solution. In 2012, it acquired RightNow Technologies, a cloud CRM vendor that emphasizes customer experience and contact center technology. RightNow had gone through its own series of acquisitions prior to this, acquiring Q-Go, a natural-language search vendor, and HiveLive, a social media monitoring vendor. These acquisitions are happening because customer service leaders want a simpler, single-vendor technology solution to manage, instead of having to buy, integrate, and manage disparate systems from a number of vendors.
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7-Part Series On Customer Service Technology, Part 3: What Are The Problems Caused By Current Customer Service Technology?

I’m back from maternity leave, so youll be hearing more regularly from me now . . .

. . . So, to continue my series on customer service — its value, the challenges in getting it right, and what you can do about it from a technology perspective — here is a quick recap of my two older posts, and a new one from today. Enjoy.

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Good customer service is the result of the right attention to strategy, business processes, technology, and people management. This series of seven blog posts focuses on customer service technology  and explains the what, why, how, and when technology questions.

Part 1 reviewed the customer service technology ecosystem.

Part 2 reviewed the challenges caused by the complexity of this technology ecosystem.

Let’s now focus on the tactical outcomes of suboptimal customer service technology.  Customer service organizations are struggling to:

  • Provide standardized customer service across communication channels. Transactional data and customer history are often inconsistent and not reliably available to agents across communication channels.
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