Clear Messaging And Execution Strategy With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

Microsoft was kind enough to invite me to Microsoft's Dynamics Fall Analyst Event — a two-day event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. The focus was clearly on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. This product and the go-to-market strategy are clear and focused. Here are my thoughts:

  • The Dynamics CRM 2011 product is good. Today, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is used by 23,000 customers, 1.4 million end users in 80 countries and 40+ languages. That in itself is impressive. However, Microsoft wants to do better. It has focused on the user experience and UI in the 2011 product in hopes of driving increased adoption. Dynamics CRM 2011 is deeply integrated with Outlook, Office Communicator, SharePoint, Office 365, and Bing. It can be easily personalized. A business user, without the help of IT, can set up a dashboard. It has rich reporting analytics. It works on mobile devices, including the iPhone. Microsoft realizes that this product still has limitations, especially around Web self-service customer service capabilities. Its near-term plans are to address this, as well as adding capabilities around support for the phone channel and for social customer service. However, right now, these holes offer a chance for specialty customer service vendors to make inroads.
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Is email dead? Perhaps in the SCRM world. If not, follow these email best practices

Consumers generally hate email for customer service - so much so that some analysts have said that email is dead, and has been replaced by the live assist channels like chat or SMS/MMS. Or in the new world, there is Twitter and customer service from Facebook.

Why does email get such a bad rap? It's because we don’t trust this channel – we have all had the experience of emailing a company’s customer service department and not getting an answer back. Or getting an answer that addressed only half of our question.

Email’s poor performance as a customer service channel is typically a result of the tool’s history.  These systems were typically deployed years ago and have had little care and feeding to maximize their productivity, or align operations to best practices.

Yet, customer service managers want you to use email. It’s a cheaper alternative than live-assist channels. And the automation features built into modern tools make email processing quick and reliable.

So, even with history working against you, if you are offering email to your customers, make sure it works. Follow these these basic steps to restore your customers' faith in this communication channel.

  • Make email part of your multichannel strategy - Don’t think of email as a siloed channel. Provide escalation pathways between your web self-service site and email, and be sure to have a single source of knowledge that is used across all your communication channels. That means that your customers will get the same answer across all touchpoints.
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Customer Service Via Facebook - Engage Your Customers Where They Spend Their Time

Wired Magazine states that the four most heavily trafficked sites on the Internet are Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google. Facebook alone has 500 million users, and users collectively spend more than 3 billion hours on this site, or more than 55 minutes a day per person. It’s a vertitable interaction hub, where many businesses have a significant presence, and their pages are an integral part of their brand identity.

Many of these fan pages offer information pertinent to their consumers, as well as coupons to entice customers to their brand. Dell, for example, has done a great job with its social media resource for small businesses. Understanding that small business owners buy computers, by offering them this resource, small business owners interested in social media keep Dell top of mind.

As consumers spend more time on these Facebook pages, a natural extension is for companies to be able to provide sales and customer support directly from these pages. Check out, for example, 1-800-Flowers’s Facebook page, where you can do just that.

Multichannel customer service vendors understand that Facebook is now a shopping and service destination, and they're extending their core multichannel products to offer apps that install a “Support" tab on a company’s wall. 

Once a user (customer or prospect) clicks on this tab, they can engage with the community or a customer service agent without ever leaving the site. Capabilities that will become standard include:

  • Searching for an answer in forum posts as well as in a corporate knowledgebase.
  • Rating forum and knowledge posts.
  • Recommending forum posts to be added to the corporate knowledgebase.
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Taming The Social Voice With Consistency Of Process Between Communication Channels

Part of managing your brand is making sure that your customer service experience is consistent across all touchpoints that you use to interact with a company – traditional ones such as voice, email, chat, web self-service and now the social interaction channels.

What does a "consistency of experience" mean? It means that:

  • The knowledge a customer or agent has access to must convey the same message across all touchpoints. The voice will understandably be different for, for example, a chat session and an email session.
  • The agent must have a full view of the customer’s interactions across all touchpoints — traditional and social ones. Another way of saying this is that customer data should not live in independent technology silos.
  • The processes that an agent follows must be the same for interactions coming in across all touchpoints — traditional and social.
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Customer Service Vendor Spotlight: KANA Makes A Move

KANA Software, most well known for its suite of enterprise-class multichannel customer service software (email, knowledge) released last year a new type of solution: Service Experience Management (SEM). This product allows the extension of business process management to the front office and is poised to compete with solutions offered by Pegasystems and Sword Ciboodle. BPM coupled with customer service is a trend that Forrester is seeing, as it enforces agent consistency, productivity, and compliance with policy; we have just published a research paper about this trend.

KANA announced today that it has reached a definitive agreement to purchase a company called Lagan, which is a leader in case management solutions for government, specifically local governments. Lagan has solutions for Web self-service and case management that are used in cities like Toronto, Boston, and Vancouver for 311 (informational) calls.

This acquisition holds geographic coverage promise — it will allow KANA to increase its European footprint, which has recently been very small, and Lagan to gain a good foothold in the US and compete in larger government opportunities.

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Interaction-Centric Customer Service Vendor Spotlight

There’s been lots going on with what Forrester calls the “interaction-centric customer service vendors”. These are the vendors that manage the high-volume, transaction-oriented relationships — those often encountered in B2C environments, over the multiple communication channels (email, chat, social, phone etc) that exist today.

RightNow announced its RightNow’s CX for Facebook app, to be released in November. This app creates a “Support” tab on a company’s wall and allows users to interact via social and traditional channels right from Facebook. Users can find answers from community content or from the corporate knowledgebase, ask the community questions, follow, participate in, and track discussions, propose an idea, ask an agent (either in a public or a private conversation), and more. It’s a nicely designed app, and something that RightNow needed to release, given the availability of similar ones from eGain, Genesys, Parature, etc.

eGain also solidifies its social footprint by announcing its Social Experience Suite — a customer interaction hub that manages both traditional and social interactions. The new version includes a social-blended agent desktop, a single-sourced knowledgebase across all channels (traditional + social again), and a unified customer record. The version also includes forums and adapters to monitor social networks through integrations with Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Yahoo search.

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Oracle CRM On Demand Release 18 - Extends Marketing Capabilities But Not Customer Service

Oracle, at Oracle Open World, has released their 18th version of CRM On Demand. This product integrates their Market2Lead acquisition, made in May of this year. It closes the gap between marketing and sales – and unifies the end-to-end life-cycle management of leads, including their nurturing track. Marketing and sales managers now can share KPIs and understand how lead generation and nurturing activities directly affect the outcome of sales.

The solution enables multitouch point marketing campaigns to be designed and executed. You can create personalized microsites and landing pages. There are robust analytics to measure their effectiveness, as well as progressive profiling capabilities that allow the company to gather more information about a lead at every step of the marketing and sales cycle. Basically, it adds the full marketing automation capabilities to the product suite. And it's attractively priced compared to having to buy seats from a standalone marketing automation vendor to access these capabilities.

My take: It’s a feature hole that had to be plugged, and it's priced well for adoption.

Disconnect In Customer Service Language - Activities Vs Outcomes

Contact centers are data and metrics driven. If you are an agent, you worry about your average call handle time, the number of calls/emails/chats you are completing per hour, how you are doing compared to your peers, how satisfied customers are with your answers. If you are a call center manager, you keep an eagle eye in real time on your group metrics.

But what is it that C-level executives care about in the boardroom? They are concerned with the quality, cost, and effectiveness of service, and the measurement of the outcome of their strategic decisions – for example, measuring the success of a service strategy like outsourcing operations. They need data to accurately forecast performance and monitor performance trends over time. They need to make strategic technology decisions that support their key business goals.

There’s a first order disconnect between customer service agents and supervisors who talk in the language of activities - AHT, SLAs, or number of emails handled - and C-level executives who care about outcomes - company performance, overall customer loyalty, and churn. What is needed is a bridge, a mapping between the language of agents and the language of the boardroom.

Take for example the request for a service manager customer to add a headcount to help edit content for their knowledgebase. To get buy-in, frame this request in the outcome of this program, not in terms of activities, for example: “We need to evolve our knowledge management solution to provide a better quality of knowledge to our agents. This will ultimately lead to a quantitative, measurable increase in our net promoter score, an increased first time fix rate, and lower operating costs.”

Have you started to link operational metrics to top-level business outcomes? What are effective examples that you use? Has this worked for you?

Social Customer Service Just Got A Little Bit Easier, Thanks To RightNow

Your service processes must be the same across all communication channels – traditional and social – in order to deliver a consistent experience and value proposition to your customer base. At the moment, this is downright hard to do, as almost no company offers a solution that tightly integrates the social and traditional communication channels. RightNow saw this need and has delivered a solution that allows customer support agents to engage with customers on Facebook.

Facebook has 500 million registered users that spend more than 3 billion hours a month on their site, says Nielsen. It’s a veritable interaction hub, where many businesses have a significant presence. Some have hundreds of thousands of fans. Other businesses have smaller, yet very loyal followings.

RightNow’s CX for Facebook product, to be released in November, will allow companies to install an app that creates a “Support” tab on their wall. Once a user (customer or prospect) clicks on this tab, they will be able to find answers from community content or from the corporate knowledgebase, ask the community questions, follow, participate and track discussions, propose an idea, ask an agent (either in a public or a private conversation), and more without leaving the Facebook site. Agents as well will be able to monitor and respond to wall posts: RightNow’s SmartSense sentiment analysis will be able to detect the tone of posts and flags high-priority comments for immediate follow-up.

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The How-Tos Of Multichannel Customer Service (Social Channels, Too)

One of the pillars of crafting an “ideal customer service experience” is to offer a consistent service experience across the communication channels that you support. So what does this mean for the service manager who needs to think about this problem from a pragmatic perspective? It means that:

  • Service agents must have access to the customer history across all interaction channels for a full view of the customer.
  • Service agents must use the same processes and have access to the same knowledge so that the service resolution process is the same regardless of channel.
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