Interview with Ryan Hollenbeck, SVP Marketing, Verint Systems: Customer Engagement Strategy

Posted February 23, 2015 by jragsdale
Categories: Technology

Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve been hearing a new topic bubbling up from TSIA members: creating a customer engagement strategy. Common in the consumer world, B2B companies are putting more emphasis on defining and measuring customer engagement now that more interaction channels are being embraced, and proactive strategies to boost customer adoption and consumption of technology are being developed by more tech companies. A customer engagement strategy includes which channels of support are offered, staffing for all channels to guarantee service levels, tools to deliver multichannel support, and technology to measure and analyze customer satisfaction, loyalty and sentiment.

To discuss customer engagement strategies, I tapped an expert on the topic: Ryan Hollenbeck, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Verint Systems. Ryan has been in the customer support technology space as long as I have, and he is a member of TSIA’s partner advisory board. Here is a snapshot of our conversation:

John Ragsdale: Hi Ryan! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today about customer engagement strategies.

Ryan Hollenbeck: Always a pleasure, John, and thanks for discussing this important topic with me.

John: I’ve heard B2C companies talking about ‘customer engagement strategies’ for a while, but it is fairly new with B2B companies. Are you hearing this topic bubble up within more of your customer base? I know you have a good mix of B2B and B2C companies as customers.

Ryan: Absolutely! In fact, customer engagement is a top consideration for our customers worldwide. Many of our customers are thinking of customer engagement as something that goes beyond managing the experience at touch points to include all the ways companies motivate customers to invest in an ongoing relationship – a lifelong customer journey of sorts! The entire enterprise needs to align with the C-Suite on the vision for engagement: what relationship do you want with your customers? Organizations need to think about different customer journeys and then tailoring experiences along the way by providing relevant context, as well as empowering customers to tailor their own experiences.

John: It seems that Verint Systems is uniquely positioned to be a leader in customer engagement. You offer resource management and scheduling tools, case management, multichannel service, knowledge management, as well as a survey platform and voice and text analysis. I can’t think of any other vendors who offer such a “soup to nuts” approach to planning, delivering and measuring customer engagement.

Ryan: Verint offers a unique Customer Engagement Optimization platform that enables organizations to enrich interactions, improve processes and optimize the workforce. With the combination of Verint and KANA solutions, “smarter engagement” – where you can capture and manage cross-functional information and behavior around customer interactions and workforce performance across delivery channels – is readily available. Organizations can then inject intelligence to uncover trends and discover why certain employee and customer behavior is occurring. These organizations can then manage interactions seamlessly across channels and use guided business processes and recommended dialogues to deliver fast, precise, personalized service – from next best action, to next best offer.

John: I’d like to pose some of the FAQs regarding customer engagement I’ve received to get your input. The first question is “Who owns the strategy?” In consumer firms it seems marketing largely owns engagement strategy, but in the B2B world, service seems more of a driver. Do you see advantages to service or marketing driving this initiative, or should it be a collaborative effort?

Ryan: Service is the new marketing! It’s actually a collaborative effort across services, marketing and other enterprise functions. Organizations can analyze customer and employee experience data in real-time to design and implement customer-centric business strategies that unite the organization across people and processes. As a result, they have better alignment across the organization and can move much more quickly to take precise action to deliver differentiated and personalized experiences that count. This improved alignment leads to more engaged employees who are spurred on by solutions that capture and manage information about customers and performance, then use it to predict measurable, sustainable business results.

John: Another FAQ is the role of social media in customer engagement. According to my just released 2015 social support survey, less than half of tech firms, 40%, are supporting customers via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. But two-thirds of tech firms, 63%, are monitoring social media conversations as part of voice of the customer analysis. Are you seeing best practices emerge around social support?

Ryan: Social media is here to stay and we all need to get on board! Social support it’s critical to any organization today. If you don’t have a social media monitoring ad text analytics solution, now is the time. With access to a growing social media warehouse and additional online content, organizations can use Text Analytics to expand its understanding of customers and markets outside of standard feedback channels. These tools provide key insight into what customers are saying about your company—and your competitor’s products and services—no matter where they say it. Text Analytics provides out-of-the-box integration with major social media outlets and business intelligence tools. Social media support is here to stay.

John: A final FAQ I’d like to ask you about is how to best gather customer feedback. Many companies seem to rely solely on post-interaction surveys and a one or twice a year overall satisfaction survey. In my opinion, this is a good start, but is not nearly enough. Could you talk about some innovative approaches you are seeing to harnessing the voice of the customer?

Ryan: We agree that surveys are critical and post-interaction surveys provide valuable insight! And yet there are so many other means to gather the voice of the customer. For example, in addition to highly segmented customer and employee feedback across channels, forward-thinking organizations are also evaluating Social Media to gain deep insight from Twitter, Facebook, and social media monitoring services. They are also looking to analyze Website Visits by extracting information from virtually any website to obtain visibility into visitor experiences and overall site effectiveness. Further, many organizations are seeking to collaborate with Online Communities to construct vibrant, healthy online communities that can synchronize feedback efforts while augmenting customer engagement. Last but not least, let’s not forget the importance of the ability to mine Customer Calls, which can help uncover call drivers, determine customer emotion, identify emerging issues and trends, and measure customer sentiment about products and brand.

John: This has been a very enlightening conversation! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today.

Ryan: Thanks, John! We appreciate all of the work that TSIA does to measure and analyze trends in customer engagement models that increase customer consumption and optimize customer lifetime value!

Interview with Mark Middlekamp, TSIA VP Research for Expand Selling: Take Our Survey!

Posted January 30, 2015 by jragsdale
Categories: Technology

Tags: , , , , , ,

TSIA’s research team continues to grow. I was the original research hire back in 2006, and as we have added new focus areas we have hired some very bright people to manage the research stream for those areas. I wanted to introduce our newest research team member to you, Mark Middlekamp, VP Research, Expand Selling. Mark has launched a new survey to gather information on expand selling practices and metrics, and I had a call with him to learn more about the survey and his research plans for 2015. Here’s a sneak peek at the conversation:

John Ragsdale: Mark, welcome to my Eye on Service blog! Thanks for taking the time to chat about expand selling and your new survey.

Mark Middlekamp: My pleasure. Thanks for having me!

John: TSIA has been documenting in our Service 50 and Cloud 20 studies for several years now that product revenues are falling, and service profitability is under pressure, especially for Cloud providers. It’s clear to me that our industry is searching for ways to reinvigorate profitable revenue growth, and I stress “profitable.” There is also the big trend of launching customer success organizations to encourage customers to adopt and consume products, with an emphasis on demonstrating value so you have an opportunity to sell more. Let’s start on the people side. What do you see happening within tech companies related to their efforts to expand revenues within their existing customer base? My experience is that most B2B firms are good at landing the initial sale, but struggle with the revenue expansion piece over the longer haul.

Mark: Your observations are correct, John, in that our industry is struggling with how to sell more products and services, and to do so profitably over time, beyond the initial sale. I think many people would be surprised to know that most Cloud providers, who are growing very rapidly, are in fact not profitable. We refer to this emerging area as Expand Selling, and believe it will be at the center of our industry thinking just as we are seeing now with customer success as you just mentioned. As for the people side, we see significant changes occurring in both sales and services related to how their roles are defined, the interactions between functions, and how they work together. The primary driver to all of this is that the cost of sales and marketing in this emerging new world is simply too high.

John: I’m guessing that sales processes are critical in creating new expand selling capabilities within the service organization. There are certainly a lot of competing process methodologies for sales, such as Miller Heiman and TAS, but these seem to focus on the initial product sale. What methodologies are out there for expand selling, or are these methodologies still being defined?

Mark: You are correct to point out that the processes for the initial sale are quite different than the processes for expand selling. We see expansion revenues from existing customers being generated in smaller increments and over a longer period of time. The frequency of suppliers selling large, upfront and highly profitable products with support services is diminishing. New methodologies and processes are needed. To your question, these methodologies are emerging, and TSIA is deeply invested in identifying emerging trends and best practices in this area. I was brought onboard in September to accelerate our efforts here.

John: Let’s touch on the technology infrastructure required for expand selling. I’m familiar with offer management, i.e., tools that can recommend upsell/cross-sell offers to extend to customers as part of a service interaction. But you recently asked me about lead management software, which isn’t something I’ve covered previously as part of service technology. What are some new areas of technology service executives need to better understand as they launch expand selling initiatives?

Mark: We see the technology piece as being multi-faceted. One of the key transformation areas we see is in the area of customer analytics. Specifically, how can tech companies use customer data, with their permission and support of course, to better understand how customers are using what they have purchased, and how they can better optimize how they use it to achieve better business performance. As you can see, there is a customer success element to this, which can lead to Expand Selling opportunities. Lead gen is tied to this, since how customers consume what they have purchased can identify new leads.

John: You just launched a new survey to gather information about expand selling practices within the tech space. Can you tell us who you are targeting with the survey, and what sort of questions you are asking?

Mark: It is called the “Expand Selling Practices and Metrics Survey” and is designed to baseline where the tech industry is on this important topic, and begin to identify best practices and high water marks. It is actually open to TSIA members across all of our disciplines, as well as non-members. It cuts across all technology company types from pure-play Cloud providers to pure Hardware and Software providers, including those who also offer Cloud services. As for roles, we are looking for those in sales, services, customer success, account management, marketing, and even product management. The best way to participate is to contact me directly. Here is a link to send me an email. (

John: Glad to hear that the survey is open to everyone, and all respondents will receive a summary of the results. Mark, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today!

Mark: Nice to be here! I appreciate you featuring my survey in your blog.

The State of Social Support: 2015

Posted January 28, 2015 by jragsdale
Categories: Technology

This week I published “The State of Social Support: 2015,” which is live on the TSIA website for members. If you aren’t a member of TSIA and you would like a free copy of the report, read on! The report is based on my annual social support survey, which was open December 1, 2014-January 5, 2015. Over 250 responses were received. I will be giving a webinar this Friday, January 30th, to cover the results. The webinar is open to the public, and everyone who attends will receive a copy of the full report via email.

The survey and resulting report address two streams of social support: online support communities, and supporting customers via social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For online communities, there are findings about program ownership, staffing, service level agreements, CRM integration, and more.

For social media support, there is also data on program ownership and staffing, as well as which social channels companies are leveraging to support customers, and how employees are being screened and trained for social skills. Here’s a peak at the social media channels currently used for support:

social channels 2015

Twitter is the most popular social support channels, followed by YouTube (how-to and trouble shooting videos), and LinkedIn is in third place. Also listed are channels companies plan to invest in this year.

Please tune in this Friday at 8am PT and find out all the results. We will leave plenty of time for Q&A, so bring along your biggest social media challenge and I will offer any assistance I can. And remember–attendees will receive a complimentary copy of “The State of Social Support: 2015.” Here’s the link to register:

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you online Friday!


Hot off the Press: “How Companies Succeed in Social Business”

Posted January 15, 2015 by jragsdale
Categories: Best Practices, Enterprise Support, social media

Tags: , , , ,

I’m very pleased to announce the arrival of a new book, “How Companies Succeed in Social Business: Case Studies and Lessons from Adobe, Cisco, Unisys, and 18 More Brands.” Shawn Santos, who initiated social research at TSIA around 2009, was the driver and editor of this book. Shawn reached out to experts among tech companies who have successful social business programs, as well as thought leaders in the social world. I’m happy to have contributed a chapter to the book, “Chapter 7: The State of Enterprise Social Technical Support.”
socbiz front
There are 22 contributing authors in all, including TSIA members Adobe, Cisco, Unisys, Bentley, BMC, Infor, Oracle, IBM, ServiceNow and Symantec. Francoise Tourniaire of FT Works, a longtime TSIA partner, also contributed a chapter.

I know there are a lot of books out there on harnessing social media for business purposes. But the majority of those I’ve read are by self-proclaimed experts–with little or no real-world experience–pontificating about how you must embrace social or die. This is not one of those books. “How Companies Succeed in Social Business” is by real practitioners, with stories from the trenches about what works, what doesn’t work, and how to increase the success of your social programs. If you are looking for self-promoting pontification, this is not the book for you. ;)

For my chapter, I shared TSIA research showing best practices and Pacesetter practices for online customer support communities, as well as leveraging social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter for customer support. Most of this data has not been released outside of TSIA membership, so I’m glad to be able to share some of our intellectual property with a larger audience. I made an effort to include as much data and analysis as possible–not just opinions.

socbiz data

The book is available via Amazon:

Thanks for reading, and I hope you order your copy today!

TSIA’s 5th Annual Social Support Survey is NOW OPEN!

Posted December 1, 2014 by jragsdale
Categories: Best Practices, social media

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Social support is becoming a standard part of technical support operations. 73% of companies now have an online community in place for customer discussions, and 46% of technology companies are supporting customers via social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. This is the 5th year that TSIA has launched a survey to measure adoption of social support and identify best practices related to staffing, training, service level agreements, and program ownership. The survey is open to all support professionals, will only take 6 minutes to complete, and everyone who completes the survey will receive a copy of the resulting research report, “The State of Social Support: 2015,” to be published in Q1 2015. The survey is open until midnight, December 31st.

The survey contains three sections:

  • Demographics. These questions ask basic questions about yourself, including how social savvy you consider yourself, and which channels you prefer to use when needing support for a product problem.
  • Community. These questions ask about your online customer community or discussion forum, such as how many resources are required for forum moderation, if you have a service level agreement (SLA) for community posts, whether registration is required to read community content, and some technical questions such as CRM integration and single sign-on.
  • Social Media. These questions ask about your approach to supporting customers via social media channels, addressing staffing, training, social channels supported, incident handling, and overall obstacles to social support.

The survey is open to everyone, not just TSIA members, so please consider participating. The more data the better! I look forward to identify changes since last year’s survey, particularly with social media channels expanding and many company’s programs now maturing. There is also a focus on social listening in this year’s survey, which has emerged as a hot trend in member inquiry conversations.

Here is the link to take the survey: 

I’d like to give a special shout out to Carl Knerr, Director, Services Offer Management, Avaya, and Doug Pluta, Project Manager, Customer and Business Insight, Cisco Systems, for the input they provided on social listening for this year’s survey. Greatly appreciated!

Thanks to all of you for reading, and please tell your friends about the survey!

Five Service Technology Things I’m Thankful for This Year

Posted November 24, 2014 by jragsdale
Categories: Best Practices, CRM, customer experience, customer satisfaction, customer support, Enterprise Support, knowledge management, Professional Services, Technology

Tags: , , ,

Here we are at the holiday season once again. When I was a kid, it seemed that Thanksgiving and Christmas were always a million miles away, but as I get older, time accelerates, and it feels like I just put the tree and decorations away a few weeks ago. This week we all take some time to think about what we are thankful for, and I truly give thanks for my personal and professional existence. But I thought it would be fun to write a post about what I’m thankful for this year as a service technology analyst. Here goes!

  • I’m thankful for new KM insights. This was the first year that I conducted TSIA’s knowledge management survey, and instead of focusing just on metrics like days to publish, I dug into KM potential, culture issues, adoption of emerging technologies, and the “rip and replace” problem. The data was very impactful, and has really informed my research and conversations. Though I cover a lot of technology topics as an analyst, I’m the most passionate about knowledge management tools and processes. It is great to have data-backed talking points about where companies struggle and pacesetter practices for success.
  • I’m thankful for rising PSA adoption and interest. The first few years I was the technology analyst for TSIA’s new professional services practice, it was the easiest job in the world–no one asked me about anything. Boy, has that changed. Today Professional Services Automation (PSA) is my #2 or #3 topic by inquiry volume. I’m seeing PS organizations become more sophisticated in their use of technology, including automated scheduling, analytic-powered dashboards, and automated billing, and core PS metrics like utilization rates and billable utilization are rising as a result.
  • I’m thankful for managed services. In my industry it seems almost politically incorrect to say anything negative about the cloud. But I hear from large enterprises every week who jumped on the cloud bandwagon, usually to save money on a CRM deployment, and are finding the tools are not as sophisticated or feature rich as their legacy solution, and often with abysmal usability. Managed services is rescuing this, offering the sophistication of onpremise technology with none of the ownership headaches or cost. According to George Humphrey, TSIA’s Senior Director of Managed Service Research, “It’s becoming less important to the customer where the product resides. It is becoming crucial to the customer that, whoever sells them the solution, that it is managed. It doesn’t matter if the technology provider is an SI, SP, VAR or the manufacturer selling direct. The expectation from the customer is that it is a fully managed OpEx solutions. The MSPs that are offering this type of solution are seeing explosive revenue growth in MS (many seeing triple digit growth).” For 2015, I expect to see some unhappy cloud customers moving to a managed service platform that better fits their needs.
  • I’m thankful mobility has moved beyond trend into serious business impact. Back in my CRM days, I was the product manager for a WAP CRM product, which I don’t think anyone ever used. The WAP interfaces were so klunky they really didn’t offer huge value for field employees. Early in my Forrester career I wrote a research report about mobile CRM, calling it, “The Next Big Thing That Hasn’t Happened Yet,” because all the vendors were releasing WAP products but no one seemed to be adopting them. The latest round of mobile solutions are a huge improvement, and as a result, we are seeing wide adoption and real business benefits. Here’s a chart with some data from our Field Service benchmark survey, which asks field service organizations what sort of business impacts they have seen from mobile initiatives. The value is clear and documentable, and I’m thrilled to see this “next big thing” is finally having the impact we all envisioned over a decade ago.

FS Mobility

  • I’m thankful NPS is losing some luster. I’ve gotten in trouble over the years because I have never been a fan of net promoter scores. I totally understand the importance of repeat business and referrals, but too many companies asked the “would you recommend us” question once a year, of one person at the account, which in my opinion is a totally useless way to gather real information on customer satisfaction and loyalty. Let’s be honest–many NPS programs are only designed to allow executive bonuses to pay out–not to really measure customer sentiment. Over the last 6 months I’ve heard many companies talk about how shallow their NPS program was, in retrospect. The new focus on customer consumption, customer experience, and now customer effort scores seem to be measuring much more actionable information than a single NPS score.

Wishing each of you a wonderful holiday season. And as always, thanks for reading!

What I Heard at TSW: KM Culture, Social Knowledge, Gamification, KaaS

Posted October 28, 2014 by jragsdale
Categories: Technology

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Last week was our Technology Services World Conference in Las Vegas. It was our biggest conference ever, with over 1,300 attendees. I spent most of Tuesday doing more than a dozen 1:1 meetings with members, answering technology questions, helping them create a short list of possible vendors for a planned technology purchase, or giving them a map of exhibiting partners to visit in the EXPO depending on the problem they were trying to solve. Since my Power Hour session on Monday was about the results of my August knowledge management survey, many of my member meetings were related to KM: what wasn’t working, what they would do differently next time, new technologies to invest in, etc. Based on questions asked during the KM session, and conversations with members and partners afterwards, here are some popular conversation threads I wanted to share with a larger audience.

Culture and KM

In my Power Hour presentation, I opened and closed with a focus on corporate culture and KM, and shared some results from my survey on how respondents rated their corporate culture, from a high of “Leaders set the example and reward knowledge sharing” to a low of “Share any knowledge and others will take credit”. We have very smart members, and Jodi McBride, Director, Knowledge & Content Management, Pitney Bowes Global Client Services, asked if there was any data correlation in the survey results between culture and KM success. Well, I hadn’t even thought about that. This morning I spent a bit of time slicing and dicing, and found a very interesting data story:

KM Culture and Success

As you can see in these charts, I sorted all the KM survey responses into three groups by KM culture scores: poorest KM culture (bottom third), average KM culture (middle third), and strongest KM culture (top third). Then I looked at the average scores for each group for the question “How do you rate your existing KM system?” and it appears that culture plays a big role in how well a company’s KM program is going. For both customer-facing and employee-facing knowledgebases, the stronger the culture, the higher the KBs are rated. This played out in many member conversations, and at this point, I see culture as a primary indicator of KM project success.

Social Knowledge

I’ve had a few eye rolls in the past when discussing crowd sourcing knowledge, but that tide seems to have turned. There was a lot of interest in how to incorporate customers into knowledge creation and sharing, with more companies saying they were using wikis or ‘tribal knowledgebases’ to build and curate a knowledgebase by and for customers (Jive Software, who exhibited at TSW, got a lot of booth traffic around this topic). The most telling story came from Scott Bideau, Regional Sales Manager USA West, Coveo, who also attended my Power Hour session. He said that when companies push back on letting customers create knowledge, he asks them: “How many of you truly know more about your customer than they know about you?” After a bit of soul searching, most companies admit that customers DO know more about them than they know about the customer. So why, if the customer does know so much about you (your products, your employees, your website tools, even your culture), why wouldn’t you want to tap into that expertise? Face it, customers who interact with your products in order to do their jobs have a different and likely deeper understanding of your technology than you ever will. Not taking advantage of that would be very sad indeed.


I also received multiple questions about gamification, mostly companies looking for some good examples of how to gamify KM to encourage participation in submitting new articles and maintaining older content. I have to admit I have not always been the biggest fan of this topic, and even once wrote that, regarding gamification, “if the emperor is not naked, he is at least scantily clad.” My issue is that many examples I’ve been given of gamification dashboards and contests have been around for 20 years, and are just being re-labeled. One audience member, Chris Hall, Chief Marketing Officer, Transversal, chided me for my ‘grumpy old man’ attitude on the topic, and said there are some very exciting developments in this area. Send me your best examples, and I will blog about them! The bottom line here is that if gamification can be leveraged to encourage employees to participate in what even I admit can be a tedious process, then I’m all for it. But some good examples would be nice. ;)

Knowledge as a Service

This topic was discussed during my Power Hour, and also in several 1:1 meetings afterwards. I wrote about Knowledge as a Service, or KaaS, earlier this year as a hot KM trend, and I think the topic is getting some real traction. After sharing my survey data on “Rip and Replace,” showing that nearly half of companies were on their 3rd, 4th, 5th or more employee-facing knowledge platform, clearly a lot of service organizations have yet to find KM success, with the technology being a scapegoat for what is almost always a process problem. If companies can outsource calls, maintenance renewals, product testing, etc., to a strategic partner who can do it better, why not  work with experts in knowledge management who can make your KM program a success? One of our KaaS partners, Klever,  exhibited in the EXPO, so hopefully they had some good traffic on this topic.

In addition to these themes, I had multiple conversations about KM staffing, how to kickstart a KM program, and who/how/how often to provide KM training for employees. I also explained the difference between federated search and unified search, and the difference between full text search and natural language search, so many times I finally have a fairly short answer to the question. (Short for me, anyway.)

If you would like more information on the results of my KM survey, I will be doing a free webinar this Friday at 8am PT going over all the content I covered in my Power Hour. Here’s a link to register for the event: 

TSIA members can access a copy of the research report detailing the survey findings here: 

If you aren’t a TSIA member, we are making a copy of the report available to all members of the Klever community for a limited time next month, so register now and you will be eligible to download the report: 

Thanks everyone who attended my session, scheduled 1:1 meetings, or sent emails about my KM survey results. And as always, thanks for reading.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 107 other followers