Archive for May 2008

nGenera’s Acquisition of Talisma Shows Importance of Web 2 to Support’s Future

May 21, 2008

Talisma, a provider of knowledgebase and multi-channel interaction management technology widely adopted by SSPA members, announced today they are being acquired by nGenera (formerly BSG Alliance), a new SaaS software firm that recently launched the “World’s First On-Demand Platform for Business Innovation.” nGenera is not a household name in the customer service industry, but judging by the huge Web 2 buzz at our recent Spring Best Practices Conference, they are a welcome addition to the market.

nGenera’s platform includes some sophisticated web collaboration tools, designed to gather and distill the ‘voice of the customer’ to help companies make innovative changes to products and services. The Chairman of nGenera’s Innovation Network is none other than Don Tapscott, the author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Now that’s some serious Web 2 street cred!

As we learned last year launching our own non-profit Services Research Innovation Community, companies recognize the need to innovate to stay ahead of quickly evolving customer requirements and expecations.  But change is hard, (more…)


What I heard: Trends from the SSPA Best Practices Conference

May 13, 2008

Having spent the majority of last week at our Spring Best Practices Conference, I’ve thought a lot about the conversations I had and have tried to come up with some top trends/issues to share.  These are still a bit raw, but I need to write up a formal research report on the topic so consider this the draft!  Here goes:

  • Customer support application boundaries have erroded.  It used to be easy when someone asked me to recommend technology for a specific business problem.  It isn’t any more.  Intelligent search vendors offer knowledgebase but not channel management; channel management vendors offer knowledgebase but not intelligent search; automated attendants include knowledgebase and search–but only to be used with the automated attendant; knowledgebases are included for free in CRM suites, but once the data is in there you can’t do much with it. Large companies have a complex ecosystem of products, with increasingly overlapping modules.  When they need to fill one functional hole, what can they do?  No one sells just one piece anymore, and members end up with a short list of vendors who all have completely different core competencies.  And from what I’m hearing, vendor salespeople are so immersed in pitching their platform vision that it is hard to get details on any one module.  What a mess.
  • Merging of IT Service Desk/Customer Support.  There are three drivers to this one.  1) ITIL, formerly only a topic for IT service desks, is now becoming common for external support.  2) Customer support technology created for IT service desks remains strong within our external-facing member base.  As an example, 13% of SSPA members are using Remedy for incident management. 3) Proactive support means external support teams are now monitoring equipment at customer sites, doing similar to work to IT teams monitoring internal systems.  Defining SLAs, premiere support, and the role of technical account managers (TAMs) is much more difficult when support ‘crosses the firewall’ into customer operations, and new systems and processes are needed to do this successfully–with companies often taking best practices from IT operations.
  • Ownership paradigms for content have to change.  I’m treading lightly on this one.  To grossly simplify, I heard 2 schools of thought at the conference, one who says customer authored content is dangerous, the other saying companies should “get over” their ownership issues on knowledgebase and procedural documentation.  As you can see in the discussion on a previous post, I think there is obviously room for content authored by both company and customer, and collaborative efforts where both are involved.  But this opens the door to bigger issues:  who owns the IP on documentation, controlling access to documentation for non-customers, piracy and loss of IP, etc.  I don’t have the answer–I don’t think anyone does yet–but clearly the ‘old’ rules need to bend, if not change, in a Web 2 world.  And with members adopting Wikis faster than I expected, I guess we will learn by doing.

For another look at trends emerging from the conference, check out Esteban Kolsky’s post on the eVergance blog, where he talks about the 3 trends he encountered.

Thanks to all of you who attended, and those who have emailed and commented on previous posts about the conference.  If you have any thoughts on these trends/issues, please let me know as I begin writing up the formal research note.  And as always, thanks for reading!

Live from the SSPA Best Practices Conference: Day 2

May 7, 2008

Tuesday was the final day of the SSPA’s Best Practices Conference held at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I spent most of my time in 1:1 member meetings, but for a recap of keynote presentations, you can read the conference blog.  I would be adding more pics to my posts, but WordPress has upgraded their blog software and it no longer allows me to upload and post pics–I suspect a Vista issue (the excuse I always receive these days).  Thanks a lot, WordPress!

The number of tracks and breakout sessions was a bit overwhelming, and many members said they struggled to pick between some great sessions.  Luckily we will be posting all presentations shortly so you can check out the sessions you missed.  The top attended sessions for Tuesday were: (more…)

Live from the SSPA Best Practices Conference: Day 1

May 7, 2008

With a total attendee count around 800, the first full day of the SSPA Spring Best Practices Conference got underway Monday at the Santa Clara Convention center with our Executive Director, Steve Smith, giving his views on strategic industry trends. My favorite part was the move from people centric to tools centric to product centric, meaning products are becoming smarter and more easily supported, with intelligent, proactive service becoming the norm. There are some great examples of companies making progress here–Xerox and BEA come to mind–and I agree with Steve that this will continue, not only to drive down costs and delays in support, but also to create a better customer experience.

Next up Mary Cay Kosten, Senior Vice President, Global Customer Services, Sun Microsystems, gave a keynote describing Sun’s journey toward JDPower certification, which they achieved last year and are about to start the process to renew this year. Mary Cay spent time talking about the internal and external marketing plan which I think is something support organizations often need a bit of help with. Clearly achieving certification is a huge accomplishment, and companies should brag about it in any way they can.

I was up next to give a look at adoption and spending trends across the 24 functional areas in my annual Member Technology Survey, which tracks what service and support technology member companies use, how satisfied they are with it, and what their spending plans are for 2008.

I also announced the winners of the Spring 2008 Recognized Innovator Awards.  Details on the categories and winners can be found here.

Attendees then had a choice of breakout sessions for the rest of the day.  The top attended sessions were: (more…)

Highlights from opening day of SSPA Best Practices Conference

May 4, 2008

After months of planning and preparation, today was the opening of our Spring Best Practices Conference, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center. We had several pre-conference workshops today, including mine:  “Web 2.0:  Key Elements for Success.”  I had a great group of members in the workshop, the majority of whom already have a discussion forum for customers in place, and are now looking at even more advanced concepts, including having customers author support content with Wikis.  I opened the session giving some stats on forum adoption as a support channel, which obviously differs greatly by age group.  I featured three guest presenters, as follows: