Web Collaboration: Hottest Support Technology for 2009

I promised to come back with more details from my 2009 Member Technology Survey, and this post is focusing on the #1 area of spend this year:  Web Collaboration.  Since I announced the survey results at TSW last month, I’ve had several emails and calls asking what exactly it means, and what is the value for service.  I’ll try to address those questions here.

The 2009 Member Technology Survey was open to corporate and community members of the AFSMI, SSPA and TPSA.  There were over 300 responses from SSPA members–the most ever for this annual survey.  Thanks to everyone who participated–I’ve sent early copies of the reports to all respondents.

It is no surprise that overall spending was down this year, with technology budgets averaging about half of last year. But, and this is a big but, unlike other areas of the enterprise who are cut-cut-cutting, our survey showed that technology companies continue to make investments in core support technology and infrastructure, particularly in areas with strong ROI and big impacts to the customer experience. This chart shows the percent of members with approved budget in 2009 f0r new technology in the top spend categories.

Top Support Technololgy Spending Areas for 2009

So why, with all the economic problems and spending slow downs, do we still have 13% of member companies buying Web collaboration this year?  Here are three reasons:

  1. It covers a lot of ground. There is a lot of functionality lumped into this category.  The list includes:  Web chat (agent to customer, agent to agent, agent to supervisor), proactive Web chat, screen sharing, page push, joint form fill, online meetings and Webcasting.
  2. There is tremendous ROI. With a push to do more work remotely, avoiding employee time and T&E involved in onsite visits, today’s tools give you much more access and control over remote systems, enabling proactive monitoring, remote fixes, and remotely delivered PS projects.
  3. Excellent customer experience. There are huge opportunities for improving service levels with Web collaboration.  Expertise management allows you to see experts on any topic.  IP presence awareness tells you which experts are online and available to chat.  Group chat/collaboration allow you to pull an expert from anywhere in the globe into a customer session to instantly resolve a complex problem, avoiding escalation time and call backs.  Longer term, I see this as a key solution to Multi-Vendor Support–online collab between key partners to solve a customer problem.

With built in Web cams on most laptops today, I also expect video to begin playing a bigger role.  A great example is virtual conferences.  As I write this, I’m attending a virtual analyst conference with Alcatel-Lucent.  They are using an amazing platform from Unisfair, and the attendee experience is excellent.

Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen opens the Virtual AR Conference

Not only do I have live feeds of keynote presentations and breakout sessions, but I can visit booths in the virtual tradeshow, chat with other attendees, download white papers and slides, ask questions whenever I want, all from the comfort of my office chair.

What is your company doing with Web collaboration today, and what plans do you have for the future? I’d love to hear more real-world stories about how companies are using this technology.  Please add a comment or drop me an email. And as always, thanks for reading!

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9 Comments on “Web Collaboration: Hottest Support Technology for 2009”

  1. Esteban Kolsky Says:

    Great post, and very timely.

    I agree with the awesome power of web collaboration, and how we just began to scratch the surface behind it. I sense great things for it, and I am always pushing clients and colleagues to use it more.

    Agree 100% on the ROI and the need for it with a distributed workforce. Spot on!

    One thing I noticed, as the troublemaker I am, is that 8% of members have money allocated and approved for email and chat. Which i think is great, by far.

    However, my curiosity is whether those are the same people? Are we seeing an investment in multi-channel, concurrently, or it just happens to be 8% for each and still from different members?

  2. jragsdale Says:

    Hi Esteban!
    I played with the numbers to find out. Of members with budget in one or more areas across Web Collaboration, Proactive Chat and Email Response Management, the breakdown is:

    38% Web collaboration only
    19% Proactive Chat only
    17% ERMS only
    2% Proactive chat AND ERMS
    10% Web collab AND ERMS
    12% Web collab AND Proactive chat
    2% All three modules

    So roughly a third are buying multiple channels at once–a bit lower than I expected.


    • Esteban Kolsky Says:

      Thanks John,

      That is, as you say, somewhat low but also very telling. Two years ago that number would have been in the low single-digits at best.

      Thanks for doing the math for me! (my skills are atrophied at this age :))


  3. Allen Bonde Says:

    Good stuff! I have thought for a while that proactive chat has been underrated in support, and perhaps the “secret” is getting out. Interestingly, we just finished our own study of about 30 senior cust support leaders across several verticals, and while 75% of them have cut spending in 2009, some areas they are spending MORE on include KM, customer analytics and social CRM (in that order).

    – Allen

    • jragsdale Says:

      Hi Allen;
      Thats great news and helps validate my data. With the number of RFPs currently being written, I have to think we will see the beginning of a spending rebound in Q4. Are you listening Wall Street?


      • Allen Bonde Says:

        I just posted more highlights of our study on our blog – including some real encouraging numbers on self-service spending and ROI. Would be interesting to see how it fits/supports your data!

        – Allen

  4. Nadia Says:

    . i can say nothing cause I can’t speak english well….

    . but I know your post mean…

    . is my spell alright??? ^^

  5. Heather Bolling Says:


    I was wondering if there is a place to determine the price range for this type of product offerring for small businesses. I am a small business owner and I want to enable this technology but I don’t know of vendors who offer affordable rates.

    Any advice?


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