Archive for the ‘Consumer Support’ category

Interview with PAB Member Duncan Heal, Managing Director and CEO, MARKETii

April 24, 2014

Over the years I have published interviews with new members of TSIA’s Partner Advisory Board. I had some time this week to chat with one of our newer PAB members, Duncan Heal, Managing Director and CEO for MARKETii, about industry trends around voice of the customer programs. With Duncan’s permission, I’m sharing our conversation with my blog readers. Enjoy!

John Ragsdale: Duncan, thank you so much for agreeing to participate in TSIA’s partner advisory board, and thanks for making time to talk to me today!

Duncan Heal: My pleasure and thank you and TSIA for asking me to be part of the board.

John: Market Intelligence International, or MARKETii, covers a lot of territory related to Voice of the Customer programs. Can you give us a quick overview of your services and programs?

Duncan: Simply put, Marketii and Marketii Medical work with service executives and help them increase customer retention and loyalty so they can grow service revenues and profits. Our customized Voice of the Customer programs help our clients grow faster, sustain business success and improve both top and bottom line revenues by gathering actionable customer insights so they can make the best business decisions. We cover telephone and web surveys as well as mystery calling into help/support desks. We have an enviable position of working in over 25 native languages that helps clients better understand the differences that come from providing service across the globe. It’s then a case of turning all of that feedback into reporting and action items allowing the clients to learn from best practice and the best resource allocation

John: In addition to all these customer facing programs, you also offer a program on employee satisfaction. I’ve seen a lot of survey data that the first step in having happy customers, is making sure you have happy employees. How do you work with your customers on measuring employee satisfaction, and what do you see them do with the data you provide?

Duncan: Great question, John. Our research shows that there is a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and performance and customer loyalty. Often times companies have to build their VoC efforts “from the inside out” meaning gathering and assessing employee satisfaction data, looking at strengths and weaknesses and then building a VoC initiative for their “outside customers”. Many of our programs include individualized agent performance data that helps service executives look at specific areas of strength and weakness of each agent, whether they be field service, technical support, customer service, professional service, etc…

John: I’ve gotten in trouble a few times for comments I’ve made about Net Promoter. My issue is that companies that only ask one survey question a year, of one account holder at the customer account, are not getting a full view of that customer and their experience. I know you do a lot of Net Promoter work with your customers. Can you comment on how you recommend Net Promoter should fit into the overall satisfaction, loyalty, or VOC program? Or do you think one question a year of one person at the account is enough?

Duncan: No conversation on VoC is complete unless you talk about NPS. Our feeling is that NPS is a great way to begin to assess the loyalty of your customer base but it is not the only way. The nice thing about NPS is that it is easy to understand and provides executives with a standard metric centered on customer loyalty. But as a stand-alone, it is not sufficient. Any holistic VoC program must contain satisfaction questions, must contain Customer Effort/Ease questions, must contain both qualitative and quantitative questions, must contain questions that measure importance vs satisfaction, must contain questions that center on root causes and key drivers of loyalty. Asking one account holder, one NPS question a year, is not enough. A key area to our research here at Market ii is also the understanding of differences in cultural feedback on areas such as NPS as different customers will give different ratings for the same services. We help understand and quantify this through our culture indices reporting

John: MARKETii was a finalist last year for our TechBEST Best in Satisfaction award, for having one of the 3 highest satisfaction scores in my annual technology survey. First of all congratulations for that—with 24 categories of tools and services, and dozens of vendors in each category, being one of the top 3 is a major achievement! How does MARKETii go about making sure your customers are satisfied and receiving value?

Duncan: Thanks John. First of all we ensure we have a great team of Account and Project Managers supporting every client. We then mix in a strong element of pro-activeness that comes from our experiences in running these type of programs and projects. And I think the key element of this and something that we teach to our clients is that the relationship is key to building an understanding of needs, wants, and how the actual client operates so that we can supply the right research at the right time to the right people. We treat them how them in the same way that they should be treating their customers.

John: With TSIA’s focus on B4B and the shift to outcome based services, we are seeing more interest in monitoring customer success. Our definition of customer success includes some sort of consumption monitoring to understand how customers are adopting and using your tools and services, and how much value they are receiving from the tools and services. My recent 2014 Technology Survey found that only 14% of our members are currently using any sort of technology for consumption monitoring and analytics. Are you seeing any interest in this topic from your customers? Does MARKETii see consumption monitoring as part of a strategy to improve satisfaction and loyalty?

Duncan: To answer your first question, yes, we are seeing this come up. We have developed some tools that allow clients to understand the customer importance and usage of some of their services balanced against the cost/time/risk and effort from the clients perspective in providing these services. When you take into account the successful, or unsuccessful customer interaction then our Strategic Priority Analysis helps the client fully understand where they need to concentrate their efforts and to understand what is successful.

This does lead well into the 2nd question you asked John in that by companies better understanding the way they deliver the services and the impact it has on customer satisfaction and loyalty then these companies are in a better position to adapt their services quicker and have more consumption based services. A good example is the way that companies are looking to Marketii for more subscription based and adaptable services for monitoring their customer satisfaction purely because they are adapting, improving and changing their own offerings.

John: I’ve started receiving more inquiries just recently about monitoring social media channels to help identify key influencers of your brand, and to better measure customer sentiment and identify areas for improvement. How important is social media monitoring to your customers, and is this a growing area of interest?

Duncan: John, it certainly is becoming more important . I think the users and customers in B2B or should I say B4B markets and organisations are a bit different to the B2C customers in their use of social media in terms of influencers of a brand. What I mean is that a consumer buyer being much more likely to tweet about their experiences of, say, a restaurant or some new clothes, than that of a consumer of IT systems or CRM tools. That is not to say it isn’t growing, but it is done in different ways.

Market ii and Market ii Medical carry out research into the “tipping points” or “tolerance levels” of customers at which they will go onto social media and write about the brand or issue. This is done to gain a much better understanding of the combination of when that is, and what is the caused. Companies are then able to prevent the issues from occurring and understand the customer issues better before they start to move to social media to potentially damage the brand.

Thinking about what you said about sentiment analysis, this can be looked at in two ways. One, there is the overall sentiment in the feedback from customers that we turn into dashboard reporting, thus giving a view of customer satisfaction levels leaning one way or the other. The real nuggets of information come in the coding of open narrative to assess areas of improvement and importance. We work really hard to ensure that when looking at as an example a pie chart of what area to improve upon you don’t see a large pie slice saying “other”. That is no good to the client. The better coding and analysis of the narrative gives the client a complete picture of where to concentrate their efforts and doubly so by being able to understand if those things that need improving or maintaining are of importance to the customer.

John: I know you work with a lot of different industries, including a new MARKETii Medical division. It seems the stakes can be pretty high in understanding issues with customers in the healthcare and med tech industries. What are some of the unique challenges these companies are dealing with?

Duncan: First, we are very excited to announce our new division, Marketii Medical. We saw a distinct need in the medical device marketplace for a Customer Experience company who was strictly focused on helping medical device companies build customer loyalty. Medical devices is a very competitive market place. There are new players coming into the market on what seems like a daily basis. What we are finding is that the vast majority of companies are seeing that service excellence and not product is driving customer loyalty and profitability. Also, service costs for medical device companies are among the highest in the industry, so it is critically important to measure and track satisfaction with service provided to help keep these costs down. Evans Manolis is the President of Marketii Medical and he brings with him over 16 years of experience and has worked with over 100 medical device companies during that time.

John: Duncan, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today! Look forward to seeing you in Santa Clara for TSW!

Duncan: Thank you John, good to talk with you and look forward to catching up in a couple of weeks. Take care.

Thanks everyone for reading! You can meet Duncan and learn more about MARKETii at our Technology Services World Conference kicking off May 5th at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Hope to see you there!



Announcing Finalists for TSIA TechBest in Adoption: Citrix, Compuware, Coveo

October 21, 2013

Each Spring I launch the TSIA Member Technology Survey, which tracks adoption, satisfaction, and planned spending across 24 categories of tools and services common within service operations. The survey reveals which solutions are most popular with TSIA members, and it is interesting to find out which vendors see growing adoption. One thing is certain: When the percent of members using a particular solution sharply rises, it indicates that provider has the right messaging, the right tools, and the right price for technology service organizations. Proven success within the TSIA membership means the solution meets the business needs of users, is delivering value, and doesn’t require extensive implementation or customization to be effective.

Comparing the results from 2012 and 2013, the three TSIA partners that saw the largest increase in member adoption are Citrix, Compuware, and Coveo. These three firms represent the finalists in the 2013 TechBEST Best in Adoption Award and will be interviewed in the TechBEST Showcase that opens Technology Services World today in the EXPO Theater. The partner with the highest year-over-year gain in adoption will be named the winner during the closing Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, October 23.

  • Citrix is transforming how people, businesses, and IT work and collaborate in the cloud era. The Citrix GoTo cloud services portfolio powers mobile workstyles allowing companies to work with anyone from any-where. With GoToAssist, companies are able to deliver amazing support experiences and maintain maximum uptime of people, their devices, and apps. GoToAssist seamlessly integrates web collaboration with technical support and remote monitoring tools to remove support complexities, drive efficiencies, and reduce costs. Using all three capabilities together makes it simple for support professionals to identify, ticket, and quickly resolve issues. Citrix also offers other services purpose-built for collaboration and remote access that include GoToMeeting, GoToTraining, GoToWebinar, GoToMyPC, Podio, and ShareFile. Learn more at
  • Compuware Changepoint allows organizations to maximize professional services profitability and maintain a focus on effective product decisions and delivery. Changepoint’s PSA solution includes powerful business analytics and mobility, providing total operational visibility and control over the services portfolio. Services organizations can manage every aspect of their business with Changepoint, from customer acquisition, to services delivery, through to project financial control. Changepoint customers achieve strong margins, manage projects and resources with greater efficiency, deliver a competitive product and services mix, and maintain top-line revenues and bottom-line profitability. Examples of Changepoint customers include Altum, Circle Software, Innovaost, Kana, Patheon, Priocept, Sage, Steria, and Ziggo. Learn more at
  • Coveo makes companies more relevant and responsive to their customers by providing technology that delivers, in real time, the most relevant, context-aware information for every employee and every customer. Coveo’s revolutionary Search & Relevance technology takes knowledge management to a new, more relevant level by securely connecting with and harnessing an organization’s big, fragmented data from any combination of cloud, social, and on-premise systems. For example, with Coveo for Salesforce, case-relevant knowledge from anywhere (social, on-premise and cloud-based systems) is presented directly into the agent’s context, related to the case at hand: solutions to similar cases, knowledge articles, relevant communications, even experts who can help. Technology companies including Deltek, EXFO, Tokyo Electron America, and SunGard use Coveo to inject more relevant knowledge into customer service interactions, personalize online experiences, and radically boost knowledge management initiatives. Learn more at

I’ll be intereviewing the finalists today at 11:30 in the Expo. Hope to see you there! And as always, thanks for reading!

TeamSupport Provides Collaborative Take on Customer Service

February 14, 2013

When was the last time you saw something really new and innovative in a customer service demo? If you see as many demos as I do, you know that true innovation is rare. New features in customer service apps come in waves. In 2005-2007, we saw a wave of business process-centric apps, attempting to streamline and solidify processes across disparate support groups. Then in 2006 social media exploded, and since then, we’ve seen each release of CRM and multi-channel platforms expanding into communities and social media channel support.

If you’ve attended any of my recent webcasts, you know that collaboration is a big theme for me this year. Across all TSIA members, 74% had budget for community and collaboration tools in 2012-2013. Most tech companies already have a customer community in place, and the spending now is focused on employee communities, and enabling real-time collaboration across the enterprise. My nirvana would be to see the customer community and the enterprise collaboration initiatives merging: you have a customer in a chat/screen sharing session, run into a new problem, and in real-time can pull in the developer who wrote the code and the product manager who designed it. Heck, why not bring in another customer who successfully is using that feature today? Call me crazy, but that’s ultimately where collaboration will take customer support.

I’m very pleased to highlight a new player on the market who is embracing process, social, AND collaboration in their customer service platform: TeamSupport. Whether you are shopping for a new tool or not, you should check out a demo to see the first of the next wave of customer service apps with a focus on collaboration. Not only does TeamSupport include what we now think of as ‘best of breed’ features: knowledgebase, multi-channel tools including chat, self-service, etc., as well as social tools (customer community, Facebook plugin), but it offers a few other features I find very compelling.

  • Water Cooler. TeamSupport’s Water Cooler feature is an internal collaboration tool, a la Twitter, allowing you to post questions or new ideas to a group for discussion or comment. The searchable stream of conversations allows real-time collaboration, even while working with a customer.
  • Wiki. Not only does TeamSupport offer a knowledgebase, it also includes a Wiki for document sharing, enabling both content management and knowledge management.
  • Tag clouds. TeamSupport allows custom fields to help categorize or track different kinds of incident, but they also support tagging. In the incident’s tag field, you can enter as many tags as you want, such as “installation, Product 123, Crash 234 Error.” You can easily find all incidents with a tag or tags to help research problems or determine problem frequency.
  • Screen capture. I’ve been talking for 2 years now about incorporating video into support, and TeamSupport is the first tool I’ve seen to include this as an “out of box” feature in their support platform. Employees/techs can record screen cams of a procedure to illustrate an error on an incident, or to add a video tutorial to a knowledge article, with an option to include voice narration. And, customers can record screen cams of an error or a problem process flow and imbed it in a support ticket opened via self-service. Imagine how much faster you can solve a problem when instead of a 1 line explanation in a case, you have an actual video of the problem?

TeamSupport offers integration to Salesforce, Zoho and others, as well as integrations to some support analytic platforms, like Zoho Reports. Fully hosted, pricing begins at $20 per user/per month; $35 for Enterprise Edition. Checkout the website for more info or to see a demo. There are also videos available on TeamSupport’s YouTube Channel.

I had a chance to meet TeamSupport President and CEO, Robert C. Johnson, last fall, and his energy and enthusiasm are infectious. Great to see a young CEO with new ideas and a lot of passion driving innovation and change in the industry. I wish Robert and team a lot of success! And thanks as always for reading!

Southwest’s “Unsource” definition only tells part of the story

December 17, 2012

Blog ideas can come from anywhere, but this is the first entry I’ve written inspired by an inflight magazine.  When TSIA’s VP of Marketing, Trisha Bright, headed down to our San Diego office last week, she ran across something interesting in Southwest’s Spirit magazine and forwarded it to me. Here is “entry 627 in the Spirit lexicon:”

unsource \ ‘ən-sôrs \ verb [trans]

1. To shift customer support responsibility back onto the consumer in an effort to cut costs. USAGE: No longer satisfied with the budget benefits of outsourcing their customer service to overseas call centers, corporations are savings up to 50 percent on such costs by embracing the cut-rate option of hosting enhanced discussion boards on their websites, where frustrated consumers turn to each other for answers to common questions.

After reading this, I went thru a wide range of emotions, from violent agreement to anger and frustration. Here’s my attempt at capturing those reactions.

Obviously, I get it from a consumer standpoint. I’ve blogged before about how difficult it is to find the solution to consumer technical FAQs. But for a company who is constantly introducing new fees to make higher profits from customers, one wonders if Southwest should be finger pointing on customer service. But let’s look at the two issues in this faux definition and see how they can be a blessing….or a curse.

First up is outsourcing. Let’s be clear: sending support interactions to a service provider, onshore or off, does not automatically mean poorer service to customers. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my 25 years in customer service, it is that not every company has it in their DNA to do customer service well.  Are there terrible examples of bad outsourcing deals? Yes, and I’ve experienced them. And I’ve written about how frustrating it is to deal with a support technician with few English skills. But I’ve seen many examples of companies that improve customer satisfaction scores by going offshore. Especially in the B2B world, outsourcing is common, and CSAT and loyalty scores are high and growing higher.

I just said to a member last week that outsourcing is like implementing CRM:  You have to get it wrong once to know how to do it right. We all remember the rush to offshore in the financial crisis following 9/11, and companies learned a key fact about outsourcing:  You get what you pay for. When a company asks me to recommend an outsourcer with the lowest cost-per-call, I know they are headed for disaster. Yes, you can save costs by outsourcing, but high quality providers (such as Convergys and Sykes), balance cost and quality. If they can’t do a good job for the price you want to pay, they won’t bid on the business. They have no interest in providing mediocre support–it isn’t good for your brand or theirs.

But while I can at least understand Southwest’s sentiment regarding outsourcing, I completely disagree that providing customer discussion forums is bad for customers. In my snarky opinion, whoever wrote that is clearly over 50, and in the demographic that still thinks that phone calls are the only channel customers really want. As I am constantly saying, channel choice is largely demographic, and the younger the customer, the more likely they prefer forums over phone. In fact, the 18-34 demographic which most product companies target rate phone as one of their least likely support channels, preferring self-service and peer-service (forums) over assisted service. Even “Google search” rates higher as a support channel than phone calls with younger customers.

Would companies prefer that customers use lower cost unassisted and peer-assisted options to cut costs? Absolutely. But what consumers may not realize is that phone call, email and chat volumes are NOT going down. Support volume increases year-over-year dramatically, and companies are trying to find ways to resolve more issues without live agents because they can’t possibly hire enough agents to address 100% of support volume. While assisted support volumes may go up 10-20% a year, TOTAL support volume, meaning all customer questions including those answered via self-service and online communities, goes up 50% or more a year. The more complex the technology, the more questions customers have. Providing options other than phone to get these questions answered is not “unsourcing” support, it is providing the channels that customers demand.

Now, about that $50 fee you charged me for being 3 pounds over the baggage weight limit even though I purchased an expensive ‘business select’ fare? That’s more frustrating to customers than offering a community discussion forum. I look forward to seeing that pop up in the Spirit Lexicon. How about “gouging” as next month’s term?

Resolving Verizon/DirectTV Problem: Only Kafka Could Write This

November 5, 2012

Hopefully you are familiar with Franz Kafka, whose literary works confuse, anger and frustrate. My favorite example is The Trial, published in 1925, with a great film adaption by Orson Welles released in 1962. In The Trial, a man is summoned to court, without knowing when or where to go, and put on trial without ever being charged or accused of a crime. Kafka perfectly captured the feeling of being trapped in bureaucratic processes with no reason or explanation. Unfortunately, that was exactly how I felt all weekend trying to resolve a conflict with my Verizon DSL service and my DirectTV service.

Last Tuesday, my home land line and DSL service went down. According to Verizon it was due to the storms in NY, though I found that hard to believe since I’m 3,000 miles away. But anyway, my central office was down. It came back up on Wednesday, but my DirectTV box could not connect to the internet to download OnDemand movies–a feature I use all the time.

On Thursday, I called DirectTV who trouble shot it for me and scheduled a repair person to be onsite between 8am-noon on Friday. I was pleased with the fast appointment and friendly techs at DirectTV, who always take good care of me. When the tech arrived on Friday, he walked in, looked at my Verizon D-Link DSL modem/wireless router, and said, “I’ve seen this at least a dozen times, that modem has port problems.”

At this point, I started to feel Kafka slipping in. I consider myself more technical than the average person, but when the DirectTV tech started explaining to me what was wrong, it sounded like the teacher talking in a Peanuts cartoon:  blah blah blah, blah blah-blah. None of it made sense. Home networking has now become far too complex for anyone but a network engineer.

The crux of the problem is that when the Verizon central office went down and came back up, they used a default configuration that included blocking the port the D-Link modem needed to connect to DirectTV. There was also an issue with the way this modem refreshes IP addresses. While the DirectTV tech was still there, I called Verizon tech support and asked their help in resolving the issue. They immediately said it wasn’t their problem and there was nothing they could do. I handed the phone to the DirectTV tech, who explained the problem in terms beyond my comprehension…unfortunately also beyond the comprehension of this tech support guy in India. The phone call lasted over 2 hours. The Verizon tech didn’t kn0w how to configure ports, and was using a public website for instructions, which was years out of date (it gave procedures for DirectTV using a software version number that hadn’t been supported for 5 years).

The DirectTV guy apologized, said there was nothing else he could do (he replaced my box, the cables, and everything else just to be sure), and finally left when the Verizon tech hung up on us. I called Verizon back, and was told I needed to talk to Level 3 support and would have to pay for that. Then I hung up in disgust.

The DirectTV guy told me to buy another DSL modem and the problem would go away. I didn’t want to do that since I’ve already paid Verizon for the D-Link modem/router, and Verizon refused to send me a different model.  But Saturday I broke down and went to Best Buy and bought the only DSL modem they had, from Actiontec.

Sunday morning it took 3 hours to setup the new modem, requiring another 1+ hour call to Verizon India. Once the new modem was finally connected, DirectTV instantly connected and began downloading OnDemand movies. The Verizon tech even said himself that the Actiontec was a much better modem than the D-Link and had no connectivity problems with other company’s equipment.

So the problem that started on Tuesday was finally resolved by lunchtime on Sunday, after probably 8 total hours on the phone to tech support, a few smart agents, and a few clueless agents with little or no English skills. While I’m glad the problem is fixed, I’m frustrated as hell that I buy my Verizon and DirectTV service bundled through Verizon, yet Verizon provides modems that don’t support DirectTV, and seem clueless and uninterested in fixing the problem. And to charge extra for level 3 support to fix your own equipment problem is totally unacceptable.

So, in my spare time this week, I’m shopping for a new internet provider. Verizon is the only “traditional” carrier here in the mountains where I live, but there are some satellite companies offering service I need to investigate. In fact, DirectTV is going to begin offering phone and internet via satellite in my area soon, which I may have to wait for.  When you drag a customer through a process that can only be described at Kafka-esque, you have to expect a lot of customer churn. And I’ve reached my limit with Verizon.

Thanks for reading.

Getting Ready for TSW: Overview of Some Cool Technology Sessions

October 11, 2012

TSIA’s Technology Services World Conference kicks off Monday at the Mirage in Las Vegas, with three full days of breakouts, keynotes and Expo presentations. As I’m TSIA’s technology guy, I wanted to highlight some of the tech-focused sessions at the event, and you don’t need to look any further than the Services Technology Advantage Case Study Track, which takes place on Tuesday from 9:45-10:45am, with multiple technology case study sessions to pick from. Here’s a peek at your choices:

  • Hit Me with Your Best Shot! Starting with KCS on the Road to True Customer Success. This is not your normal tale of implementing Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) with a particular vendor of choice. This is the first chapter in the continuing story of TSIA member Riverbed’s goal to create a truly customer intimate support experience. The first leg of the journey is the implementation of KCS, but, rather than being your typical newbie presentation, this focuses on Riverbed, Stone Cobra, and DB Kay & Associates bringing years of KCS and systems expertise to the table to finally do an implementation “the right way” and having everything go smoothly.
  • How Companies Drive Transformation: Learn How Smart Services Leaders Drive Effective Transformation within their Organization. The road to Services Transformation is not for the faint of heart. Before organizations embark on their transformational journey, they need to clearly understand what the catalysts are within their organization that are driving transformation. The panelists will reveal what the catalysts for transformation were within their individual organizations. They will also discuss what “levers” they are using to drive transformation and why they believe that the following levers will affect change. Focusing on professional services and professional services automation (PSA), this session is hosted by Compuware, with panelists from NCR and Vertafore.
  • HP Snapfish: Improving Customer Connection and Conversions through the Use of the LivePerson Platform. Snapfish by HP is the number one online photo service, with more than 90 million members in over 20 countries and 2 billion unique photos stored online. Today, the Customer Care team for Snapfish uses LivePerson’s LP Chat and LP Insights in managing their business to improve conversion rates and customer satisfaction throughout the purchase process. For all the B2B companies interested in chat, this session shows how a consumer firm handles large volumes of chat traffic with great satisfaction scores and even incremental revenue!
  • Leader to Leader: How Actionable Insight Transforms Service Operations. When information needed to serve customers is hard to reach, support becomes harder than it needs to be and service levels and customer satisfaction suffer. Customers demand to be “known” by and get quick, relevant responses from the support organizations that they rely on. This requires that support teams sift through and make sense of an overwhelming social and enterprise content clutter of customer information that is scattered across systems and teams. It’s an increasingly time-consuming and nearly impossible task for agents and managers. Join this interactive panel led by Coveo, with panelists including Tokyo Electron America, to learn how to empower your team to get the right insight, every time in one view. Panelists will share case studies on how they leveraged the collective knowledge of their support systems and people to transform support performance, improve FCR, reduce ACHT, increasing customer and employee satisfaction.
  • Social Media Customer Care Best Practices. Many companies are planning to allocate staff and technology to support social customer care, but are struggling with how to operationalize it. Learn how a leading contact center outsourcer, Telvista, is using the voice of the customer (VOC) in its social media centers to enhance loyalty and brand reputation, drive better decisions, and reduce costs. Some of the primary topics that will be addressed in this interactive session include how do you develop a social customer strategy; what does it take to deliver social customer care; how can I measure customer sentiment as part of VOC; what are some examples of how social care drives real-world voice of the customer success; and what are seven recommendations regarding starting a successful social care program? This session is sponsored by Verint Systems.
  • Streamlining the Global Services Organization at Bullhorn. Join this session to learn how Bullhorn, a leading provider of software and services that improve the way employees and employers come together, partnered with NetSuite to automate and streamline a global, multi-currency professional services organization. They will discuss how unifying resource and project management, project accounting, forecasting, reporting and time and expense management helped Bullhorn move away from dependence on cumbersome, disjointed Excel spreadsheets; accelerate and streamline revenue recognition; automating customer subscription to billing for professional service revenue; unify global operations serving more than 100,000 customers across 126 countries, and foster end user adoption.

Look forward to seeing everyone next week! Safe travels to Las Vegas. And as always, thanks for reading!

Five Lessons B2B Service Should Learn From the B2C World

September 28, 2012

I had an inquiry call yesterday with a TSIA member, and we were talking about how some of the emerging best practices in the B2B tech support world were already established practices in the B2C contact center world. They suggested I compile a list of the most significant learnings from B2C companies that B2B companies could benefit from, and I thought that was a great idea. With their huge volumes and high churn rates, B2C companies are forced to come to terms with people/process/technololgy challenges with a major sense of urgency, and these best practices can greatly benefit enterprise support.  I’ve given this a bit of thought between conference calls and webcasts, and here’s what I came up with:

  • Upsell/cross-sell. No one should be surprised this is at the top of my list. Consumer telco and financial services came to terms with selling as part of servicing a decade ago, when Do Not Call made it harder to market to customers, and it only makes sense to leverage every inbound interaction as an opportunity to increase wallet share. Campaign management and offer management software automated the process so agents were prompted to extend offers in context of the interaction, and specific to the customer, so the customer doesn’t even perceive the offer as selling. B2B companies know that upsell/cross-sell is coming, and forward looking companies are already embracing it. TSIA members wanting more information should check out this recent piece of research, “Best Practices to Increase Offer Accept Rates,” which includes lots of lessons learned from consumer firms.
  • Customer experience. B2B companies seem to focus a lot on customer satisfaction, while consumer firms focus more on customer experience. Interaction satisfaction is only one part of the customer experience, and I think B2B companies need to get savvier about understanding the total ownership experience, from dealing with sales reps, through the PS and education process, how billing is handled, how releases are delivered, PLUS the entire post-sales support lifecycle. Customers often complain how difficult a certain vendor is to do business with, but the vendors seem blind to the process problems, as they don’t look beyond after-phone satisfaction scores.
  • Many paths to the truth for self-service. I’ve talked about this one again and again, but the best way to boost self-service success is to offer multiple paths to content that meets needs of different users, and B2C companies understand this. While tech savvy users may use the search box, less technical users want an index tree or ‘guided search’ to step through, while novice users prefer FAQ lists. And for simple questions, offering a virtual assistant can have a huge impact. Though we’ve given STAR Awards to companies like Cisco and Avaya who embrace this approach, most enterprise firms still rely on the search box alone. Especially as we move toward more cloud solutions, with less IT involvement and more interaction with end users of the products, embracing the consumer approach to self-service, with more focus on simple questions and procedural “how do I” questions, and providing tools for less technical customers, should be a requirement for every B2B support team.
  • Channel agnosticism. Over the last 2 years we’ve seen B2B companies finally recognize Chat is a valid channel for technical support, with low costs and high satisfaction compared to phone and email. What I’m not seeing, however, is a cross-channel strategy. B2B companies continue to add new customer channels, like chat, as standalone “channel islands” not connected to the CRM system or incident tracking system used for phone. B2C companies know that an order may come in via phone, with a follow up by email, and a shipping question on the order via chat. Having a cross-channel view of the customer, and offering an identical experience regardless of the channel, must be a priority as we expand B2B channel coverage.
  • Adoption speed of new technology/leveraging trends. Let’s face it, consumer firms have to respond faster to consumer trends than enterprise firms. I understand that. But I question the lag time between B2C adoption and B2B adoption on many areas, including mobility and video. While most consumer device firms now offer video libraries of trouble shooting and procedural guides, B2B companies usually have nothing but an aging knowledgebase of text articles. While B2B companies have been fairly aggressive with online communities, other social media channels are ignored…despite success stories showing their potential. Keep in mind that every consumer trend ultimately impacts the enterprise world (how many of you are reading this blog post on a mobile device?), so we should stop waiting for big consumer trends to be “proven” for the enterprise world. They are inevitable.

What is missing? Please add comments if other things occur to you. And next up, I’m going to do a list of B2B practices that B2C companies should learn! I’m open to suggestions! And as always, thanks for reading.

Lessons Unlearned Radio Tour: Customer Service is a Hot Topic Coast to Coast

August 28, 2012

This week I completed my Lessons Unlearned radio tour of North America. Over the last few weeks, I’ve done 14 interviews with large and small radio stations in such diverse locations as Boston, Virginia Beach, Colorado Springs, Des Moines, Detroit, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. Some of the interviews were syndicated, broadcast all over the c0untry. While some of the shows were business oriented, and we talked about topics like enterprise CRM, tech trends, why most startups fail, etc., the majority of the interviews were with morning “drive time” DJs who just wanted to entertain.

Based on what I heard in these 14 interviews, customer service is a very hot discussion topic. In fact, my contract was only for 10 interviews, but so many stations replied to the interview request because they loved the topic that I ended up doing 14. Thinking back over all these interviews, which ranged from 5 minutes to 25 minutes, there were 3 themes I heard over and over again:

  • Certain brands have a terrible public perception for service, deserved or not. Bizarrely, three consumer companies came up in almost every interview, with DJ’s asking, “Why does this company hate customers?” These three are AT&T wireless, DirectTV, and Best Buy. There are definitely some brands on my “black hole of customer service” list (read the book to find out who!), but personally I have a great relationship with all three of these companies. I’ve been an AT&T customer since my first dorm room phone line in 1982, and an AT&T wireless customer since my first cell phone in 1997. DirectTV is the only satellite provider in my remote mountain area, and I love them. And Best Buy has bent over backwards to fix any problem I’ve ever had. I love shopping at Best Buy. But clearly these companies have some brand building to do.
  • Phone support is painful. Another complaint I heard on almost every interview is about the endless wait times for phone support, the infuriating voice menus that never have the option you want, and the worst: the non-stop recording saying “Thank you for holding; your call is important to us.” Clearly, if the call were that important, the company would have more phone agents available. Other complaints included recordings saying, “Please listen to all options, menus have changed” when the menu hasn’t changed in 5 years, agents with poor English skills, and in general, bored,uninterested support employees. It pains me to hear these complaints with so much focus on the customer experience. Clearly, companies need to make some major investments in quality monitoring technology.
  • Customers would rather churn than complain. I have a section in my book with advice for consumers when they encounter customer service problems. Nothing surprising really:  take a deep breath, speak with a supervisor, and if all else fails, write a registered letter to the CEO. But what I heard in these interviews is that no one is interested in fixing the problem, they seem on the edge of an explosion at any time, and would prefer to make a scene, trash the company on social media, and start shopping elsewhere. When I suggested that complaining was the only way to let the company know they had an employee needing additional training or mentoring, the reaction was usually the same: “Not my problem.”

While the New York Times has yet to call to say my book made it to their best seller list (I’m still waiting!!!), the timing of the book seems perfect. Customers have had it with bad service and poor experiences, and both patience and tempers are in short supply. Perhaps the most infuriating piece is how easy most of these problems are to fix: better training, CSAT tracking, linking customer experience to performance reviews, doing basic quality monitoring, and for heavens sake, dial in to your own voice system periodically to see how painful it is for customers. And as I say repeatedly in the book, if you truly love the customers, most of these problems evaporate.

How to Stream Training and Support Videos to Any Device? Ooyala to the Rescue!

June 15, 2012

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking with Caitlin Spaan, VP of Marketing for Ooyala, a very cool company enabling streaming video content delivered to iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Facebook, YouTube and more. I’ve published a lot of research over the last 2 years on mobility and video in service, and I’m starting to receive more questions from TSIA members about how to get started in this area.

Streaming video has several use cases for service. For education services, shifting from classroom training to OnDemand video training requires a lot of work not only to create the video content, but figure out how to deliver it to customers when they want, on the device they want, with high quality and consumption tracking. For support services, tutorials and “how to” videos are an excellent way of increasing self-service success–let’s face it, Gen Y customers are unlikely to search your knowledgebase or read your FAQ list. The mobile aspect of this is important, because early adopters created some fun online video sites using Flash, which of course isn’t consumable on popular mobile devices. Whatever content you decide to make available to customers must be accessible across all the flavors of mobile devices. There is no faster way of alienating a customer than to say, “Here’s all this great online content, but you can’t view it because you have a droid.”

Ooyala to the rescue. This Silicon Valley-based company enables content management and streaming of online video solutions for multiple audiences, including media companies (ESPN, Miramax, US magazine) and brand companies (Sephora, Victoria Secret, REI, Dell). On the brand side, Ooyala is working with companies to deliver training and support content, including makeup tips and “how to” videos for Sephora (who needs RuPaul’s Drag U?), video tutorials from REI on everything from fixing a flat bicycle tire to getting started kayaking, and Dell, who is using Ooyala as a video solution for sales (product overviews and feature demos) as well as support tutorials:

We are seeing companies get started with service videos on YouTube (including HP’s stellar YouTube channel, which I mentioned in my book, Lessons Unlearned), and that is a great place to get your feet wet. But when you want more control over the video streaming, including charging for content (key for education services) and/or inserting paid ads into content, a solution like Ooyala is required. Just to show how dedicated Ooyala is to customer success, their Senior Vice President of Customer Success is none other than longtime SSPA/TSIA board member, Dave Hare, a Silicon Valley service legend, who ran service operations for PeopleSoft, Oracle and Symantec before joining Ooyala.

If you are ready to take your service video strategy to the next level, check out Ooyala. With the broadcasters, publishers and consumer brands already using the service, this company knows all the ins and outs of successfully leveraging video, and they can help you define and execute your cross-device video strategy.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Workout Session: Proactive Channel Management

May 8, 2012

Today at Technology Services World in Santa Clara, CA I co-hosted a “workout session” on proactive channel management, with my friend and longtime TSIA member, Tarik Mahmoud from Cisco. Over the last two decades, customer support interactions have evolved from phone to a variety of channels, including email, web chat, self-service, and now social media. Support organizations have been largely reactive about these changes, adding channels as customers demand them and allocating staff as channel volumes evolve. But I’m beginning to see a very different approach becoming common today: companies will no longer sit back and watch channel volumes roll in, they are taking charge and helping manage volume by channel, nudging—and sometimes forcing—customers to move to more effective and less-expensive channels.

No one knows more about this subject than Tarik. In 2008, Cisco’s Linksys division made the brave decision to eliminate email support, which was their most expensive and least effective channel. Email has always been a challenge for technical support, with many back-and-forth emails required to get all the necessary details from customers. With the lag time waiting for email responses, average incident resolution time grows, and incident costs soar. With a careful strategy involving lots of marketing, Cisco eliminated email support without a single customer complaint, successfully transitioning the majority of email volume to an unassisted channel–the online forum.  The remaining traffic moved to the web chat channel. There was no impact to phone volumes. I documented this case study in a research report, “The Challenges of Tech Support via Email: Linksys Ends Email Support, Successfully Migrating Traffic to Forums.” TSIA members can find this report on our website–search by the title (or email me for a copy if all else fails, I know our search engine leaves a lot to be desired).

A workout session is not the kind of breakout in which audience members get to sit and listen for an hour. Oh no, you gotta work it girl! Tarik and I teed up the conversation, I shared data on average incident cost per channel, then we started a conversation with attendees around a few topics, such as:

  • Do you know your cost and satisfaction by channel today? What are your best/worst channels?
  • Do you know your volume by channel today? Which channels are growing/shrinking?
  • How do you influence channel adoption today? News letters, user groups, training classes?
  • What new approaches should you consider to influence channel adoption? What has worked for you?

The discussion was both fun and enlightening. We talked about how channel preferences are influenced by demographics, the importance of building use cases by customer type to establish which channels you should have, and how to encourage customers to try a new channel, such as chat.

Everyone was interested in the details of Tarik’s email story, as well as a new example of proactive channel management he provided. When the chat costs in a single country in Europe began averages 2x or 3x the cost of a phone call, chat was no longer offered in that region. When the customer selects that country from the pick list in the chat tool, they receive a message to please call for support. That way they are delivering the best experience for the lowest cost. So it turns out proactive channel management can be a very granular strategy. Each product may have different demographics, i.e., different channel adoption, and each country or region may have drastically different channel costs.

I hope everyone enjoyed the session as much as I did!