Archive for the ‘field service’ category

10th Annual TSIA Global Technology Survey is Now Open! Free Research Report for Participating

March 3, 2015

I’m pleased to announced that my 10th annual TSIA Technology Survey is now open! This survey covers 24 categories of tools and services used by customer support, professional services, education services, managed services and field service. The survey is open to everyone (not just TSIA members), and if you complete the survey, you will receive a copy of the resulting research report, “The 2015 TSIA Heatmap,” which discusses adoption levels of each category and top technology trends related to service organizations.

The survey addresses adoption, satisfaction, and planned spending for commonly used technologies including CRM, knowledge management, enterprise search, web collaboration, online communities, social media monitoring, analytic platforms, learning management, etc.  The survey asks which line of service you work for, then only prompts you with categories that apply. For example, if you work in Field Service, you will be asked about scheduling and dispatch tools, and if you work in Professional Services, you will be asked about professional services automation. So you won’t have to answer all 24 categories!

Along with the traditional service technology, the survey also addresses some emerging hot technology areas critical to TSIA’s B4B, customer success and expand selling messages:

  • Consumption Monitoring/Analytics: These tools are used to measure and monitor customer consumption of technology, gauging how quickly customers are adoption new tools, common process flows, top used features, number of users and length of session time, etc. Consumption Monitoring is a key piece of a Customer Success strategy.
  • Recurring Revenue Management: These tools are used by service professional to manage the sales and renewals processes for maintenance and service contracts. Functionality includes automating renewals, renewal dashboards, and analytics to predict likelihood of renewal and manage profitable contract/maintenance programs.
  • Upsell/Cross-Sell: Also known as offer management software, these tools prompt call center, tech support, field service, or renewal sales reps with contextual offers to extend to customers, using analytics to identify offers they are most likely to accept. Tracking extend and accept rates, the software continues to learn which offer to prompt for which situation and customer profile.

I make great use of the data collected, with mulitple reports published of the survey findings for the Spring Technology Services World Conference in Santa Clara. First is the 2015 Technology Heatmap, which looks at high level adoption and spending trends across service disciplines. This report will be sent to everyone who completes the survey. In addition, I will publish detailed spending report by service discipline, a separate report on EMEA, as well as the “top installed” report, listing the top used tools or service providers in each category. If you are a TSIA partner, ask your customers to take the survey!

The survey is open until March 31st. It should take less than 10 minutes to complete the survey. Your responses are kept confidential, and are only reported in aggregate. Here is the link to the survey:

Thanks in advance for your support, and after you take the survey, pass along the link to your friends in service organizations! The more responses, the better. And as always, thanks for reading!


5 Key Areas to Maximize Service Excellence

September 24, 2014

Tomorrow I’m hosting a webinar at 10am PT, “5 Key Areas to Maximize Service Excellence,” based on a joint white paper I’m working on with Astea International. The paper has the same title along with this subtitle: “Hot Trends and Investment Areas Every Field Service Executive Should Leverage.” There are so many industry forces driving change to field service operations, and in this short 30 minute webinar, Debbie Geiger from Astea and myself will talk about the top five areas impacting field teams. The five areas are:

  • Talent management. With companies reporting as much as 40% of their service workforce will be retiring in the next five years, field service has an opportunity to rethink organizational design and processes.
  • Mobility and wearable devices. Early adopters of mobile tools and applications for field service technicians are already realizing benefits to productivity, operational quality and cost.
  • Knowledge management and collaboration. Strategies for knowledge sharing and real-time peer collaboration in the field.
  • Internet of Things. Today’s increasingly connected technology creates opportunities for remote access, improving productivity and reducing onsite visits.
  • Expand selling. Leveraging industry trends to introduce upsell/cross-sell strategies, as well as introduce more premium service options.

Not only will we share some industry data to explain the impacts of these hot topics, including some brand new TSIA data showing the business impact of mobile tools for field service, but we’ll hear from Debbie how some Astea customers are harnessing these trends to generate business value, from increased productivity and lower fleet costs to increased revenue.

As a thank you for attending tomorrow’s webinar, we will send you a link to download the white paper when it is published in the next 1-2 weeks. If you work in field service, or are interesting in industry trends driving change to service operations, please click on this link to register:

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you in the audience tomorrow!

Best Practices for Successfully Migrating to a New CRM Platform

August 19, 2014

Over the last few months I’ve received multiple inquiries from companies moving to a new CRM platform, asking for any best practices to make the migration efforts less painful, and to ensure a successful result. Most companies I talk to have 3-5 different systems in place, usually due to acquisitions and mergers, so they have an even bigger task of migrating everyone off disparate systems onto a single platform moving forward. Based on my experience working for CRM vendors, doing consulting projects as an analyst with companies implementing CRM, and many recent conversations with companies moving to a new CRM platform, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Change is hard. No matter how long you’ve had your old system, and how much people may grumble about using it, getting employees to embrace a new system isn’t easy. The #1 complaint from employees when I do system audits is “they shoved this new system down my throat.” This is one of those times when you should over-communicate with employees. Tell them why you are making the change. Give them demos of the new system. Buy everyone a mug or t-shirt with the new vendor’s logo. Do what you can to get them informed and excited about the new system before you start training them to use it. This will go a long way towards getting acceptance and rapid adoption for the rollout.
  • Change is good. The biggest mistake I see companies make when they migrate to a new system is just replicating the old screens and process flows on a new platform. You need to take a very hard look at your legacy implementation and figure out what’s working, and what’s not. Do a real audit of the current system so you know what NOT to recreate in the new platform. I even recommend surveying employees about what they like and don’t like in the old system, which goes a long way toward getting them invested in a new system. Typically, a lot of fields and process flows were added over the years for one reason or another, and many of them need to be eliminated. Process analysis isn’t fun, but you need to look at all your customer-facing processes and identify where changes should be made. Implementing a new CRM system is a wonderful opportunity to change what’s not working.
  • Minimize customizations. Popular CRM systems have thousands of customers, and their “out of box” capabilities and screens reflect the most common, i.e., best practice, approaches used by their customers. Try to stay “out of box” as much as possible. If you see areas—and you will—that need major customizations to meet your current processes, ask yourself if those processes are really providing competitive differentiation for your company. Maybe going with a common industry approach is the right thing to do. The other thing to keep in mind is that the traditional OnPremise CRM platforms are fairly complex, and customizations may require a highly trained system administrator with some programming skills. In newer cloud CRM platforms, customizations are very simple to do with little training. This is both a blessing and a curse. Because customizations are so easy, companies go crazy making constant tweaks, which can wreak havoc for users and degrade usability. Make sure you have a process in place to evaluate and approve every customization before implementing it.
  • Prioritize integrations early in the project. I’ve done a lot of writing and inquiries about integrating CRM to other systems to enable “quote to cash.” There are many 3rd party applications you should consider integrating with CRM to streamline processes and avoid employees juggling multiple applications. Knowledge management is an obvious example, with integration performing automatic searches of the knowledgebase based on incident text and field values. PSA is another example, with integration to CRM automatically passing along new project information to the PSA system to enable resource and project management. The majority of the time, companies say, “Let me just get CRM up and running, and we’ll do the integrations in Phase 2.” The problem is, Phase 2 never happens. Hopefully, you have selected a CRM platform with integrations in mind, as each CRM vendor has a set of ecosystem partners with packaged integrations to minimize the effort required. Get a realistic estimate early in the project about time/costs to integrate each 3rd party system, and try to get as many integrations as possible into the initial project phase.
  • Pick your implementor with care. I guess this goes without saying. But I’ve heard some horror stories about really bad implementors, so be sure you carefully evaluate their credentials and check several of their references. As I said previously, implementing cloud CRM may not require as much technical/programming skills as OnPremise CRM systems. A decade ago, most CRM implementors worked with big accounting firms, and you were assigned a project team with deep experience in process optimization and certified on the CRM platform so they knew every bell and whistle in the system. Unfortunately, today I see companies hiring some yahoo whose only experience was implementing a cloud CRM system for small non-profits or a 5 person insurance office, and they have no clue about “best in class” processes or any real depth of knowledge about the platform.

I know many of my readers know as much or more than I do on this topic, so please submit comments with any other suggestions you may have on what to do–or what to avoid doing–to make moving to a new CRM system successful. Thanks for reading!

Recapping 2013: Hottest Service Technology Trends

November 27, 2013

Is it too early to start recaps for 2013? With the end of the year barely over a month away, I’ve been thinking about what I heard this year that was new and interesting, and trying to put these trends/innovations into useful categories. Based on my member inquiries and partner briefings, here’s a stab at the hottest topics to emerge in service technology over the last year:

Large enterprises embrace cloud applications. Small and medium-sized businesses were early adopters of cloud applications, and as many OnDemand suites are much less sophisticated than their OnPremise counterparts, the lighter-weight tools met the needs of SMBs just fine. But this year I’ve talked to service executives of some the largest tech companies in North America and Europe who were in the midst of a migration from a legacy CRM system to a lower cost cloud suite. As I’ve written about before, large companies moving to cloud tools have to streamline and consolidate processes as the applications don’t support heavy customization. Unfortunately, about 3 months after the move to the cloud, I start getting calls asking about functional gaps they did not anticipate. Your cloud CRM tools probably do not include support for complex entitlement, automating renewals, or knowledge management beyond a list of solutions. With the move to the cloud all but inevitable, there is some heavy lifting that must be done to achieve extreme efficiency with the new technologies.

Knowledge management evolves beyond support. I first published a report back in 2009 about knowledge management being a cross-discipline (support services, field service, education services, professional services, managed services) subject, with convergence needed to leverage existing tools and processes across the enterprise. But it wasn’t until this year that I started receiving numerous KM inquiries outside of support. PS asking for best practices to capture and share lessons learned across project teams. Field service wanting to know how to best leverage mobile tools to access corporate knowledge from the field. Education services interested in how to define KM roles, as demand shifts from teacher to librarian. And, as I heard at our recent Las Vegas conference, support may have their KM practices well-defined, but other groups see support’s approach too slow,  too complicated and too focused on experts instead of collaboration. I think what we consider “KM best practices” is going to radically shift, and I also expect to see more Knowledge as a Service (which I’m going to call KaaS) providers entering the market. Too many companies have re-implemented KM tools and jump-started KM practices every 3-4 years for the last 12 years, maybe it is time to try a new approach?

Professional Services Automation (PSA) is the new MUST HAVE application category. I’ve always joked that professional services teams were too busy implementing technology for their customers to ever use any for themselves. PSA, which includes modules for resource management, project management and project accounting, is still not that highly adopted (according to my 2013 Member Technology Survey, 58% of PS members are using PSA). But, spending is on the rise, with over half of PS members (54%) having budget for new or additional PSA in 2013-2014. And as a proof point, my inquiries on PSA have risen to become my third hottest topic, after CRM and KM. I just published a new report, Five Key Criteria in Making a PSA Decision, based on dozens of these conversations over the last year. If you are still managing your PS operation using spreadsheets, now’s the time to make a change.

Video in Service: Here to stay. A couple of years ago I gave a conference presentation about the future of video in service, and received more than a few snarky comments saying it would never happen. Never mind that even then, was using video chat tools with premiere customers, and the use cases for incorporating video into trouble shooting were many and varied. But video in service suddenly became a very hot topic recently when Amazon released the Kindle Fire HDX, and featured a video chat option, called the “Mayday button“, in print and TV advertising. The ads show a customer linking to a live video chat agent for help, with the agent able to take control of your device and even write on the tablet to illustrate how to do something.  Remote control of mobile devices isn’t new (checkout LogMeIn and Bomgar), but seeing it used along with video chat introduced a whole new user experience. That one commercial is going to convince consumers this is an option they need, so get ready for your closeup, Mr. DeMille.

“Core” is shrinking fast. I’ve written before about how service is constantly re-evaluating core verses context, realizing that less and less of corporate operations really are key to their success. Even outsourcing technical support was a bitter bill for many B2B companies to swallow, though I’ve talked to many who now realize they should have looked to partners for assistance a decade ago. But over the last year, with more companies trying to boost revenues and cut costs in the face of all the realities described in B4B, I’m seeing more and more options on the table for outsourcing. First it was technical support level 1, then level 2/3, field service, and now maintenance renewals, managed services, social media, online community management–there are no more sacred cows. As I alluded to earlier, I’m predicting 2014 is the year Knowledge as a Service emerges as a viable approach for more companies.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be thinking about how these hot topics will drive trends for 2014, and you can expect to see some of these ideas again when I publish my “state of the industry” reports in Q1. Stay tuned. And as always, thanks for reading!

Only a third of US workers engaged in their jobs: Tips for Support Managers

June 18, 2013

I was enjoying a pot of English Breakfast tea and working my way through this morning’s newspaper when I found an article that made my blood run cold. According to an article by Ricardo Lopez in the Los Angeles Times, a Gallup poll of 100 million Americans holding full time jobs conducted 2010-2012 found that the majority of workers are not engaged…in fact a surprising percentage hate going to work. Here are the numbers:

Gallup poll of 100 million US workers

  • Only 30% of workers are “actively engaged,” i.e., “were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.”
  • 50% are “not engaged,” meaning they are just going through the motions at work and are “checked out.”
  • A shocking 30% of workers are “actively disengaged,” i.e, employees who hate going to work, and undermine their companies with their attitude.

As a manager I’ve felt this shift happening, but didn’t realize the numbers were so bad. The days of “lifetime employment”  I experienced early in my career–in which I knew I had a job as long as I worked hard and performed well–have vanished, and job security no longer exists, with companies cutting valuable, long-time employees when one quarter’s financials don’t look good. Companies that treat workers like commodities are now reaping what they sow.

I also think generational differences contribute. Older workers whose parents survived the depression were raised with sometimes severe work ethics, eager to work long hours for job security and hopefully to get promoted a few times along the way. Let’s just say today’s 18 year olds have a different attitude about work/life balance, willingness to work long hours, and willingness to put in years of effort in order to be rewarded.

In my book, Lessons Unlearned, I talk about the importance of loving your employees, and how to work with people who have bad attitudes to help them understand, and be empathetic,  to the plight of the customer.  I realize none of this may be revolutionary, but here are some hints for service management on how to turn around bad attitudes in the workplace.

  • Catch ’em doing something right. Today’s managers are usually so overworked they rarely have time to do more than react. I’ve fallen into this trap myself a few times, becoming so busy I let my employees fend for themselves, and only step in when someone messes up. This isn’t good, and sends the message that you are only there to complain and punish. It is critical that you actively look for things employees are doing right, and praise them for it. Positive reinforcement costs nothing and is hugely motivating. If you give frequent, sincere compliments to someone who is actively disengaged, you can really start turning their attitude around.
  • Ongoing coaching. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life, and front line customer service is hard. Even the best employee in the world may have a bad day, and spending the day listening to customer problems–and having customers often taking their frustration out on you–can put anyone in a bad mood. I had a part time job once working at the Atlanta Symphony box office ticket line, and I started using the name Hector because when I told someone the front row seats they wanted weren’t available, it was easier to hear, “Hector, you are a worthless piece of ##$$%!!!” 5o times a day than, “John, you are a worthless piece of ##$$%!!!” (And  yes, my boss knew about my pseudonym in case someone complained about or complimented Hector.)
  • Role play. I’m a big believer in role play, in which you play the angry customers and put your employees through a training scenario. If you can adequately train workers to handle difficult customers, they are able to see past the emotional outburst, and move the interaction forward. I also talk in the book about ways to relieve the stress of angry customers. My favorite is “Magic Slate Therapy” on page 18–check it out!
  • Open, honest assessments. I write about how much trouble managers get into when they sugar coat the truth, not giving an honest assessment–particularly to volatile people–usually to avoid conflict, which never gives them an opportunity to learn, grow and change. These days, I think almost the opposite is happening. I’m so sick of policies like “everyone is a 3” and “to us, a 3 rating is good!” which sends me one message: stop over achieving because no one cares. If your policy is “everyone is a 3,” I guarantee you have even higher rates of actively disengaged workers than the Gallup poll suggests.

Are you feeling this shift happening? What are you doing in your company to hire motivated workers, and identify disengaged workers so you can turn them around?  Love to hear some insights from the field. And as always, thanks for reading!


2013 Services Technology Survey NOW OPEN!

March 1, 2013

I am very happy to announce that my annual services technology survey is now open. This is the 8th annual survey, which tracks adoption, satisfaction and planned spending across 24 categories of tools and services. The survey is open March 1 to March 31. The data from this survey drives the bulk of my research for the year. Never have so few created so many research reports from a single survey. In time for our Spring Technology Services World Conference in Santa Clara, I will publish:

  • 2013 TSIA Heatmap. This report provides a high level view of adoption trends across all service discipline, noting major technology trends impacting support services, field service, education services, professional services, service revenue generation, as well as our new discipline, managed services.
  • 2013 Spending Reports. I also write detailed reports documenting adoption, satisfaction and planned spending for each service discipline, 7 reports in all (in addition to the above disciplines, I also create a version for TSIA partners)
  • 2013 Top Installed Report. Last year was the first time I created this report, which shows top installed products in all 24 categories of the survey. This turned out to be one of the top downloaded reports from last year, as everyone starts a new purchase by asking, “What products are my peers using?”
  • 2013 Spending: Europe. Last year we had such a great response from European companies that I was able to publish a separate report showing how adoption and planned spending trends differed in Europe compared to North America. Providing I receive a good response database, I will create this report again for 2013.

In addition to published research, the satisfaction scores received in the survey determine the winner of the TechBEST Best in Satisfaction Award, presented at TSW Santa Clara.

If you work in a services role, I urge you to take the survey. It will take less than 15 minutes to complete (hopefully a lot less). Everyone is eligible to participate, not just TSIA members. In fact, everyone who takes the survey will receive a copy of the 2013 Heatmap as my thank you for participating. If you are a vendor of services technology, please consider asking your customers to take the survey.

Here is the link to the survey:

Thanks for your help, and let me know if you have any questions. And as always, thanks for reading!

SMB’s Are Ready for Field Service Automation

February 4, 2013

Last week I participated in a webcast with our partner Astea on field service automation for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), and in preparation for the webcast, I uncovered some data that really illustrates the need for automation. (Here’s the link to watch the OnDemand version of the webcast.) According to my annual member technology survey, only 60% of small firms (those under $100M in revenue) have any type of field service automation in place, compared to 88% of large enterprises (over $1B in revenue).

Automation impacts key operational metrics field service organizations use. With real-time scheduling, factoring in location, skills and parts availability, field techs can accomplish more appointments per shift, and reduce response time. With automated routing instructions, which includes real-time traffic conditions, drive time to appointments can be reduced. By providing mobile devices to streamline access to knowledge and enable team collaboration, techs can perform repairs faster and increase first time fix rates.

Out of curiosity, I sliced some of the field service metrics by company size, and the data shows that on average, smaller firms are falling behind the largest firms. Here are some examples:

Field Service Metrics by Company Size

Now, obviously automation is not the only factor here. Smaller firms are challenged to service widespread customers with a smaller team of field techs. Larger firms can hire outsourced field workers close to customer clusters. Larger companies may offer more SLA options, including tighter response and resolution times. However, lack of automation certainly contributes.

Luckily, I think these numbers will start to change. Planned spending by under $100M firms on field service tools is rising, with 60% of small companies having budget for field service technology in 2012-2013. And, there are more options for SMBs, with emerging cloud solutions designed specifically for SMBs. Being an SMB doesn’t mean you will miss out on “cool” technology either–today’s SMB focused solutions offer mobile device support, collaboration, dashboards, etc.

I will be kicking off my 2013 Member Technology Survey on March 1st, and I will reveal the findings at our Spring Technology Services World Conference in May in Santa Clara. Let’s hope the planned spending has begun to materialize, and adoption levels for field service automation will be higher. Stay tuned! And as always, thanks for reading!

Finally: Field Service Gains Sex Appeal

December 13, 2012

If ever there was an area within service in need of a makeover, it would be field service. My very first technical support job, back in the 80s at JCPenney in Atlanta, involved working closely with NCR and IBM to dispatch field techs when store point of sale equipment needed onsite repair. Frankly, not much has changed in field service since then, and in all the years I’ve been tracking field service technology and adoption, there has never been an industry-wide push to update and modernize as we’ve seen in other service areas (multi-channel, knowledge management and social support being three good examples).

Until now. There are several drivers making field service automation a hot area. Planned spending is up, the industry is ripe with innovation, and even Wall Street seems to be taking notice. Consider these drivers:

  • The cloud. Legacy field service automation suites were 12-18 month implementations, with price tags for large enterprises in the $10M or more range, often due to the complexities of logistics and parts management. With new technology providers offering end-to-end field service in the cloud, acquisition and maintenance costs are much lower, with business user targeted controls not requiring an IT system administrator to own the implementation.
  • Mobility. I see mobility as the primary driver for many companies to finally take the plunge and overhaul their field service infrastructure. The productivity improvements possible by arming the field staff with smartphones or tablets shows enormous potential. Streamlined scheduling and dispatch, access to enterprise content from onsite, easy collaboration with peers across the globe, etc.
  • Revenue. TSIA data has shown that upsell/cross-sell is nearly 100% successful for field service engineers, due to the intimacy of face-to-face contacts, as well as the trust customers tend to have with a friendly and knowledgeable field tech. With so many companies under renewed budget pressure for 2013, looking beyond cost cutting toward incremental revenue to fill the gap becomes a compelling strategy.

The final clue I needed to prove field service is a hot area came yesterday, when an equity firm reached out to me for information on the industry, because they see it as a hot investment area. I hear from equity firms all the time, but the topic is almost always related to social media, or maybe multichannel. If the guys with the big bucks see field service as a major growth area, who am I to argue? Clearly interest in this area is growing, not only with customers demanding features like self-service appointment scheduling, field service teams looking to mobility to streamline processes and energize the workforce, and now investors looking for the “next big thing” to invest in.

It was about this time last year that the video of the delivery person tossing a computer over the fence went viral. I honestly believe that served as a driver as well. Let’s hope the next viral video is about exceptional service, not broken packages or field techs napping on the customer’s couch. We need some good stories to share.

Happy holidays to everyone, and thanks as always for reading Ragsdale’s Eye on Service!

Customers Top 5 Pet Peeves About Field Service

September 11, 2012

This post was prompted by an interview request from Darren Weiss at The SmartVan, a blog and news aggregator focused on field service people, process and technology (the resulting story can be found here). I dug out some customer survey work concerning the top customer complaints about field service, and used a poll to identify which of the five give you the most grief. Here’s what you said:

No surprise that the dreaded 8 hour appointment window remains the biggest complaint about field service. Unfortunately still common in the consumer world (ask my phone company), giving a customer an 8 hour window to sit at home and wait for a repair person is just ridiculous. Even without all the automation created in the last decade, you’d think “morning or afternoon” would at least be an option. And with mobile scheduling tools, getting down to a 2 hour window…heading toward an exact appointment time…should be in reach for most organizations.

The last time I had a problem with my land line, I received an 8 hour appointment window: 8am to 5pm. I started calling around 4pm when no one had showed, but they said they would definitely be there. They didn’t call me until 5:30 to say they wouldn’t make it, but they would be there tomorrow….between 8am and 5pm. If your customers has already spent an entire day waiting for you, and you didn’t show, the least you can do is give an exact appointment time for the next day. Another 8 hour window just adds insult to injury.

Having a tech not familiar with the equipment, and/or having to schedule another appointment to fix the problem, tie for 2nd place in biggest field service complaints. Especially if you already gave up an entire day with an 8 hour appointment window, being told they have to come back tomorrow is maddening. And from the provider’s perspective, it costs $1,010 for an onsite repair visit according to the TSIA field service  benchmark. If you can’t fix the problem and have to schedule a 2nd appointment, you are now up to $2,020 for the issue. Being ineffective can be very expensive.

Missing an appointment time without alerting the customer comes in 4th. This is another problem I encounter frequently. I live in a fairly remote area, and about 30 minutes after most appointment times, I receive a call saying, “We had no idea you were so remote. We can’t be there for another hour.” And they usually get lost finding me after that, especially since Google maps and every car navigation system puts me half a mile down the road in the middle of a forest.

It is a bit sad that of the top customer complaints about field service, having an unfriendly tech barely raises an eyebrow, with only 7% of respondents to the poll saying this was their hot button issue. I suppose we are so grateful to finally get a warm body onsite we don’t care how rude they are.  But it definitely impacts the customer’s perception of the brand, and their likelihood of repurchase.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll! And as always, thanks for reading!

CRM Evolution 2012: MultiChannel and Customer Experience Hot Topics

August 21, 2012

Last week I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at CRM Evolution 2012, held at the Marriott Marquis in New York. Coordinated by the editors of CRM Magazine, and chaired by the “father of CRM,” Paul Greenberg, this is THE conference for those tasked with selecting, implementing and getting the most value out of customer relationship management, across marketing, sales and service. The sessions were mostly driven by big name industry analysts and influencers, such as Ray Wang, Esteban Kolsky, and Bill Band, so the content was excellent and definitely pushing the envelope on strategy and vision.

View of Times Square from Marriott Marquis

One of the most interesting sessions I attended was the CRM Leader Panel, moderated by Paul Greenberg, with a panel of CRM vendor execs: Anthony Lye, Oracle; John Wookey,; Larry Augustin, SugarCRM; Andrew Joiner, Autonomy’s Promote Business; Bob Stutz, Microsoft Dynamics CRM; and Anthony Leaper, SAP. Not because I heard anything really new about CRM, but because the audience questions focused on customer experience and multi-channel–two of my favorite topics but not things I usually expect CRM vendors to be experts on. There was a lot of marketing-speak in the answers; I wish they had posed the same questions to some of the multichannel and customer experience vendors in attendance.

The session with the best content I attended was “Customer Service Using Social: Trends, Analysis, and Guidelines,” with Esteban Kolsky and Mitch Lieberman, Vice President of Strategic Marketing, KANA, presenting findings from a research study they did on the effectiveness of social channels, including advice for B2C and B2B. Really compelling data, and as always with Esteban, some strong opinions.

A lot of focus on gamification. I must admit, I came to the conference thinking I just “didn’t get” gamification, but after attending some sessions on the topic, I’ve decided that if the emperor is not naked, he is at least scantily clad. As I posted on Facebook recently, adding a “like” button to a screen doesn’t mean you have a gamification platform. And the examples presented at the conference seemed to focus on collaboration, usually in communities, equating collaboration with gaming. Human beings are social creatures, and we have been collaborating for thousands of years, before gaming was invented. I remain unconvinced.

My session was the only field service topic at the event, so I was glad to represent the subject! I spent an hour discussing mobility and video in service, including impacts to knowledge management, field service and education. Great audience reaction, especially when I talked about picking the right device, and demo’d drop kicking the Intermec CS40, a ruggedized handheld computer/smartphone specifically designed for field service.

I also did a book signing, autographing copies of Lessons Unlearned for attendees. Special thanks to eGain for allowing me to sign books in their booth in the showcase!

Thanks to Paul Greenberg and the editors of CRM Magazine for including me in the event!