Posted tagged ‘CRM’

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!


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!

Making Knowledge Work for You: Interview with David Kay, KM Guru

August 12, 2010

When I analyzed all of my member inquiries for 2009, 31%–nearly a third–related to knowledge management, search, and web self-service. You’ve all heard me complain about how shockingly low self-service success rates are, with the industry average dipping down to 40% at the beginning of 2010. Clearly this is an area that companies haven’t figured out, even though spending on knowledge technology has been strong for the last decade and a half.

Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a day with someone who has all the answers? Here’s your chance. At our Fall TSW conference in Las Vegas, David Kay will present a full day workshop, “Making Knowledge Work for You: Best Practices in Support KM,” Monday, October 18 from 8am-2pm. David is founder of DB Kay & Assoc, and co author of Collective Wisdom: Transforming Support with Knowledge, a must read for all support knowledge workers. David is my go-to guy for all things knowledge, and I wanted to take this opportunity to interview him about his workshop, and why KM is such a challenge for today’s support organizations.

John Ragsdale: What a pleasure to speak with you David! I’m excited about your upcoming KM Workshop, “Making Knowledge Work for You: Best Practices in Support KM.” You have spent time with many SSPA and TSIA members over the years, helping them create new knowledge processes and implement new tools. What would you say are the 3 most common problems you find regarding KM initiatives within tech support?

David Kay: I’m excited about the workshop at the Las Vegas TSW conference!  We always have great conversations. The three problems I see the most have changed over the past several years.  It used to be that KM efforts lacked executive sponsorship, but–as your numbers suggest–most support executives understand the benefits of knowledge, so that’s less of a problem.  What we’re seeing instead is resistance among operational managers, measurement challenges, and a paralyzing fear of being wrong.

I feel for the operational managers I work with.  Every day, some executive stops by and says, “hey, do this one other new thing,” and then walks away before the poor manager can ask, “what do I get to STOP doing?”  With rising pressure to serve more customers, with more complex issues, with constrained resources, it’s not surprising to me that they see knowledge management as just one more thing they don’t have time to do.

The reality, of course, is that knowledge management will really streamline the job of support.  Done right. it makes the job not only more efficient, but more fun:  who wants to answer the same question over and over again?  But line managers will need some convincing, and expecting that line managers will support KM just because they’re told to is a mistake.

Knowledge measures are different from other support measures.  Typical measures are straightforward:  all things being equal, we should close more cases per person, resolve cases more quickly, and get higher CSAT scores.  But when it comes to knowledge, numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Is authoring more content good?  Yes…but only if it’s needed, and if it’s findable, usable, accurate, and timely–otherwise more content is actually bad.  Knowledge measures require a mindset shift.

Finally, there’s something about writing something down in a knowledgebase that makes people just a little…crazy.  Say someone to a customer, OK…write it in an email…fine…but write it in the knowledgebase?  EMERGENCY!  EMERGENCY!  Someone’s going to take their entire network down!  Let’s get 13 subject experts to review it first, with a side trip to Marketing and Legal.  Never mind that, by the time the content goes through its review process, we’re going to be shipping the next major product release.

I don’t mean to be cavalier about quality, and much of the work that Jennifer and I do with clients involves building quality and continuous improvement into the KM process.  But even if your knowledgebase is 100% perfect today, customers will still misinterpret it, and it’ll be obsolete tomorrow morning.  Perfection isn’t an option, any more than it is in product development or in case resolution.  The goal is the most value for customers, and efficiency for ourselves.  And I find this requires taking a deep cleansing breath and giving up the illusion that perfection is an option, while figuring out how to get things as right as possible, as quickly as possible.

Top Technology Trends for 2010

May 17, 2010

Earlier this month at our Technology Services World (TSW) conference, I released the results of my 2010 TSIA Member Technology Survey, which tracks the adoption, satisfaction and planned spending in 24 areas of enabling technology and services for professional services, field service and technical support. After a long and very dark time for spending over the last couple of years, the numbers show that pent up need for refreshed technology is finally translating to spend: more than half of the categories covered in the survey are being invested in by more than 20% of members in 2010-2011.

For complete results, see the TSIA 2010 Member Spending Reports under ‘Research‘ on  There is one for each discipline: field service, professional services and support services. Highlights include:

  • Mobile devices and applications proliferate. Mobile technology and devices came out on top of the spending survey, with 34% of field service members having budget for mobile technology. iPad, iPhone and Blackberry users demand native applications, and increasingly they are getting them. For example, Oracle announced an iPad application for Oracle CRM on April 20th. NTRglobal’s NTRconnect gives iPhone users full access to home computers, including the ability to shake the device to move from screen to screen in a multi-screen environment (a feature I LOVE). Our newest partner, Anoto, has created a line of writing devices that records as it writes, capturing data in real time and synching it with databases and applications.
  • Make it social. No surprise, spending on social service is big this year. In fact, 31% of members have budget for social service tools, meaning 2010 is the year enterprise companies are pulling the social trigger. While most companies have already invested in online communities, this new round of spending includes social media monitoring tools (Baynote, Clarabridge), wikis and other collaborative content and tribal knowledge tools, idea storming, and integrations to incident and knowledge management.
  • Focus shifts from knowledgebase to search. The emphasis of knowledge management programs shifts from KBs toward a “knowledge anywhere” approach, with 31% of members having budget for intelligent search tools than can mine content in any location, in any format. The new breed of search tools (Coveo, InQuira, Consona CRM) are also bridging the gap between traditional online support content and customer community content, helping to merge self-service, online communities and social service into single initiatives.

Other areas with high planned spending include workforce management/optimization tools, analytic platforms, quality monitoring tools, learning management, and professional services automation.

For any TSIA members starting a project to identify new tools, please leverage the inquiry process. I can give you additional information, such as top installed products by TSIA members, and member satisfaction with specific tools.  And as always, thanks for reading!

2010: Dollars pouring into Social Service

April 9, 2010

Yesterday I participated in a TSIA webcast with Lithium and Baynote, with an amazing presentation by Brooke Molinaroli, Head of Digital Care Design with BT (British Telecom) Retail Customer Service. This was our third social service focused webcast this year, and another record crowd–this is the topic of the year. And, viewing my preliminary 2010 spending data (which I will release at TSW next month!), companies are putting their wallets on the table–BIG spending planned on social service and other areas. If you missed yesterday’s webcast you can register to view the OnDemand version here:

At lunch today I’m making a presentation to the Bay Area Business Executives Meetup Group entitled, “Effectively Leveraging Social Media as a Support Channel.” (If you’d like to come, here’s the link to register.) Why are so many people interested in this topic? Here’s what I think.

It took a dozen years for CRM to become established, highly adopted, with lots of documented best practices. Social media, which includes customer communities, micro-blogs and social networks, have reached high adoption in just a couple of years, so now everyone has their toes in the water but no one knows how to swim…and there appears to be a tidal wave coming. Customers continue to jump on the social bandwagon, the younger folks who crave online social interaction continue to age into the target demographic of more companies.

So this time the thirst for information isn’t about, “Should we do this?”  They are already doing it, and want to be successful The cost to engage in Twitter, for example, seems desperately cheap compared to starting up, say, a Web chat support team–little technology, few specialized skills needed (or are there?), and a more ‘devil may care’ attitude than with traditional support channels.  The issue, in the eyes of enterprise customers and forward-looking consumer companies, is this: today customers view these channels as a fun way to interact with the company and other customers. But with each use, relying on these channels becomes ingrained to customers.  It is very worrisome then, that according to our 2009 TSIA Member Social Media Survey:

  • Only 17% of members have integrated social media channels into the corporate website. Accessing an online community requires a different logon and password, and uses a different UI than the corporate website.
  • Only 8% of members have integrated the new channels into their CRM/incident management system. After a decade of trying to build the “360 degree view of the customer,” none of the social media interactions are being tracked.
  • Only 8% of members include social media channels in performance dashboards. So if you suddenly start neglecting a social media channel, no alarms or notifications exist.
  • Only 3% of members address social media channels in SLAs. If you aren’t setting customer expectations for service levels, achieving high customer satisfaction will be challenging as traffic via these channels increases.

We will continue to write on this topic and share best practices as they emerge. Luckily we have members with hugely successful social service practices who are willing to share their lessons learned…and judging from the STAR Award applications for Best Online Community, there are lots of great stories to share. Hope to see some of you in Mountain View today for my lunch talk! Thanks for reading.

Announcing the 2010 Member Technology Survey: Please Join In!

March 15, 2010

Friday we launched the 4th annual Member Technology Survey, which tracks adoption, satisfaction and planned spending for enabling service and support technology across 20+ functional areas. This survey data is critical to my research efforts, providing data I will use all year long to:

  • Create the 2010 Heatmap. The Heatmap is a graphical display of member technology adoption, showing “hot” product areas across technical support, professional services, and field service operations. The Heatmap is used throughout the year in published research and at our TSW events.
  • Publish the 2010 Member Spending Report. This report will highlight top areas for member spending across all three service disciplines for 2010-2011, as well as showing adoption trends for emerging technology areas.
  • Answer member inquiries. I receive approximately 200 inquiries a year from TSIA members on technology, and having access to which products are most commonly used, and member satisfaction with particular products, is extremely helpful in guiding members toward ‘best fit’ solutions.

What’s new in this year’s survey:

  • I’m tracking use of some technology across all three service disciplines for the first time, so I can understand cross-service adoption of Enterprise CRM, Intelligent Search and Web collaboration.
  • New categories: I added 3 new technology categories: Education/Learning Management, Reporting/Analytic Platform, Telephony Platform
  • New services categories: For the first time I am surveying about Outsourcers/Service Providers and business consultants–which will be hugely helpful in answering inquiries.

This survey is open to all TSIA corporate and community members. Everyone who responds to the survey—including community members—will receive a copy of my 2010 Member Spending Report when it is published in May. And, the first 50 people who complete the survey will receive a Starbucks gift card!  Here’s the link.

Thanks to all of you for your ongoing help and support. I know you are very busy, and I appreciate you taking a few minutes to complete this survey. Please let me know if you have any questions.

SAP CRM: Momentum followed by innovation

October 27, 2009

Today I attended the SAP CRM Virtual Influencer Summit to get an update on SAP’s CRM practice. I love the virtual approach for analyst summits as I have access to all the content without having to lose a day flying somewhere.  Here are some updates:

  • Twitter integration. SAP unveiled a CRM Twitter Solution that pulls in Tweets and performs sentiment analysis, so you can take action on negative comments automatically.

SAP Twitter integration with sentiment analysis

Join the survey panel: Customer Experience in a Social World

September 18, 2009

It is frustrating for me when new terms like “Social CRM” come about. Vendors are pushing the term, though few agree on its definition, and support managers then start asking, “What is this and should I care?” I haven’t tracked down much real research on the topic, most of the content available is hype, scare tactics, and a few desperate attempts to hopefully monetize the Twitter bandwagon.

I am happy to report that some real research on the topic is about to kick off, and this is your chance to be involved! My friend and industry peer, Esteban Kolsky, Founder and Principal ThinkJar LLC, is launching a research project on Customer Experience in a Social World, and has asked for my help finding participants willing to take a short survey on the topic. Here’s the official invite:

ThinkJar LLC is looking for CEM (Customer Experience
Management) practitioners to take part in a research
project to gather best practices for CEM and their
preparedness for implementing Customer Experience
initiatives in the new channels of Social Media.
This survey will consist of three parts: demographics
information (company size, department in charge of CEM,
revenue, employees, etc.), CEM best practices, and
preparedness to tackle the new SM channels within their
CE initiative.
The survey consists of 18 questions total (five for
demographics, six related for best practices, and seven
related to future plans for SM and CE).
All responses will be confidential, no identifying company
information will be retained with the answers, and all
demographic information will be aggregated for the
purpose of reporting only. The project will only run with
sufficient participants to ensure anonymity of each
respondent (i.e. a minimum number of respondents must
be had for each identifying question or that section will
not count towards the final tally).
Participants will receive for free a full copy of the report
to be published in December.
Participant Profile The ideal respondent will have

Research Project Description

ThinkJar LLC is looking for CEM (Customer Experience Management) practitioners to take part in a research project to gather best practices for CEM and their preparedness for implementing Customer Experience initiatives in the new channels of Social Media.

This survey will consist of three parts: demographics information (company size, department in charge of CEM, revenue, employees, etc.), CEM best practices, and preparedness to tackle the new SM channels within their CE initiative.

The survey consists of 18 questions total (five for demographics, six related for best practices, and seven related to future plans for SM and CE).

All responses will be confidential, no identifying company information will be retained with the answers, and all demographic information will be aggregated for the purpose of reporting only. The project will only run with sufficient participants to ensure anonymity of each respondent (i.e. a minimum number of respondents must be had for each identifying question or that section will not count towards the final tally).

Participants will receive for free a full copy of the report to be published in December.

Participant Profile

The ideal respondent will have the following characteristics:

  • Director level or above
  • Direct involvement in existing customer experience initiative
  • Knowledge of the planning, approval, deployment, measurement, and justification of the customer initiative experience
  • Understanding of the organization goals for Customer Experience
  • Understanding of Social Media (even if not company-related)

Research Project Timelines

Planning Ends:  September 12th, 2009
Recruitment Start:  September 15th, 2009
Recruitment Ends:  October 1st, 2009
Survey Start:  October 5th, 2009
Survey End:  October 12th 2009,
Summary Results:  November 12th, 2009
Final Results:  December 12th, 2009

Please contact Esteban Kolsky ( to participate.

If you fit the respondent criteria, please consider participating.  Esteban has agreed to share his findings with me to help me create my 2010 Member Technology Survey, making sure I am surveying about adoption, satisfaction and planned spending for all the relevant Social Media technologies.  Thanks for reading!

CRM’s Last Gasp: Why Service and Support is CRM’s Last Chance for Success

August 11, 2009

If I were asked for a list of things I wanted to believe in, but had to admit were pure fantasy, the top three would be Santa Claus, world peace, and the “360 degree view of the customer.” Over the years I have heard a million presentations tout the promise of CRM, including a lot of abstract concepts about improving the customer experience that simply don’t jive with most company’s CRM reality. When SSPA, TPSA and AFSMI members talk about CRM, there is usually a bit of contempt in their voice, and in most cases CRM is something IT selected–and to some degree shoved down their throats–with little or no business user input.

We all know that CRM covers the disciplines of marketing, sales and service, but a dozen years into the CRM revolution, there remain few examples of cross-enterprise CRM implementations. Sales, and SFA (sales force automation), was the first priority for many companies when it came to CRM, and this SFA focus drove success for Siebel, and other SFA-centric CRM vendors. Marketing has certainly had its CRM time in the sun, with CRM vendors buying analytic platforms and data warehouses in the last 2 years to better enable demographic analysis and accurate upsell/cross-sell. But what about service?

If anyone can understand the value of the 360 degree view, it is the service and support organization, with goals and incentives largely built not around revenue and profitability, but customer satisfaction. Support has a vested interest in understanding the 360 degree view of the customer–it helps them diagnose and resolve problems much faster if they have the whole universe of the customer (products purchased, implementation dates, versions, patches downloaded, self-service attempts, service history, etc.) at their disposal.

These thoughts had been bouncing around in my head for a while, but they became top of mind after a recent conversation with Michael Tarbet, Vice President of Americas Sales for Consona CRM. We were talking about Consona’s acquisition of the SupportSoft assets (including remote support and self-healing), and how adding this technology to the Consona CRM suite, which includes full CRM capabilities from Onyx, and best-of-breed knowledgebase, search and community tools from Knova; created the industries first truly “service centric” CRM suite.  In fact, in my recent Web Collaboration market overview (“Ten Distinct Modules Comprise this Popular Support Technology“), Consona CRM was one of only two vendors (the other was Alcatel-Lucent’s Genesys) to offer all ten functional modules.

With the majority of legacy CRM implementations becoming more infrastructure than applications, companies look to their existing CRM system for basic incident tracking and entitlement/service contracts. But not much else.  It is exciting to think about implementing a service-centric CRM suite that includes best-of-breed tools for all areas of service and multi-channel support, including value added service tools like proactive monitoring and remote fixes. I’m pleased to see a CRM vendor put a lot of effort into improving the service side of their suites…which have gone largely unchanged since the first Web-based UIs were introduced in 2001 or so. And I’m also happy to see a CRM vendor specifically investing in tools for high tech firms, since the telco and financial services industries have received the bulk of CRM vendor attention for the last decade.

I look forward to Consona CRM’s roadmap becoming a reality as the latest acquisitions are merged into the enterprise platform. Can a service-centric CRM suite change the minds of technology buyers to invest in CRM once again? Will support take the lead and create the 360 degree view so it finally goes from fantasy to reality? My fingers are crossed.

Thanks for reading!

The Trouble with Twitter: Where’s the Business Use Case?

June 11, 2009

One of the challenges of being a technology analyst is most people assume you are ripe to jump on every technology bandwagon that comes along. And I admit, I’m often ready to jump on board and go for a ride. So at the risk of being labeled a Luddite, I’m going to ‘come out of the closet’ with an unpopular opinion:

I am not a fan of Twitter, and have yet to find any viable business case for a Twitter integration for customer service and support beyond brand monitoring.

I was suspicious about Twitter from the beginning, when the main people I knew adopting Twitter were ego maniacs who assumed everyone was dying to know what they had for breakfast, how long they waited in line at Starbucks, the price of gas from their latest fill up, and how hard they laughed at Dilbert that morning. (The same people whose Facebook status shows what song is currently playing on their Internet radio station.) Sure, maybe there was an insightful message now and then, but:

  1. Tweets are 1-way. Yes, you can reply, but I don’t think anyone wants to argue that Twitter is an excellent 2-way communicator. It is primarily outbound.
  2. Tweets are out of context for the reader. Sure, they are in context for the sender, but the stream of consciousness blather doesn’t come at convenient times for the reader, and they are unlikely to remember important information when they do need it days or weeks later.
  3. Fads don’t last. First everyone battled to see who had the most MySpace friends. Then MySpace became déclassé, so the same group started trying to win the most friends battle on Facebook. And now that even your parents are on Facebook, the contest turns to who has the most followers on Twitter. By next Spring, some new channel will have emerged and Twitter’s impact will fade as well.

Bottom line: With the amount of information I have to consume to do my job growing exponentially, this is not a thread of content on my priority list.

Then, multiple service and support vendors starting talking about Twitter integration. (more…)