Posted tagged ‘social media’

TSIA’s 5th Annual Social Support Survey is NOW OPEN!

December 1, 2014

Social support is becoming a standard part of technical support operations. 73% of companies now have an online community in place for customer discussions, and 46% of technology companies are supporting customers via social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. This is the 5th year that TSIA has launched a survey to measure adoption of social support and identify best practices related to staffing, training, service level agreements, and program ownership. The survey is open to all support professionals, will only take 6 minutes to complete, and everyone who completes the survey will receive a copy of the resulting research report, “The State of Social Support: 2015,” to be published in Q1 2015. The survey is open until midnight, December 31st.

The survey contains three sections:

  • Demographics. These questions ask basic questions about yourself, including how social savvy you consider yourself, and which channels you prefer to use when needing support for a product problem.
  • Community. These questions ask about your online customer community or discussion forum, such as how many resources are required for forum moderation, if you have a service level agreement (SLA) for community posts, whether registration is required to read community content, and some technical questions such as CRM integration and single sign-on.
  • Social Media. These questions ask about your approach to supporting customers via social media channels, addressing staffing, training, social channels supported, incident handling, and overall obstacles to social support.

The survey is open to everyone, not just TSIA members, so please consider participating. The more data the better! I look forward to identify changes since last year’s survey, particularly with social media channels expanding and many company’s programs now maturing. There is also a focus on social listening in this year’s survey, which has emerged as a hot trend in member inquiry conversations.

Here is the link to take the survey: 

I’d like to give a special shout out to Carl Knerr, Director, Services Offer Management, Avaya, and Doug Pluta, Project Manager, Customer and Business Insight, Cisco Systems, for the input they provided on social listening for this year’s survey. Greatly appreciated!

Thanks to all of you for reading, and please tell your friends about the survey!


Interview with Cisco’s Doug Pluta: Social Media Pacesetter Practices

April 14, 2014

TSIA’s Technology Services World is just around the corner, May 5-7 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. On the opening day of the conference, we are doing a flight of Pacesetter sessions, with presenters from some of our most progressive members giving insight into successful programs. Topics include customer experience, analytics and automating service delivery. I’m hosting a session on Social Media for Support, with two Pacesetting members, Doug Pluta, Project Manager, Cisco; and Tim Lopez, Social Support Manager, Symantec.

I became familiar with Doug when he published a white paper on social media monitoring, “How Cisco Services Uses Social Media Listening to Improve Internal Efficiencies and Customer Support.” As supporting customers via social channels enters the maintstream, I’ve started receiving more inquiries on how to include social media and communities in voice of the customer programs. At most companies, this is still in the marketing domain, but service is increasingly including social in survey and voice/text analysis work. Here’s a link to Doug’s paper:


Last week Doug and I had a chance to talk, and I wanted to share our conversation with you. Here’s how it went:

John: Thanks so much for agreeing to participate in our Pacesetter Session on Social Media in Service!

Doug: Thanks for asking me John. We’re doing some exciting social media projects within Cisco’s Technical Services unit, and we’re happy to share our experiences with the Eye on Services blog.

John: I’ve been reading your whitepaper, “How Cisco Services Uses Social Media Listening to Improve Internal Efficiencies and Customer Support.” Most B2B companies think that monitoring social media conversations is a marketing job, but you make a good case for why service executives should care about this too. Can you talk about that?

Doug: This effort has been in the works for over two years now. During that time we’ve focused on developing a working process that includes stakeholder buy-in and executive support. Our outage and disaster monitoring initiative has been recognized by our executive team as a strategic resource that is vital to our ability to service our customers in a proactive way. The work we do with other internal stakeholders is consistently recognized as an important contributor to our ongoing conversations about improved service to our customers and Ease of Doing Business initiatives.

John: I’m very pleased to see you’ve actually developed a process for social listening, the “Social Sentiment Internal Engagement Process.” How did this process come about, and can you describe some of the key process steps?

Social Sentiment Internal Engagement Process

Cisco Social Sentiment Process


Doug: Cisco Technical Services has been keenly focused on enhancing internal stakeholder engagements and this includes using Social Media listening as an important data point. Initially, we did not need to seek out stakeholders. The first groups we engaged were asking for this data and the Customer and Business insight (CBI) group recognized the opportunity to provide this type of data along with traditional survey data. Social Sentiment is one of several “Listening Channels” that provides solicited and unsolicited customer sentiment data to several key internal stakeholders. Our expectation is that we will increase our stakeholder base and continue to evolve our data sets.

John: In the whitepaper, you document both internal and external impacts of the program. Great to see you measuring results! Can you highlight some of the impacts for our readers?

Doug: Over the last year, Social Sentiment has moved from being a data provider to also providing robust analysis. This includes more detailed information that follows the history of cases and how they were ultimately closed. For instance, we did a detailed analysis on one of our internal content developers. Their audience is significantly large and they have a direct impact on Cisco’s Technical Services unit. With the level of analysis that we provide, we can tell them the top areas of the business that are seeing more negative social sentiment and even which products are being impacted. This allows them to focus their efforts on content that is generating readership and is important enough for people to mention in Social Media.

John: One of the questions I receive from TSIA members is how do you know which social channels to monitor. Do you have any guidance on deciding where to focus your attention?

Doug: The Social Sentiment team gets the best data from Forums and Twitter. Forums provide us with the detailed history that we need to develop metrics that can drive action through a business unit. Twitter gives us the emotion that we need to gauge acceptance (or not) of new or existing tools and processes and of course to find out about any Twitter-based outage or disaster mentions that we can leverage to the benefit of our customers.

John: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, and I look forward to seeing you in Santa Clara!

Doug: Thanks again for asking me John. I’d like to recognize my teammates Michele Budden and Angela Wilson for the cutting-edge work they’re doing within the Social Sentiment team.

Thanks to the whole Cisco team, and thank to you for reading! Hope to see you in Santa Clara!

Join us live for TechFUTURES in Santa Clara!

May 2, 2013

Last fall at our Technology Services World Conference in Las Vegas, the question I asked everyone I talked to was, “What does the support desk of the future look like?” What I heard were lots of elements that are quickly evolving, and will definitely be different in 3 or 5 or 10 years. Social media and rising customer clout were voiced by many people. Impacts of mobility–on how we service customers and how customers consume our products–is another game changer. Remote workers becoming the predominate model for support was also on the minds of many people. And other people expressed concern that many of today’s challenges, such as knowledge management, will only get worse in the years to come.

Out of these dialogs grew a new TSIA event, TechFUTURES, which will open our Spring TSW conference on Monday at 11:00am at the Santa Clara Convention Center. TechFUTURES presents a day in the live of a support technician, and the day in the life of a technology customer, in the year 2018. We will look at how things will change in respect to four specific areas:

  • Social media. How will social media shape customer conversations, especially as Generation Y becomes the primary demographic for employees and customers? After seven years of investment, TSIA members are finally starting to see ROI for social initiatives. How will customer communities, as well as current and future social media channels, allow service operations to accommodate ever-growing customer demand for support without infinite scaling of service employees?
  • Knowledge and content management. With the amount of content exploding due to rising complexity and faster release cycles, how can future service employees navigate an impossibly large knowledge infrastructure? Tomorrow’s corporate content store will be even larger and more dispersed than today, creating challenges for service organizations to find what they need quickly and efficiently. How can knowledge tools become more intelligent, anticipating our needs and proactively serving content to employees and customers?
  • Mobility. The mobile revolution has quickly moved customers from desktops and laptops to smartphones and tablets, with a myriad of smaller and smarter devices on the horizon. As customers become inseparable from technology, their expectations for service continue to rise. As more sophisticated mobile devices proliferate, and mobile applications become the predominate way customers access our technology, how do we effectively support this increasingly mobile customer?
  • Customer experience. With the customer quickly gaining clout and visibility, how will the customer experience movement impact service operations in five to ten years? With the push toward managed services, how can next-generation remote and proactive support technology radically change the customer ownership experience? Where can we make investments today to better enable the ultimate customer experience in the future?

I will open TechFUTURES and then turn things over to our panelists, each an expert on one of these areas, who will present their vision of the future. Our experts are:

  • Social Media: Joe Cothrel, Chief Community Officer, Lithium
  • Knowledge and Content Management: Diane Berry, SVP, Marketing and Communications, Coveo
  • Mobility: John Purcell, Director, Products, LogMeIn
  • Customer Experience: Anthony (T.J.) Felice, President, ISOdx Solutions

After the 4 presentations, each audience member will vote live for what they think is the most provocative view of the future, using hand held response units provided in each seat. I will announce the winner during the awards ceremony at Service Revolutions on Wednesday at the close of the conference.

If you are interested in attending TechFUTURES, attendance is included with your TSW registration. If you aren’t attending TSW, TechFUTURES is open to the public and you can register and get an entry badge at the TSW registration area in the rotunda. I’m really looking forward to this new event, and hope to see you there! Thanks as always for reading!

What’s Hot at TSW: Top Attended Sessions

May 9, 2012

Today is the closing day of Technology Services World in Santa Clara, and I always find it enlightening to look at the top attended sessions of the event to see what topics are most interesting to members. No surprise, services technology, metrics, social media, and knowledge management proved to be popular topics. This is a list of the 10 sessions from Day 1 and Day 2 with the highest attendance:

  • Social Support: Battle-Hardened Lessons from Top Practitioners: A Panel Discussion with Leading Social Media Strategists in Tech Services. The was the top attended session at TSW, exploring the inner-workings of social media–best practices and lessons learned–and uncovering which strategies, tools, and processes are being used most successfully by leading services organizations. The session leader was TSIA’s own Shawn Santos, with a very impressive panel of experts: Lois Marie Townsend from Hewlett-Packard, Radha Penekelapati from, and Toby Richards from Microsoft.
  • Driving Recurring Service Revenue: How SAP, EMC, and BMC are Transforming Their Service Business into a Growth Engine. This Services Technology Advantage Case Study session was the 2nd highest attended session at the event. The audience heard from SAP, EMC and BMC service leaders on how they have taken their service business to the next level. Panelists discussed how increased focus, visibility, and control has helped them transform their service business into a revenue growth engine. The session host was Keith Leimbach from ServiceSource, with panelists Christophe Bodin from BMC Software, Sara Hepner from EMC, and Roger McConville from SAP.
  • Positioning the Support Organization as the Leader in Innovation. The third most attended session from Day 1 and Day 2 was also a Services Technology Advantage Case Study session. Presenters Tarik Mahmoud from Cisco and Diego Ventura from noHold explained that intelligence collected during a support interaction provides valuable insight for marketing, product development, engineering, and more. The challenge is that information is siloed and not transformed into measurable ROI. noHold’s customer, the leader in networking devices, has found a way to break the mold and create a paradigm shift by syndicating opportunities across all business units.
  • The Artful Manager: How to Leverage Business Metrics to Greatest Effect. Number 4 on the top attended list was this panel discussion, led by TSIA’s Stephen Smith, with panelists Syd Garrett from Cisco Systems, and Frank Coleman from EMC, presented an interactive discussion about how to optimize your metrics and business intelligence program.
  • Demystifying Service Revenue Growth. This session, presented by Julia Stegman, TSIA’s VP of research for service revenue generation, revealed the results from the Service Revenue Generation benchmark, which is the first and only industry benchmark for recurring services. Participants learned what actual performance is, which is an aggregate of impressive industry leaders from our Service Revenue Generation Founding Members.
  • Blending Knowledge Management and Social Media for Service and Support. Number 6 on our list was presented by Lynn Llewellyn and Kevin Mitts from VMware, who shared social media and knowledge-management strategies from VMware® Global Support Services. The company has developed an innovative, award-winning program that provides invaluable assistance to its customers and helps deflect support cases–the Social Media Guidebook for Service and Support Responds to Customers Faster and Increases Satisfaction.
  • Our Journey through Knowledge Management: Business Challenges, Best Practices, and Lessons Learned. Number 7 on the top attended list was also a Services Technology Advantage Case Study,  presented by Joni Ortbring from Audatex, a Solera Company, and Tom Kolano from Consona. The session focused on how Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS) principles, along with a feature-rich KM system, allowed Audatex  to focus on knowledge as a community asset providing accurate information to their clientele and associates in near real-time.
  • Channel Optimization and Why This Matters to Your Business. This session was originally going to be presented by my research pal, Sally Foster, but due to an injury, our fearless leader, JB Wood, stepped in and drove the session. Customers are becoming more and more interested in engaging with service providers via multiple channels of communication. It used to be that calling a support center or sending an e-mail was what you did. The cost of these channels is almost becoming prohibitive depending on the volume of incidents a provider handles. Customers want solution providers to engage with them in the way that they want to be served. This session looked at evolving channel strategies and how successful companies are approaching customer channel preferences.
  • Transform Your Services Business To Create A Strategic And Sustainable Footprint With Your Customer.Number 9 on our list is another customer case study, part of the Services Technology Advantage track. Presented by Ruth Fornell from NCR, the session described how NCR Corporation continues its evolution into a services led, software driven, hardware enabled solutions company. Attendees learned how NCR uses Compuware Changepoint Professonal Services Automation (PSA) to differentiate themselves while creating a broader, more strategic and sustainable footprint with their customers. This case study presentation was targeting services executives looking to transform their services business through global knowledge sharing, centers of excellence and organizational transformation.
  • Award-Winning Best Practices in Complex Applications Support. Rounding out our Top 10 session was a panel discussion with Charlotte Baker of Digital Hands, Michael Montoya from EMC, and Buffy Ransom from Oracle. Providing sophisticated technical support for complex applications in mixed or otherwise complex environments requires a unique set of service delivery capabilities. Attendees came to learn what works from a panel of 2009-2011 STAR Award winners in the Complex Applications Support category, who shared their successful strategies and tactics in an interactive panel discussion

Thanks to everyone for attending our event, and a special thanks to all these presenters for creating such dynamic topics and content!

Buyer 3.0: Changes to Technology Buyer Behavior

March 9, 2012

This morning in my infinite spare time (insert eye roll here) I attended a webcast presented by Christine Crandell of New Business Strategies on “Buyer 3.0: The Buyer’s Journey.” This was by far the most interesting 30 minutes of my week. Since I spend all my time on the supply side, thinking about the changes to the demand side–in light of changing demographics and social media–really gave me a new perspective on some challenges technology services is facing–especially as services focuses more on revenue generation.

A few key points from Christine:

  • Customer experience. Today’s buyers are putting as much emphasis on the buying experience as they are the product features. This is something I hear all the time. I even have a section in my upcoming book about how often a rude or abrasive sales rep eliminates a “best fit” vendor from a technology project. If the customer doesn’t feel the love in every contact, you won’t be considered for the deal, no matter how good your technology is.
  • Informed buyers. According to Christine, 70% of the buy cycle is complete before the buyers contacts you, giving the traditional sales rep less influence, and making other touch points (web sites, demos, blogs, analyst reports, etc.) very important. Again, this is something I hear from TSIA members shopping for technology. We have conversations about project goals and best fit options, I line them up with other members using the tool for reference calls or visits, and they spend time researching Forrester Waves, Gartner MQs, and doing lots of reading of online communities and expert blogs–all before they speak with a sales rep. By the time they contact the vendor, they are usually down to 2 or 3 vendors and ready for a test drive.
  • Understanding influencers. What websites do prospects visit to learn about you? How big of an influence are social media channels and online communities? Are there particular people (press, analysts, bloggers) with a big sphere of influence? With so much research going on before engaging with a vendor, technology firms need to get much better at understanding how prospects form opinions about the brand and products, and look for ways to influence these influencers in your favor. I find only the very largest companies are doing this sort of analytic research involving millions of page views and clicks, and even then, the focus is more on customers than prospects.

I think there are some good lessons here for services marketing, who are trying to sell more services, and competing for that business with their customer’s own IT departments, as well as 3rd party service providers. Buying services from a product company may not seem obvious to buyers, so we need to get much more sophisticated about branding the service options and making them highly visible, particularly during the original product sales cycle. If they push the services decision to a later stage, the door opens for a lot of competition.

Thanks for reading!

Calculating the ROI of Community Projects: A Conversation with Francoise Tourniaire

March 7, 2011

This month I am going to publish interviews with the instructors for our Professional Development Courses scheduled for Monday, May 2nd at our Technology Services World conference in Santa Clara, CA. We have pulled together five courses, each with an instructor who is a recognized expert in their field. The courses from from 8am-1pm, and are a great way to educate your team, reward top performing employees, and get them enthused about a new topic.

First up is a long time partner and supporter of the TSIA, Francoise Tourniaire, founder of FT Works. Francoise is a very popular author and visionary on KM and social media, leading workshops and providing consulting services for dozens of TSIA members each year. Her professional development workshop, “A Gold Mine? Calculating the ROI of Community Projects,” hits on the single hottest topic in service today. I had a chance to chat with Francoise last week about her course as well as industry trends. Here are some highlights.

John Ragsdale: I’m thrilled to see you offering a workshop on the ROI of customer communities. Talk about jumping into the lion’s den—this is the hottest topic in support today. About three fourths of our members companies offer a customer community. Does it surprise you that so many companies adopted this technology without an understanding of where the ROI comes from—or if there is ROI?

Francoise Tourniaire: The rational side of me hates jumping into any large initiative without a good metrics strategy – but at the same time experiments are wonderful and mind-opening. Support organizations tend to be very conservative so it’s great to see them taking risks. My view is that it’s always ok to try something new, and that part of the experiment must be to measure the success of the experiment. So sure, get going without being certain you will see an ROI, but take steps to measure the ROI.

Ragsdale: According to our most recent social media survey, 65% of members active in social media say they are unable to measure ROI—they don’t know how or where to start. Many companies assumed they would easily deflect phone calls to the forum, but I don’t hear many stories out there of dropping call volumes. What are some of the financial benefits other than call deflection?

2010 TSIA Social Media Survey

Tourniaire: In my experience the bulk of the quantifiable savings comes from case deflection so it would be interesting to see why volumes are not affected. At the same time, I see lots of my clients experiencing significant benefits on the knowledge management side. Rather than having to invest large amounts of resources in creating and maintaining knowledge, they find that the forums create a strong “tribal” knowledge base, which can be even more useful to customers than something built internally. So that would be one area to investigate. Another area is how increased customer satisfaction (and customers are overwhelmingly happy with forums) can translate into repeat purchases, additional purchases, and referrals. It’s not easy to track them, but it’s worth trying.

Ragsdale: One of the complaints I’ve had from members is the reporting tools for their community platform are insufficient, and there aren’t enough prepackaged reports to get them started. In the workshop, do you make recommendations on what ‘best practice’ reports companies should be tracking?

Tourniaire: Reporting is an issue, yes. Some of the problem lies with what the limitations of what community vendors offer today, but a big part of the problem is that support communities are often rolled out without much forethought and without solid thinking around metrics. If you think through the metrics requirements and implement with them in mind, you can gather those “best practices” metrics much more easily.

Ragsdale: Let’s talk about integration. Francoise, I believe you were at Scopus about the same time I was at Clarify, so we both have a CRM-centric background. I have to say I am saddened that only 8% of our members have integrated communities to CRM—and that number remained flat from the 2009 survey! Clearly CRM integration isn’t a priority, but in my mind, it should be. Does the 360 degree view of the customer not include community activity? Or is CRM no longer the center of the customer data universe?

Tourniaire: Fifteen years ago when Scopus was pushing the 360-degree view of the customer I totally, absolutely believed that we would deliver just that to all our customers. But even then I could not help but notice that even our customers were not always purchasing an entire solution from us, and with the proliferation of functionality I think things may be worse today than they were at the time. With communities, integration is rare because many times communities were started as a skunkworks project, under the radar of the structured and slow-moving CRM team. So it will take time to hook up all of the pieces. I’m very hopeful in the long term.

Ragsdale: Let me get back to your course. You have a lot of ground to cover in a 5 hour workshop. Could you give us an idea how the day is structured?

Tourniaire: It’s going to be very hands-on, with the goal that every attendee takes away a custom model for his or her organization, so it will run as a hands-on workshop. We’ll start with some best practices discussions on ROI in general, and then we will dive into practical topics, from measuring case deflection to estimating knowledge management savings, drawing on my experience working with a variety of clients on community ROI. The workshop will be very attendee-driven. Ideally I’d like to be able to put the power of the attendees of the workshop behind each and every ROI we build. That’s the power of communities!

Ragsdale: I’m so impressed you are actually giving class attendees a spreadsheet model for calculating community ROI. That’s one heck of a take away!

Tourniaire: I’m a generous person 😉 — and I’m all about practical, tangible results.

Ragsdale: Francoise, thanks for taking the time for this interview!

Tourniaire: John, it’s always a pleasure to talk with you. And I want to mention that I will also facilitate a workout with Rob Shapiro of Oracle on Tuesday afternoon at TSW on the topic of community best practices and metrics, so that’s another opportunity to talk about my current obsession, support communities.

Interaction Volume by Channel: The 2011 Outlook

December 31, 2010

TSIA’s offices were closed this week for the holiday, but I’ve been at my desk all week, plugging away on some research reports due this year. As I contemplated my final blog post for 2010, I decided to provide some insight into channel volumes. One of the first pieces of research I published when I joined the SSPA (now TSIA) back in 2006, Multi-Channel Adoption Trends, talked about what percent of interactions were coming from which interaction channel: phone, email, and web. This is always an interesting topic to members, who work to move incident volumes from more expensive assisted support channels to less expensive assisted and unassisted channels.

Of course, in 2011, you can’t talk about channel volumes without including social media. This week I’ve been playing with numbers from three different sources (incident volume by channel from the TSIA benchmark, self-service deflection numbers also from the benchmark, and percent of interactions handled by social media from the TSIA social media survey) to arrive at an estimate of where customer traffic is coming from for 2011. Here’s my estimate:

Estimated Interaction Volume by Channel for 2011

While most of the attention, training and funding goes toward phone incidents, these represent less than half of total customer interactions today. Email incidents, incidents created by customers online, and self-service resolved issues are all pretty even, and social media interactions represent 9% of total volume.  I did not include auto-generated and web chat incidents as these still represent less than 1% with our largely B2B audience. Some thoughts on these numbers:

  • We’ve got to stop thinking of phone as the most important customer channel. I continue to hear members say, “If it is important, they will pick up the phone and call.” This is simply not true for younger demographics, even in emergency situations. When I joked at a conference about a customer emailing to report an emergency system crash, I was informed by the audience that hard down issues are reported via whatever channel the customer prefers, and that could be web, email, chat, you name it.
  • We’ve got to improve self-service success. I just pulled the latest self-service success number (percent of customers attempting self-service who successfully solve their problem) and the news is not good: 39.8%. As incident volumes continue to climb year over year, we have to boost unassisted support volumes to stay afloat.
  • Though self-service has been around for 12-15 years, social media interactions are catching up, with an average of 9% volume (14% for consumer/B2C companies). At this rate, social media interactions will bypass self-service volume in the next 1-2 years. And while social media interactions can involve tech support, many interactions are resolved by other customers, lowering the resolution cost to next to nothing.

I will keep an eye on these numbers and will report back if I see the percentages changing. I wish everyone a very happy New Year, and look forward to working with all of you in 2011. And as always, thanks for reading!

Bringing TSIA’s Social Media Message to Asia Pacific

August 25, 2010

Next week I am doing a webcast for Asia/Pacific on leveraging social media for support. The event is sponsored by TSIA Partner Citrix Online and, a research, consulting, analyst and online publishing company dedicated to the Australian and Asia Pacific contact center and outsourcing industries. I hope all of my readers and our TSIA corporate and community members in Asia/Pac take this opportunity to tune in to a webcast in your timezone–Thursday, 2 September at 2:00 PM Australian EST (9pm PST on Wednesday September 1).

This webcast will cover the results our TSIA Social Media Survey, and much of the information has not been previously published. This is a fascinating, and as far as I can tell, completely unique data set, so definitely worth your time to attend. During the webcast I will cover survey data as well as the top FAQ’s for social media, including:

  • Adoption growth of discussion forums 2007-2010
  • Which department owns social media efforts within companies?
  • What social support channels are most companies using, across discussion forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • How do you select the social media channels to support?
  • What staffing is required for social support?
  • Social media interaction volumes
  • Basic support processes for handling social media channels

The moderator for the event is a leading voice in support practices in the Asia Pacific region, Dr Catriona Wallace, Managing Director of Pty Ltd and ACA Research. Dr Wallace is an expert in Customer Engagement and Employee Engagement and advises companies on service and employee strategies, with particular emphasis on contact center service channels. Dr Wallace has a PhD in Organisational Behaviour, which gives her great insight into consumer behavior and the impact of social media on the workplace. She is also funny as hell, so it should be an educational and entertaining webcast.

To register for the webcast, click here.

Hope to see you all online next week!

KM Megatrends: Social, Mobile, Global, Green

June 4, 2010

I’m doing a webcast with KMWorld and eGain next week on June 8th at 11am PT (click here to register!) on knowledge management (KM) megatrends.  When we had our content planning call, we brainstormed on top trends in customer service, and every one of them had a tie-in to KM.  We’ve divided up topics to discuss on the webcast, and I’m going to cover these 4 areas:

  • Social media/social service: New channels, increased transparency, customer in control
  • Mobility: Information access anywhere, anytime, on any device
  • Globalization: Meeting needs of customers regardless of geography or culture
  • Green Support: Reducing environmental impacts of support

I’ve blogged about some of these topics before, but the globalization angle is new. I’m adding a graphic here showing how many languages different industry segments currently support for phone, email and web self-service.

In how many different languages are the following support resources offered?

No surprise, consumer companies are out in front, but enterprise software firms are also far along the path to offering multiple languages across channels. Even small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are getting in on the act. Why is this so important?

  • Increased self-service adoption and success with local language versions. If you want to boost self-service success, offering content in the customer’s native language is a great place to start.  Note that some companies are already WAY ahead in this effort, and here are a couple of “all star” company examples:  17 languages offered by Nikon (B2C), 32 languages offered by Xerox (B2B)
  • Huge improvement in translation tools and KM capabilities to create/maintain multiple languages. I’ve given a couple of Recognized Innovator Awards to Language Weaver, who has the single best (and accurate) translation tool on the market. Also, KM vendors like eGain are now able to handle multiple languages in a single instance, with reference customers for proof.
  • Cultural differences extend beyond language and can thwart success in other geographies. I’ve told the story before about how my first startup lost a big deal in Japan because of a stupidly designed icon in our product that was mis-interpreted as insulting by the Japanese prospect. North American companies have always tried to shove our approach to UI and workflow down everyone’s throats, but increasingly, we are seeing companies enter China starting not with sales, but development centers, building new product versions that are more in tune with local expectations, norms and culture.

I hope you can tune in next week to hear more, as well as additional megatrends to be covered by Don Muchow, Senior Solutions Consultant with eGain. Don always has great insight to share–not only has he been at eGain since 2003, but he also worked at early CRM vendor Scopus as well as Siebel, so he has seen a lot! Thanks for reading, and hope to see you on Tuesday!

Recap of Day 1: Technology Services World

May 4, 2010

Yesterday our Spring 2010 Technology Services World (TSW) kicked off at the Santa Clara convention center, with over 700 attendees. The morning was filled with professional development workshops, advisory board meetings, and 1:1 meetings with members and partners. The conference officially opened at 3pm with a keynote by my boss, executive director of TSIA Thomas Lah.

Thomas talked about how “the cloud” is changing technology services, and not necessarily for the better. The traditional “on premise” hardware and software companies are all morphing into OnDemand as quickly as possible, yet pure SaaS companies have lower profit than their on premise counterparts. Should we really be running so fast towards what seems to be a cliff?

One thing you can’t deny about cloud companies–support has a critical role in keeping customers happy so they renew when their 2-3 year agreement is up.  The most profitable accounts are those that extend beyond the initial contract, but the cost of switching OnDemand solutions is low, and you have to work extra hard to be sure your customers won’t leave for a better deal. In some ways, enterprise software is beginning to feel an awful lot like a cell phone plan: loyalty is hard to come by when the cost of switching is so low.

During the support services advisory board meeting, Bill Rose asked the board about problems that “keep them up at night,” and the answers were interesting, with a mix of old issues that never go away, and emerging challenges with no official best practices yet.  Some of the long time issues companies still struggle with include:

  • Multi-vendor support. As technology becomes more intertwined, identifying the failing component between a dizzy array of hardware and software is darn near impossible sometimes, and members are spending more time troubleshooting technology they don’t own or control. Training time and costs are going through the roof to keep techs up to speed on dozens of technologies, in addition to the core technology they support.
  • Outsourcing attrition. With turnover rates as high as 15% per month for some outsourcing contracts, having adequate staffing of highly skilled staff becomes very challenging. And, this is not just an India problem anymore. Latin American and other areas in Asia are now finding high demand for seasoned, trained support techs, so turnover keeps growing.
  • Demonstrating value. The economy has put even more pressure on maintenance renewals, with discounts climbing and more customers asking to renegotiate terms.

Some of the emerging issues listed were:

  • Managing consolidation. High tech has always been a hot bed of mergers and acquisitions, and activity has increased as valuations dropped due to the economy. 2009 was a big year for acquisitions, and 2010 is expected to be as well.  Multiple companies said more information is needed on best practices for merging support organizations, standardizing processes and systems across global operations.
  • Cloud complexities.  Companies m0ving to the cloud are finding a new set of support challenges, including confusing international standards for cloud computing–data storage, privacy, etc. Also, what are the key metrics/KPIs for cloud operations?
  • Social media. Our larger members, and many of our smaller members, have jumped into social service and now are wondering how to effectively handle the huge influx of customer content. In addition, the ROI of social service continues to stymie companies as online communities find huge adoption…but assisted support interactions never decrease.

Day 2 of TSW is underway with a full day of breakout sessions, including my session at 4pm revealing the results of my 2010 Member Technology Survey. I’ll also be giving 2 Innovation Tours of the Expo at 11am and 2pm, with a drawing for an iPod shuffle for tour attendees. Come join us!