Posted tagged ‘trends’

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!


2011 Trends Poll: Weigh in on what will most impact Technology Services this year

January 6, 2011

In my monthly article for TechTarget’s SearchCRM website, I published my top trends back in October, but these were specific to customer support. My boss, Thomas Lah, TSIA’s executive director, just launched a poll on his blog to capture input on the top trends for 2011 impacting all of technology services, across support services, professional services, field service and education services. Please weigh in with your thoughts here:

Key Trends: 2011

Thomas included the following areas in his poll:

  • Cloud computing. The move to the cloud is having big impacts on both product companies and customers. Product companies are competing on price more than functionality, and the cost of supporting OnDemand customers may be higher as more procedural questions are received from end users than in traditional on premise deployments. On the customer side, so many products are being ‘dumbed down’ to work easily in the cloud that critical functionality may be missing from applications.
  • Social media. When the topic of social media comes up, everyone seems to immediately start talking about Twitter. But the real heat here is the power of collaboration, with customers answering other customer questions (see my previous blog entry–Forums answer more customer questions than the self-service knowledgebase now), and idea storming models that actively incorporate customer feedback into release priorities.
  • Commoditization. In the endless cycle of technology emergence, growth, maturity, and decline, many products we used to pay top dollar for are becoming commodities. As I said in my 2011 predictions, open source products are maturing and becoming viable options, threatening the revenue stream for vendors in some segments. With all the predictions coming out of CES this week, it looks like the next victim of commoditization will be the laptop. With consumers (and business leaders) moving toward tablet computers, laptop sales and prices will be dipping fast.
  • New major markets. Obviously China is the big driver here, but other areas of Eastern Europe and Asia are becoming more connected, more capitalistic, with a growing population of consumers and businesses hungry for technology. Let’s face it, many companies screwed up their first foray into Japan a decade ago by underestimating how cultural differences impact business practices. You can expect to see that again in China, Singapore, the Philippines, and other countries. We are already seeing questions about partner strategies in emerging markets–old approaches don’t work in these new regions.
  • Engineering the experience. Customer service organizations began embracing “customer experience” a few years ago, and you see more companies today with executives with experience in their titles, like ‘chief experience officer’, or CXO. Thomas is tracking the understanding and importance of the experience shifting from a support issue to an overall sales and service issue, forcing companies to rethink their approach to product development, marketing, the sales cycle, etc.  I’d say social media has some influence here, as poor customer experiences are now being broadcast to millions of people, thanks to social networking sites.
  • Other. If none of these float your boat, write something in. Personally, I wrote in “Mobility,” as I see mobile requirements driving both hardware and software in 2011 and beyond.

Please take a moment and weigh in on the poll, it will greatly help us prioritize our research by understanding the topics you see as most impactful to the industry in the year ahead.

What’s the Buzz? Top Technology Inquiry Topics for 2010

December 23, 2010

In preparing my research agenda for 2011, I looked over all the inquiries I received from members during 2010. While it would be fun to pick research topics based solely on personal interest, I tend to focus on areas with the most planned spending and areas about which I receive the most inquiries from members. The TSIA member inquiry process is one of the (in my opinion) most valuable pieces of TSIA membership: members can ask any question regarding service operations and we do our best to answer within 48 hours. Analyzing inquiry topics not only tells you what is top of mind for service organizations, it also tells you where they are struggling the most.


Ragsdale 2010 Member Inquiries

This chart shows my 2010 inquiries by topic. The top inquiry areas were:

  • Knowledge management. There are so many issues around KM–best practices for capturing, creating and maintaining content; pros/cons of the many KM solutions available today, and always questions on calculating ROI for KM projects. If you were to add in all the related areas (self-service, intelligent search) you can see that this is where I spent a majority of my inquiry time.
  • Multichannel. This is another broad topic area, ranging from best practices for improving service with specific channels (email continues to frustrate many companies), moving traffic from one channel to another, and quite a few questions this year on web chat, as chat adoption grows in the B2B world.
  • CRM. Let’s face it, CRM is a dirty word to a lot of companies. Complaints run the gamut from “we built it ourselves and it never really met our needs,” to “our platform is hopelessly outdated and IT says it will be 5-10 years before they can upgrade,” to “IT shoved a product we hate down our throats.” It is no surprise that adoption of less complex, albeit lower functionality, ondemand products are finding wider adoption, as service organizations give up trying to get value from aging enterprise CRM tools and bring in lighter weight tools that meet most of their current needs with little or no involvement from IT.
  • PSA. I was glad to see a topic from another TSIA discipline make the list. Our data clearly shows that companies who have adopted professional services automation (PSA) technology have improved operational performance. As I said on a webcast last week, it isn’t that PSA is a magic bullet and writing a check for the software eliminates your problems. Rather, moving off spreadsheets to a PSA suite forces you to formalize processes you’ve never talked about, and provides you with industry best practices in workflows and processes. It also gives you great insight into financials in realtime–not after the quarter ends.

Other topics, such as metrics, operations and social media, are obviously big topics as well, but I only receive the technology questions. Our other analysts receive more questions on these topics than I do, including Michael Israel, who launched the new support services and field service benchmark this year and is now an expert on metrics and their definitions; Tim Flannery, our support services analyst with expertise on multi-channel and consumer support; and of course TSIA’s own social media guru, Shawn Santos, who fields most of the questions on communities and social support.

Thanks to all the TSIA members who submitted inquiries during the year, and I hoped my answers helped! I look forward to working with all of you in 2011. Happy holidays, and thanks for reading!

Hot Topics from TSW: Top Attended Sessions

October 21, 2009

Greetings from Fabulous Las Vegas, where 800 of my closest friends are together for our annual Technology Services World Vegas. Yesterday was our first full day of breakout sessions, and I wanted to highlight the top attended sessions since this is an instant read on the top challenges facing our professional services, technical support and field service members. Here are the breakouts from yesterday with the highest attendance: (more…)

Mid-Year Support Trends: Rich Content, Revenue Generation, and the ROI of Web 2

August 13, 2008

I’ve had a lot of requests lately from members, vendors, and investment firms for the latest trends impacting service and support operations and spending, and I wanted to share with you three things I am tracking. In some way, they all relate to the bad economic conditions in North America, the declining value of the Dollar abroad, and concerns over consumer spending for Holiday 2008. My top three mid-year trends for service and support are: (more…)