June 13th, 2013 by Forrester Research
The following post was written by Kate Leggett, a principal analyst serving application development and delivery professionals at Forrester Research.
Good customer service is the result of the right attention to strategy, business processes, technology, and people management. This seven-part series focuses on customer service technology and explains the what, why, how, and when of the technology.
Let’s start at the beginning: What is customer service technology?
The contact center technology ecosystem for customer service is a nightmare of complexity. At a high level, to serve your customers, you need to:
1. Capture the inquiry, which can come in over the phone, electronically via email, chat, or SMS, and over social channels, like Twitter, Facebook, or an interaction escalated from a discussion forum or a Web or speech self-service session.
2. Route the inquiry to the right customer service agent pool.
3. Create a case for the inquiry that contains its details and associate it with the customer record.
4. Find the answer to the inquiry. This can involve digging through different information sources like knowledge bases, billing systems, and ordering databases.
5. Communicate the answer to the inquiry to the customer.
6. Append case notes to the case summarizing its resolution and close the case.
The technologies to do this are the ones for:
- Multichannel communication. This category comprises technologies that support the business processes for interacting with customers over voice, electronic, and social communication channels. These technologies include automatic call distributor, computer telephony integration, interactive voice response, speech recognition, predictive dialing, email response management, chat, co-browse, virtual assistants, social media adapters, proactive outbound notification, and mobile customer service applications.
- Knowledge management. This category comprises technologies that are used to identify, create, review, publish, and maintain multimedia content, including video, that allows customer service agents to answer customers’ questions and allows customers to find answers to their questions via Web self-service. These technologies include knowledge management, video, and customer communities.
- Agent productivity solutions. This category comprises technologies that agents use to create and manage an incident (case) in response to a customer inquiry. It includes applications that are used to monitor agents’ answers to questions to ensure a consistent service experience in accordance with company policy and applications used to optimize agent staffing and scheduling. These technologies include case management, process guidance, unified agent workspaces, quality monitoring, and workforce management.
- Customer service analytics. This category comprises analytics used to deliver the optimal service interaction that is targeted to the persona of the customer and the issue at hand. Technologies include next best action and interaction (speech and text) analytics.
- Voice of the customer. This category comprises technologies that customers use to interact with their peers to share advice, best practices, and how-to information. It includes the technologies customers use to voice their opinions regarding a company’s products and services over social channels. Technologies include enterprise feedback management systems and social listening platforms.
Visit our TechRadar report for more information about these customer service technologies.
Look for details on the maturity, current usage, and perceived issues with these technologies in upcoming blogposts.
June 13th, 2013 by Maria Minsker
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Twitter must be feeling pretty flattered right now. After having already adopted some of its competitor’s features including the “@” mention function and verified accounts, Facebook is finally incorporating Twitter’s most popular element—the hashtag.
While this is exciting news for users who have been anxiously waiting for Facebook to cave and create clickable hashtags for years now, it’s perhaps even more exciting for Facebook itself, which will undoubtedly (eventually) make a buck or two from this addition. From a business and marketing perspective, the value of Twitter—and of the hashtag—has been that the channel provided marketers with a way to engage in real-time conversations with users, focusing in on a specific group that has demonstrated a particular interest. Facebook hasn’t been as effective at doing this. Until now.
“This is a layer on top of what Facebook is already offering,” Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst with eMarketer, told Mashable. “If marketers are already using hashtags as part of their marketing on other sites, they will be able to use those same hashtags within Facebook and drive engagement within the Facebook environment.”
Williamson also told Mashable that the “introduction of hashtags, and eventually ads attached to them, may have an ‘incremental’ impact on Facebook’s revenue,” and if Twitter is any indication, Williamson is right.
When, during the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, a power outage at the Superdome caused some of the lights to go out for 34 minutes, Oreo’s social media team tweeted an ad that read “Power Out? No problem” with link to an image of a cookie in the darkness and the caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.” Over 15,000 retweets later, the ad became somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, considered among the likes of Apple’s 1984 commercial. The ad embraced everything advertisers love about Twitter and social media, and it was marketing gold. Did it sell a few extra packs of Oreo’s? It’s hard to tell, but it sure got people talking about them and, perhaps, even craving some.
Facebook’s hashtag decision comes at a crucial time for the company—its stock isn’t doing too well, and investors are constantly asking about new products. But, interestingly, Facebook announced that ads are off-limits to marketers right now, though it is nevertheless encouraging brands to use hashtags in advertisements to increase the reach of those hashtags since “using them and buying them are different,” a company rep explained.
Still, there’s no reason to believe that hashtags will never be available to marketers. eMarketer projects that Twitter will generate more than half a billion dollars in ad revenue this year, and my guess is Facebook (and its investors) are eventually going to want in on this. Either way, hashtags are here to stay so #getexcited.
June 12th, 2013 by Kelly Liyakasa
With all the talk of PRISM, the United States National Security Agency (NSA), and the transfer of personal data swirling around as of late, it’s small wonder consumers are questioning the credibility of those who market and sell to, and service them.
In Adobe Systems’ latest “State of Online Advertising” report released today, 8,750 consumers and 1,750 marketers were surveyed by Edelman Berland and the general conclusion was this: consumers still prefer traditional to digital means of marketing. So, what does this mean exactly?
Just as a side note, before I even got into CRM and tech reporting and gained a better understanding of the back-end of marketing, I considered myself a pretty run-of-the-mill consumer. I would see ads I liked. Ads I didn’t like. Online. In a social stream. On television. Through SMS. I never considered the method of delivery as much as I considered the usefulness and timeliness of the promotion. And, the only time it was ever “too much” was when I opted out and…continued receiving the same alert. Less was more. Always.
When it comes to “credibility,” 51 percent of consumers still rely on family, friends, and coworkers for information about brands and products. Second to that are consumer forums and publications, with 35 percent of consumers placing their trust in these communities, with traditional media like newspapers and television earning 28 percent of consumers’ sentiments. On the lesser “loyal” end of the spectrum, companies’ digital Web sites were considered “credible” for information by 17 percent of consumers, while only some 3 percent saw company social media sites as most credible.
In terms of general “willingness” to read ads, Americans and Europeans are a little less accepting, with 31 percent of US and 36 percent of Europeans consumers that say they enjoy viewing and reading ads. For the Asia-Pacific market, the number was a bit higher at 42 percent. Those feelings carried over when it came to “customization” of marketing efforts by tapping into “big data” volumes; 74 percent of US consumer-respondents agreed that ”it’s creepy when companies target advertisements to consumers based on their behavior.” The number was slightly lower in Europe, at 71 percent, and even lower in the Asia-Pacific region, at 63 percent.
In summary, “the best marketers will focus on building their muscles in data to drive relevance, design to generate an experience that makes consumers feel good, and delivery to bring it on demand,” stated David Edelman, global co-leader of the Digital Marketing and Sales practice McKinsey & Co.
June 7th, 2013 by Leonard Klie
Last week, the “Healing in the Heartland” relief benefit concert, featuring such artists as Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Vince Gill, Miranda Lambert, and Darius Rucker, raised more than $6.5 million to help rebuild parts of Oklahoma after the deadly May 20 tornadoes. Call center technology was right there at the heart of the effort, serving as the backbone that facilitated the fundraising.
The United Way of Central Oklahoma tapped into inContact’s cloud automatic call distribution (ACD) software to deploy a temporary virtual call center to accept phone donations and handle supplemental call volumes following the live television concert. Event organizers reported that everything was set up very quickly, thanks to the cloud-based platform.
“We needed to prepare for a spike in call volumes and donations this week,” Lisa Austin, director of operations at the United Way, said in a statement. “With the cloud technology and flexibility we get from inContact, we’re able to get a virtual call center team up and going with about 100 agents quickly.”
“A busy signal is not an option for United Way when every call counts,” noted Paul Jarman, CEO of inContact.
June 6th, 2013 by Maria Minsker
When I first heard that The Internship was going to be about Google, I thought: “Great, another movie bashing a tech company that everyone loves, a la The Social Network.” But, alas, after watching the comedy earlier this week, I realized the film was anything but a negative portrayal—rather, it was basically a love affair.
A newcomer to the field of CRM, I’m quickly beginning to see the crucial role that customer service plays in a company’s success. While Google is no doubt incredibly successful, the film’s inaccurately generous portrayal of their customer service leaves me wondering how much better the company could actually be if they employed some of the tactics the film depicts.
In The Internship, out tomorrow, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play interns, competing with about 1500 other students for coveted job offers at the end of the summer. Wilson and Vaughn are training to man the phones on Google’s customer help line, which, in reality, isn’t accessible to a majority of customers. The film emphasizes Google’s devotion to providing stellar customer service, thoroughly training its customer reps, and offering its users only the best support—a portrayal that critics agree couldn’t be further from the truth.
Fredric Paul, managing editor at ReadWrite wrote earlier this week: “Trying to reach a human being at Google is well-nigh impossible, and deliberately so. That kind of customer service just doesn’t scale. Even big corporate customers sometimes get frustrated when they can’t get the kind of help-desk support for which, say, Microsoft is known for. But Google knows that once you start down that rat hole, there’s no coming back.”
Though in November 2011, Google did unveil a long-awaited feature for business and education customers of Google Apps, a 24/7 phone support for all issues related to the core services including Gmail, Google Docs and Calendar, reaching an actual person on the phone remains quite an extraordinary feat. The automated message on the line still urges the customer to reach out via email, or browse through frequently asked questions and other support resources.
Unlike Facebook when its flick was being filmed, Google cooperated with the production of The Internship and even gave the film crew access to its headquarters, which might explain why the tech giant was shown in such a positive light. Regardless, The Internship is a fun film, but more importantly, it’s one that not only shows us what Google isn’t, but also gives us a glimpse into what it could be.