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.


Let’s take a quick look at the organizations that make technology purchases for customer service. Obviously, the customer service operations group makes most of these purchases. Yet marketing and eBusiness organizations also purchase many technologies that are valuable to customer service such as social listening solutions, enterprise feedback management solutions, and social media technologies. Here are some numbers to back this up: in a survey of eBusiness and channel strategy executives , 91% said that they were responsible for the website and digital channels like email, chat, and web self service, and another 69% said they were responsible for the mobile operations, including the required technology purchases.

Comment by Tracey Tanner — — June 28, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

To succeed in this market also requires great customer service. For example, the internet retailer Zappos has set the standard for online customer service, offering 24/7 call centers, a 365 day return policy and free shipping both ways.

Comment by Douglas C. Lewis — — July 2, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

In national economic statistics, the service sector is often defined as whatever is not agriculture or manufacturing ( service sector – tertiary sector of the economy ( Colin Clark )). Intuitively, services are processes, performances, or experiences that one person or organization does for the benefit of another – such as custom tailoring suit, cooking a dinner to order, driving a limousine, mounting a legal defense, setting a broken bone, teaching a class, or running a business’s information technology infrastructure and applications. In all cases, service involves deployment of knowledge, skills, and competences that one person or organization has for the benefit of another (Lusch & Vargo), often done as a single, customized job. And in all cases, service requires substantial input from the customer or client (Sampson) – how else could your steak be customized for you unless you tell you waiter how you want it prepared? In general there are so-called front-stage and back-stage activities in any business transaction – front stage being the part that comes in contact with the customer and back stage being the part that does not (Teboul). Service depends on having a high degree of front-stage activities to interact with the customer, whereas traditional manufacturing requires very little customer input to the production process and depends almost entirely on back-stage activities.

Comment by Angelina Estes — — July 6, 2013 @ 11:00 pm

Most customer service centers run by banks and other service departments are quite sophisticated. Right from outbound telemarketing capabilities to tele servicing, a technology capability exists to manage every possible customer scenario. Despite this, the moments of truth at many interaction centers end up being disastrous because they access customer information product-wise, as it is organized product wise and not customer wise. It is a rare moment when a customer service representative (CSR) can help you at one go with all transactions that you may have with an organization. Fortunately some banks are now realizing the need for a single point of contact, where a comprehensive and updated database of the customer resides. This ensures immediate fulfillment of customer queries and requirements through simple procedures.

Comment by Omar Arnold — — July 7, 2013 @ 2:11 am

In a sense, the technology part of CRM – the database – largely equates to the information that was previously stored ‘in the heads’ of Managers of small businesses. But good customer relationships are about far more than that. Processes, or key steps, have to be put into place to make sure that such data is used effectively. In fact it is the processes that hold the whole thing together. And the people involved in any way with the customer have to be aware of those processes and preferably believe in those processes so that a seamless service can be delivered to the customer.

Comment by Burl Nash — — July 8, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

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