You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2012.

Our benchmark research into the contact center in the cloud shows that almost all companies now support multiple communication channels to engage with customers. Most of them also involve multiple business units in handling inbound and outbound interactions. More companies now support at-home agents, and contact centers are becoming more distributed. These scenarios are a good fit for cloud-based systems, and the research finds that the top three ways organizations said they can meet these challenges, and thus improve the way interactions are handled, are to improve training and coaching, adopt applications in the cloud and adopt communications in the cloud. It also shows that organizations have high expectations of cloud-based systems, expecting them to require less capital expenditure, facilitate innovation in interaction handling, lessen demand on in-house resources, including IT and better support home-based agents.

The research shows as well that organizations have reservations about adopting cloud-based systems, among them likely responses times, overall performance, security of access and scalability. Because cloud-based contact centers are relatively new, there aren’t many examples of success to help allay these fears.

In this context I was pleased to see an announcement from Echopass that one of its customers has reaped  multiple benefits by adopting a contact center in the cloud. Echopass was one of the first vendors to offer such a service, and it now offers services based on its Symmetry Architecture. As I recently wrote, Echopass has an interesting mix of third-party systems and in-house developments that it has combined to provide multimedia interaction handling in the cloud, and some elements of workforce optimization.

A number of business benefits cited by the customer in this case study concur with the primary benefits the research shows that companies expect by moving to the cloud, and the Echopass customer asserts that after using the services for five years it continues to realize these benefits. Closer examination of the case study indicates the company has achieved considerable cost savings and has seen its net promoter score rise dramatically. A part from pure savings in total cost of ownership in infrastructure and support costs, the company notes these:

  • Average speed of answering calls has decreased, saving money and improving customer satisfaction.
  • Average call-handling times have decreased. (Our research into contact center analytics shows this is the top priority for most contact center managers.)
  • Targeted service levels have been exceeded.
  • Agent productivity has improved, resulting in reduced head count.
  • Call abandonment rates have lessened, improving customer satisfaction.
  • Net promoter scores have improved because calls are being answered more quickly.
  • The new quality monitoring systems and dashboard enable the company to focus agent training better.

One of the less tangible benefits is shown in this quote: “The Echopass solution allows us to focus a lot more on our customers and not worry about the technology or have it get in the way.” Customers are what business is all about, and too often processes and systems get in the way of a true customer focus. This success story shows that a cloud-based system can take away many of the operational issues companies struggle with on a day-to-day basis and allow them to innovative with the customer as the focus. With that comes business success.

Our research shows that over the next few years more organizations will adopt cloud-based systems to meet pressing business and budget issues. They remain firmly on our research agenda. Keep following my blog and I will keep you abreast of new developments and similar success stories as they emerge.

Regards

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

When the Salesforce.com marketing machine rolls into town, you have to sit up and listen, and that’s what 14,000 attendees did at the latest Cloudforce event in London. The company took over a vast portion of the ExCel London Exhibition Centre to accommodate the keynote speech, lots of side events and meeting rooms and an expo floor where attendees could see demonstrations of every product and service, including many from partners showing what they have to offer.

Salesforce COO George Hu took over the keynote this year, with the aid of a few other executives and client representatives discussing customer successes. His approach was refreshing, not just because it was done in the round and Hu went walking through the audience, but especially because he didn’t subject us to two hours of product pitches, but he got across the message that companies large and small are using its products to support many facets of their businesses, and they are being successful. We didn’t get lots of direct messages about product and service developments, but the audience cannot have gone away without seeing that Salesforce clients have solved sales, customer service, marketing, HR, social media and other business issues using its products. The companies showed various innovations in the use of Chatter, collaboration, social media and social media analytics. Customers discussed how they used development tools available through Force.com to create applications and integrate Salesforce products into their systems architectures. Other vendors are reluctant to even mention competitors; Hu highlighted cases of integration with SAP and Oracle, making the point that companies with these products don’t have to throw them out but can build them into their architecture going forward.

Throughout the session there was one overriding message, that companies have to go social or risk failure. People have changed the ways they live, work, rest and play, and many seem unable to live without mobile devices and access to the Internet. They do it all online: socialize, search for information and buy products, and communicate and voice opinions through social media. If companies don’t keep up with these trends, they will lose out. However, I am not a fan of Salesforce’s touting of the “social enterprise”; in a work environment, talking about the collaborative enterprise makes more sense. My research on customer relationship maturity shows that companies can no longer work effectively as a collection of disparate business units because customers interact with almost every business unit, through many communication channels. Companies therefore need to integrate these channels, collaborate across business units and have one source of customer information if they are going to satisfy customers and get more issues resolved at the first attempt.

Service Cloud is the primary product Salesforce presents to improve customer service. It is difficult to define where Service Cloud sits in the products I cover, since it is not CRM nor a fully fledged contact center, but includes customer analytics and social media and collaboration capabilities. Service Cloud facilitates what I call customer experience management, as it enables customer service agents to access all the information they need about customers, including past multimedia interactions, to help resolve their issues, and can provide these capabilities to anyone handling customer interactions. It is a key component of a contact center and was shown being used in conjunction with some partner products on display in the expo from companies such as LiveOpsNewVoiceMedia and Vocalcom, which provide what is commonly termed communications in the cloud and other components of a contact center.

Cloudforce London was a busy day for everyone who attended, and I know I missed some news: about Rypple that my colleague has already covered and desk.com, and announcements around Salesforce’s entry into marketing and instant messaging. Please keep collaborating as I work to catch up and I will keep you posted on how Salesforce and its partners continue to innovate.

Regards,

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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