Forrester’s Top 15 Trends for Customer Service in 2012


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With 2011 still bright and full of hope for most of us, what are the key trends that customer service professionals need to pay attention to as you plan for success this year? Here are the top trends that I am tracking. My full report will be published in January.

I – Leaders Empower Their Agents To Deliver Optimal Service

Trend 1: Organizations Internalize The Importance Of The Universal Customer History Record.

Customer service agents must have access to the full history of a customer’s prior interactions over all the communication channels – voice, electronic channels like chat and email as well as the newer social channels like Facebook and Twitter – to deliver personalized service and to strengthen the relationship that customers have with companies. In 2012, vendors will continue to add the management of social channels to their customer service products. Companies will slowly continue to formalize the business processes and governance structures around managing social inquiries and move this responsibility out of marketing departments and into customer service centers.

Trend 2: The Agent Experience Is No Longer An Afterthought

Customer service organizations will continue to work on simplifying and making more usable the agent workspace. This includes removing extraneous data elements from agent screens, automating tasks to increase agent productivity and making easily accessible to agents relevant information to help personalize the interaction such as the products that the customer owns, the services subscribed to and the tier of customer. These efforts also involve deploying customer-centric task flows that map to frequent call types where tasks can be accomplished using the least number of steps.

Trend 3: Agent Knowledge Becomes A Core Requirement

Expect more companies to invest in aligning their knowledge management solutions with best practices for an increased ROI. The focus will also be on making knowledge deployments more agile, and more social so that content grows quickly, in-line with customer demand and with minimal management overhead.

Trend 4: Search-Based Applications Add Business Value To Complex Service Interactions

Customer service organizations are turning to search based applications that overlay knowledge and information repositories, and allow agents to access consolidated and correlated information in unified dashboards. However, organizations will increasingly ask for ROI models to justify the purchase of these solutions as they can be expensive.

Trend 5: Customer Service Relies On Next-Best Action

Organizations will continue to investigate methods to recommend agent “next-best actions” during the service resolution process in an attempt to offer service tailored to the customer’s unique needs and past purchase history. These next best actions are not limited to cross sells and upsells but also help guide agents through the most successful resolution path by presenting them the next best process step to take which is aligned with business imperatives.

Trend 6: Business Process Management Extends Its Reach To The Front Office

In 2011, we started to see organizations using BPM in the front office in an attempt to formalize agent actions in an effort to standardize service delivery, minimize agent training times, ensure regulatory and company policy compliance, and control costs.

Expect to see continued focus on guiding agents through the service resolution process as well as focus on the end-to-end process that may involve back-office tasks.

Trend 7: Adopting Customer Data Management Best Practices Remains A Challenge

Only few customer service leaders recognize that addressing data quality issues is necessary to move the needle on customer satisfaction. This trend will continue in 2012. For progress to be made, customer service leaders must take responsibility for master data management and data quality investments by creating sound business cases to get projects funded.

II – Customer-Centricity Fuels Improvements To Customer Service

Trend 8: Customer Service Evolves From Multichannel To Agile

Customers expect service to be cross- touchpoint – that is, being able to start an interaction in one communication channel and complete it in another. Customers are also pushing for greater alignment of service, sales, marketing and brand so that they can interact with a company in an unfractured manner.

In 2012 and beyond, customer service management professionals will continue to work on breaking down communication silos within and outside of customer service and standardizing the resolution process and customer service experience across these communication channels.

Trend 9: Mobile Customer Service Applications Become A Must-Have Capability

Companies will focus on deploying the right mobile usage scenarios that add value to customers and which leverage the native capabilities of these devices such as their camera, video capture, or GPS functions and which are optimized for the device type, operating system and form factor.

Trend 10: Use Of End-To-End Customer Feedback Processes Across Channels Rises

We predict that companies will be doubling-down on their efforts to put end-to-end feedback processes in place across all communication channels — both traditional and social. Expect vendors to provide the next generation of collaborative communication tools, sentiment analytics, and the ability to close the loop with the user.

Trend 11: Customers Rely On Proactive Outbound Communication

Forrester’s Forrsights Networks And Telecommunications Survey, Q1 2011 shows that 39% of enterprises are currently investing in proactive outbound communications. We predict that the range of channels for proactive outbound will increase, and will include service alerts, workarounds, customized cross-sell and up-sell offers, and new knowledge base content. Outbound communication technology will also be more deeply integrated into the contact to support close-loop scenarios where customers want connect to an agent after receiving a message.

III – Customer Service Adopts Enabling Solutions

Trend 12: Best-Of-Breed Solutions Struggle To Prove Their Value

We see more suite solutions from a single vendor being deployed for customer service. Buyers will be in a strong position to push best-of-breed vendors to demonstrate differentiation and measurable business value. In addition, best of breed solutions are prime acquisition targets.

Trend 13: SaaS For Customer Service Becomes A Credible Option

Nearly half of apps professionals are actively engaged with SaaS assessments or deployment. In 2012, many first-time customer service technology buyers will look first at a SaaS solution to see if this approach can meet their needs. Companies will also continue to mature their skills that address emerging needs around SaaS and cloud initiatives.

Trend 14: Outsourcing Slowly Gains Market Share

Customer service organizations continue to consider outsourcing their operations in an attempt to reduce costs of providing customer support. In 2012, expect outsourcing to very slowly grow as outsourcers continue their investment in their multichannel customer service technology. Expect as well to see more companies look to outsourcing their contact center technology while staffing customer operations with their agents.

Trend 15: SOA Adoption Continues To Move Forward

We expect SOA adoption to continue its forward momentum in contact centers as SOA allows organizations to be more adaptable to changing their business capabilities and logic to stay competitive. Sectors such as telecom, financial services, and insurance, which are particularly prone to acquisitions or which demand a high amount of business agility will continue to lead the SOA transformation wave.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Leggett
Kate serves Business Process Professionals. She is a leading expert on customer service strategies. Her research focuses on helping organizations establish and validate customer service strategies strategies, prioritize and focus customer service projects, facilitate customer service vendor selection, and plan for project success.


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