Research Agenda 2017: Customer Service Adoption and Usage

A few weeks back I told you I was changing the model for thinkJar.

This is the first of five posts where I will give you more details on what I am working on this year.

First, and in its sixth year, the Customer Service Adoption and Usage report.

The Customer Service market is very much settled.  There is little innovation coming out the market and we are running a steady 10-12% growth in market value year/year.  We also have methodologies and models that are pretty much known by anyone and the major issues and trends in the market deal with how to optimize it, not just how to use the solutions in the market.

Due to the market maturity, I focus my research more on the lessons learned and what’s working aspects than in the “new shiny bead” solutions for it.  I am working this year the following pieces (with due dates, which could change based on external factors):

  1. February 7 – State of the Market: Customer Service
  2. March 14 – Customer Service Market Drivers and Inihibitors
  3. April 18 – Latest and Greatest Lessons Learned: Customer Service
  4. April 24 – Customer Service Adoption and Usage Report: Findings and Analysis
  5. May 30 – Customer Service Implementation: A Case Study
  6. September 5 – Customer Service Implementation: A Case Study

How can you help (or how can I help you)?

If you have an interesting case study, if you are willing to be interviewed for a lessons learned interview, if you have some wisdom or insight you’d like to contribute, if you would like to discuss the market — or if you are looking to sponsor the research (wink-wink) simply contact me.  You can also leave a comment below if you prefer.

For anything else, there ain’t no Mastercard — you are going to have to wait.

(part two of this five-part research agenda publishing is tomorrow and will display the same information for the topic of Data Usage in the Enterprise)

disclaimer: the bad joke about not having Mastercard has no relationship whatsoever to the company and is a bad take on the commercials they use to run in the 1990s.  if it offends anyone, who is not with the Mastercard corporation, nothing I can do. if they’re with Mastercard, apologies and let me know – will take it down and apologize before you involve your lawyers (but after we discuss your improper sense of humor maybe).

A New Model for thinkJar

In the perpetual search for a better model to share research, news, reviews, and more I am “formally” changing what I do.

I am, for the first time since Gartner, creating a research agenda.

There are five topics in it right now:

  • Customer Service Adoption and Usage
  • Data Usage in the Enterprise
  • Artificial Intelligence in the Enterprise
  • Platforms and Ecosystems
  • Customer Experiences and Engagement

There will be primary research aligned with both (quantitative for more established markets, qualitative for emerging markets) and  “reports” like drivers and inhibitors, case studies, lessons learned, business issues, executive conversations, and more.


The dates and titles will be published (in my *new* website – coming in January) so you have an idea what I am working on, but one thing will remain clear – this is not about covering vendors or promoting vendors, or comparing vendors, or selecting vendors.  The goal on all this is to provide a strategy-focused, market-based perspective of business and technology issues – not a vendor-influenced view of how to sell software.  This is about feeding strategies and aligning technology and business.

Why am I doing all this?

Two reasons: I am overly tired of hype; I’m going to focus on finding and publishing real information (call me the anti-fake-news-for-the-enterprise crusader if you may), but more importantly because I sense that this information will be, for the next 2-3 years, far more valuable than thought leadership and visions for the future.

It’s time to GSD.

Adding my 2 drachmas to it.

disclaimer: there are commercial aspects to this model, and it’s not a subscription option.  everything I write will be published for free either here or my LinkedIn page. I very so much appreciate my clients that over the years have paid me to do research just because they think I  bring a different perspective – and would like to continue that.  

As a shameless plug, if you are and vendor and interested in learning how you can support my “research habit” for the topics above, please drop me a line.

Democratizing Large Enterprise Chatbots for Small Businesses

I must confess, I am a bit of a nut about chatbots.

I have been doing AI and related technologies (including NLP and bots-like tech) for quite some time and was a firm believer in the early waves of chatbots (back then we called them virtual agents – this is circa 2000 and was just starting to enter the realm of large enterprises).

Still am a firm believer, despite the bad name that they engendered through the early parts of this century due to lack of quantifiable results.  I mean, the worked – they just didn’t register well enough with the metrics we needed to justify them (read: too complicated, expensive, and cumbersome to maintain).

As we evolve with these technologies I am more inclined to believe that it is one the viable paths to get to full automation (which continues to be my dream for customer service) – or close to it.  But, to get there we need to simplify deployments and the maintenance.

This is why I was excited to hear that one of my clients, NoHold – one of my oldest and dearest clients with good virtual assistants / chatbot technology, was thinking of doing that  – making it simpler, cheaper, and easier to deploy them.  We had been talking for a while about their plans and the research they prompted via an inquiry eventually became the latest linked-in blog post I wrote: Chatbots for the Small Business.

In that post, I claim that simplicity and democratization of the resources inherent to chatbot’s world can be used by small business easily to fulfill their needs.  I also make the statement that if this works for small businesses then anyone and anything can leverage chatbots.  My hope is that we can all, for professional or personal reasons, create and manage an army of chatbots that, easily and with limited or no maintenance, will allow us to focus on the real needs we have and simplify the easy interactions with others.

psalbert-noholdToday, NoHold launched their product.  And I must confess I am interested in it.  Very.  Three reasons why:

  1. Democratization of Chatbot Technology.  This the most interesting point to me: bringing the complicated components necessary to run chatbots in a simple manner to all organizations.  In my past post, I looked at a handful of companies that are working on that – but this launch is a tad different.  NoHold has lengthy (read, over 15 years) doing this and they have evolved not only their chatbot tech but also knowledge management components to deliver complex bots. Their new QuickSmart platform, a subset of all those components, emphasizes the ease of deployment and lack of training for a chatbot. It has all the large scalability and powerful language and intelligence processing elements that are provided in a simpler turn-key (or almost solution).  There is no easier way to democratize technology than to make the complex simple and to allow organizations access to high-tech that would otherwise be unavailable to them.  This is one of those moves.
  2. Platform Based.   For small businesses, the ability to do little and get lots of value is a preternatural pursue;  having limited resources to begin with they are always looking for better ways, and cheaper/faster/easier/simpler ways, to accomplish what they need.  Using platforms, and their inherent ability to both leverage other elements as well as easily customize and personalize the outcome, is a natural – and one of the reasons cloud computing has been growing steadily among the SMB crowd.  From their early days, NoHold had relied on their SICURA platform to deliver ever-easier implementations of chatbots for their customers and now they have extended that modus operandi to their new QuickStart platform for small businesses.  This means that SMB organizations can now – for the most part, there are some differences – create and deploy similar complexity chatbots in their service setups.  This is not only good for the SMB, but also for the large enterprises that benefit from the lessons learned in using platforms more efficiently.
  3. No Coding.  SMB needs are easy and simple.  The lack of resources becomes an insurmountable issue if, as with most enterprise chatbots, a few months of work are required to deploy.  Removing the need for complex configuration and simplifying or eliminating coding is the easiest way to serve the needs of the small business – but also the needs of large enterprises that may have business workers creating chatbots as needed.  NoHold QuickStart uses word documents, with minimal formatting and structure, to create a chatbot.   This is a tremendous advantage over the traditional way to train and implement a chatbot – where mostly a set of Q&A is loaded one by one via an interface – and one that can leverage documents already created by the company for other purposes.  This is a critical sine-qua-non in my opinion for small businesses to embrace this technology as — well, anybody in the business world knows how to use Word.

There is a lot more to cover in this release: more features, more functionality, more use cases, and more examples – but I think the points above are what make my interest in this launch so.  If there is a way to leverage existing, complex technology and deliver a simplified model of the same to democratize access to the technology – to me that’s a good day.

Read more about the launch here, and read more about the product here.

disclaimer: NoHold is a client, one of my oldest clients, and I have received compensation along the way to help them with this and other launches.  I was drawn into drafting my Linked-in post based on research I had to do to answer their inquiry.  I am solely responsible for this content and the opinions expressed herein and no one at NoHold attempted to tell me what to say or do.  if you disagree with my position, that’s good if you have the data to back it up.  if you agree, that’s better.  I do believe we are just tapping the surface on what we will be able to do with chatbots and will continue to cover this as it becomes available – a large part of my research going forward is about artificial intelligence.  if you have any worthwhile announcement, launch, or something interesting to share with me in this field – please contact me.

ps – since i wrote this I also saw coverage in Forbes and TheNextWeb.

The Year of Respite

According to Google’s definition (which I am sure comes from a dictionary – but not even my kid knows what those are anymore) respite is an ancient word that comes from a latin root meaning refuge or consideration.

The proper definition is below – you can read it, but I’ll save you the trouble – it’s about taking a moment to rest, or to get relief, from something hard or difficult.

((definition of respite))

As John Oliver said in the November 13 show when talking about the election results (and I won’t even talk about that) – 2016 has been a “difficult” year (he used other words that Siri would’ve translated to Ducking Shorty) — and that applies to our jobs as well.  We are at the end of a 6-to-8 years stretch overflowing with hype and “new things”.

The year 2010 shall forever live in infamy: the demise of global economies peaked and the hard job of rebuilding began.  Investments in Enterprise Software were nil or as close as possible to that.  The pace of innovation skyrocketed.  The technologies and tools we discovered since the turn of the century were put to the test in “credit card” or skunkworks-style projects that virtually all organizations had under way for social, collaboration, and data use.

As social began to slow down “Big Data” began to boom – and virtually anything that could be hyped was.  We hyped Big Data, Analytics, Cloud, Artificial Intelligence, Platforms, Mobile (remember BYOD?), and just about anything else.  We saw the rise of concepts like Citizen Programmers (or Employee Programmers if you prefer), Digital Transformation, Self Service and full-on Business Automation, Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics, and Collaborative Enterprises with Communities.

In other words, we fully dedicated ourselves to anything that may have an impact on the organization going forward as we knew that the lull in investing was temporary and we would go back to doing something — just didn’t know what and wanted to be prepared; we continuously sped up until this year.

And it was exhausting.

My clients are realizing that they cannot implement everything we hyped over the last few years; none of these projects are 6-month to one-year projects.  These are long initiatives (cloud migration can take up to a decade, no digital transformation initiative at a corporate level will be done under five-to-seven years, artificial intelligence? try 20+ years) that may yield some results in the short-term – but only to whet your appetite for more.

Just learning what data you need, where it comes from, and how it can be used can take a couple of years of trial-and-error – and then you still need to implement your findings and use the data for something useful.

And this is where we are today.  2017.  The year of respite.

This is the year when everyone is asking the same questions – not merely “what is that?” or “how do you use it?” but more like “show me the value it can bring to my organization and my customers in the short-, near-, mid-, and long-term” or “tell me what are the implementation strategies that have worked and how I can adapt them to my organization”.  There is also “help me understand the necessary elements and changes I need to undertake to take advantage of that technology or tool”.

And my favorite – “where do I start?”  Or rather, “where did Acme start to succeed at technology X?”.

This is not the year where I am going to become famous (infamous?) by concocting a new “vision” or “business model”(like my lemniscate back in 2010) or writing about “thought leadership” that describes where we are going to be in the next 10-20 years.  We realized that where we are going to be in a decade’s time will be very different for each and every one of us.

I don’t want to sound the alarm – we are not doomed; we reached the year of respite: the time when we stop looking at what’s possible and how hard it would be to change it and instead we focus on how we are going to get these things done.  The focus is in doing, not in talking.

Are you ready?

( this is part one of a two-part series – the next one will tell you what I am doing in the next few months/years to help you get ready)

disclaimer: Acme has never been, is not, and likely will never be a client.  It should go without saying, but these are my experiences and thoughts and they may differ from yours.  In which case, we both know you are wrong and should embrace mine.  If you don’t, I cannot be held liable for your failures – capisce?

Why Salesforce Should Buy Twitter

Bear with me before dismissing me as crazy — I love the idea.

Here is the explanation, which SFDC may dispute. Read it in its entirety before pronouncing judgment.

Twitter is not a social network. It has failed dismally at it. Facebook has eaten their breakfast, lunch, and dinner and drank their milk at it.

At the beginning Twitter was cobbled together in a rush to launch at South-by-Southwest.  It grew, haphazardly, showing a ton of problems and a total lack of scalability (as did Facebook at the same time).  Then it was shut down temporarily and emerged a solid,  well built notifications, communications, and distribution network that can handle massive volumes – greater than any enterprise software application ever had to handle.

The gap between “fail whale era” and today is yuge. failwhaleRemember??? **

Today, it’s a stable, functioning, scalable, publish-subscribe,  notification network can handle live video in volumes that were previously unthinkable.  There is no well established, viable revenue strategy in place today — but….

SFDC wants to grow 10+ times larger than it is today – maybe more (I hope more, and this is my assumption).  Oracle could claim they are the first vendor to reach $10bb in pseudo-cloud revenues if they get there first, but SFDC can claim to be the first one to get to $100bb in actual-cloud.  I may be overextending myself – but I believe it is totally doable with some tweaks to their technology, including the underlying infrastructure.

A few years back SFDC launched Salesforce1 – which I claimed was their first move to become a three-tier, open-cloud, platform-based enterprise software solution.  Last year they introduced Thunder (which in spite of their term of “IoT Cloud” is a data abstraction layer that allows them to process massive amounts of data in real-time), and this year they introduced Einstein – a platform play to give all their applications access to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (eventually).

Yet, among these many moves to strengthen and grow their platform the underlying architecture  has not evolved equally.  Since the times of the Social Enterprise and the introduction of Chatter – when SFDC changed the paradigm of what it is to work in an enterprise application – the volumes keep increasing… yet the architecture did not.  Chatter volumes are very large, but I doubt (and will likely be told I am wrong) that it can handle the volumes associated with a 10x growth spur.

If they do buy twitter (we can argue price and value later, as we did with WhatsApp – which proven their $19bb value to Facebook many times over my initial apprehension), they have to shut down the crappy social network. They must get rid of a network where most of the ugliest things in life happen (the Kardashians can move to Snapchat, Trump will eventually fade away) and let them find a new home (maybe they move to Facebook and we either can get them under control or shut down Facebook and get rid of the privacy invasion… double bonus!)

Why shut it down?

So they can begin work immediately to make the underlying infrastructure of twitter the replacement for Chatter as a distribution network.  It should take  +/- 18 months (I have not done a technology due diligence, may be way off here – I am not inside and need more details before making this assessment).

SFDC is then a platform-based solution with a world-class distribution and notification networks, a data abstraction layer to match it (thunder/IoT cloud), a soon-to-be-set-of-services for AI (Einstein), and the potential to become the enterprise software platform it needs to be for the next generation.

From the technology perspective it adds a layer of infrastructure that they need (I’ve heard some things about thunder being able to handle the load for chatter, etc. – have not explored it sufficiently but my doubts are in handling the growth not at today’s levels) to match their hopes for growth.  A killer, scalable, massive pub-sub network as the underlying infrastructure for a platform for enterprise software could be the ticket to that 10x (or more) growth – and be worth a ton.

Dismiss me now, I am done.

disclaimer: these machinations are what happen when I am asked what in the surface seems like a simple, inane question – and one that everyone expressed to be impossible and dumb.  Is not that I want to be contrarian, but I wanted to use a different thought process — what if we went beyond the surface? that’s usually how i approach things — looking for their potential, not the face value. I don’t know all the details on the architecture for both and this could be a horrible idea.  I will eat crow if that turns out to be the case… but it would make for a wonderful differentiator if it isn’t.  You know the rest: SFDC is a current client and they paid my expenses to attend Dreamforce; oracle was a client in the past; twitter was never a client; any other vendor implied or any other relationship assumed is a mere coincidence and even if they weren’t they don’t signify endorsement or agreement or influence.  I have enough friends and “frenemies” at SFDC that some will laugh and some will nod.   Either way – mistakes are mine, I own the opinion and it is not influenced by anything other than a long week without much sleep and too much meat (hope my doctor does not read this).

** image credit: By Source, Fair use,

Customer Service Survey Time – One More Time!

Hello ladies and germs,

That time you were waiting for all year is finally here!

The new phonebook is here!! I’m finally somebody…


The time to give me your opinions in exchange for an aggregate view of what’s going on in Customer Service is here.

As a side item, 46% of people in America still use yellow pages to find business listings and 34% (kid you not) still use the phonebook to find telephone numbers for people (I am assuming it’s so they can text them….).

Isn’t that interesting?


How about learning that Customer Experience and Engagement are the most hoped for budgeted projects in Customer Service in 2016-2017 – but cloud, knowledge, employee empowerment, and analytics were the top four that got funded?

Or to know we finally (finally!) made it to mainstream adoption with Chat (more than 30% of adoption) and that IA (intelligent assistants) are around 10% adoption?

Still not interesting enough?

How about…

Nah, to learn the rest you will have to take the survey and read the results in August.  Or come to my session in early October at Dreamforce to hear me present in a masterful way… OK, same as always… but had to try.

This year we are looking at adoption, usage, mobile customer service, future technologies, empowering agents, and more… much more!

Come on folks, entertainment like this does not come cheap (or free)… you have to take my survey in exchange.

Want more?  How about if I bribe you?  The first 200 people who take the survey (which should be within the first two weeks – starting today) will get a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts e-gift card worth $5.00 (just about a cup of coffee these days… whatever happened to the nickel cup???).  Sorry, Peet’s decided not to do e-gift cards (which goes with having crappy coffee and no hot food as top three worse decisions ever for a business).  Just let me know at the end of the survey, will send the cards as the survey wraps up in mid- to late-July (depending on number of responses).

Ready? Set? Take the survey!

disclaimer: i don’t like Peet’s coffee, never had, never will.  Call me any name in the book if you want, but their coffee sucks and their decision to not offer hot foods made Starbucks – worse coffee even – beat them.  sucks.  as for bias on surveys, how owns the data, etc — my friends at Salesforce are sponsoring this survey and I am forever grateful so my kids can eat twice a week now.  i still control everything else about it, including topic selection, questions asked, answers offered, biases, and data collected. no one but me will ever see the data collected (some people say I don’t even see it <rimshot>) and all identifying information is removed – this is truly anonymous unless you decide to give me your email address to get the results, to chat more, or because you are greedy and want a cup of joe in exchange for the 15-20 minutes it takes you to do this survey… 🙂

disclaimer 2: if you follow me anywhere you know i never endorse giving prizes or rewards for taking surveys.  i still don’t believe in bribing and offering prizes and rewards for taking the survey — but i am trying something different. will let you know how it goes

Three Questions To Ponder on Microsoft and LinkedIn


Your friendly neighboring analyst (who apparently never writes anything anymore).

I had to dust off the cobwebs for this one… I had such a busy day with calls and messages and emails and such – I figured it was a good time to break the streak and write something.

First off, won’t comment on the price… OK, maybe just one tiny one. One of the people who was in the team who setup the Yammer deal (the one that was done for $1.2 billion, ‘member?) called me today to get my thoughts…  This person was very happy because they no longer own the title of worst buy at Microsoft… <rim shot>

There’s also this — the price per monthly active user is $260.00.  Expensive acquisition cost…. (thanks Dave Kellogg for doing the math). What happens when (not if) users start leaving because now Microsoft owns it? Don’t think this is true? How many customers have each of the acquired businesses by ANY large vendor (including Microsoft) lost following acquisitions? My data says 20-80%.

I won’t go deep into that – but there are a few questions that I ponder on.  Beyond the salutatory and congratulatory posts that I’ve seen all day and the enthusiasm that plagues Microsoft executives – three things come to mind…

Who owns the data?  

There is a lot of data in LinkedIn (not all the data is good, as you know if you use it — you don’t put all your data and allow it to track everything you do, much like you don’t put everything you have done in your resume or allow your employer to track everything you do).  One of the jokes I heard during the day was that Microsoft did this as a marketing campaign to offer everyone on LinkedIn a Hotmail or account (since mostly no one uses their work email there… yeah, bad joke… sorry).

A lot of it is semi useful in the form of a Social Graph (friend and colleague Ray Wang expressed this first among the people I follow and talked to).  It’s likely incomplete, but it is the best we have and aggregate use aligned with it (your former boss  read four articles on cloud security after you left your former job as a cloud security expert — hmm) makes it more interesting to the outside world.  LinkedIn has been using this well for targeting content and offers.

Who will own this data following the acquisition? I know Satya Nadella has said it was going to be independent – but how long will Microsoft be able to maintain that? How will you prevent, for example, the Dynamics CRM team from attempting to get all that data and use it as a value proposition for their Marketing tools? Or Sales tools?

More important, how will use of this data be governed? Today that is governed by LinkedIn making sure that it is not all exposed and all available to anyone just because – will Microsoft continue to enforce this? How about if it becomes a matter of winning the largest deal ever?  Or offering a new product that will place them as a market leader?

How bad can a little indiscretion be?  Think about it this way, Microsoft has PowerBI, Azure ML, cloud everything, and a lot of other properties where trust is the number one currency.  If they obviate or change the data governance to fit their other needs – who will continue to trust they will not do the same for the other properties?

How is this going to be used?

This is actually one of the questions that interests me the most.  If we are going to be honest here, the products that LinkedIn had were — average at best.

As the first company to offer them, there was a value (small) by lack of comparison and competition.  Sales Navigator gave the sales people access to colleagues of the prospect they might’ve worked with or contended with before.  The recruiter tools gives the HR department information about an applicant that is not easily obtainable otherwise.

These tools are not must have.  They are nice to add, but any job can be done without them.  Knowing that my fraternity brother (sorry, yours – I know, shocking to think I was not part of a fraternity) knows the person who is driving the deal on the prospect’s company does not do much for me other than — maybe I can ask for a favor? What if my bro and this person are enemies? Or if their bosses are? None of this information is available to me – just a weak relationship with no contextual data attached.

Better than nothing? Potentially – but then again… spend the time more wisely and don’t look for shortcuts?

The point is that if the products are going to be integrated into Office 365 (and be part of One Microsoft) they may give a false sense of usefulness to the people using them.  LinkedIn never had exceptional products, nor could it ever figure out how to better market and monetize the data they have.  This is what slowed down their growth and what ultimately caused them to be acquired (monumental job by LinkedIn management to unload a stagnant company).

If the usefulness of these products, and new uses, will come from a different utilization of the data – or integration of the capabilities… well, see my point above about governance.

Couldn’t the cloud have done it better?

Let’s say it – twenty-six billion dollars is an obscene amount of money.  It’s not a criticism of anyone – as my friend Paul Greenberg said about Salesforce and Demandware – if two consenting adults want to do it — who am I to stop them?

I am in favor of two things that, well utilized, could’ve done this better.  Open, public clouds and platforms.

I still think, like I did about the Salesforce-Demandware deal last week, that the purchase was not only not necessary – but it actually made things harder to work for users.

In an open cloud anyone who can access a platform with the right responsibilities (which, corresponding to a capitalistic world, you can purchase and self provision in the same open cloud) can access any data.  Any smart provider, in the same open cloud, will make their data and services available to anyone who wants to purchase them — it’s how you make money as a service provider in a cloud world (strictly PaaS talk here).

Couldn’t $26 billion have been better invested in building better open clouds, with better services, offering better data to — more people? Is the need for lock-in into taller walled gardens that necessary that you MUST spend an obscene amount of money in protecting your walled garden?

Wouldn’t $26 billion (and “change”) be better spent in building a better ecosystem? a better accessible model?

Heck.  Yeah.

That’s it.  Nothing earth-shattering, but nothing in this deal is earth-shattering.

I had so many conversations and discussions today, and so many opinions and ideas that i heard that my head is about to explode.  But… these are the questions that continue to haunt me.

Forget whether Microsoft wants to get into HR, or they want to offer more value than anyone else to small businesses via Office365, or even if they figured that $100+ billion they would have to pay for Salesforce is too much and are passing on it altogether… those are conspiracy theories at best.

These questions are the ones I want to hear honest answers to (I heard the party line about them many times today).

Don’t you?

disclaimer: Microsoft and Salesforce are clients – some of my oldest, nicest, and kindest clients with lots of forgiving in their hearts who would never get upset at my opinions — that’s why they love me and I am endearing to them…  Demandware and LinkedIn are not clients, but I know and talked to a few people in both at the time of their respective acquisitions.  These past 1,200 or so words are all my opinions and I stand by them.  Any mistake, omission, or misstatement is mine alone and my insurance company better be ready to fight for them.  I stand by my opinions and these words and will gladly clarify any statements or correct any mistakes – just talk to me.  thanks for reading.

A Research Experiment — Help?

I know, I know… seems that all I write here lately is a request for contributing to surveys and research.  Too many, right?

Add the ones you get from every vendor, consultant, and even on Twitter and you feel abused.  Worse? the length of all these surveys and how few insights you get from that (infographics are the farthest thing from analysis and insights – they are The National Enquirer of the research world: all the sensationalistic data it’s not fit to print anywhere else).

I want to change that, and I would love your help.

With the help of my official customer service usage and adoption research sponsor ™ Salesforce we are aiming to change the model.

We were debriefing following the research we did last year (if you never got the data – its here; no report was done, we used the analysis in other ways… feel free to download and use, but you have to attribute thinkJar for the source of the data) and we came to three conclusions:

  1. Length.  Over the past five years I conducted this survey we added, molded, and improved left and right – that made the survey almost 30 questions long.  My rule of thumb for surveys (9 +/-2 questions) was totally violated.  Number of responses dropped dramatically (almost 70%) as the survey increased in length.  Worse, most questions became matrixes – it was almost impossible to understand and answer.  Too ambitious.
  2. Insights.  The more data the less insights we were able to get.  This is a correlation of the complexity of the survey (see above) that yield too few answers for proper cross tabs and the complexity of making sure that questions don’t contradict each other.  We tried, but there were still a few values that contradicted each other – happens often with long surveys with overlapping topics.
  3. Logistics.  Massaging data (cleaning incomplete records, finding the best records to follow up, conducting post-survey interviews) became a hassle.  Took too much time, again – see length above, and too hard to coordinate and aggregate.  Too many single cases as opposed to data points that aggregated into interesting trends and patterns.  Hard to write interesting insights when the work that went into it was more than the value that came out of it.

This is more than a mea culpa – it’s the catalyst to trying a new model – and we need your help.

  • We are running six mini-surveys (each no longer than 8-10 questions) that are more focused in specific topics:
    • Future Trends in Customer Service
    • Building Super Agents
    • Leveraging Mobile for customer service
    • Self-Service usage in customer service
    • Modernizing Customer Service
    • Social Customer Service
  • We want to deliver explicit insights for each survey, an evaluation of each topic in depth versus trying to compete with 6-8 different insights in a single report.
  • We want to expand the list of people we ask to participate and have them commit to either do all six, or at least two or more of the surveys instead of trying to find six different  groups of people to participate.

This is what I need from you:

  1. Give me your information, volunteer to participate in the surveys – become part of the community and we will provide you with first look at the data and insights for each survey.
  2. Take the first survey.  tell us what you think are future trends for customer service.
  3. Click-through the emails you will get in the future and take future surveys (don’t worry, will remind you).
  4. Come every four weeks to read the insights and data from the past survey (will also remind you)
  5. Enjoy
  6. Tell your friends, have them tell their friends, and their friends, and their — you get the idea…
  7. Let me know any comments or questions in the comments section right below

disclosure: yep, someone is sponsoring this research – come on, i told you above – Salesforce is my official customer service usage and adoption research sponsor ™.  they pay me, i pay my expenses, feed the kids, etc. and i give them a chance to participate in discussions on topics, questions, etc.  then i write the questions, conduct the surveys, conduct post-survey interviews, write all the content, publish it, and am fully responsible for everything.  nothing they say can change what i do and how it do it – nor can any other vendor. i know, incredible – right? someone paying to just be mentioned? they agree with me – we are trying to build bigger pies for more people to eat.  and yes, final veto for everything is mine.  period.

On Platforms…

Some time ago I wrote a post that was called “Why PaaS Is The New Black” and it was referring to the growing expected adoption for platforms in the enterprise.

That was 2010 – six years ago – and it was referring to work I had been doing since the mid 1980s around distributed work, computing platforms, and later PaaS.  The statements in there have not changed, but the urgency with which organizations must embrace a PaaS strategy as part of their cloud computing architecture deployments has risen – very fast, and very much.

Given the chaotic state of platforms in the enterprise (where every software vendor promises they have a platform and every IT department is trying to figure out the difference between owning 20 different applications and signing up for 20 different platforms – hint: none) I thought it was high time to dive deeper into trying to explain platforms from the Enterprise IT perspective.

No, I am not foolish enough to fall for the old “explain the cloud in one page” trick that Sameer Patel played on me before.  Once bitten, twice shy… instead I will undertake a series of posts through the year to answer some of the questions I hear from IT and business people on platforms.

note: I will stay away from definitions.  if you need a definition and a good understanding of platforms go to this HBR (Ha-vud, you know) article that does a tremendous job (and saved me easily 2-3 posts if not more) of explaining it (and thanks Brian Vellmure for pointing it out to me — well, tweeting about it).

What are some of those questions (outside of definitions)?  In no particular order (other than remembering since they were more recent conversations)

  • How do we manage  platforms? how can  make sure we manage  platforms and services appropriately considering everyone wants us to use their platforms and services?
  • How can a platform replace costly and complex point-to-point integration?
  • When do we need to use a platform? I will try to include a framework and questions to guide the decision
  • What is the implicit and explicit value of a platform-based solution (by comparison and by extension)?
  • How can we leverage a platform to ensure compliance? 
  • How can our customers leverage our platforms to get what they want? (if this works like I envision it, likely a series of posts using case studies)
  • How to build ecosystems using platforms?
  • What are the economics of using platforms? basic to complex, not economic, models to justify the adoption
  • How can we leverage platforms to access better data and create better experiences for our customers?

It is a tall order, not sure if or when I will be able to cover all this information – but i now have a purpose for this blog.

Is there something else you would like me to cover? explain?

note: you can always read my cloud purist ebook that has a great explanation of platforms and their value…

Vindication On My Position: Social Customer Service Sucks…

I am as tired of telling you not to embark on Social Customer Service as you are of telling me I am a grouchy old man and I don’t get it.


My data and case studies have not convinced you, so let’s try a different approach.  Let’s have someone else show you their data.

Nice and BCG run a study on the subject (link below, registration required) and their data vindicates my positions: abandonment, slow to process, unable to deliver on complex situations, being dropped from investment, etc.

Don’t take my word? no problem – but still… don’t do social customer service.

Excerpt below, and link at the bottom

The report found that the number of consumers using social media to resolve customer service issues has dropped compared to two years ago. While daily, weekly, and monthly use of social media channels doubled between 2011 and 2013, those same categories declined between 2013 and 2015, while the number of respondents who never use or are not offered social media customer service rose from 58 percent in 2013 to 65 percent in 2015.

Respondents who do not use social media cited a number of reasons why. It takes too long to address issues said 33 percent, it has limited functionality reported 32 percent, and it isn’t feasible for complex tasks according to 30 percent. Social media was the channel with the highest percentage of abandons in both 2013 and 2015, with the number rising from 32 percent to 42 percent over that period.


What do you think? Am I just being “jaded, even more so lately” as someone commented following one of my recent presentations (where, I might add, I talked about this same problems…)

the blog!

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