All posts by Esteban Kolsky

Measuring Customer Service Usage One More Time

For the third year in a row, and consistently growing in responses and popularity, it is time to measure what’s been happening in Customer Service.

The survey, conducted by thinkJar and sponsored by KANA for the past three years, is a great way to showcase what’s going on in Customer Service, what has changed in the past 12 months, and – more importantly – what’s trending and in which direction.

With over 400 responses the last year (more than double the first year) and an expected increase of at least 100-120 more this year the survey is showing what customer service professionals are thinking and doing.

Last year’s effort showcased some interesting insights:

  • Almost on one is still sure about what to do with communities – yet they all want to do it.
  • Literally no one was working or deployed in omnichannel, and almost 2/3 of respondents were not even clear of their multi-channel strategy
  • Social customer service was dropping dramatically in adoption, to the benefit of Chat (yes, chat – kid you not)
  • The value of mobile and social for organizations is still not well understood – where more than one third of organizations see no value to the customer in deploying those channels.

The effort this year for me is twofold:

  1. I want to confirm the findings from last year and see if the trends continue in adoption, usage, and positions that organizations are taking with their investments
  2. I want to see what new insights can be gathered from more respondents and from an additional year of trending data

We are also trying something new this year.  We will release a report at the end of the analysis, but we will also release data in an ongoing basis.  Once we generate sufficient responses to showcase some interesting data (which I expect to be within 1-2 weeks) I will begin posting the data and the analysis in short snippets.  No longer you will have to wait to see the entire report or try to find interesting insights from it.

Expect to see anywhere from six to ten insights published these way every 2-3 weeks as data becomes available.

OK, enough peddling of the product – on to the survey.  Please take the survey here, advertise it everywhere you can, and help me get as many answers as possible so we have great data available.

Questions? Comments? Drop them below.

The survey is embedded below and also you can take it here if you prefer a full browser experience.

Disclaimer: KANA is a customer, has been for many years, and is sponsoring this survey exclusively – but they don’t have any control over the content, questions asked (they did collaborate on some questions, providing suggestions, but the final questionnaire is in line with out theses only) or even the results.  All data remains property of thinkJar and all content are ours.  KANA gets to enjoy the warm and fuzzy feelings of both having the results published under the name and knowing that they helped advanced the world of customer service.  Both very important, if you ask me.  I get to do more research with someone helping me pay the bills – and to keep my consciences clear that I still own the process, methodology, and content. Phew.   A big thank you to KANA for supporting this project for the past three years.

Time For Tiedosta: To Know About Knowledge

In the late 1999 and into early 2000 I was the CTO for a startup.

The product was ahead of its time (“can you put it in an email?” it the comment from a VC that still haunts me to this day — as if) and it was a platform play.  Inconsequential to this post.

The reason I bring this up is because when we set out to settle the name of the company one of my co-founders (a truly amazing person by the name of Mike Harris – with whom I lost contact unfortunately) suggested we use the word Tiedosta.

Turns out he had spent some time in Finland and he learned that the word Tiedosta in Finnish means “about knowledge”.

It is not knowledge, or to know – it is about knowledge (which, was a very important part of our product).

It is about the knowledge that surrounds the actual knowledge, about the processes and methods by which we obtain that knowledge, and grow it, and how the knowledge we use is merely a piece of a larger puzzle.

Tiedosta – about knowledge.

If you follow my writings and my research you know that knowledge is one of the things that intrigues me the most.  I have spent hours and hours reading and researching it, putting together new thinking and models about it, documenting what others are doing, and writing about it when I have time.

Which, coincidentally, is usually in the second half of the year… namely, now.

I am launching the first of a few research projects I am conducting this year on knowledge.  You know my sponsored research model where I do the research I would normally conduct with clients sponsoring parts of it.  I get to remain impartial, and they get much needed data and analysis – and I pay the bills.  Win, win, win.

In this case, I am working with IntelliResponse to find out as much as we can about knowledge management and web self-service for customer service.

We just published a survey on those topics and we would love your help.  I have embedded the survey down here

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

 

or you can click this link and take the survey in a full tab if you prefer.

Rather lengthy (32 questions total, divided in two topics, and need to qualify to respond to each topic) but clocks in at 20-25 minutes for most people who tested it.

Help us, please, find out more about knowledge management and web self-service for customer service.  As usual, for your participation you will get an exclusive report to be published at the end of September with all the answers and the analysis of the survey.

We are closing this survey at the end of the month – we want to accommodate vacationers, or we may extend it if the summer plays with our response rate… but we prefer to get more answers early.

You can stop and come back anytime, you can answer one or two questions a day, or all at once – your choice.  Either way, we will be very grateful and you get to find out what others are doing with knowledge management and web self- service for customer service.

Take the survey, please.

Questions? email me.

Comments? enter them below.

THANK YOU, truly.

What’s the Future of Feedback? Stay Tuned…

Back in 2001 – while an incredible talented, young, and successful Gartner analyst – I wrote a research note introducing  the concept of Customer Feedback Systems.

In it I wrote about how feedback was poorly done as stand-alone surveys or outsourced entirely to market research firms (that in turn took too long to deliver insights) and that it never really looked at the bigger issue: how to coordinate and integrate the existing data with the data collected via surveys.

Through a couple of naming conventions and work done with Perseus and Jeffrey Henning we finally settled on EFM (Enterprise Feedback Management) as the name for the solution.  The birth of the EFM market was simple and unassuming.

Fast forward five years, and 2006 saw me fielding 10-12 inquiries about EFM a day, and the market grow from non-existing to nearly $100 million in software sales and related fees.  Fast forward another five years, and the market had been changed from EFM to VoC and was nearing $250-300 million in software sales and related fees – and began to slow-down in adoption.  I even had to come to the defense of the market in a blog post.

While the growth had not stalled, it was certainly beginning to slow down considerably and adoption of VoC was not as interesting as it had been for EFM.  What was the change? Why did organizations began to slow down adoption? What did the future hold for EFM  and VoC?

I have been researching the market from the beginning and I can honestly say that the future is bright as it ever was, it not brighter, and that the major shift in vendor behavior the past four years is responsible for it.

I am writing a detailed report on the new realities of Feedback, EFM, and VoC now that we saw a major change in data collection, analysis, and integration into everyday processes.  I have met and talked to the relevant vendors and consultants, interviewed many practitioners, and discussed the perspectives with analysts and pundits – and am ready to publish my findings.

Although this won’t be for another four-to-six weeks, I participated in a panel earlier this year at Allegiance’s VoCFusion conference where I shared the major findings so far – and they are very interesting.

Watch this video summary of that conference, whet your appetite for the future of Feedback, and let me know if you have something you want to contribute or discuss on this topic.  Happy to engage and extend my knowledge.

Anything you want to add? Comment box is below…

Infor, The Teenager

I attended the Infor Innovation Summit in NYC last week.

It was a good event, headlined by Infor CEO’s Charles Phillips and most of his senior staff.  There were lots of presentations – but also oodles of conversations and questions with the ~60 analysts in attendance (from all walks of like, independent to large research house).  Anyone who has a say in the world of Enterprise Software was there (and, yes – the agenda was a cute attempt at civility, we were behind schedule just 10 minutes into it).

My attention was piqued in the last couple of years as I saw Infor progress from a collection of acquisitions to putting a credible story together.  I wanted to see what was the glue holding all this together, how it fared as built, and how it compares to the rest of the market.  I was not disappointed, Infor delivered all the information needed to make this assessment.

What? The title you say?

I thought you’d never ask…

I am in the middle of my oldest daughter’s awakening into a teenager.  Thanks, I appreciate the sentiment – as I hear, it passes in another 15-20 years.

I may be biased coming into this, but I am seeing similar behaviors and issues with Infor as I see in my daughter: all the elements that would make them a great vendor are there – just not all in the final form or matured enough.  Let me explain.

Infor has in my opinion the most advanced architecture for cloud I’ve seen among large #EnSw vendors.  It can support any “model” of cloud their customers throw at them – but this is mostly because they had the good fortune / foresight of re-architecting in the past few years from a non-existent platform that held it all together to a great three-tier, metadata-based (and this is the key, btw), public cloud that can also bastardize itself to be private or hybrid if their customers are not yet that advanced in the cloud world (something that will be solved in the next 2-3 years more or less).

Further, their ION EAI layer is one of the best answers I’ve seen from vendors to bring legacy solutions into the new world of cloud; it does the job well and the clients I chatted with like it and see it as a great interim step to move forward into the world of cloud.

They really thought about it, and the platform is well built and being adopted at a good pace by existing customers migrating from the old products into the new platform; we shall continue to see this if all my conversations are any indication.

They also distinguish themselves from other vendors by their UX (uber friend Paul Greenberg discussed this in detail in his post last year about this, read more there as I won’t be as detailed).

Using their Hook-and-Loop (I am a brand-killer, I am sure they don’t use the name that way, but works better for me – sorry) agency they have some of the most amazing UI I have seen for Enterprise Software in many years if not ever.  Mobile, desktop, tablet – all well covered and retaining the main attributes of the interfaces.  The ability to build and modify interfaces easily also supports the move to adopt mobile as the leading platform by most organizations.  All in all, definitely a key differentiator for them if not the best.

This to me is the equivalent of a teenager that takes care of their appearance (starts working out, stops eating junk food, buys more fashionable clothes, spends 2 hours every morning doing their hair – I mean, seriously? at 11? — sorry, I digress), begins to understand their likes and dislikes, their preferences, and puts a good amount of time into deciding what their looks are and how the world should see them.

And this is who I see Infor today: a teenager.  All the elements are there, they are lean, buff, and decided.  They have all the components that make up who they are – but are not yet ready to use them all together in critical situations.  They are learning (And having great successes in areas like Public Sector and Healthcare) what they have and how to use it, how to learn from the early mistakes and how to get better.

Infor, the teenager, has a great future as an adult if they continue on this path.  Will continue to watch them over the next few years to see where it goes.

I just hope they don’t spent 2 hours each day doing their hair…

disclaimer: Infor is not a client, but they paid my expenses for this trip, fed me (quite well actually), and took us on a private tour of the Modern Museum of Art in NYC – one of my faves.  Although they did not influence me by doing so, they came as close as anyone can – for future reference, sushi dinner would’ve come closer – but this was pretty good experience.  We were “housed” in the Gramercy Park Hotel, which was OK, but nowhere close to a fave… still food, and museums, rule over hotels in my book.

I’m Getting Engaged!

I know, I know.

I said I would never do it again.

They said it could never happen.

But, at the end of the day you knew it had to happen.  Right?

I mean, no matter how hard I fought it, how bad I wanted not to – I have to do it.

I have to enter the battle for the definition of “engagement”.

What did you think I was talking about? 

You see, that’s the problem.

If you know me, follow me on Twitter or somewhere else or heard me talking the past few years you know I am just wrapping up my second divorce – which makes me single – hello ladies ;-) – and therefore getting engaged to get married would not be outside of the question.

You might’ve been surprised to read about that in a business blog, but not the first time it’s been done.

But I am not talking about that engagement, just like you are not talking about that when you are talking about engagement with your clients.

How do I know?

Because you don’t know what engagement means. And I have the data to prove it.

I did a study last year, April through June, where I interviewed 45 CMOs from different countries and industries.  The goal was to find out what they thought about engagement, what they thought it meant, and how they had to react to it to make sure their organizations were prepared and addressed the issue.

What were the findings? Like I said above, there was not a lot of agreement as to what engagement meant, how it was defined and what they needed to do about it.

I wrote one of my traditional long, but awesome, reports about it (thanks to my friends at ThunderHead who sponsored it) and I am now ready to share the information with you.

Two ways to get this information:

1) If you are not patient – go here to download the report now (there is also a consumer report on engagement you will get, another great read to get a two-sided perspective)

2) Sign up for the webinar.  I am doing a webinar on 04/16 (April 16th for people who grew up in Argentina or live anywhere but in the USA).

The webinar will give you access to all the information on the report (see some tidbits below) and will give you a better explanation of the model of engagement we are proposing (see chart below).

engagement 3.0

 

Some of the most interesting findings from this report:

  • Engagement is not an action or a single exchange with a customer, it is a function that happens over time.  It is not the same, not related directly to, as Customer Experience, Customer Interaction, Customer Relationship or any of the terms we use today (but I said this before).
  • You cannot engage a customer in a single interaction anymore than meeting someone for the first date signifies you are engaged to get married (or I’d be in trouble after this past year… but ask me sometime about my wonderful experiences dating at the tender age of 46)
  • Engagement can only be measured as a function of value given and value received (value exchange) as it accumulates over time (which is the same as saying that there is no metric for engagement – another fuzzy metric… yay!)
  • Trust, and how to create and maintain it, is the biggest barrier to engagement.  Nearly three quarters of the interviews surfaced a lack of understanding of trust as a key issue for brands – and engagement cannot happen without trust!

There are many more fascinating tidbits about engagement, a formula that will let you understand engagement further, and a great discussion and synthesis of the conversations I had.

Go ahead, sign up for the webinar and come hear me (and my very cute argentinian accent) present the report (you will get a copy of both reports at the end: consumer and CMO interviews), or simply go and download the report now if you are impatient.

Either way, we are starting the conversation that matters for the next two decades: what is engagement?

I am getting engaged into this conversation — what did you think I was talking about?

Is It All About Mobile?

Mobile First.

Mobile Only.

Mobile seems to be in everybody’s minds these days, no? I mean, name one person in #EnSw that has not added mobile to their credentials in the past 12-18 months.

(BTW, I was one of the originators of m-CRM while I was at Gartner back in the early 2000s – we pioneered this stuff; needless to say, I know more about for far longer than most of these new “experts”… sorry, where was I?)

There are  many, many, many issues with the way we are approaching mobile – from pretending it is a new way to work in the cloud (calling it Salesforce 1 mobile development client – or something like that), to making it a new channel for communication, to thinking it is a complete different way to do things.

If we did not learn the lesson with the recent Social debacle (seriously, try to get funding for a new social X application or project at any VC or organization today) and the end result (it was, is, and will continue to be part of the infrastructure, and only the outcomes matter – in the case of Social is collaboration), let me try to address it now in a simple manner.

Mobile is an interface, nothing more.

Anything you do via mobile (interface) leverages the device it is riding on (usually a smartphone or table, even a laptop or a kiosk in some cases), bur the device is not the solution (it cannot be, there are many, many more models of iOS and Android and Windows and even RIM based devices that you can ever plan for).  If it was, your testing would be in each device to make sure (for example) that the camera works equally well.

You don’t test in each device, because you don’t need to.  You are not developing for the device (with some exceptions) but for the interface.  You make sure that the display fits the information, you make sure that the information flows you need are available in your infrastructure (including, sometimes, social channels) and that your cloud architecture will support it (if not today, in the near future – trust me on this).

If you do all that, you can master the art of mobile.  Of course, there is a lot more to come – but understanding it is an interface it is the first step.

I have been doing a lot of work with mobile over the years (I was a pioneer, remember?) and I have compiled the lessons learned in a few pieces.

I did a session with Salesforce.com at Dreamforce last year (video included – well, more like audio over slides – below).

I am chairing an event on mobile commerce in Las Vegas today and tomorrow (link, but not sure if there is availability as it is by invitation only).

I wrote a white paper on how to master mobile customer service (an extension of the work done with Salesforce last year) with Bright Pattern.

You can download the white paper (I think you need to register for it) here.  The statement above is one of the three steps you I highlight in that white paper that will make you succeed at mobile.

Check it out, would love your comments as always – anywhere you want to provide them.

When it comes to mobile though, we are not even cracking the coconut — there is a lot more to come!

disclaimer: Salesforce is a retainer client (and it was last year as well, when I was paid to produce the content and present it).  Bright Pattern is a sponsored research client, where they subscribe to different topics and help me defray the costs of research for those topics and in exchange get content to use for their purposes.  I have no clients that produce mobile OS (mentioned above) nor do I expect to have any.  The research presented in this white paper would’ve happen anyways — but it is nice to know that I have nice clients willing to help me pay for my vices: my worst vice is research.  thanks for reading the research that I produce under that model. It is not pay for play research as, as you would see when you read it, I don’t endorse a vendor or technology – I simply present my research for free to the world thanks to my sponsors.

What (Some, if Not Most) CMOs Don’t See

Two things to start:

  1. I have no qualms with CMOs and their responsibilities – it is a critical job in most organizations and hard to do as any other one.
  2. I was not going to caveat the title and say ALL CMOs, but am trying to avoid being singled out as ignorant (yeah, new thing for me – I know)

OK, now that I put on the first layer of asbestos, let’s begin.

The job of a marketer is hard.

According to fellow barb-trader (blog post) Scott Brinker (@ChiefMarTech) as stated during his CxOTalk appearance on 03/21/2014, there are over 1,100 tools that a marketer could use to do their job.  And most of them use more of one of each type (here is a link to his website where he stored the infographic about it).

If I triple count and am generous in giving credit to vendors that are not really in the market but say they are I cannot get to 1,100 tools in Customer Service – nor in Sales, or in most any other discipline I can think of.  That is a challenge to begin.

If you talk to any marketer in the trenches they will tell you their job involves navigating between applications, pulling data from different places to use in others, and constantly struggle to make sure their campaigns and actions reflect ROI.

And this was before the “customer revolution” that turned the entire world from outbound to inbound – and is transforming the world of marketers into a “digital marketing” place – in the process virtually destroying the traditional role of Marketing.

No longer is about finding the people to receive the message, but it is now more focused on influencing others to shape the conversations so the brand remains relevant.  While having no control of the process for the most part.

Talk about challenging.

However, this change brought with it more problems that seen at first light, and this is what some, if not most, of the CMOs I talk to don’t see – yet.

  • Tools are no longer useful as before.  This was made evident at the Adobe Summit that finished last week in Salt Lake City (not singling out Adobe, merely using them as a data point).  I did not attend in person, to be honest, but I watched some of the streamed sessions, talked to many people who were there, read their reports (good job by Dan Lyons here) and “saw the tweets go by“.  The entire event was about a collection of tools (great tools, nothing bad about them) and the people who use them.  There was virtually nothing about strategy, about aligning with business objectives or even about corresponding to KPIs.  It was about getting the job done.  And getting the job done for a business is more than tools.  If CMOs moved to the forefront of the “customer revolution” as they say, then they need to realize it is not about tactics but strategies.  Even the data Adobe presented talked to tools (and lack of understanding – see below)
As a side item, fellow influencer, Godfather of CRM, and master of all #EnSw (not to mention good friend) Paul Greenberg is posting his take on the Adobe Summit soon – will update with link when he does.  It is a very good post from what he shared so far…
  • The role of marketing (and virtually all functions in the organization) has changed.  And will continue to change.  I have talked about Digital Transformation before (here is my “manifesto” about it – 4,500 words, and below is a tweet about a two-part interview I did with Jon Reed @Diginomica recently.  Good stuff) and this is a critical paradigm shift in our lives.  Everything in the organization is changing (unfortunately we are adding digital to the front of things now, like we did with Social and e- and i- everything before instead of really changing it – #LeSigh) and will continue to do so.  These changes require more – much more – than tools, and Marketing is lagging on the strategic aspects of this shift.
  • Strategy is more than saying we are going to do something – even if you put numbers to that something.  The use of ROI to justify everything they do talks to a tactical approach to the world.  In a strategic world ROI does not matter as much (there are other metrics that do, don’t get me wrong – but the investment is usually too big to be justified in an ROI calculation only).  Half-jokingly I tell people that ROI is more like CYA when management does not understand what you are doing and want to make sure they are not help responsible for “wasting money”.  Marketing needs to get past this, even if they have more data to make the calculations work to the point of measuring each single interaction.  ROI is no their justification, the digital transformation paradigm shift is – and that requires a strategic, not tactical approach.

 

 


This is not meant to attack CMOs or marketers. In spite of my early lack of understanding on the value of Marketing in my career (which I might’ve stated publicly – just in case you run a search on the terms) I have learned since a lot about it and the value it brings to the organization.  No group in the organizations is as talented as they are at crafting and managing a message.  Messages are incredibly valuable in this new world, as are tools and methods to manage them. The CMO and their organization, if they become more strategic, are critical.

Alas, (some, if not most) they are not getting the radical change that is happening.

That — needs to change.

What do you think? Am i missing the point entirely? Am i being unfair?

Would love your thoughts…

disclaimer: Adobe is not now, nor in the past has been, a client.  I had a semi-short, unpaid consulting session with them about three years ago when they were embarking on this trek.  Doubt they will remember, but I remember it was about  – marketing as Social CRM.  While they have made great progress since then (it was somewhat painful) they’d be the first ones to tell you there’s work to be done.  I also have no dealings of grudges against any other CMO, or any of the other people mentioned here or linked to from here.  I think we are embarking on a great debate that will effectively changed market from the top down – as opposed to just seeing tools change and evolve.