All posts by Esteban Kolsky

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…)

Customer Service Considerations For 2025

OK, enough bashing plagiarists… let’s go back to real work.

Last year (I know, sounds like way farther back than it really is) in November I ran a research project for one of my clients.  The Microsoft Dynamics CRM team (customer service branch) asked me what I thought were the most interesting questions I had collected over the year in Customer Service.

In chatting about them, and the outlook for Customer Service, I was asked to write a position paper on it; something with thought leadership flavor about what to expect in the next decade.

Let me be the first to say, I hate, hate, hate prediction pieces.  I once attended a presentation by Steve Forbes where he did an amazing job explaining how economists not always get their predictions right (I was an Econ major in college, Mr. Forbes is being charitable).  He said he prefers to make five year predictions versus shorter time.  When asked why he commented that if he was right, its a great privilege to be correct in such a long-term prediction.  If he was wrong, there was sufficient time that he could deny it or correct in the process.

Except for the part about being wrong (I was only wrong three times), I agree with him.  Its a lot more fun to reach long-term conclusions.

I like to reach conclusions from the many conversations and projects I work in every year.  It is one of the most fun things I get to do in this job.  Creating visions of the future is fun, interesting, and challenging.  Being able to synthesize the almost 1,000 structured inquiries and many other conversations I have ever year gives me the chance to influence the market and to set a vision for how things can be done better.  It’s most likely the reason I started working as an analyst in the first place.

In that spirit I wrote the paper.  It is a short, fun read (clocks in at roughly 3,000 words) if you are in customer service – and it provides you with a great perspective of what is going on in the world of customer service – and the challenges we face.

From the paper.

The model has indeed changed from simply delivering a single, well executed (from the operations point of view) interaction to accumulating these interactions into experiences (how well the company delivers over time – not in a single interaction), to eventually reaching a state of engagement with customers.  This model has become quite complex as every single interaction has a long-term outcome – when done properly – and many data points and metrics to track its performance (and potential correlation to effectively monitoring interactions).

We also discuss how to combine agents, technology, and engagement-as-an-outcome to deliver a new model, a new framework for customer service built on four stages: centralization, automation, focus, and extension.

I promise its a worthwhile read – download the paper and let me know what you think.

disclaimer: I will make this one short, you read many of my disclaimers already.  If you did you would know that yes, I do take money from my clients to help me pay for my vices (feeding my kids, giving them a place to sleep, saving for retirement, etc).  In exchange, they get to work with me either on strategy, content, or both (Oxford comma well placed, thank you very much).  I’ve been working with Microsoft for several years – and yet, not in a single instance they did anything more than ask for research or content, let me do my thing, and never even attempted editing my content.  All errors, typos, omissions, and problems are entirely mine – they either don’t want to have anything to do with them… or they are truly supportive of my work and my research and respect the fact that clients don’t get to tell me what to do, how to do it, or what to say. I know its the latter, thanks my friends (and, yes – this is a short disclaimer).

Jacob Morgan Is An Idea Thief; He Should Be Stopped

update (01-26-2016, 16:30): I received via twitter a comparison of the two charts in the picture below.  i don’t use other people’s names without their permission, won’t quote them here, but they have my most sincere appreciation.

Models Comparison

update (01-26-2016, 14:00): the editor for Forbes Magazine maintains there are no sufficient similarities between the charts, will post them for you to make up your own mind; please let me know if I am wrong, seriously.

update (01-24-2016, 15:00) Mitch Lieberman, a friend and fellow victim to Mr. Morgan plagiarism, wrote a very good post on Linked-in about sharing and attribution.  thanks.

original post below.

Imagine my surprise on waking up this morning and discovering this tweet.

A Framework For How Any Company Can Design Amazing Employee Experiences #FutureofWork pic

I first I thought it was a mistake, or somehow Mr. Morgan had forgotten to properly credit me for my work.  I thought to myself this would be easily fixed – just ask him to credit me and it should be easily solved.  With very few exceptions, that turned not-so-well for the supposed-authors, many discrepancies in the past few years have been solved this way.

This is a popular chart, for some reason.

Then I remembered, back in 2009-2010 we had the same problem, with the same chart.  Back then he also did the same, took my chart (the same one) and added his copyright to it and claimed it to be his.

Back then it could’ve been a misundertanding: I was getting started, was short of funds (I think we call it broke now, but I digress) and was trying to help Mr. Morgan get started in the world of CRM (and back then SCRM).  He offered to have his designer improve the graphic quality of my chart (which was the same, and it was derived from my short — well, not so much — series on Social CRM, check out part 2.1).

I agreed, but when I got the results from his designer had both our copyrights in it (he worked as chess media back then).  We talked (it wasn’t short) and I explained to Mr. Morgan that intellectual property is not simply about putting nice colors and better pictures to an idea, but rather about the idea itself. Eventually he agreed, but not before damaging his reputation in the SCRM/CRM/Enterprise Software communities… which to this day continues to haunt him.

We had a set of private conversations about it that time.  Next time it almost happened we had a very long strong-worded conversation about it.  He blocked me on Twitter, I blocked him, and we have not talked since (we crossed paths in conferences, I hold no grudges, we shared some meals, we chatted – but never worked together or collaborated again).

The same thing happened with other people, his standing with virtually anyone in the Independent Analysts groups is poor – at best.  He is thought of as a copyright thief (one of the worse possible problems to have when you try to make your living as an “thought leader” and generator of ideas).

I thought for a while about this, I wrote an email to Forbes providing them with prior publication of the same model, asked them to take it down and to remove him from their ranks.  I will pursue it further within other publications as well.  I am not spiteful – but when you find someone that cannot understand what he does wrong – even after several people tell him and document for him its wrong — something has to be done.

Jacob Morgan, you have to stop stealing ideas and pass them as yours.

How Crowded Is “The Cloud”?

A few months ago I asked you to help us (Famous Analyst to the Stars and partner Denis Pombriant and I) with research we were conducting around cloud adoption.

I told you our initial thesis was that cloud adoption was – er, well.. complicated.  We are not even talking about cloud architecture (public versus  private versus hybrid – pardon my french) but rather the applications and the databases that are attached to those applications.

Would it surprise you to learn that just 15% of companies use only one provider for their cloud applications? or that 46% use four or more applications?

The study yielded a very interesting perspective on how companies both use cloud applications and how IT departments and business units interface.

Not just because Denis and I wrote it, but definitely recommend it.

Where to get it? glad you asked…

Our friends at FinancialForce (who sponsored the study, thank you!) made it available for download at this link.

We are also getting some great coverage in the press for the study (see some of the links below, will continue to update as we get more) if you are not into reading pages and pages of data and analysis.

But more important, what do you think? Is this in line with your experience? Would love to see your thoughts below…

disclaimer: aren’t you getting tired of reading this? my disclaimers don’t change, just the bad dad jokes in them… yes – FinancialForce sponsored the report, yes – both Denis and I have families to feed and vices to rule our lives (mine is research, Denis is more balanced… he likely has a real hobby), and yes – they get to contribute to the thesis via discussions… but man, let me tell you – those are not easy and nice discussions where we roll over and do what they say.  we own the thesis, the questions, the data, the interviews and everything else — including the final content and total veto on how to use it.  they get to sponsor us so we can take care of our families and vices (we forever thank them), but they don’t get to say much on what we say or how we come to those conclusions.  basically – this report is independently thought-of, authored, and approved by two analysts for the benefit of our friends at FinancialForce distributing it and enhancing the conversations… and they sure do enhance them.  thanks for reading.

All I Want for Christmas Is You…

…to answer my KM survey

Cheesy? Yep.

I need some 20-25 more responses to my Knowledge Management survey.  That is 20-25 more people who have a project for KM in Customer Service underway, or who were involved in one the past 12 months.

Are you one of them?

Here is some bribing… some early results…

  • About 1/3 of organizations are not doing KM for Customer Service (mostly due to lack of resources and lack of qualified talent to guide them)
  • About 1/2 of those doing it said that reduced volumes of interactions in other channels is not a benefit.  There is more behind this, but you will have to wait to see the final report (which you can get if you take the survey...)
  • Almost 3/4 of respondents have been doing KM for longer than one year, and more than 1/2 have been doing it for longer than two
  • Almost 1/4 of respondents don’t track metrics for KM (I’m still trying to recover from this one… shocking)
  • Finally, nearly 40% of respondents use KM on-premises.

Does this sound like you? Want to compare notes with the nearly 180 respondents we already have in the database?  Take the survey!

We will send you a complete report and data set so you can benchmark and compare.

Do it today!  Christmas is upon us…