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…

Knowledge? We Don’t Need No Stinking Knowledge…

Hilarious, I know.

And also, false.  We do need knowledge.  Now more than anything.

I am launching the fourth edition of the knowledge management usage study for customer service to find out how we are doing.  Last year we found some morsels of Tiedosta (remember? to know, about knowledge) that pointed us to maintenance as the weak link in the KM equation and some confusion as to how to deal with communities.

What will this year find out?

Kate Leggett, esteemed colleague and Forrester analyst, recently said that KM is the foundation for Customer Service and CRM – and I couldn’t agree more.  She explores in her article what needs to happen – and some of those principles are reflected in my research as well.

But I am also exploring the next generations of KM: stored knowledge versus knowledge in use, leveraging subject matter experts, and my personal favorite — communities and knowledge.

Please help me by taking this survey – made it simple and easy, just 15 minutes or so of your time in exchange for a — well, ton of knowledge… about knowledge.

disclaimer: this is a sponsored research.  this year for the first time Microsoft stepped up and backed my research.  for that i am eternally grateful – but not grateful enough to give them editorial (or any other type) of control.  i wrote the questions, the thesis, and will collect and hold the information.  i will analyze and follow-up with respondents, and i am the sole responsible party for this.  if it works, as it has in the past, they will get some killer content (as others have in the past). if it doesn’t — well, i am not sure what happens since i have never failed. hilarious, i know.

Thinking Cloud? Think About These Roadblocks

Organizations are migrating to the cloud in droves these days. The leaders of the pack are investing in an open and public cloud model. Others are slowly moving towards that by first testing the waters in a private cloud. This is fine as long as the vision remains clear and the private cloud model is viewed as a way to get to the open and public model. Realistically, a three-tier cloud model is a foregone conclusion, a commoditized element that all organizations have in their future.

The migration to cloud computing is complicated, to say the least. Besides the “tip of the spear” issues of capital expenditures (including amortization of the assets) versus operating expenditures (which will make anyone’s head spin), there are many other issues to consider. The following are the top seven issues to consider when moving to the cloud – in no particular order – with a simple explanation of why each matters (or doesn’t) in a cloud computing architecture.

  1. Architecture: A cloud computing architecture has to have three layers running on top of a public network, or else the benefits are lost. The three layers — infrastructure, platform, and software — roughly correspond to the main functions they perform: storage and connectivity, logic and processing, and presentation. If your provider or vendor offers anything other than three independent layers that can be interconnected or even replaced, you are not getting cloud computing components but most likely legacy SaaS or hosted components.
  1. Security: Much has been said about security in an open network, but not all of it is true. There is plenty of research that shows that cloud-based security is as secure as (if not more secure than) anything that can be done on-premises. If you hire a security provider, or your cloud provider does the security, you are getting the latest and greatest implementations of security managed by a team of experts that is bigger and more experienced that anything you could hire in-house. Further, they are invested in keeping things secure, versus being one of the functions your team performs. There is no matching the investment cloud providers can make on security while they distribute the costs.
  1. Software: This is probably the biggest problem you will face as you migrate into cloud computing. Vendors who have enterprise licenses already implemented have a hard time letting go of the security of knowing the licenses and maintenance fees will continue to roll in as long as the contract is renewed. In cloud computing, there are no certainties – it’s far easier to rip and replace if the vendor does not do a good job. The cloud computing architecture is based on the premise of replacing and extending by hiring one or more vendors that do the same function. As such, the fees are not paid for access to the application, but for usage; the model is based on value delivered. Planning, and your vendor, must conform to new models.
  1. Hardware: As mentioned above, amortization and customs of doing things a certain way play a major role in preventing, or rather delaying, migration to a cloud computing architecture. The hardware that has been purchased, maintained, optimized, and used for many years is now no longer under the control of the same people; cloud providers own it and rent it out as necessary. This changes a large number of traditions in the organization, and the people behind them are not going to be happy. Anticipate and plan for change management around them and the vendors behind the hardware.
  1. Integration: Organizations coming to the cloud from any other computing platform often have a hard time grasping the issue of integration. Integration in an on-premise, hosted or legacy SaaS application demands point-to-point work. You have to know where you are coming from and where you are going. You have to build an exclusive “pipe” between the two places, select the data you want to pass along, and then program it and hope nothing changes. In the cloud, it’s very different, since the metadata and services allow a platform to serve anyone who asks for the right information with the right security attached. If the person is authorized, the service runs and provides a result. If the data passed changes, the metadata handles that. If the call changes, the metadata handles that. In addition, a secure platform acts as an access point to any other secure and trusted platform, eliminating the need to do yet another integration point. This makes everything far easier and more powerful.
  1. Control: The control that your organization and the people in it have over the existing on-premises assets is going away. In spite of several industries and even some countries still holding on to the “location of the data” tales, the day is near where, as one CIO recently told me, “I don’t know where my data is, nor do I care. I know I can use it whenever I need it – that’s all I need to know.” It is not only the data, but the hardware, software configurations, management and maintenance of the assets, as well as the direct influence on how things get done. When a cloud provider delivers solutions to thousands of clients concurrently, there is not a lot of room for the users to derail the process. While we are starting to see more configuration and management options emerge via metadata, the amount of control that exists in the cloud is very different from on-premises. It isn’t worse, since it delivers more value. It’s just different.
  1. Business Transformation: This is one of the biggest items to consider when moving to the cloud. For digital transformation to occur, which is the next stage for business transformation in the upcoming decade, the cloud must be a commoditized, sunk-in investment that is considered to already exist and be implemented. Virtually none of the management and allocation of the data, knowledge, and content necessary for digital transformation to occur can be moved around without use of the cloud as the underlying infrastructure. Combined with the issues mentioned previously and all the benefits of cloud computing adoption, these things will make digital transformation happen.

Of course, each implementation is different, and these issues as well as others will vary from organization to organization. However, the past ten or more years of implementing cloud computing architectures have taught me these valuable lessons.

Do you have some others to add? Let me know in the comments!

disclaimer: Acumatica is a client, and this year the contributed to my research time exploring cloud.  I cross-posted this on their site and they are also using the content in other manners – part of my sponsored research model.  I do my research, I get paid to share some of the results, but I own the agenda, editorial rights, and distribution rights as well as intellectual property.  I appreciate their support of my vices (food for my kids, a place to sleep) and hope to continue working with them on research on cloud topics.  The thoughts and concepts in this post are totally mine.

More Cloud Stuff (Links To A Great, Long Interview)

I wrote last week about a framework to have better cloud discussions.  I said two things: it took me over a year to be able to write that short piece (which is true), and I will write many more things along those lines.

I also did an interview with an old colleague of mine who is now the CMO at Logikcull.  Started as a short discussion on industry cloud – but ended up being a full-on discussion on cloud concepts and misconceptions.  It was one of the pivotal moments in getting to my last post on cloud.

I wanted to share the three posts (yes, we talked for a while) that was published in their blog.  This is reading time of about 10-12 minutes per episode.  But, trust me – if you are interested in cloud computing and want to have a different perspective (the final post starts with the incredibly sentient sentence “It’s hard to say whether Esteban Kolsky is a contrarian or everybody else is just plain wrong”) please read through.

I will entertain comments and questions below or any other method you prefer.  Thanks for reading.

Part 1 – Debunking the Myths of Cloud

Admit it, when you think “cloud,” you think elastic. You think scalable. You think SaaS. And that’s right, but it’s not all-the-way right. According to Esteban Kolsky, the cloud — the true cloud, the pure cloud — is not nearly as simple as those buzzwords suggest, nor as ubiquitous.

Kolsky, a former research director at Gartner and widely respected technology consultant and commentator, has never been one to accept conventional wisdom. In this multi-part interview with Logikcull, he sets straight the commonly accepted, but ultimately wrong, notions, perceptions and definitions of cloud.


Part 2 – The Economics of Cloud

The first part of Logikcull’s interview with Esteban Kolsky addressed common misperceptions about the cloud, which Kolsky defined, strictly, as a three-tiered architecture divided between infrastructure, platform and software.

“It’s the three elements you use when you create an application: the presentation layer, the logic layer and the underlying network and database,” Kolsky, a former Gartner analyst and widely respected technology consultant, said.

Here we dive — into the weeds, at times — into the evolution of cloud computing, the economic advantages and challenges its purveyors face, and how companies like Salesforce are pioneering customized “industry clouds.”

Also, we answer the question: What the heck is industry cloud?

Part 3 – Fearing the Cloud is Nonsense

It’s hard to say whether Esteban Kolsky is a contrarian or everybody else is just plain wrong. Over the course of this three-part interview, Kolsky, a well-known technology consultant and former Gartner analyst, has debunked pretty much every commonly held notion related to cloud computing and its underlying infrastructure.

When we asked, for instance, whether “private cloud” is more secure than “public cloud,” he retorts, Private “cloud” is not cloud at all! 

In previous installments, Kolsky defined true cloud architecture and compared its properties to other architectures mistakenly assumed to be cloud. He then spelled out the economic incentives of cloud adoption for providers and consumers.

Here we pick up the conversation with Kolsky explaining why cloud vendors are moving to provide industry-specific solutions under the nom de guerre “industry cloud.”

Also, if you want to read more about the background research I’ve done, and more, in my Cloud Purist e-book – please download it here (no worries, i don’t ask for anything – free download).

disclaimer: I mention Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and a few others in my interview.  I mention Logikcull in here.  Salesforce is a current client, so is Microsoft.  Oracle was a client (and doubt it would be again), IBM was never a client, nor will it be. Logikcull is not a client (and won’t be) as I did this interview as a favor for my friend  Dave Austin.  I may have missed someone else I mentioned – and they may or may not be a client.  But trust me, I know few people who would want to be mention in a series aimed at debunking what they sell.  So, yeah — kind of proves that being a client or not does not exempt you from being called on what you do wrong.  I also mention Amazon, Airbnb, Google, and a few other consumer companies – as far as I can tell, i did not mention any clients among those either — but I may be wrong (even if I did, it was public information – privacy clauses built into my end-user contracts prevent me from disclosing their names and status.  I try my best to not be influenced and to not ruin my reputation – trust me, every mention is warranted by their actions, not their status as client or not.

the blog!

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