Stop Talking About Digital Transformation


I mean, what????

Seriously?  Just last year two of my seven posts (yeah, didn’t do that well writing in my blog last year – but been working to remedy that by posting links to my other writings around the world – but I digress) were about digital transformation.

I have been talking about digital transformation for nearly four years now and began to write about the transformative power of data (what digital refers to) over 15 years ago (when I began to cover EFM at Gartner ‘member?).  Why on earth would I want to stop talking about it now – when its finally reached the peak of the hype cycle and is beginning to be adopted?

Because its too limiting.

In my (now) business transformation model data has a key place right in the middle of it (see figure below).

DT New Framework

In conversations and work I’ve done these past 6-8 months with organizations and vendors data remains the main focus.  Top  investments for 2015 are focused around data and analytics.  Talk of Big Data and related concepts are taking over the world – and my colleagues (analysts, influencers, and pundits) are all super-busy around the topic of Data.

Data has taken front-and-center positioning among organizations’ plans and strategies for 2015 – and it is too limiting.

We need to amplify the conversation.

If we are going to talk about transformation we need to talk about more than just digital.  Data is but one piece of the pie.  Data, together with content and knowledge, become part of the information layer (see figure below).


If we are to talk about a complete transformation of the business we need to also talk about content beyond marketing and about knowledge beyond service as well as we talk about data.  We need to understand that the three work together to create information and that the flow of the information, freely via public clouds, is what will transform the business.  We also need to understand how new, old, and still-unknown data is going to be used to push business forward.

Data and digital are still part of the transformation, but we cannot forget the remaining pieces — and talking about digital simply limits the conversation to a small piece of it.

Let’s stop talking about digital transformation.

Let’s talk about business transformation.

What do you think?

The Silent Rise of Chat in Customer Service Adoption

Continuing on the delivery of the early insights into the third version of the customer service adoption and usage study we are conducting with our friends at KANA, A Verint Company (the summary of early findings is here, and the findings on social can be found here, mobile here, and operationalization of customer service here) I’d like to explore the rise of chat in contact centers.

Chat has had a love-hate relationship in the contact center since its early days in the late 1990s.  Early on touted as the replacement for the telephone (with many advantages over it) due to the low-latency nature of its operations, chat has succeeded (few times) and failed along the myriad electronic channels we brought along to form a contact center.

The original idea for chat was multi-tasking agents who could handle many instances at once thus surpassing the power of the phone that mandated a single interaction at the time.  We never quite had the ability to master both the multiples and the associated tools and automation to make it work.  Since its inception we have been trying to find a workable model, but email had gained more acceptance in the meantime.

The advent of social and online communities, together with the rise of adoption of electronic channels by customers and the “long waits” of email, created a good environment to try again.  A channel that traditionally saw adoption and implementation rates in the single digits (average adoption rates for the early 2000s through 2010-2011 had been 2-4%) has been steadily growing in the past few years per the data.

Indeed, adoption of chat in 2013 was 14%, rising to 35% in 2014.  That is across the many different models we asked about (with and without automation, with and without co-browse), but each of the models has seen a similar rise.

As we did with everything else, we held interviews with some of the respondents to understand better their implementations and what we found was also very interesting.  We found four reasons why chat has been rising over the past three years:

  1. Email doesn’t always cut it. In spite of email having gained universal adoption (with adoption rates toping 98% in the past three years), the demand for resources, the latency in responses, and the overall impatience of the customers make it an effective but stale resource.
  2. Automation is working better. The early chatbots and virtual agents required too much maintenance and couldn’t integrate into existing resources well or easily. The latest generations of virtual assistants and intelligent assistants are working much better.
  3. People are more used to chatting. Today’s customers are so used to electronic channels and communicating electronically that the early resistance from them (“I want to talk to a live person”) has all but disappeared. We are seeing significantly lower rates of dissatisfaction from customers with chat as resolution times get faster over email and simplicity takes over as well.
  4. Technology has evolved to make it useful. One of the critical aspects of any electronic channel is the ability to make it easier and better for customers to get their answers.  While the original chat solutions required software implementations and lacked sufficient security and privacy resources, the latest implementations have covered all those aspects and even created platforms for multi-channel automation that show good results.

Of course, among the many interviews there was also a common cry that we know it is the reason this is working better this time around (chat enjoyed a 30%+ adoption rate in 2000-2001, but flopped after it): organizations have found the best situations to deploy it, and have tied it into the other existing resources (KM, Queuing, etc.) to ensure it works the same as other channels.

What do you think? Have you adopted chat lately? What has been your experience? Let me know in the comments down below and we can discuss the silent rise of chat in the contact center.

Disclaimer: KANA, A Verint Company, is a client and the sole sponsor of this research report.  While they get input into the topics to survey, and provide feedback on the thesis before we start, the final decisions on content, questions, and analysis remain mine.  There is no input from anyone else other than thinkJar and its employees (which, as you know, it’s just me) in making content and editorial decisions on the study, findings, and reports. All data is propriety of thinkJar and not shared or distributed.

ICYMM: Knowledge Management Questions for 2015+

ICYMM: In case you missed me.

I often write in other blogs and properties and I am sure you don’t have the same Google Alerts I do – which means you can occasionally miss my writings.  In an effort to keep you always alert to what matters (you’re welcome – its my privilege to help) I will bring the links to those posts with a brief summary here.

At the end of last year I wrote a series of blog posts on Knowledge Management.  I am very fortunate to have excellent clients with no ego problems who sponsor me to do research.  In the topic of Knowledge Management last year I was lucky enough to have IntelliResponse (since acquired by 24/7), Parature, and Transversal do that.  In exchange for their support they received different deliverables – including the series of blog posts I am including here.

Knowledge Management should be changing.  It is, unfortunately, lost in thought instead.

The world has changed, and how knowledge is created, used, and maintained has changed: communities and reachable subject matter experts make it impossible to claim ignorance or ownership.  I began to cover that two years ago when I did my then Knowledge Management series talking about new models (you can find the series I published for Stone Cobra in my downloads section) – most notably the knowledge-in use versus knowledge-in-storage concept.

This year I wanted to explore more of what’s going on and how we need to change it and I covered it in four blog posts (with relevant quotes beneath each):

Does KM Even Matter Anymore? Starting the series with the right question in most of my clients’ minds: why bother? Is there a useful purpose to Knowledge Management? Well, read to find out… but as a spoiler: yes, more than ever.

The story for the demise of Knowledge Management has been told many ways.

The Most Important Job for KM in Customer Service.  I had this conversation so many times this past 15-20 years I’d been doing and researching KM that is becoming obsolete – except that people keep asking and few are doing it.  Maintenance.  Killer stats in this post, definitely must read to get justification for your program.

Just 34% of companies have proper maintenance processes for KM.

Why Aren’t KM Budgets Sufficiently Funded in 2015? Asking the question that always has been in my mind: do we set aside special money to support KM or do we just make it happen with hope and prayer? I got tons of good data in here as well.

Thus, KM becomes a “necessary evil” for customer service. Instead of being a discipline that can alter the way customer service is done, it is a cost item that results in a technology being implemented.

Finding the Right Place for KM in the Organization. I have long maintained that KM in customer service only is a waste of time and money (and if you read the previous entries on funding and purpose I think you’d agree).  Can you place KM somewhere else and leverage it in customer service? Read on.

Outside of the necessary knowledge sharing necessary to collaborate, virtually every function inside of the organization also needs access to the right information at the right time to succeed.

There were other things I did last year about it, webinars and research reports, infographics produced, writings and more.  I will continue to post those here as time allows – but I just like this series a ton since it outlines the potential for KM as we enter a new age in business: communities.

You will read more about that here this year and going forward as communities is the catalyst for the business transformation we are experiencing.  And one of the key tenets for my forthcoming book on business transformation.

What do you think? Missed much? Would love to hear what you have to say…

disclaimer: as always, being a client means you are generous beyond need and you recognize that I am bored beyond belief.  being a client means you sponsor my work and benefit by having pieces of it to use as you see fit.  being a client means i get to keep my editorial integrity and research that which furthers my agenda.  being a client has never meant and never will mean you can tell me what to research, write or say.  and IntelliResponse, Parature, and Transversal (as well as the many others over the years) know and appreciate that.

The Operationalization of Customer Service

Continuing on the delivery of the early insights into the third version of the customer service adoption and usage study we are conducting with our friends at KANA, A Verint Company (the summary of early findings is here, and the findings on social can be found here, and mobile here) I’d like to explore a little bit more the operationalization of customer service.

From the beginning of this study we have been asking respondents to tell us who controls the customer service budget and where in the organizational chart they report.  The original intent of the questions was for cross tabbing and demographics (which we continue to do to understand all issues better), but along the way we found a very intriguing reality.  Starting last year we saw a rise in how many customer service organizations are reporting into operations (19% in 2013 and 24% in 2014).

Intrigued by this shift, and during follow-up interviews, we established a line of question to understand the change.  After all, traditionally customer service had either been an independent organization within the company or usually reporting into marketing or sales (depending on the organization’s processes and budgets).  Seldom did we see customer service report into more “internal” roles like operations or even IT.

We found three common topics among the many answers:

  1. Time for Operations. One of the most recurring answers was that during the past few years, with reduced or eliminated budgets due to the global recession, it was a great time to talk and think about strategies on how to support customers better and how to optimize customer service. Now that budgets are returning (and my inquiry load definitely supports that) we are going back to operations and implementing a lot of those strategies.
  2. End-to-End-Experiences. The trends dictating the transformation of the business (social networks, big data, customers in charge of conversations among others) are calling for organizations to deliver better infrastructure to let their customers build better end-to-end experiences – which customers are demanding and expecting. To do this, operations in customer service must match operations in the rest of the enterprise.
  3. Optimized Processes. Continuing on the trend of business transformation highlighted by the two previous insights, this is the element that was the most often cited (albeit, I may be biased due to my research in this area). As transformation takes over the business and processes are changed, operationalization of customer service to deliver on those new promises is essential.  More and more businesses moving to transform and optimize their processes are taking this operationalization of customer service as the start of the solution.

Indeed, the evolution of business matched by the availability of budget is making customer service focus on operations once more.  This is a good trend and will be explored in further detail in the detailed report to be published 2015.

Are you finding your customer service organization moving in the same direction? Are you operationalizing and optimizing customer service?

Let me know in the comments, would love to chat about it.

Disclaimer: KANA, A Verint Company, is a client and the sole sponsor of this research report.  While they get input into the topics to survey, and provide feedback on the thesis before we start, the final decisions on content, questions, and analysis remain mine.  There is no input from anyone else other than thinkJar and its employees (which, as you know, it’s just me) in making content and editorial decisions on the study, findings, and reports. All data is propriety of thinkJar and not shared or distributed.

Your Chance To Say It: Customer Service Experience Conference Call for Speakers


As you likely don’t know, based on attendance and submissions, I am again chairing the Customer Service Experiences conference in NYC in August.

I would like to hear fresh voices and opinions this year, something that has not been said or shown.  I invite you to submit a proposal (link here).  If you cannot make it by the deadline of 1/23, please contact me and we can talk.

What am I looking for?

  • New and interesting implementations
  • Research you have conducted (primary) or collected (secondary) into lessons learned, best practices, or any data to help frame the conversations around Customer Experience
  • Case studies
  • Case studies (cannot be said enough)
  • Anything you want to add that will expand the conversation on Customer Experience

(notice I did not mention customer service or customer care, I want to go beyond that)

The story I am trying to present on stage is far more than Customer Service only.  I want to show that #CX is not a technology or product implementation, that is far more than Customer Journey Mapping (yuck), and that there are proven ways to make it happen.  And document that with the information exchanged on stage and shared among the participants.

Sessions are short (total 45 minutes, presentations are 25-30 minutes at most to leave time for discussions) and the goal is to share and learn from others in the room.

Sounds interesting? Submit a proposal here or contact me.

Will see you in NYC in 08/2015!!!!

The Emergence of Mobile Customer Service

Continuing the series of blog posts examining the early results of the customer service channels adoption and usage study generously sponsored by KANA, A Verint Company (read the summary here, the previous entry on social here, and watch this blog for the next entry in a week) I want to address some of the findings around mobile customer service.

One of the questions that we began asking two years ago was in reference to mobile customer service.  Just like social customer service before, it took the enterprise by storm (and surprise) with a very fast pace.

Although it is not properly defined yet (meaning if you ask most customer service organizations what they are doing about it – as we have in past interview follow-ups – they are not sure and bundle mobile web sites with mobile apps with mobile agent interfaces as one big “solution”) there is a lot of investment being diverted towards it.

In reply to the question of who is doing mobile customer service for the past two studies we found that 59% (2013) and 67% (2014) of the respondents are doing something with mobile.  This is not surprising given the current hype in the market about it and how it can “change customer service,” but three items are slightly surprising:

  1. The value that organizations place on doing mobile customer service. When asked whether they thought it was valuable to them or their customers, 31% (2013) and 78% (2014) replied that it was valuable to them and 35% (2013) and 74% (2014) replied it was valuable to their customers.  This shows that they see some value, and follow up conversations with those that replied affirmative to value confirmed that money will continue to be invested in it.
  2. The definition of mobile customer service. This is an issue that emerged this time around more than last year – but the improper classification of “anything mobile” is a problem for funding.  We identified three areas for mobile customer service (web, apps, agents) and will explore in further interviews what is the allocation of funds and budgets.
  3. How long they’ve been using mobile. This was the most surprising set of answers.  We had 10% (2013) and 28% (2014) answer that they had been using mobile for over two years and 18% (2013) and 24% (2014) say they have been doing it for at least one year.  Considering that the massive amounts of hype had not been built until this year (maybe last year if being generous) it is surprising to see so many companies doing it for so long – and brings also back the issue of what is defined as mobile customer service.

Indeed, this talks to a very immature, rogue market with ill-defined boundaries that bring two problems: vendors cannot easily identify what to deliver to their customers, and customers cannot easily budget for what they need to do.  We are starting to see a differentiation in offerings from vendors that have targeted cloud as their preferred delivery model (and who can easily focus on building and delivering agent-facing apps as well as customer-focused self-service tools) and for those that are more agent-focused who have brought their interfaces to tablets and smartphones – but we are not ready to detail yet who has done what – or what are some of the lessons learned.

The recommendation for now is to determine your needs (use the three categories above as a guide) and to read the full report that will be available in the early part of 2015 for more details on what is being done (and how) to be collected via follow-up interviews of respondents.

Is mobile customer service an initiative in your organization? What are you doing about it? Are you differentiating between projects using the categories above?

Let me know in the comments what you are seeing and doing, would love to chat about it.

Disclaimer: KANA, A Verint Company, is a client and the sole sponsor of this research report.  While they get input into the topics to survey, and provide feedback on the thesis before we start, the final decisions on content, questions, and analysis remain mine.  There is no input from anyone else other than thinkJar and its employees (which, as you know, it’s just me) in making content and editorial decisions on the study, findings, and reports. All data is propriety of thinkJar and not shared or distributed.


The Baffling Advances of Social Customer Service

I shared with you last week the first of four top-level insights gathered via the research I conduct every year (thanks to the sponsorship of my friends at KANA, a Verint company).  If you have not read them, you can read the high level entry here.

I am today going to start sharing the first of four blog posts to deal with the questions that are in most users mind these days (based on inquiries I get): mobile, social, operations and adoption.  After we post these four I will then publish the final report with all insights and data (likely end of January or beginning of February).  Stay tuned.

As you likely know, I am not the largest and most ardent proponent of Social Customer Service.  I have written plenty against it – all substantiated with data and case studies; I won’t start again…

OK, just a summary:

  • Twitter acknowledges that virtually all tools miss tweets from the “fire hose.”  The volume is just too much for most solutions to capture, analyze, and categorize in real time (it is possible, just not done well is the point)
  • Facebook continues improving their platform (not including privacy and ownerships rules, which are a topic by themselves) but they fail to notify developers that depend on existing APIs – thus rendering entire applications unable to connect without due notice or warning
  • Over 80% of contacts via social channels end up being escalated / diverted to a different channel for resolution
  • Over 50% of incoming tweets and Facebook messages (and this was before the switch to Facebooks messenger – which will bring another slew of problems) are not addressed, ignored, or abandoned before resolution by the brands
  • Integration between social solutions and the rest of the customer service channels and processes is ill-fitted (if done at all) and unsuitable to manage the expected loads as usage increases

In spite of these challenging statistics, and the lack of a significant number of successful case studies to refer to beyond the simple “anecdotes” that show it can be done Social adoption continues to be adopted at a fast pace.

In the first version of this study, carried out in 2012 during the height of the “craze” of social, we saw small and early adoption rates (Twitter was 25%, Facebook was 26%).  The following year, when we had already made some inroads into understanding the numbers above, and the lack of an integrated solution made it hard to justify to management, adoption continues strong – albeit at a slower pace.

This year? Still being adopted in large numbers.

When asked about latest channel implemented, 11% said that Twitter was the one and 18% said Facebook was the one.  When asked about channels that are implemented 59% said they had implemented Twitter and 58% said they had Facebook implemented.

When asked about the most used channel (a new question we incorporated this year) we noticed reality set in: neither one of them scored even a single vote.  And while we don’t have historical information to contrast with – it is important to notice that it is still early and we have not yet figured out how to use them properly.

Why is this happening?

Follow up interviews and existing inquiry data yield an answer: virtually all practitioners that have implemented and continue to implement social customer service say that it is because their customers demand it.  When pressed further for details on how they know what their customer demands are, their answer is what troubles me.

They did not ask their customer, or did not ask properly – but that is fodder for a different post.   Whether being served via social was something they needed or wanted, instead they assumed that since their customers were using those channels they wanted to be served via those channels.

This is the most dangerous assumption to make: you need to be where your customer is.  Customer enjoy using social channels for different reasons – but it does not necessarily mean they want to be served there.  As Facebook and Twitter have shown when attempting to conduct commerce directly via those channels, there is no demand just because they are there.

I wrote sometime ago an editorial advocating for single-channel excellence over multi-channel cacophonies.  It is still true today.  The main concept was that offering more channels, poorly, is not the approach to customer service.

Offering social, just because it is possible or because customers use social channels, is not a good idea until we can master the essential elements of how to do it well:

  • Resolving issues without escalation
  • Automating standard inquiries and responses
  • Integrating into existing components (like KM) and other systems of record
  • Deliveing consistent solutions and answers via all channels equally well

If you want to deliver social customer service find out how you can tend to those four elements before you get too far.  Else, you will be simply adding a layer of complexity, an element of cost, and a broken customer promise to your customer service implementation.

There is another element of social customer service that is somewhat disconcerting: when asked if they saw value to the organization and to the customers when delivering social customer service almost one out of four organizations said they did not see value to the customer (and in line with the last two years’ findings).  The question begs to be asked: considering the issues above, and the lack of ROI and / or value experienced – why would anyone think that social customer service must be deployed?

What are you doing with social customer service? Have you implemented yet? Have you found the answers to the above?

Would love to hear what you are doing, and your comments on this as, well.

Disclaimer: KANA, A Verint Company, is a client and the sole sponsor of this research report.  While they get input into the topics to survey, and provide feedback on the thesis before we start, the final decisions on content, questions, and analysis remain mine.  There is no input from anyone else other than thinkJar and its employees (which, as you know, it’s just me) in making content and editorial decisions on the study, findings, and reports. All data is propriety of thinkJar and not shared or distributed.

the blog!

%d bloggers like this: