Companies looking ahead to customer service technology investments

Cloud, social media and virtualization will be just some of the places organizations spend their discretionary IT dollars in the coming year.

It’s been an amazing eight years for customer-facing technology and applications. A decade ago social media didn’t exist, for example. Today, it’s the best way to get a company to listen to you -- whether or not they want to hear what you have to say. Analytics, whose role keeps growing and expanding, is now ubiquitous and touches most aspects of service organizations, directly or indirectly. And the innovation keeps on coming and gets more exciting every year.

Now that the worst of the recession is behind us, DMG Consulting expects technology investments to be on the upswing for most companies in most regions of the world. The question is what these companies are going to buy. Of course, companies are going to start by addressing their core infrastructure needs. But after that, they’ll still have some discretionary IT investment dollars to invest if their business case is strong. Here are a few of the up-and-coming investment categories that will attract a significant amount of investment during 2011.

  1. Hosting/software-as-a-service (SaaS)/cloud-based computing: These are different names for the same thing. Hosting is catching on for all customer-facing applications, including those applications that managers have refused to host in the past; this includes automatic call distributors, workforce management, recording and quality assurance, among others.
  2. Virtualization: Here’s an effective way to reduce the cost of processing and to improve performance and dependability of premise-based and hosted applications.
  3. Social media: “Like it or not, here it comes.” Customers have gone social, and so should your organization. This means that customer service, sales, contact centers and help desks need tools to incorporate social media interactions into their servicing and sales processes. This is an extremely broad group of technologies and applications that are just starting to emerge.
  4. Tools that make agents more productive on their servicing applications, including
    • Real-time best practice guidance systems: These tools deliver context-sensitive procedures, reference materials, reminders and sales opportunities, in real time, instead of forcing agents to use paper, online references or knowledge bases to look up information.
    • Servicing/CRM application enhancements: While a few companies will install new servicing applications, most enterprises are going to try to fix and supplement what they have in place with value-added desktop process and automation applications.
    • Workflow automation: Tools are needed that better tie together front- and back-office operations to eliminate hand-offs and redundant steps and processing. This will speed up transaction handling, improving efficiency and quality while reducing operating expenses.
    • Desktop analytics: It provides a detailed assessment of everything agents do at their desktop and identifies training and systems performance issues.
  5. Multi-channel processing: This encompasses technologies that improve efficiency and the customer experience by integrating the handling of customer inquiries from all channels.
  6. Multi-channel customer analytics: It provides a consolidated view of customer activities from calls, emails, chat, letters and social media. Can be used to reduce operating expenses and better meet customer needs.
  7. Pay-for-performance: This is a broad category that encompasses packaged performance management, coaching, e-learning and quality assurance.

Everything on this list is relatively new, or is an existing technology that is being done in a much better way than in the past. Technology investments likely to be approved during 2011

  • Have a compelling business case with quantifiable benefits.
  • Produce hard dollar savings or incremental revenue.
  • Can be implemented in three months or less.
  • Pay for themselves in three to six months.
  • Do not require a great deal of in-house IT resources.
  • Do not require significant customization.

This year looks to be an exciting year with great opportunities for enterprises to take advantage of the wide range of innovation that been quietly introduced during the last few years.

Donna Fluss is the founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC. She is a recognized thought leader and innovator in contact center and real-time analytics. For more than 25 years, she has helped end users build differentiated contact centers and vendors develop market positions. She is the author of The Real-Time Contact Center: Strategies, Tactics, and Technologies for Building a Profitable Service and Sales Operation. For questions on contact center management, best practices, process and technology, contact Fluss at donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com.

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