Market Focus: High Tech
Can the Industry Deliver Integrated Support?
For the rest of the November 2011 issue of CRM magazine please click here

As consumer electronics become more pervasive, buyers are finding it difficult to manage the myriad high-tech devices they use. In response, many people seek integrated technical support that would let them turn to a single company, according to a study by Accenture.

Demand is especially high among super-users—those who own and regularly use 14 or more consumer electronics devices, including computers, smartphones, GPS systems, high-definition TVs, DVRs, and medical devices. In the study, 63 percent of respondents said they would like to have one company provide technical support for most or all of their devices. More than one-third, or 36 percent, indicated their top choice would be to work with someone remotely, chatting online, speaking on the phone, or communicating via email.

With the number of super-users rising, the issue is becoming bigger, says Kurt Hogan, executive director of premium technical services in Accenture's Communications Industry Practice. "All of us are trending toward becoming super-users," he says, noting that the trend is hastened by the convergence of device usage for professional and personal uses.

"Our research shows that [consumers] are recognizing the value of integrated support to help manage home and mobile devices, ranging from in-home support, including remote access, to live call center and Web support, to email," Hogan wrote in the report. "We expect this concern to broaden. As usage continues in the home and at work, it puts more value on fixing problems quickly and easily."

But the vendor landscape hasn’t necessarily kept up with the demand, according to Hogan, who says integrated support is not readily available yet. It is, however, "heavily on their minds," as they try to adjust core support mechanisms to address it, he says.

Moreover, many companies are exploring ways to monetize tech support for products that fall outside their core competencies, Hogan says. He predicts that companies soon will figure all that out. 

"The industry is focusing on expanding their core support, and there's a fair amount of trial-and-error now," he reports. "The technical capability is there. We will not need a technical revolution to provide it. We'll start seeing activity in this space sooner rather than later.

"Now is the time to address this market,” Hogan continues. "The digital home is going to become more complex, not less, as devices and applications proliferate, with consumers presented with a wide variety of service provider options. We believe there are opportunities for these providers to maximize the customer experience and solidify customer loyalty, if they can equip themselves to provide integrated technical support."

But providing integrated technical support, while daunting, is the least of the high-tech industry's customer service problems. Previous research from Accenture found that communications and high-tech companies are falling short in customer service and need to redirect their investments toward enhancing the customer experience, including with the use of social CRM tools.

According to the research, 61 percent of communications and high-tech companies said they were making investments to improve customer service, but customer expectations also are rising.

The research further noted that customers are likely to seek out better service elsewhere if their current vendors don't improve.

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