• March 10, 2010
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Perseverance Pays Off in Service

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The past two years have been a true test of many organizations’ commitment to customer service. When the economy falters, organizations are often forced to t ighten their belts. Typically, one of the first areas to feel the squeeze is the contact center. This puts the onus on the CRM service vendor to make its offerings compelling enough—to make the benefits they provide valuable enough—to survive a prospect’s cost-benefit analysis. That’s exactly what the recipients of this year’s CRM Service Awards have done.

Some vendors improved their customer service offerings organically over the last year; others opted for acquisitions. A forward-looking few even turned to social media to set themselves apart from competitors—and these efforts couldn’t have come at a better time. CRM users are already including social media as part of an overall strategy regarding customer engagement. 

In a recent CRM Webinar called “2010 Customer Relationships: Emerging Smarter, Building Stronger” (www.destinationCRM.com/webinars), I asked participants, “Does your organization have a clear social media strategy?” Almost half (44 percent) responded, “Nothing right now, but interested in creating one.” More than half (52 percent) responded with either “Currently experimenting/piloting a strategy” (20 percent) or “We already have limited engagements with a few customer touch points” (32 percent). In other words, all but 4 percent responded that, at the very least, they’re interested in a clear social media strategy.

And when we polled analysts for this year’s CRM Service Awards—asking them to rate vendors on a variety of criteria against a five-point scale, with 5 being the highest—it became clear that many analysts, too, grasp the importance of social media. For example, in the Web Self-Service category, one analyst stated that, for him to award a 5 in depth of functionality, WSS vendors now need to have a social component. “I’ve started factoring social into my score,” he’s quoted as saying. “I’d give a 5 to [companies] that had both search and a forum.”

Tie-ins to social media are also surfacing in enterprise feedback management (EFM), which returns for its second year as a standalone category. “Surveying only over the phone or on the Web just doesn’t cut it any more,” writes Assistant Editor Lauren McKay. “The top EFM vendors are not only multichannel in their feedback collection, but are starting to harness social media feedback as well.” 

Users want it, analysts recommend it, customers expect it—and award-winning vendors are providing it. If there’s still any doubt about social media’s viability in a larger customer engagement strategy, let it end here. It has certainly earned its place.

Despite temptations during a challenging economy to succumb to economic pressures and turn their backs on service and support, some persevered. These are the companies that received this year’s CRM Service Leader, Rising Star, and Service Elite awards. Congratulations to them all.

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