• March 1, 2012
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Prepare for a Multichannel Support Environment

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The social media eruption has had a profound effect on the customer service and support market, which is reflected in our ninth annual CRM Service Awards. At the very least, it emphasizes the importance of connecting with customers on their preferred interaction channels. However, while doing so is beneficial to companies and their customers, it presents other challenges.

Another interaction channel introduces more data for customer service and support departments to process and manage. "The more things we do, the more data we generate. That data can't just sit; it has to be used to have any value. The social explosion has made that need more obvious and urgent," said Laurie McCabe, founder and analyst at the SMB Group, in the story "2012: The Past Is Prologue" (CRM, December 2011).

To get the most out of social media data, as with all customer support data, it must be shared across all customer support channels. In fact, one analyst in the Outsourcing category says, "The companies that will be leaders in the years ahead are those that understand the major shift in communication patterns for customers today and deliver consistent cross-channel support."

After all, companies cannot offer better customer service if they don't get relevant customer data. An integrated, multichannel support environment, however, ensures that customer service and support departments will get the data needed to provide the best customer care.

Recognizing that the service a company gives is only as good as the information it receives, we introduce the Customer Case Management category into the Service Leader awards. Customer case management applications are the agents' window into customer records. The introduction of this category enables a very familiar CRM vendor, Salesforce.com, to become a CRM Service Leader for the first time. And, consistent with its performance in the CRM Market Awards, it has dominated the Customer Case Management category, securing the top spot on the leaderboard.

That's not the only new item in this year's Service Awards. As we continue to emerge from the Great Recession, lower-cost, lower-risk solutions are still in high demand. This is why we are incorporating a cost-of-deployment score into our overall Service Leaders rating. For this criterion, we ask analysts to rate each vendor based on the anticipated deployment costs for 50 users over a five-year period. Assessing the total costs over a five-year period closes the up-front price gap between the more expensive on-premises applications and on-demand solutions.

The vendors in the 2012 CRM Service Awards represent some of the most recognized companies in the customer service industry, plus a few emerging ones. Their commitment to customer service and support over the past 12 months deserves recognition, which is why they are featured in this issue. Congratulations to the recipients of this year's CRM Service Awards. May they continue to set the standard for others to follow.

Because of the need for organizations to provide multichannel customer service, we're launching our first Customer Service Experience conference at the New York Marriott Marquis (August 13–15, 2012). We've recruited two Ovum analysts, Daniel Hong and Ian Jacobs, to chair the conference. The event will be co-located with our CRM Evolution and SpeechTEK conferences. Email me at dmyron@infotoday.com for more information.

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