• June 1, 2018
  • By Ian Jacobs, vice president and research director, Forrester Research

The Dawning of a New Era in CRM (Magazine)

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As regular readers of this back page probably already know, Marshall Lager has ridden off into the sunset. (Collective moment of silence.) In my mind, I picture him riding a Big Wheel and blowing raspberries at us—maybe that’s just me? Marshall provided us with more than a decade of laughs, groans (many, many groans), and a boatload of insight. But all good things—and Marshall’s column—must come to an end.

So, what’s next for this august back page? Well, me. Although I’ve been a presence as a columnist in the inside pages of this magazine since 2006, I now get to take pride of place. Or last place. Or something like that. Whatever this place is called, I’m here now.

So, who the heck am I? In my day job, I am a principal analyst at Forrester Research. For the most part, I help our customers move toward a digital-first approach to customer service. For the past almost two years, much of my time has been taken up with research and consulting around chatbots, virtual assistants, artificial intelligence, natural language understanding, and machine learning technology, processes, and best practices. I’m obsessed with the rising import of agent experience in a world where automation starts to gobble up most of the simple customer interactions. And I work hard to convince our clients that their customers don’t want conversations; they want simple, emotionally satisfying resolutions, just as they have always done.

Outside of my day job, I’m a San Franciscan, a beer and wine snob (I mean I have to have something in common with Marshall!), a lover of the arcane, a geek of many stripes, and a voracious reader. I love TV shows prominently featuring small kick-ass blond women who toss off snappy comebacks every two seconds. In my world, there is a straight through-line from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Veronica Mars to iZombie. I used to be a reggae DJ at a San Francisco nightclub, but that was back in the days when staying out until 3 a.m. on a Sunday night didn’t cause me to inevitably miss work the next day. I have lived in many places that start with the letter B: Budapest, Bangkok, Brooklyn, the Bay Area, da ‘Burgh (OK, that last one is a stretch). And a great weekend for me involves getting a slight sunburn while hiking 10 miles on the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains—or just drinking some lovely cabernet sauvignon somewhere in the Sonoma Valley.

Many of those catholic interests are likely to make appearances here. While there is no central theme to this column, it’s a good bet we’ll be discussing a lot of customer service and customer interaction topics. I will likely be less snarky than Marshall was; instead of cracking wise, I tend to look at the foibles of brands and heave a huge sigh, almost like I’ve been holding my breath waiting for the inevitable disappointment. I’ll leave the humor to the funny folks. One of the things I have learned over my 16 years as an analyst: There are always more bad customer experiences ahead. As much as we improve in this industry we call CRM, someone somewhere is bound to screw it up for their customers somehow. That said, I also won’t be a gloomy Eeyore type. I hope.

I can promise you that, like the subhead for this month’s entry, every column will start with a quotation of lyrics from some song or another (nothing new here—after all, three of my first columns for the magazine were titled “Hell’s Bells,” “We Can’t Rewind, We’ve Gone Too Far,” and “Across the Universe”). Once a DJ, always a DJ? I’m here taking requests. 

Ian Jacobs is a principal analyst at Forrester Research. For more about Ian, see above.

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