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Our recently released research into next-generation customer analytics shows that the most participants (52%) use spreadsheets as a customer analytics tool. I recently wrote that while these popular tools are adequate for some tasks, they are not suitable for analyzing large volumes and many types of customer data. So I think it is appropriate that one in four (26%) participants have adopted a dedicated customer analytics tool and a further 29 percent are planning to invest in such a tool in the next 24 months.

There are good reasons to use a capable tool for this critical areavr_Customer_Analytics_08_time_spent_in_customer_analytics of analytics. The research shows that the biggest issue for companies in producing customer analysis is data; users spend most of their time preparing (47%) or reviewing (43%) the data before they can perform any analysis. If companies don’t take action to correct this, the situation is only going to get worse. In my various research I have identified 23 sources of customer data; they include transactional data in business applications such as CRM, ERP and knowledge management, call recordings, text-based interaction data such as letters, forms, text messages, chat and Web scripts, event data such as agent desktop clicks as they try to resolve interactions, and social media posts. So not only do users have very large volumes of data to deal with, but the data comes in many different formats, several of which are unstructured. To produce as complete an analysis as possible, companies need systems that can handle almost all of these sources of data, that can automate the process of extracting the data from them, and that can standardize the data to ensure it is of the highest quality and all data relating to a single customer can be integrated. I believe that making the right product choice for customer analytics depends first on what and how much data it can process.

That said, the research reveals some other factors that impact the choice of customer analytics including real-time (21%), advanced vr_Customer_Analytics_06_most_important_customer_analytics(19%), statistics (14%), predictive (12%) and visual (10%) as first ranked priorities. Many customer-related tasks require information that is as up-to-date as possible; for example, a contact center agent needs to know what a customer attempted to do before calling the contact center so the response can be put in the context of previous interactions as well as the customer’s profile. Product evaluations thus should look for systems that not only process all forms of data but that can collect the data in real time or near real time and produce the analysis likewise. Another factor is that in dealing with customers, it is increasingly important to have predictive capabilities. To keep up organizations must move from relying on historical analysis to predicting likely future action; for example, an unusually high volume of complaints might lead to customer defections, and real-time capabilities could, for example, indicate when a negative post on social media is likely because of what the customer is saying during a phone call. I suspect that the majority of users who rely on spreadsheets do not have high expectations about the way the results are presented. But I believe that as engaging with customers becomes more complex, users will need information presented in more visual ways that help them quickly see areas that need addressing or present the data in more useful forms, such as showing the customer’s location on a map to help find the nearest service engineer to deal with an emergency.

Ventana Research tracks six technologies that are changing the vr_Customer_Analytics_07_new_technologies_for_customer_analyticsways users access and consume technology that our research finds important beyond analytics itself: big data (60%), cloud computing (44%), collaboration 62%), mobility (38%) and social media (35%). My research into next-generation customer engagement shows that companies expect analytics to have the greatest impact on the way they engage with customers in the future; more recognize that without a complete view of customers it is hard to develop a focused customer service strategy, enhance customer-related process, provide personalized responses to interactions or understand how their company is performing from the customer’s perspective. Each of the other five next-generation technologies is also having a direct impact on customer analytics. By whatever definition you use, customer data is “big” – it comes in large volumes and in multiple forms, has to be processed in real time and requires predictive capabilities. Increasingly more of it resides in the cloud and must be integrated with on-premises data, and many companies are looking to cloud-based services for customer analytics. Because many business units engage with customers they should share a single set of customer reports and analysis so that all actions and decisions are based on the same information. To do this, more companies are looking at collaborative capabilities that allow users to share customer information and work together on actions such as resolving customer issues. In addition many employees need access to customer data while away from their desks; nearly two-fifths (38%) of participants in the customer analytics research said that mobile access to their customer analytics systems is important. And finally, there is no doubt many consumers use social media, and more are doing so all the time; many of these users are also employees, and they want their work systems to be socially enabled. Add to this that companies need to understand what their customers are “saying” about them on social media, so at the very least a customer analytics system should be able to processes social media data feeds.

One of the latest buzz phrases is the Internet of things, which will serve the connected customer on more devices than ever. People now engage with companies increasingly electronically, often using smart mobile devices – they are more connected and can do things much faster than ever before, including look elsewhere if they are not satisfied with a company. Knowing your customers therefore has never been so important. Ventana Research recommends that you evaluate the options now available in customer analytics tools to help improve customer service and the outcomes of customer engagement.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Salesforce.com began with a simple message: On-premises CRM has come to the end of its useful life, and the way forward is cloud-based CRM. I have written several times that the company has won this argument, and my research into contact center in the cloud confirms this: 63 percent of participating organizations said that adopting systems in the cloud is one of the key ways to improve customer engagement. Furthermore, this vendor’s success pressurized  many other companies to move into the cloud, and not just for CRM. Salesforce.com itself expanded from cloud-based CRM to create clouds for sales, marketing and service.. This transition continued in the middle of last year when it surprised the market by announcing it would add a development platform in the cloud to provide tools for creating mobile apps. To further these aims, it recently announced the first release of Salesforce1 Service Cloud, calling it the “Service Platform for the Internet of Customers.” I had several questions about what this really means going into a recent briefing.

First, what is the Internet of customers? This seems to be a variation on a theme I discovered in my benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement and wrote about late last yearvr_NGCE_Research_08_all_channels_for_customer_engagementThe research finds that because consumers have changed their communication habits, companies now support an average of seven or eight channels of communication and some as many as 17. Unlike the long-established channels of telephone, email and printed letters, many of the emerging channels are electronic and rely on the Internet, mobile devices or both. The research also finds that most business units in an organization now interact with customers. Therefore it has become essential for companies to connect their communication channels and employees across business units; if they don’t, customers will not receive consistent, accurate responses to their interactions and become frustrated. Salesforce1 is salesforce.com’s response to help organizations achieve these connections.

Salesforce1 is a major undertaking, comprised of a platform, a set of development tools, core services such as workflow and identity management, and APIs with which companies can develop mobile apps. Those mobile apps enable users to access other systems and information through an intuitive user interface while on the move. This has potential to simplify the complexity of accessing all the systems most companies now use. They have business application such as ERP and CRM that employees use every day to carry out various tasks; communication systems that manage the different interaction channels; third-party systems used by partner companies; and increasingly smart machines that produce data useful for interacting with customers (for example, a mobile phone producing location information). Each of these systems has a different interface and produces data in its own formats; connecting them and making them accessible through a mobile app is thus very complex.

Other vendors have tools that allow access to systems and data, and still others help companies build their own smart mobile apps. Salesforce1 brings these two diverse capabilities together so users can develop mobile access to connected systems. The apps can be used by employees requiring information and/or access to systems while on the move, including salesforce.com systems such as Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, and apps available in third-party online stores; alternately, apps can be built to give consumers similar access while mobile. They therefore support a dual purpose because as consumers become familiar with mobile apps, even if only to search for information or play games, they come to expect the same capabilities at work so they can work away from their desks but have access to systems and information at the touch of an icon.

The Salesforce1platform goes a step further. My research finds that most companies recognize the customer experience as the only true differentiator – the competition can replicate products and services almost at will, so it is how companies engage with customers that makes the difference. This engagement requires two essential features for customers: ease of engagement, which includes multiple channels, especially mobile, and consistency, receiving the same information, ideally up to date, regardless of the channel. One way Salesforce1 addresses the issue is to provide capabilities to create internal communities. These, for example, help a user find an expert no matter where the person sits within the organization and share information to resolve a customer inquiry. Doing this quickly can improve the customer experience, increase efficiency because more interactions are resolved at the first point of contact, and increase effectiveness because the customer gets the right answer at the first attempt.

More than three-quarters of companies in my research said it is very important to improve customer engagement; to do that many vr_NGCE_Research_06_changes_to_improve_engagementare investing in collaboration, in their customer portal, in mobility and in social media. Connecting their business processes and these technologies to deliver high-quality customer experiences is no easy task, but the Internet, mobile technology and social media have made it necessary for companies trying to keep up with customer expectations. The same is true of supporting employees who want to work on the move. In all of this, for me the critical requirement is to build mobile apps with the user in mind and not just automate an existing, perhaps outdated process. Gaining insight from analytics is also critical. In this area salesforce still needs to invest more to better support these needs and connect this type of information with the applications that our research finds essential to promote engagement and improve the customer experience. Even so, Salesforce1 is a progressive cloud platform that can help enterprises interact directly with customers. If you are looking for new approaches to build and use applications in the cloud and on mobile devices, Salesforce1 is one to evaluate.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director – Customer Engagement

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