Richard Snow's Analyst Perspectives

Building The Collaborative Enterprise to Improve Customer Relationships

Posted by Richard Snow on Nov 16, 2012 12:17:16 PM

I have challenged some of the hype about the social enterprise because I feel “social” gives the wrong impression. For most people, social media is predominately about being social. While everyone likes to feel that going to work is partly about being social, when it comes down to it running a business is about winning customers, selling them your products or services, and providing customer service when needed. In today’s competitive markets, none of these is an easy task.

As I look across four of my research projects – customer experience management, customer feedback management, and customer relationship maturity – I see several issues:

  • Organizations have a mass of customer-related data. An increasing amount of this is unstructured – call recordings, paper-based communications, text messages, IM scripts, CRM notes and social media posts, for example. Indeed, my research shows that 26 percent of companies have 20-plus sources of customer-related data.
  • As a result, most companies don’t have a single view of their customers; my research shows that only 31 percent have such a view.
  • Consumers now want – demand – to interact with organizations through an increasing number of channels – everything from face-to-face to phone calls, letters, email, customer portals, text messages, chat, video calls, and social media posts and forums. My research shows companies support an average of five channels, and the number is going up – as indeed is the overall volume of interactions with each new channel, adding to the total volume rather reducing the volume through existing channels.
  • In a quest to answer more interactions the first time, organizations are getting more “experts” involved, so interactions are being handled by almost every business unit in an organization.
  • Companies are collecting feedback from customers, but it is collected by different business units, and only 34 percent respond to every customer.
  • Most companies are on social media, but few have yet to use it to provide customer service. Most don’t systematically analyze what consumers are saying about them on social media, and even if they do, they don’t have formalized processes for responding.

All these together add up to a major issue for companies as they look to improve the customer experience and make it consistent across all touch points, human and electronic. I believe the approach to solving this issue is increased collaboration – breaking down the barriers between business units, having processes that flow across business units, synchronizing data, sharing information, and having a customer experience strategy that is driven from the top, across the organization. To help address these issues, my research into customer experience management shows that organizations are beginning to introduce roles such as chief customer officer or customer experience manager. Having someone in such a role helps companies develop a cross-business-unit strategy, but many large and midsize organizations also need to use technology to support these efforts.

The good news is that several technologies are available to help:

  • Unified communication allows individuals to quickly find experts who can help them resolve issues, and provides capabilities to share data and information.
  • Internal Facebook-style applications allow groups to share information and collaborate on issues.
  • Social CRM applications allow organizations to communicate with customers through the social channels of their choice, and to create forums where customers and the organization can share information and resolve issues.
  • Social media analytics can capture data from social media, analyze it, and provide organizations a view into what consumers are saying about their products and services.
  • Smart desktop technology allows organizations to build a desktop that make it more intuitive for any user to access the systems and information they need to resolve issues, and to collaborate with other users.
  • Mobile applications offer the opportunity for customers to serve themselves and to more easily interact with agents to resolve issues.

Many of these tools are now available in the cloud, making them more accessible, affordable and easier to implement and use. Even so, not all of them will suit all organizations. I recommend organizations step back, look at how they want to interact with customers and improve those experiences, develop a cross-organization and -communication channel strategy, then put in place technology and processes that allow the organization to collaborate internally and with customers.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

Topics: Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Mobile Apps, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Desktop Analytics, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Vendor(s), Workforce Force Optimization

Richard Snow

Written by Richard Snow

Richard leads Ventana Research’s Customer and Contact Center Performance Management research practice, which is dedicated to helping organizations improve the efficiency and effectiveness of managing their customers, throughout their lifetime and across all touch points, including the contact center. He conducts research exploring the people, process, information and technology issues behind customer operations management, contact center management, and customer experience management. He also works with senior business operations and IT managers to ensure that companies get the best performance from today’s highly complex application products. Richard has worked in management and consulting leadership positions in the technology industry including with Price Waterhouse, Sema Group and Valors. In his work, he has been involved with all aspects of delivering highly complex IT solutions to a variety of clients in the telecommunications, financial services and public sectors. Richard has specialized in delivering customer care and billing solutions for telecommunications operators, and several multi-channel contact centers for organizations in both the public and private sectors.