Multichannel, CRM and Communities Are Top Investment Areas for 2013-2014



TSIA’s seventh annual technology survey is complete, documenting adoption, satisfaction and planned spending across 24 areas of services and technology used by support and service organizations.

Several areas of technology saw increased adoption among support services groups over the last year, and planned spending is high for 2013–2014, with double-digit percentages of companies planning additional purchases in every category covered by the survey. The three categories with the highest increase in adoption over the last year are:

  • Multichannel management: As companies become more aware of interaction cost and quality by channel, multichannel management platforms grow in importance, helping support teams monitor and move traffic to less expensive and more effective channels. Web chat continues to grow as a B2B support channel, and TSIA research reports and Webcasts over the last year have illustrated that chat can be highly effective for technical support, with a cost significantly less than phone or email incidents. Also, chat is a preferred channel for younger demographics, such as new system administrators entering the workforce. With increased interest in introducing chat and proactive channel management, adoption of multichannel platforms grew 10 percent, from 65 percent in 2012 to 75 percent in 2013.
  • Customer satisfaction tracking: Increased interest and visibility in the customer experience—even with Wall Street investors—is driving adoption of customer satisfaction and loyalty platforms, sometimes called enterprise feedback management (EFM). Most companies have found that basic survey capabilities, such as those included in case management platforms, are not sophisticated enough to oversee the entire customer experience, especially as new channels and social media amplify the voice of the customer. Adoption of customer satisfaction tracking technology increased 9 percent, from 75 percent in 2012 to 84 percent in 2013.
  • Analytic/reporting platforms: Service divisions have always tracked many operational metrics, but reporting on the metrics and how they interrelate has been fairly basic until recently, when more sophisticated reporting, including data analytics, are finding their way into more service operations. The need for analytics is quickly increasing as there is more focus on the customer experience, and companies need to analyze behavior patterns of prospects and customers—including social media activities—to understand evolving customer attitudes about products, services, and the corporate brand. Adoption of analytic platforms by support services grew 8 percent, from 65 percent in 2012 to 73 percent in 2013.

The area of the TSIA Technology Survey that garners the most interest from members, partners, and the media is planned spending: in what areas do companies have budget allocated for additional technology or services in the next 12 to 24 months? After the economic doldrums of 2009 and 2010, planned spending in 2012 was very high. Though spending is down a bit from 2012, planned spending remains high again this year, with every category covered by the survey seeing planned spending by double-digit percentages of members.

The areas with the highest planned spending for support services are:

  • Online communities: Spending on online communities remains high for another year, with 77 percent of support services members planning an investment in communities in 2013–2014, down slightly from 80 percent last year. With the high adoption numbers for communities, this spending indicates companies are beefing up existing community efforts, hopefully allocating funds for expanding customer communities to employees and partners, and for creating stronger integrations between communities and CRM and knowledge management.
  • Enterprise CRM: The 360-degree view of the customer, which has been CRM’s core promise, has remained elusive for many companies whose legacy CRM systems did not allow integrations to newer systems, leaving many customer interactions—particularly social media activity—out of the picture. With 76 percent of support services members having budget for CRM tools this year, the penetration of SaaS CRM will continue to grow: salesforce.com is now the top CRM tool used by TSIA members.
  • Incident management: Though incident management is a common module of CRM suites, many support operations have adopted a new incident management tool allowing for more flexibility than what was available from a legacy CRM platform. But with high planned spending on both CRM and incident management—76 percent for both categories—will these two areas merge again, with CRM vendors gaining back ground for incident management?
  • Multichannel management: 2012 was the year that Web chat, a common customer channel in consumer support, became the new must-have channel for B2B, or enterprise, support. TSIA research reports and webcasts over the last year have illustrated that chat can be highly effective for technical support, with a cost significantly less than email incidents. Also, chat is a preferred channel for younger demographics, such as new system administrators entering the workforce. With increased interest in introducing chat, and creating dashboards for multichannel traffic, 75 percent of support services teams are planning a multichannel investment in 2013–2014.

With as high as a third of technology support groups reporting a budget cut for 2013, technology investments have a clear ROI component: moving to less expensive cloud platforms, boosting worker productivity and quality, and moving interactions to less expensive and more effective channels. Support management must remember, however, that new technology will not fix broken processes, so be sure to evaluate, tweak or overhaul workflows as part of deployment to ensure success.