Private Software Firms See Strongest Revenue Growth Since Recession Began, Expect Big Job Gains
The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) announced the results of the 2012 Software Benchmarking Industry Report, which finds that private software companies are experiencing the largest revenue growth since 2008 and expect strong job growth. The report – which was developed by SIIA partner OPEXEngine, an aggregator of financial and operating benchmarks for small and mid-sized software companies – surveyed private and public U.S. firms with up to $350 million in revenues.
The 2012 Report identifies significant revenue growth rates, strong job creation and high expectations. According to the report, participating private software firms achieved an average revenue growth rate of 37 percent in 2011 – 10 percent beyond the growth rate achieved in 2010 – and they anticipate further gains in 2012. Importantly, companies say they plan to increase employee headcount in 2012 by an average of 27 percent – the highest hiring expectation since the recession.
Key findings from the 2012 Software Benchmarking Industry Report include:
Private firms expect to increase headcount by an average of 27 percent. Firms with revenue under $10 million and between $10 and $20 million anticipate the biggest hiring gains at 38 percent and 36.5 percent, respectively.
Private software firms achieved an average revenue growth rate of 37 percent in 2011, compared to 28 percent in 2010.
Private companies in the $20-$40 million range had the highest revenue growth rate (46 percent).
80 percent of private software companies surveyed expect 20 percent or greater revenue growth in 2012, while 30 percent expect higher than 50 percent.
Revenue growth rates were higher for the West Coast companies – almost 50 percent versus 36 percent for the East Coast companies.
In terms of operating expenses, East Coast companies spent 66 percent of what West Coast companies spent.
Employee productivity on the East Coast was 5 percent higher than on the West Coast.
East Coast companies anticipate a 35 percent growth in headcount during 2012, compared to 26 percent for West Coast companies.
IBM Study: Consumers of the Future Value Self-service and Personalization
The consumer of the future will be more mobile, social and self-sufficient, willing to share details on themselves and their preferences in exchange for highly personalized relationships with their favorite stores, according to a new IBM consumer survey. The study also found that consumers’ willingness to advocate for a particular retailer is becoming multi-faceted, with consumers looking for a flawless experience, whether it’s when they’re researching, purchasing, or receiving delivery.
The findings of the survey of 1,200 U.S. men and women ages 13 to 60 provide insights into the demands of the next generation buying audience and highlight the areas where retailers could influence brand advocacy.
Today's teenagers say they spend their time shopping on their mobile devices whether they are at home, on the move or in-store. They also prefer to use more self-service features than today's consumers and participate in communities and forums via social networks with consumers with similar interests. Teens expect their retailers to know them and all their transactions and deliver ads and promotions to them through social networking sites.
The study compared consumers aged 13 – 19, or “digital natives,” with today’s current shoppers, respondents in the 40-49 year old group. The survey found the digital natives to be:
Almost four times as likely to consider it important for a retailer to provide a mobile app to use on their smartphone or tablet (52 versus 14 percent)
Twice as likely to consider it important for a retailer to establish a forum for like-minded consumers to share ideas with each other (54 versus 26 percent)
Twice as likely to be comfortable receiving ads and promotions from a retailer through a social networking site (64 versus 37 percent)
Nearly 1.5 times as likely to consider it important for a retailer to keep track of all that they've purchased from the retailer (regardless of whether it was in the store, online, via the call center, etc.) (67 versus 48 percent)
Nearly 1.5 times as likely to consider it important to provide self-service tools they can use in the store (80 versus 63 percent)
The study found that consumers are looking for a consistent brand experience, from start to finish, across all brand touchpoints. Cost and quality prevailed, where the two most important considerations for recommending a retailer were: “sells quality merchandise” (94 percent) and “offers fair/competitive prices” (93 percent). However, three of the next most important criteria were: the items they want to buy are in stock (91 percent); the retailer delivers a positive overall experience whether it’s in the store, over the Web, or via any combination of channels (90 percent); and that the retailer provides a convenient returns process (85 percent).
In the study, IBM asked a series of questions about the three phases of the brand experience: pre-purchase, purchase (checkout/payment), and post-purchase. The real surprise in the findings was the importance of the post-purchase process in molding the brand relationship and influencing brand advocacy. This phase includes product shipment, delivery, installation, customer support, problem resolution and returns. For example, the survey found:
Nearly three-quarters of the respondents cited a retailer’s ability to deliver a positive post-purchase experience as important to very important for them to recommend a retailer to others.
Nearly double the respondents chose the post-purchase experience as more important than the pre-purchase experience in forming a lasting opinion of a retailer (64 versus 36 percent).
The post-purchase phase has the greatest potential to damage the brand relationship (46 percent) compared to the purchase and pre-purchase phases (38 and 16 percent, respectively).
The post-purchase phase even has the ability to help a retailer recover from a poor pre-purchase experience, with 52 percent of respondents indicating that a positive post-purchase experience is likely to very likely to overcome a poor pre-purchase experience. [For those 13-19, 67 percent consider it likely to very likely to save the day.]
Ventana Research Releases Agent Desktop Benchmark Research
Ventana Research has released its latest Benchmark Research, The Unified Agent Desktop and the Customer Experience. Ventana Research commenced this research to gain insight into current agent desktop practices, as well as efforts to manage customer interactions and improve customer service.
The research shows that the primary channel for customer service remains interaction with agents in contact centers. Acquiring and maintaining customer loyalty requires consistency at every touchpoint and continuous improvement in customer interactions. Currently, fewer than half (47%) of participating organizations said that their customers are satisfied with their customer service or how their contact centers handle interactions. This has led nearly three-quarters (74%) of participants to say that improving customer service is very important while just over one-half(53%) feel that improving contact center performance is equally as important.
Ultimately, the research highlights the importance of the customer experience in an increasingly competitive business environment. The real challenge lies in providing every agent with a unified view of customer data. If an agent has to scour multiple sources of data to resolve conflicts or provide service, they risk the loss of the customer’s confidence, or worse the loss of the customer altogether. As technologies continue to advance, the need to implement a unified desktop becomes increasingly more important. Participants hoping to improve response time while enabling customers to communicate through more channels will need to better align their planned technology investments with these goals. Based on the research a unified desktop is currently used in just 28% of participant’s contact centers. While 23% plan to implement within the next 12 months, another 23% have no intention of investing in a unified agent desktop.
Technology and creative professionals who include "make more money" on their New Year's resolution list may achieve their goal next year: According to the recently released 2013 Salary Guides from Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group, a number of positions in the information technology (IT) and creative fields are likely to see above-average salary gains in the coming year. The increase in compensation levels is due to high demand for these professionals as organizations enhance their digital presence and boost investments in IT infrastructure.
Following are descriptions for six hot technology and design jobs in 2013, along with their anticipated average starting salaries in 2013*:
Mobile applications developers -- As companies strive to reach consumers on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, they need professionals who can develop for the small screen. Average starting salaries for mobile applications developers are expected to rise 9 percent, with compensation ranging from $92,750 to $133,500.
Business intelligence analysts -- These individuals assist firms in making critical business decisions by gathering and analyzing data to better target marketing efforts. Business intelligence analysts should see a gain of 7.3 percent, with starting salaries ranging from $94,250 to $132,500.
Network architects -- These individuals provide the backbone of a company's communication infrastructure. They assess business and applications requirements for corporate data and voice networks, making it possible for data to be shared. Network architects are forecast to receive a 7 percent starting salary boost, to between $102,250 and $146,500, on average.
Interactive creative directors -- As companies of all sizes add interactive roles, they seek professionals with superb leadership skills and digital expertise to manage these growing teams. Interactive creative directors can anticipate a 4.9 percent bump in base compensation, with average starting salaries ranging from $95,500 to $160,000.
Interaction designers -- The best interaction designers step into the shoes of a company's customers and maximize their online experiences. These professionals understand the connections between people and products. Those with one to five years of experience should see a gain of 4.9 percent, to between $52,250 and $77,500.
User experience (UX) designers -- Since so much customer interaction happens online, companies are looking for workers who can create positive digital experiences. UX designers can expect a 4.8 percent salary increase, with starting compensation of $73,750 to $110,500.
*All salaries listed are U.S. national averages based on data published in the 2013 Salary Guides from Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group. Actual salary ranges may vary depending on location.
Consumers Defect in Growing Numbers But Majority Say “You Could Have Kept Me,” Accenture Research Finds
In 2012, one in five consumers switched companies they buy from, including wireless phone, internet service, and retailers, according to new research by Accenture. This marks a five percent increase in switching over 2011 levels. However, the eighth annual Accenture Global Consumer Survey also found that the majority (85 percent) of consumers say the companies could have done something differently to prevent them from switching.
The survey, which polled more than 12,000 consumers in 32 countries, found that among those consumers who would have stayed if their provider had acted differently, two-thirds (67 percent) pointed to having their customer service issue resolved during their first contact as a factor. More than half (54 percent) might have remained loyal if they had been rewarded for doing more business with their provider. The survey revealed that, of the ten industries covered, the largest rises in switching were among wireless phone providers (26 percent of consumers switched in 2012, up from 21 percent in 2011); internet service providers (23 percent switched, up from 19 percent in 2011) and retailers (22 percent switched, up from 16 percent in 2011).
Broken promises are a top area of frustration for consumers, according to the survey:nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents indicate it’s extremely frustrating when a company delivers a different customer service experience from what it promised upfront. Seventy eight percent of consumers say they are likely to switch providers when they encounter such broken promises. Other frustrations that make consumers more likely to switch include:
Having to contact customer service multiple times for the same reason (selected by 65 percent of consumers)
Dealing with unfriendly customer service agents (65 percent)
Being on hold for a long time when contacting customer service (61 percent)
Selling More with Tailored Experiences
The Accenture study found that a tailored experience is critical to a strong customer relationship. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents say that, compared to 12 months ago, they have higher expectations of getting specialized treatment for being a “good” customer. A similar proportion (50 percent) say it is extremely important for customer service people to know their history so they don’t have to repeat themselves each time they call.
Nearly a third (31 percent) of respondents prefer companies that use information about them to make their experience more efficient from one step to the next. However, only a quarter (24 percent) said their providers deliver tailored experiences.
Among the ten industries included in the survey, providers in the travel and tourism, retail banking and life insurance industries earn the highest marks for providing tailored experiences: 32 percent of respondents say travel and tourism providers offer tailored experiences, followed by 27 percent who say the same about retail banks and 25 percent about life insurance providers.
Corporate Websites, Expert Review Sites Top Social Media Influence
As technology provides an ever-growing number of channels for consumers to interact with companies, the Accenture survey found that on average consumers use five to six channels to learn about and select providers, including:
Word of mouth, relied upon by 79 percent of consumers to get information about providers
Corporate websites, used by nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of consumers
Online sources such as expert review sites, news sites and product comparison sites, used by nearly two-thirds (63 percent)
Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, used by 47 percent of consumers.
Looking more closely at the influence of social media, the survey found that 31 percent of consumers say they trust comments posted by people they know, echoing the importance of word of mouth. More than a quarter (28 percent) say positive comments in social media affect purchasing decisions and 28 percent say negative comments do so.