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Organizations that Integrate Communities into Customer Support can Realize Cost Reductions of Up to 50 Percent

Radical levels of customer service, which account for an average of 75 percent all customer interactions, threaten to undermine the customer's affinity for brands in 2012, according to Gartner, Inc. It is critical for customer service organizations to figure out how to harmonize customer service processes that sometimes happen with a human support agent, sometimes through self-service and sometimes by peer-to-peer community networks.

Gartner's central predictions for the CRM customer service and support market are:

By 2014, organizations integrating communities into customer support will realize cost reductions ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent.

The cost savings are principally through the deflection of calls to the community, where the costs are less than 5 percent of the cost of a technical support agent. During 2012, three industries will realize the biggest successes (up to 50 percent savings on a per-case basis) with communities that solve customer support issues: B2B software, consumer electronics and telecommunications service providers. Laggards (less than 5 percent savings) will not get involved in 2012. These will be health insurance, government and banking. The U.S. and parts of Western Europe will lead the trend, with sharply reduced success over the next four years, as the concepts mature.

By 2014, customer fallout will drive down customer satisfaction in 70 percent of organizations that shift customer support to communities.

Many organizations are employing communities as a platform for customer support. While there are examples of organizations experiencing moderate to great success in call deflection and increased first-contact resolution (FCR) cost savings, there are also unsuccessful community deployments. These unsuccessful deployments happen when the organization thinks that if it creates community self-help sites, customers will come. Similarly, these deployments tend to be plagued by the perception that peer-to-peer communities require no administration or moderation. Enterprises should recognize and plan for the administration and moderation required to maintain a customer support community, but be ready for the community to fail.

By 2015, 50 percent of online customer self-service search activities will be via a virtual assistant for at least 1,500 large enterprises.

More than 1,500 organizations worldwide are in various stages of production with virtual assistants (VAs). The results range from profound cost savings (5 percent reduction in service costs) and increased customer loyalty to simply the entertainment of having a robotic presence on a website. But the number of organizations adding this capability is growing by 20 percent per year, especially in travel, consumer goods, telecommunications and banking. A challenge is that computer-generated characters have limited ability to maintain an interesting dialogue with users; they need a well-structured and extensive knowledge management engine to become efficient, self-service productivity tools. VAs will lead to further downsizing of customer service centers.

By 2015, the marketing budget allocated to retaining customers and increasing loyalty through customer service will more than double.

As organizations attempt to get social, it is ever prevalent that marketing departments spearhead social media-based initiatives on their behalf. In marketing's continued effort to protect and evolve the organization's brand through social media, the department increasingly engages in two-way communication.

Marketing and customer service departments will have to work in cohesion within an organization to successfully deliver on both strategies. Marketing is likely to fund initiatives that are jointly developed, executed, managed and measured by marketing and customer service. This will put marketing in a lead position to drive retention and loyalty strategies through customer service, improving the alignment between the two departments.

Through 2015, the dominant themes in customer service and support will be collaborative customer service processes, application migration to the cloud and support of mobile consumers.

Interaction channels have exploded in the past few years, from direct- and phone-based to the corporate website and across a growing selection of mobile devices and social media. To keep pace, the scope of functionality included in customer service and support (CSS) applications has expanded. Gartner analysts said it is time to build an iPad app competency. Continuing merger and acquisition activity is challenging organizations to adapt to a changing supplier landscape. Organizations have had difficulties managing and planning for an increasingly complex CSS solution portfolio. These organizations should use new delivery models such as cloud computing and mobile for extending and receiving customer service processes and applications.
[Full Article]   Feb-26-2012


Most Private Companies Expect Positive Growth, Majority Plan Upswing in Hiring

Growth projections remain strong among executives surveyed for PwC US’s Private Company Trendsetter Barometer: 78% expect positive growth over the next 12 months, with 35% projecting double-digit growth and 43% forecasting single-digit growth. The rate of expected growth for Trendsetter companies overall has risen 18%.

Hiring projections are also on the upswing. More than half (54%) of private companies say they intend to add to their workforce over the next 12 months (up from 48% the prior quarter), and only 3% plan to reduce headcount, with an overall 2.0% increase projected for private companies' composite workforce.

This focus on growth is in spite of private companies' ongoing ambivalence about the economy. Forty-five percent of Trendsetter executives say they remain uncertain about US economic prospects, while 39% voice optimism -- up 12 points from last quarter, though still well below the 63% voicing optimism a year ago. The percentage expressing outright pessimism dropped to 16%, down eight points. Private companies' view of the world economy is comparatively dimmer, with nearly as many Trendsetter executives expressing optimism (24%) as pessimism (22%). Over half (54%) of private companies that sell abroad say they are uncertain about global economic prospects.

  • US Private Companies in Emerging Markets Plan Greater Spending Than Their Peers

  • In the final months of 2012, planned expansion into new markets abroad surged among Trendsetter companies that currently sell in emerging markets -- rising to 60% (up 20 points from last quarter) — whereas 41% of international Trendsetter companies overall have such plans (up 8 points from last quarter). The percentage of domestic-only companies that intend to venture into international markets inched up 5 points to 7%.

    International Trendsetter companies lead their domestic-only peers both in planned capital spending (53% versus 29%) and in planned increases in operational spending (83% versus 62%). Among Trendsetter companies selling in emerging markets, the numbers are higher still: 64% are planning major capital investments, and 88% plan increased operational spending. Taken as a whole (international and domestic-only businesses combined), Trendsetter companies that plan major capital investments (40%) and increases in operational spending (72%) have remained essentially the same percentage-wise since the prior quarter.

    Forty percent of Trendsetter companies cite information technology as their top area of planned operational spending, followed by new products/services (29%), marketing and sales promotion (25%), business acquisitions (16%), and R&D (14%). Planned IT spending is higher among Trendsetter companies selling in international markets (48%) than among domestic-only companies (34%).

    Research and development is another area where planned spending by international companies outstrips that of their domestic-only counterparts (25% versus 5%). Planned increases in R&D spending are highest among Trendsetter companies that sell in emerging markets (33%).
    [Full Article]   Feb-19-2012


    Innovations that Bring New Benefits also Bring New Security Risks, Research Reveals

    Innovations that make data more accessible and devices more mobile also create new challenges for information technology (IT) professionals responsible for cybersecurity, according to new research released today by IT industry association CompTIA.

    The vast majority of business and IT executives (83 percent) surveyed for CompTIA's Ninth Annual Information Security Trends Study believe the security threat level is on the rise.

    One of the biggest factors driving cybersecurity concerns today is the greater interconnectivity of devices, systems and users, the survey reveals. Among the disruptive IT trends contributing to greater interconnectivity - and raising new security concerns - are the proliferation of big data, social technologies, cloud computing and mobility.

    One in five organizations in the CompTIA study reported definitely experiencing the loss of sensitive data in the past 12 months, while 32 percent reported likely data loss. Among companies that experienced such data loss in the past 12 months:

  • 65 percent lost confidential corporate financial data,

  • 52 percent lost confidential employee, such as human resources records,

  • 27 percent lost confidential customer data, such as credit card numbers, and

  • 26 percent lost corporate intellectual property or trade secrets.

  • The research indicates organizations are most likely to struggle with data loss prevention (DLP) efforts when data is in motion, such as transmitting sensitive information in an unencrypted format.

    Beyond data loss, three in four organizations reported first-hand experience with a security incident in 2011, a slight increase over the 2010 rate. On average, organizations reported seven incidents for the year, about half classified as serious.

    Topping the list of security concerns is the all-encompassing threat known as malware. Yet while malware represents the most pervasive threat, in some ways malware attacks are less feared than highly targeted distributed denial of service attacks, advanced persistent threats and other types of malicious hacking attacks. In the CompTIA study, 58 percent of respondents believe hacking is a more critical threat today compared to two years ago.

    Human error continues to be a significant factor in security breakdowns. A net of 53 percent of IT and business executives say human error is more of a factor today than it was two years ago. Seven in ten organizations rate security as a higher or upper level priority this year, compared to 49 percent in 2010. Four out of five companies expect to increase information security budgets.

    The intensified focus on information security has created a job market where the demand for skilled workers exceeds the current supply. In the CompTIA study, 40 percent of organizations say they face challenges in hiring IT security specialists.

    Organizations view certified staff as an integral part of their security apparatus. More than eight in ten organizations formally or informally use security certifications as a means to validate expertise; and 94 percent believe security certifications deliver a positive return on investment.
    [Full Article]   Feb-19-2012


    IT Employment Reaches All-Time High

    IT employment reached an all-time high with an increase of 13,300 jobs in January. January’s record surpasses the previous all-time high set in September 2008 when IT employment reached 4,088,600.

    The number of IT jobs grew 0.3 percent sequentially last month to 4,107,700, according to TechServe Alliance, a collaboration of IT services firms, clients, consultants and suppliers. On an annual basis, IT employment grew by 3.4 percent in 2011 and 1.5 percent in 2010. These latest numbers are based on the rebenchmarked data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) this month.
    [Full Article]   Feb-12-2012


    New Study: Nearly 500,000 "App Economy" Jobs in United States

    TechNet, the bipartisan policy and political network of technology CEOs, treleased a new study showing that there are now roughly 466,000 jobs in the “App Economy” in the United States, up from zero in 2007.

    The study, sponsored by TechNet and conducted by Dr. Michael Mandel of South Mountain Economics LLC, also found that App Economy jobs are spread throughout the nation. The top metro area for App Economy jobs is New York City and its surrounding suburban counties, although together San Francisco and San Jose together substantially exceed New York. And while California tops the list of App Economy states with nearly one in four jobs, states such as Georgia, Florida, and Illinois get their share as well. In fact, more than two-thirds of App Economy employment is outside of California and New York. The results also suggest that the App Economy is growing quickly and that the location and number of app-related jobs are likely to shift greatly in the years ahead.

    The research shows that when it comes to employment impacts, each app represents jobs -- for programmers, for user interface designers, for marketers, for managers, for support staff. Conventional employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are not able to track such a new phenomenon because this economic ecosystem is so new. The research analyzed detailed information from The Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine (HWOL) database, a comprehensive and up-to-the-minute compilation of want ads, to estimate the number of jobs in the App Economy.

    The total number of Apps Economy jobs includes jobs at ‘pure’ app firms such as Zynga as well as app-related jobs at large companies such as Electronic Arts, Amazon, and AT&T, as well as app ‘infrastructure’ jobs at core firms such as Google, Apple, and Facebook. In addition, the App Economy total includes employment spillovers to the rest of the economy.
    [Full Article]   Feb-12-2012


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