With this report, we complete our eighth year of quarterly updates on the suppliers and products in customer service. We’re pretty sure that it’s the longest-running research series on customer service. You’ve told us there’s nothing else like it. Must be true. We’ve seen copies of it in the hands of suppliers, their prospects and customers, their investment bankers, and the industry press and media.
Latest Update on Customer Service Products & Suppliers
4Q2011 was a mixed quarter for customer service. 2011 was a mixed year. Customer growth was mixed but mostly down for the quarter. Only one of our suppliers — Salesforce.com — improved in both new and repeat customers. Mixed financial performance resulted. However, Salesforce.com had its best ever quarter and year. And IntelliResponse and Moxie had their best years, driven by big earlier quarters.
Key Trends in Customer Service
There are two key trends to note in customer service as of early 2012: social-service and virtual assisted-service.
Social-Service Remains Hot. First, social-service has become a customer service requirement, no longer just a hot trend, and the social web has become a key customer service channel. We call it social-service because it’s about customers using social networks to get answers to their questions and solutions to their problems by monitoring and searching social media.
We’re well into a research series on social-service. We’re looking at social listening and social interaction products and evaluating them using a framework with these top-level criteria:
- Customer service best fit
- Analytic functionality
- Customer service integration
Since our last Quarterly Customer Service Update report, we’ve published evaluations of these social-service offerings:
Our new social-service framework has worked well to identify the strengths, limitations, and differentiators of the offerings. Next up, we’ll be reviewing the social-service capabilities of KANA SEM—capabilities based on the technology that came to KANA in its April 2011 acquisition of Overtone.
Virtual Assisted-Service Is Back. Second, virtual assisted-service is hot again. Three of our suppliers—eGain, IntelliResponse, and Moxie—have virtual assisted-service offerings.
We had done a research series on what we called virtual assisted-service back in 2007. Virtual assisted-service seemed to be an effective way to help customers find answers and solutions when pure self-service facilities did not deliver. But the approach did not get any real traction at the time. We thought that visitors didn’t have the patience to listen to the virtual agents when visitors could read the answers much more quickly than virtual agents could speak them.
Virtual agents are hot again. eGain, IntelliResponse, and Moxie offer them. eGain Chatbot provides avatar-based knowledge-powered virtual assisted service within eGain Service and eGain Sales. IntelliResponse has partnered with Codebaby. Integration between IntelliResponse Answer Suite and Codebaby, lets CodeBaby “characters” retrieve and deliver answers and solutions from IntelliResponse Answer Suite. Moxie Software has partnered with VirtuOz, Inc., an Emeryville, CA based supplier of virtual agent technology. Within this partnership, Moxie and VirtuOz will integrate VirtuOz’s Intelligent Virtual Agent (IVA) with the Chat and Knowledge components of Customer Spaces, Moxie’s customer service offering.
Perhaps the time for virtual assisted-service has arrived. Once again, we were ahead of the trend.
Here's a short sample of our latest Customer Service Supplier and Product Update - 4Q2011.