Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Peers, not prices, persuade online shoppers

British consumers may be going online to bag a bargain, but when it comes to making a purchase over a third of respondents (36%) to Avail Intelligence's Trust Index survey rated recommendations and reviews as the most useful feature of an e-commerce site.

Price matching was something that 25% said they looked for most in an Internet shopping site. More nascent e-commerce technologies, such as 3D imaging and video, are yet to catch on but Kristiansson believes this will change as they become more widely adopted by retailers.

American online shoppers are similarly swayed by their peers. Recent research from Opinion Research Corporation found that 84% of consumers said browsing reviews influenced their decision on whether or not to purchase a product or service.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Best-in-Class Companies Embrace Customer Feedback as a Strategic Imperative

According to the Aberdeen Group's new benchmark report, called The ROI on Customer Feedback: Why It Pays to Listen to the Voice of the Customer, more than half of all survey respondents indicated that is was either very easy or somewhat easy to justify the related expenditures. More telling is the fact that 55% of all survey respondents have made zero budgetary cuts for customer feedback initiatives while 19% have actually increased their spend in this area.

These findings suggest that a majority of companies understand that customer feedback delivers a broad range of business benefits, both tactical and strategic. In fact, the insights gleaned from customer feedback can benefit multiple parts of the organization. The customer service department, for example, may use the insights to measure and improve performance in terms of problem resolution and call center deflection. The marketing organization may use the insights to understand what specific messages and offers are likely to resonate in the marketplace and elicit a favorable response or for improving website performance or any other aspect of the customer experience. The operations team may use the insights to streamline business processes and improve service quality. The product management team may use the insights as the basis for developing, testing and refining new products and services. The market research department may use the insights to identify consumer trends and competitive activity.

Aberdeen research suggests that when it comes to customer feedback, achieving the desired objectives means more than just deploying the right set of enabling technologies. Success in listening to the voice of the customer also requires a combination of strategic actions and organizational capabilities. For example, Aberdeen found that Best-in-Class companies are twice as likely as Laggards to have a process for disseminating the insights gleaned from customer feedback to key decision makers. They are also far better equipped when it comes to acting upon customer feedback across all departments and channels and then communicating the results of the actions that were taken back to customers, which is a necessary (but often broken) link in the chain.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fortune 500 Corporate Blog Adoption Slow and Steady

The Fortune 500 are farther along in their adoption of public-facing corporate blogs than previous data has suggested. This was the key finding of a new research study, “The Fortune 500 and Blogging: Slow and Steady” conducted by Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes, Ph.D., Senior Fellow and Research Chair of the Society for New Communications Research and Chancellor Professor of Marketing at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Eric Mattson, CEO of Financial Insite Inc., a Seattle-based research firm.

The report conclusively shows that while the Fortune 500 companies are adopting social media at a slower rate than other leading businesses, universities and charities, many more of them are blogging than has been previously reported.

Key Findings include:

-- 81 of the Fortune 500 or 16% currently have public-facing blogs.

-- This compares with 39 percent of the Inc. 500; 41 percent of the higher education sector and 57 percent of the nation’s Top 200 Charities.

-- 28 percent of the Fortune 500’s blogs link to Twitter accounts. (Other Fortune 500 companies have Twitter accounts, but they are not linked to their blogs)

-- Five of the top ten companies have public blogs: Wal-Mart, Chevron, General Motors, Ford, and Bank of America.

-- 90 percent of the Fortune 500’s blogs have the comments feature enabled.

-- The computer software/hardware technology industry has the most blogs, followed by the food and drug industry, financial services, Internet services, semi-conductors, retail and automotive respectively.

-- Ten percent of the Fortune 500’s blogs link to podcasts; 21 percent incorporate video

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Survey Shows Most Organizations Will Maintain Priority of Green IT Projects Despite Recession

The recession is resulting in cutbacks across all projects, including green IT programmes, but a survey by Gartner, Inc. indicates that most organizations will maintain the priority of green IT projects.

In December of 2008, Gartner surveyed 620 respondents who had responsibility for, or were very knowledgeable about, their organization’s green IT programs. Respondents were asked a series of questions about the development of their organization and IT environment programs and also the impact of the recession on green IT initiatives.

A significant number of organizations, particularly in the US and Brazil, anticipated reducing the priority of green IT projects in 2009. However, in most cases, particularly in Europe and Asia/Pacific, the recession will not change or will increase the priority of green IT projects. There is still some education required, particularly in Asia/Pacific, related to the financial benefits of many green IT projects.

Gartner also asked organizations that had a specific capital expenditure budget for green IT (22 per cent of respondents), what proportion of total IT capital expenditure this represented. Overall, more than one-third of respondents (46 per cent in Europe, 38 per cent in Asia/Pacific and 36 per cent in the US) anticipated spending more than 15 per cent of their IT capital budgets on green IT projects.

Only 60 organizations (10 per cent of respondents) had no green IT projects at the time of the survey. With the exception of Asia/Pacific, most organizations with no green IT projects at present anticipated addressing the issue. It found that 40 per cent of US and 58 per cent of European respondents were very likely to launch projects in the future, with only 15 per cent of respondents for Asia/Pacific. Additionally, relatively few respondents did not have green IT projects as a result of the recession.

For end-user organizations, lean and green should not be conflated, but CIOs need to break down budget silos and consider the wider cost-benefits to the organization if they are to help the business exploit the financial benefits derived from green IT projects.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009 Service Cloud and Twitter - other CRM vendors likely to follow suit has announced that Twitter will be added to its Service Cloud solution, and will offer integration with customer data to subscribers from the summer. is the first to offer integration with social networking websites, however according to independent market analyst firm Datamonitor, other customer relationship management (CRM) vendors are likely to closely follow the company and begin addressing demands for social networking in the near future.

Following on from the announcement of its new customer service initiative, called the Service Cloud, has announced it will add integration with Twitter to this solution, adding to its existing integration with Google and Facebook. This solution connects social networking with client interaction processes, utilizing forums and search engines for customer feedback. The integration with Twitter will be available from summer 2009, allowing automated searches of Twitter content to be pulled into Salesforce CRM. Twitter has recently improved its search capabilities; after acquiring Summize in July 2008, Twitter now offers users the ability to search all updates to find relevant words or phrases. This technology will be utilized by customers who will be able to select appropriate phrases or words to create records in the Service Cloud.

Many large brands have begun to use Twitter as a customer service tool, such as Bank of America, Comcast, JetBlue, and Zappos. These companies are offering customers advice in response to queries and providing information about new products and services. This allows companies to make information more readily available and, additionally, customers are sharing advice and information among themselves. Using, these brands will be able to set up alerts when someone mentions the company name in order to track sentiments. will offer analytics capabilities for customers to find trends and data patterns. is the first CRM vendor to announce integration with social networking websites to its Service Cloud. It has approached the market early before customers are fully aware of the need for this type of integration. Datamonitor believes this timing is right because websites such as Facebook and Twitter are undergoing a rapid uptake in users. According to TweetRush, a service providing estimated statistics on Twitter usage, in early February Twitter had around 400,000 active users per day; this figure had risen to over 600,000 active users on average per day by the end of March. Facebook now has 175 million active users and, interestingly, from the website's own statistics page, more than four million users become fans of Pages each day.

This is particularly relevant for, which is utilizing brand Pages to push information to Google through the Service Cloud in order to provide information to its customers and push customer information back to the brands.'s clients need to develop brand equity and focus on improving customer service and customer retention rates, particularly in this slow economy. Twitter is an open web service with information available to all internet users. It was a logical next step for to add this to its Service Cloud. Datamonitor believes that the Twitter integration is even more relevant than the previously announced Facebook integration, which relies on customers joining Facebook groups or Pages. has been early to market with the announcement of social networking integration for CRM, and appears to be one step ahead of its competitors. It has also gained significant publicity through these announcements, something at which the company excels. However, there will be challenges with integrating the data and ensuring its customers can utilize the information fully. Although integration with Twitter has been announced, the solution is not yet available. There could be delays in ensuring seamless integration of data.

In addition, the post length of 140 characters may not be enough for customers to provide full information on problems or even positive feedback. The Service Cloud relies on customers posting useful information and it may be difficult to find value from the vast amount of data provided on Twitter, particularly as the numbers of customers grow. The reliability of Twitter is questionable, with information being updated very slowly and error messages often occurring. These problems are likely to increase as it grows to support more users. Twitter is not currently a money making business, rather a social networking experiment, and is still in the research phase. Until the technology matures, these problems are likely to remain. This may be an issue for vendors such as that are integrating their applications with Twitter, and it could potentially cause delays with development of joint solutions.

There are likely to be concerns for Twitter users around data privacy, and customers will be wary of posting information that could make them marketing targets. Currently under Twitter's privacy policy, it states that the company does "engage certain trusted third parties to perform functions and provide services to us, including, without limitation, hosting and maintenance, customer relationship, database storage and management, and direct marketing campaigns". There is a need for more stringent regulations to be put in place, both by Twitter and government organizations, in order to ensure customer trust is maintained and encourage users to post information. The success of's Service Cloud relies heavily on consumers adopting and continuing to use these technologies.

CRM competitors are likely to follow closely behind. Oracle and SAP have begun to consider this but have so far been more tentative than Oracle is offering the option for enterprises to publish information from CRM OnDemand directly to Twitter, and SAP has demoed Twitter monitoring as a part of its Business Suite 7. Unified communications and telephony vendors are also likely to form relationships, with Avaya having just announced integration with Facebook for its new Aura platform.

Datamonitor expects more announcements of integration with social networks from both CRM and analytics vendors, but vendors need to be innovative in their use of these technologies rather than jumping on the bandwagon. Vendors should spend time thinking of ways in which social networking integrations can benefit customers from either a cost savings or business process improvements perspective.
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Modernizing CRM Contact Center Will Create Higher Impact and Lower Costs

Although critical to success for most enterprises, the customer service contact center is undervalued by most business leaders, according to Gartner Inc. This lack of priority is reflected in underfunding of the customer service function and often results in an enterprise’s failure to remain competitive.

Customer service, as delivered through the contact center, currently suffers from an overall lack of commitment to the customer service representative (CSR) in the form of tools, training and compensation. Gartner said that companies need to redouble their efforts in this area and extend the customer Web site, add multiple communications channels, and plan carefully to improve agent performance through the introduction of new technologies.

Gartner predicts that by 2012, managing Web interactions will be a core competency of the contact center, with customers expecting the contact center CSR to know their customers’ Web posts in relevant online communities at the time of a telephone interaction. This will mean that by 2014, it will be an accepted practice in 30 percent of contact centers to have two standard monitors on each agent’s desktop.

Gartner has identified four key areas that contact centers need to focus on to create a higher impact at lower costs:

Personalized Customer Assistance -- In a time of budget freezes, this investment is important because it offers higher revenue and reduced agent churn. Agent attrition is reduced because they have a better feeling of competency and success.

Better Contact Center Application Design -- Younger CSRs expect a more compelling, responsive and intuitive CRM interface to match the experience with the consumer applications that they take for granted. Gartner predicts that consumer applications will extend to the desktop as well as the Web site to the point that smaller less-formal customer service centers will be able to look at Web 2.0 technologies that enable common technologies (such as Facebook) to be used as the agent desktop, with the necessary telephony components and business information integrated through such "gadgets."

Integrating Web Interactions/Functionality Into the Contact Center -- In a few years, customers will expect an organization to lead them (as required) from self-service on the Web by detecting that they need help, then guide them into an assisted chat session and/or co-browsing session (if necessary), then transfer them into a telephone conversation. At the same time, the organization should be maintaining and transferring the context of each interaction as it evolves.

Speedy, Accurate Service Interactions -- With the rise of multichannel and multimodal interactions, Gartner expects most contact center managers to consider either a second monitor for each desktop or a wide (landscape) monitor for better, faster navigation by the CSR.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Worldwide Enterprise Software Market to Experience Flat Growth in 2009

Worldwide enterprise software revenue is forecast to total $222.6 billion in 2009, reflecting a "flat" 0.3 percent growth rate from 2008 revenue of $221.9 billion, according to Gartner, Inc. Analysts said that despite an unsettled outlook, the enterprise software market has the potential to weather the current economic downturn better than in 2001 and 2002 because market conditions are dramatically different in terms of maturity, penetration, confidence in IT, and the geographical and vertical mix.

Despite the economic gloom and uncertain future, Garner analysts said that software vendors that have a balanced mix of channel, new license and maintenance revenue streams, and flexibility on contractual terms (such as software as a service [SaaS], open source and outsourcing) have the strongest options for continued growth. Larger vendors may be less vulnerable as they have both a good geographic balance and a sizeable maintenance stream and can bundle and price aggressively to gain a greater share of software budgets.

This year, the bulk of enterprise software segments are still anticipated to have mildly positive growth rates. However, some of the largest segments such as operating systems, office suites, middleware, storage and digital content creation are forecast to have negative growth rates. Appliances, an emerging way of combining hardware with essential software functionality, are set to be on the forefront of growth alongside software markets including hierarchical storage management and archive software, Web conferencing, and security information and event management.

Partnerships will also become extremely important as the need to be more geographically dispersed and more vertically integrated increases. Aligning with partners that can provide local knowledge or industry insight will be a considerable differentiator.

Vendors need to be mindful of the fact that although all regions will experience the economic slowdown, some will still bear more opportunities than others. Gartner advised vendors to consider further diversifying their go-to-market strategy across geographies and vertical industries to mitigate the effects of the economic downturn.

This new forecast has been revised down from Gartner's 4Q08 forecast for 2009 of 6.6 percent growth as projections for the global economies continue to worsen. The full-year 2009 forecast could decrease an additional 1 to 2 percentage points leading to negative growth in 2009 if deteriorating economic conditions continue.

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