Thursday, February 25, 2010

Survey Finds Call Centers Ready to Invest in 2010

According to a new survey by Knowlagent, for the first time in many months -- call centers are looking ahead, exiting survival mode and focusing on how they will gain a competitive advantage by improving customer service and satisfaction levels in a post-recession environment.

The majority of respondents said they had no plans to reduce headcount or slash budgets in 2010. Instead, they plan to do more with what they already have or make additional investments with high discretion.

Because call centers continue to be the frontline of customer support and satisfaction, companies are looking for creative ways in 2010 to make them more effective and productive. Technology, process improvements and increased training are top areas of investment, according to the survey.

Some 55 percent of respondents said they plan to increase training frequency in 2010 and 54 percent said they will increase coaching. Forty-four percent said they plan to increase agent communication or at least maintain the frequency of communications.

The study found that call centers are most likely to invest in technology to meet their 2010 goals. Many call centers are expected to invest in new technologies and/or upgrade their existing systems over the next 12 months, according to the survey.

Additionally, there were some micro-trends observed based on the size of the call center. At-home agents and outsourcing were largely favored by centers with more than 500 agents. Other tactics included in the survey were reducing headcount, increasing headcount and increasing self-service.

More information on the service and support market can be found at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Multichannel experience most dysfunctional aspect of customer service

eGain Communications Corporation, a provider of multichannel customer service and knowledge management software, reported that over 70% of leading North American enterprise businesses were rated “below average” or “poor” in multichannel customer service experience.

eGain has been tracking and reporting on the state of customer service in North America and Europe over the last several years through the industry’s most comprehensive mystery-shopping multichannel research study. This research provides a holistic assessment of the state of multichannel customer experience within and across phone and eService channels.

Analysts used a “mystery shopping” approach to measure customer service performance in six dimensions: choice of communication channels, email response, web self-service, cross-channel consistency, single-channel cross-agent consistency, and phone customer service*. Scores for these metrics were then abstracted to an overall Service Quotient (SQ), on a scale of 0.0 (worst) to 4.0 (best), for each company, as well as for each industry sector and the overall market.

Key findings

- The retail sector ranked first in overall customer service, with an “above average” SQ of 2.3, followed by the communications sector (telecom, cable, satellite and Internet services) with a score of 2.2. Although the overall market remained flat in SQ, these two sectors improved their SQ scores over last year.

- SQ for the overall market was “below average” at 1.9 out of 4.0, with half of the companies in the “poor” or “below average” categories. There was only marginal improvement over last year’s score of 1.8.

- All areas except web self-service declined in performance, with web self-service posting a slight increase for the overall market from 1.7 in 2009 to 1.9 in 2010, still “below average”.

- A shocking 71% of the companies received a “poor” or “below average” score in cross-channel customer experience and 42% received a “poor” or “below average” rating in the cross-agent experience, measured on the phone channel. The percentage of companies that received a poor cross-channel score went up significantly—from 60% in 2009 to 71% in 2010. The overall market bordered on “poor” in this metric with a score of 1.0.

Top performing sectors in specific aspects of customer service are:

* Email customer service: Retail

* Web self-service: Retail

* Interaction choices: Communications

* Phone: Communications

* Cross-channel experience: Retail

* Cross-agent experience: Consumer goods

More information on the service and support industry can be found at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2010 Software Spending Devoted To Existing Systems More Than Emerging Technologies

More than half of IT software budgets in 2010 will go toward ongoing operations and maintenance of existing applications as opposed to implementing new software solutions, according to a recent survey by Forrester Research, Inc.

According to Forrester's Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q4 2009, the poor economic environment created a backlog of business application software upgrade activities for firms, and many plan to address the issue this year. Forty-one percent of enterprises and 21 percent of SMBs plan to upgrade existing finance and accounting software, 48 percent of enterprises and 19 percent of SMBs plan to upgrade their customer relationship management (CRM) applications, and 52 percent of enterprises and 18 percent of SMBs plan to upgrade industry-specific software. In addition, more than 20 percent of all SMBs have concrete plans to implement CRM or information and knowledge management (I&KM) software in 2010 or later, representing the fastest-growing SMB software markets in 2010.

While cloud computing has many enterprises interested, growth of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications is driving the market more, and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is still slow. About one-third of all enterprises have subscribed or plan to subscribe to SaaS applications in the next 12 months. However, this does not mean that one-third of all business transaction volumes are already running on SaaS applications. Rather, it reflects enterprises that use it for any application, most of which are not mission-critical today.

More information on the contact center industry can be found at

Monday, February 15, 2010

IT Workers Getting 1.8% Pay Bump

During two years of turmoil, the great recession of 2008-2009 brought budget cutting and layoffs across most IT organizations, large and small. But the picture is brightening for IT workers, and Computer Economics' 2010 IT Salary Report finds that IT organizations are budgeting to give the typical IT worker a 1.8% boost in pay.

By historical standards, the 1.8% median pay raise is meager. But in light of still-high unemployment rates, the finding indicates IT executives are responding to the need to retain their best workers and boost damaged morale. Computer Economics' previously published report, Outlook for IT Staffing and Spending in 2010, shows that IT organizations plan to increase operational budgets by a median 2% in 2010 and that more than one-third is planning increase staff, restoring some of the positions shed over the past two years.

That most IT workers will receive raises does not mean median total compensation will rise at the same rate, or at all. With persistent unemployment, organizations will be able to hire new workers at rates lower than those who were laid off during the recession. This should place downward pressure on U.S. national median salary levels over the coming months.

The annual salary study further finds that IT workers in the trenches are among those receiving the highest pay raises, while managers and IT executives, in that order, will get the lowest bumps. Those at the top will need to await a stronger recovery before total compensation levels will grow.

C-level executives and directors will be last in line to receive raises in 2010. This is partly because incentive pay makes up a larger portion of total compensation for executives and directors, but it is also an acknowledgement that the recession was harder on the rank and file. Managers, at 1.7%, will fare slightly better than executives fare but still receive below-average raises. As the economy improves, the executives and managers will no doubt see their compensation rise faster than the other groups.

At 2.1%, developers are receiving the highest pay raises. The developers group includes application programmers, data analysts, database administrators, business analysts, architects, and others involved in the development of new systems as well as the maintenance of existing systems.

Following close behind is the operations group, at 2.0%. The data center operations group includes computer operators, production control analysts, technical support representatives, and help desk representatives. We also include technical writers, trainers, and librarians in this group.

Also near the median is our final group of network and systems support personnel, who will receive an average raise of 1.9% at the median. This group includes network administrators, system administrators, storage administrators, security analysts, telecom analysts, and webmasters, among others.

More information on the contact center industry can be found at

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Following an expected increase in hiring, 57 percent of private-company CEOs plan to increase their workforce expenses

As signs of economic recovery continue to positively trend, approximately 57 percent of CEOs interviewed for PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Private Company Trendsetter Barometer survey plan to increase their total workforce expenses over the next 12 to 18 months, while 35 percent plan to remain the same, and only 5 percent expect a decrease.

Concurrently, the majority of private companies surveyed (57 percent) reported being affected by reductions in their companies’ workforces as a result of the economic crisis. While most employment areas were affected, there was a particular emphasis on middle management and skilled labor. In contrast, of those surveyed, 40 percent reported no layoffs or reductions as a result of strain economic conditions.

Despite workforce reductions, 61 percent of Trendsetter CEO’s believe their companies’ current workforce is well aligned to business objectives that must be met over the next 12-24 months. Thirty-four percent believe they are only somewhat aligned, and only two percent believe their company is not well aligned. Sixty-one percent believes their organization has the right skills at the management level to effectively lead their company over the next 12-24 months. However, 35 percent believe they will have skill gaps.

Interestingly, among the 35 percent of leading private companies that believe they will have to fill in some skills gaps, 82 percent are planning to fill the gap by hiring new talent. Additionally, 68 percent plan to train/develop existing talent, 32 percent plan to redeploy talent and 22 percent plan to use contractors as means to fill skills gaps at their companies.

Over the next 12 months, 39 percent of private company CEOs also plan to invest or are currently investing in talent management programs, while approximately 54 percent reported they have no plans to invest. The goal of the talent management programs as highlighted by 88 percent of those currently investing or planning to invest in these programs, is to better capitalize on existing workforces. One-in-five (20 percent) reported their goal is to better position their company from a recruiting perspective as an employee of choice as the economy recovers.

More information on the service and support industry can be found at

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Worldwide IT Spending to Grow 3% in 2010

Worldwide spending on information technologies will continue to feel the effects of the global recession throughout 2010. According to a new forecast from IDC, worldwide IT spending will increase by just 3% in 2010 at constant currency. In the United States, IT spending is forecast to increase by less than 3%.

Overall, IDC forecasts that worldwide IT spending will reach $1.48 trillion in 2010, still below the $1.5 trillion recorded in 2008. IDC's forecast of 3% growth in worldwide IT spending is at constant currency, and does not assume future fluctuations in the value of the U.S. dollar or other international currencies over the next 12 months. If the U.S. dollar weakens in 2010, the actual recorded growth of IT spending in US$ may be significantly higher. Measured in U.S. dollars, worldwide IT spending declined by 8% in 2009 due to the stronger value of the dollar compared to 2008.

On a global basis, IDC expects hardware spending to grow by 5% in 2010, while software spending and IT services spending will grow by 2% and 3%, respectively, in constant currency. In the hardware segment, worldwide PC spending is forecast to increase by 3% this year, up from the previous forecast of 2% growth, while the forecast for servers, storage, hardcopy peripherals, and network equipment have also been raised. The outlook for software and services spending reflects the lower value of contracts signed in the past year and continued caution toward new project-based spending in mature economies.

Regional highlights from IDC's new forecast include the following:

-- Asia/Pacific: Overall, the region will experience 6% growth in IT spending in constant currency, following a 1% decline in 2009. However, China and India are both expected to experience double-digit growth (11.5% and 13.5%, respectively) this year. Hardware spending will experience solid gains this year, driven by pent-up demand and new infrastructure deployment. Following a decline of 8% last year, no IT spending growth is forecast for Japan this year.

-- EMEA: Following a worst-ever decline of 7% in 2009 at constant currency, IT spending in Western Europe is forecast to be effectively flat in 2010. A few market segments are expected to return to positive growth, but the market sentiment across the region remains weak. In Central and Eastern Europe, the 20% spending crash of 2009 will be followed by 9% growth in 2010. IT spending in the Middle East and Africa will also return to growth this year (12% at constant currency) after a 2.5% decline last year.

--Latin America: IT spending in Latin America will be up by 5% this year. Overall spending will gradually accelerate in line with the recovery in business and consumer confidence. Increasing market maturity in some sectors will contribute to price competition as some buyers gravitate towards low-cost solutions. The key market of Brazil will return to a more robust level of growth by 2011.

--North America: The gradual economic recovery will enable many U.S. organizations to relieve some of the pent-up demand for system and network upgrades following last year's spending.

More information on the service and support industry can be found at