Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Failure to Manage and Retain Key Employees Negatively Affecting Corporations' Bottom Line

The Corporate Executive Board, a research and advisory services company, announced research that indicates companies' failure to manage and retain top talent is negatively affecting their balance sheets. In fact, 25 percent of top employees plan to change jobs in the next 12 months alone.

For organizations that haven't yet faced the intense time and financial pressure associated with retaining top talent, the cost of high-potential departures may be shocking. For each high-potential employee that departs, an employer will lose as much as 3.5x that employee's total annual compensation. Organizations that think they are immune may also be surprised to learn that more than half of employers surveyed acknowledged that their own organizations are ineffective at managing and retaining top talent.

Across geography, industry and economic cycle, high-potential employees can have a substantial impact on business results. However, 64 percent of high-potential employees say they are unhappy with their development activities. What's more, fewer than one-in-three organizations reported significant returns from investments made in their top employees. 

More information can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Emerging Markets, Workforce Analytics, and the Cloud are Revolutionary Trends Expected to Change the Human Capital Landscape

Recognizing that companies worldwide are struggling to focus on post-recession and global growth agendas, Deloitte has prepared a new report which identifies 12 revolutionary and evolutionary trends that will transform and dominate the agenda for human capital leaders and professionals in the coming years.

In the report, Deloitte identifies critical ‘game changing’ trends along with some more familiar to human resources (HR) and business leaders. Topping the list are HR and talent in emerging markets, workforce analytics and HR technology in the cloud, particularly software as a solution (SaaS).

Deloitte’s report, “Human Capital Trends 2011: Revolution/Evolution” explores, in detail, the following HR trends and their expected impact on business, employees and their communities:

-- Workforce analytics: With workforce analytics, organizations are increasingly moving toward HR and talent approaches based on more data, more information and more modeling to drive their most important HR decisions. The shift involves the transition to new analytic-driven processes and tools and a focus on building the capabilities, in HR and across the company, to operate in a data and analytics rich environment.

-- HR in the cloud: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) can create the possibility of rapid business model innovation, improved service levels and new ways of controlling costs — vital for organizations responding to the aftereffects of the economic downturn and pent-up business demand of HR.

-- Emerging markets: For many HR organizations, emerging markets are now ranked as a top priority—accelerating in their emphasis and importance throughout and after the global recession. The growth in importance of emerging markets can have profound implications for HR services at many levels, from overall strategy, frontline delivery and dramatically changing talent priorities.

-- From ladder to lattice: Today’s workplace isn’t what it used to be. Work is more virtual, collaborative and project-based. The workforce isn’t what it used to be either. Workers’ needs, expectations and definitions of success now vary widely, rendering obsolete a one-size-fits-all approach to talent management. The corporate ladder is folding. The Corporate Lattice is emerging.

-- Next generation leadership: Meeting emerging business challenges can require new skills and different qualities – and fresh models for finding, developing and engaging the next generation leaders. Given the demands of convergence, globalization, technology and the pace of change, organizations are rethinking their approaches to developing next generation leaders.

-- Diversity & inclusion: Innovation in today’s environment depends on bringing diverse thinking to the table. The roles people play in an organization and the expectations they can have for influence and advancement, are just as important in unlocking their potential contributions. Diversity is both table stakes and a game changer.


-- Talent in the upturn: Companies are struggling to move beyond recession based talent approaches and turn their attention to retention and develop. High unemployment may likely continue to coexist with critical shortages in specific talent areas, such as research and development and leadership. The challenge could be even greater when rates of voluntary turnover return to normal post recession levels.

-- Chief Operating Officers for HR: The creation of a chief operating officer (COO) role for HR is an emerging approach given the scale and complexity of HR operations and programs. The HR COO is the leader who focuses on how HR services are delivered, as well as the design, development and implementation of those HR services globally.

-- Leading in a regulated world: Managing risk requires critical involvement across the entire executive suite – and HR can play a central role orchestrating these activities. For many industries risk and regulatory issues are at the top of the c-suite agenda and this requires ensuring that the training, skills, knowledge, processes, controls, capabilities and tools come together in meaningful ways for employees across the enterprise.

-- Collective leadership: Given the coming challenges, senior executives recognize the need for new and expanding approaches to collective leadership: i.e. what can happen when a large group of people come together and commit to help make big things happen. HR leaders can take a lead in introducing and championing new approach to leadership, followership and transformation.

-- Contingent workforce: As workforce boundaries continue to expand, companies that understand the issues associated with contractors and manage them well, can benefit from improved operational performance, lower labor costs, smarter staffing decisions and stronger HR alignment with business objectives.

-- Employer health care reform: With its far-reaching effects, health reform continues to compel employers to treat health benefits as a strategic and workforce planning issue and the decisions they make may cascade more deeply into other parts of the business.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 People Issues in Customer Support - Research Results

Customer support, at its root, is about relationships with people. Even its core technology falls under the rubric of customer relationship management. It often represents an organization's face and branding to the public. A great deal of literature now exists on the technology, metrics, and infrastructure behind this profession. But relatively little survey research benchmarks how well our profession delivers what it does: serving customers, and training, coaching, and evaluating the people who serve them.

This survey, which began life in 2010 as Service and Leadership Trends in Customer Support, examines the "people" issues that drive customer support operations: how satisfied customers are, how agents feel, how we supervise people and measure performance, and the systems we have in place to train and coach people. Sponsored by SupportIndustry.com, it provides a unique annual snapshot of how well the industry manages its human capital and delivers its end product.

The current edition of this survey was conducted via e-mail in April 2011, drawing 80 responses from a wide range of industries including technology (34%), health care (10%), and services (9%). Most respondents were in executive (25%) or managerial (45%) positions, along with people in supervisory (9%), front line (6%) and other roles. There was a broad size distribution of support operations, with 30% coming from support operations whose annual budgets exceeded US $1 million, and the remainder fairly evenly distributed across budgets ranging from under US $100,000 to US $1 million.

Survey Highlights

Customers are happy, but a little less so: Self-reported customer sat ratings track very closely with last year's results, with the majority of those surveyed reporting levels of over 80%, and 35% of respondents delivering average customer sat levels over 90%. But nearly 6% more of those surveyed reported that their average customer was at least somewhat frustrated by the end of the call.

Agents are ready for (almost) anything: Over 85% of respondents feel their agents are "confident" or "very confident" in typical customer situations, with 45% (versus 35% last year) giving them the latter ranking. The majority feel they are also confident in critical customer situations. The biggest challenges revolve around issue resolution and communications skills, with a noticeable spike in pressures on average handle time.

Training: keeping it real: This year's survey drilled deeper into agent training and its effectiveness, and found that the highest marks went toward training that involved role-playing, simulation, and realistic scenarios based on actual customer issues. There is also a correlation between supervisor training and customer satisfaction.

Performance evaluation: metrics loom larger: Support managers continue to use a wide range of tools for performance evaluation; however, there is more reliance on performance metrics and less on customer satisfaction levels compared with last year's results.

Get your full copy of the SupportIndustry.com survey results.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Survey: When Self-service via the Web Fails, Majority of Customers Call the Contact Center

NICE Systems Ltd., announced key findings of its 2010 Consumer Channel Preference Survey on the communications channels preferred by consumers when contacting business and service providers. The survey reveals that the role of the contact center is evolving to “Tier 2” status, that is -- for taking care of escalated service requests that were not addressed by other channels such as the web or Interactive Voice Response (IVR). This change in consumer behavior reflects the importance and strategic role that the contact center must play as the front line of an organization’s person-to-person customer interactions. It also highlights an opportunity for reducing the number of calls that are deflected into the contact center by enhancing web self-service functionality. To do this, however, an organization requires cross-channel insights that are derived from both the web and the contact center interactions.

The survey polled more than 2,000 people, between the ages of 18 – 65, in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, regarding channel preference when contacting companies in the following industries: financial services, telecom, retail, travel, and insurance. It revealed that consumers often use a variety of communication channels. When they are unable to resolve an issue during their initial contact with a business, they most often turn to the contact center.

Some of the key results of the survey include:

-- 64% of consumers surveyed contact a business through its website at least monthly; 44% call the contact center at least once monthly; and likewise – 55% visit a physical location;

-- Of those who cannot resolve their issue through the website, 53% will call the contact center next;

-- In cases where customers do not resolve an issue during a visit to a business’s premises (e.g. branch office), 51% of respondents then turn to the contact center for assistance;

-- 35% of consumers prefer to interact with a live phone representative for service-related issues, whereas only 22% prefer to interact with a live phone representative for purchase related issues.

More information on Web Self-Service can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Good Service is Good Business: American Consumers Willing to Spend More With Companies That Get Service Right

Americans are placing an even greater premium on quality customer service this year. In a stronger economic environment, seven in ten Americans (70%) are willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. This is up substantially from 2010, when six in ten Americans (58%) said they would spend an average of 9% more with companies that deliver great service.

But despite the greater value Americans are placing on customer service, many businesses don't seem to be making the grade with consumers.

-- In fact, six in ten Americans (60%) believe businesses haven't increased their focus on providing good customer service -- up from 55% in 2010.

-- Among this group, 26% think companies are actually paying less attention to service.

These findings were released today in the American Express® Global Customer Service Barometer, a survey conducted in the U.S. and nine other countries exploring attitudes and preferences toward customer service.

Service Can Make or Break Brands

Americans vote with their wallets when they encounter subpar service; 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience. On the other hand, the promise of better customer service is a draw for shoppers: three in five Americans (59%) would try a new brand or company for a better service experience.

Yet Americans feel most companies are failing to get the message that service matters. Nearly two-thirds of consumers feel companies aren't paying enough attention to service:

-- Two in five (42%) said companies are helpful but don't do anything extra to keep their business.

-- One in five (22%) think companies take their business for granted.
A notable bright spot? Small businesses. Four in five Americans (81%) agree that smaller companies place a greater emphasis on customer service than large businesses.

The Multiplier Effect

Consumers will tell others about their customer service experiences, both good and bad, with the bad news reaching more ears. Americans say they tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and nearly twice as many (16 people) about poor ones -- making every individual service interaction important for businesses.

Customers who have a fantastic service experience say friendly representatives (65%) who are ultimately able to solve their concerns (66%) are most influential.

Poor Service Leaves Customers Seeing Red...
Poor service experiences leave many Americans hot under the collar. More than half of respondents (56%) admit to having lost their temper with a customer service professional.

-- Consumers age 30-49 are the most frequently angered (61%).

-- Young people are more patient, with more than half of those age 18-29 saying they've never lost their temper with a service professional (54%).

...And Once They're Angry, Watch Out!
Americans who have lost their temper due to a poor service experience will express their displeasure in a host of ways, including insisting on speaking to a supervisor (74%) and hanging up the phone (44%). Perhaps most unsettling for businesses on the receiving end of customer anger: two in five Americans have threatened to switch to a competitor (39%).

Not everyone keeps it clean when dealing with a frustrating service situation either. Expletives have crossed the lips of 16% of respondents, with men more likely to use "choice words" (20%) compared with women (12%). 

More information on customer service can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Benchmark Research Finds A Long Road Yet to Travel to Maturity of Contact Centers

Contact centers are in desperate need of technology transformation to meet the demands of their customers and agents, according to landmark research from Ventana Research, which is based on input from almost 500 contact centers in all industry sectors. The research makes clear for the first time the little-understood challenges faced by management, agents and customers in trying to navigate the landscape of immature processes, lack of information readiness, siloed applications and outmoded technology involved in the typical multi-channel contact center.

Applying the Ventana Research Maturity Index, the research found that more than half of organizations' contact centers are currently at the Tactical level of maturity, the lowest of the four levels. Although many centers now support multiple channels of communications only a few can track interactions across channels and even then it is typically only for traditional channels like telephone, interactive voice response (IVR) systems and e-mail. The analysis placed only 11 percent of the centers at the highest Innovative level because they have integrated new channels of customer interactions, are utilizing knowledge management to support agents and use advanced analytics to guide customer experience management. On the wish list for those contact centers aspiring to mature, the research found, are speech and social media analytics and real time agent analytics.

The research found much potential for improvement in the typical contact center. Among the possible improvements are optimizing the system using modern tools and process; only one in five companies have done so. Also, more than half of contact centers have deployed eight different applications including quality management (79%), workforce management (67%), customer feedback management (59%) and CRM (57%), leaving substantial room for integration. With respect to knowledge management, two-thirds of organizations indicated it is very important to successful customer management yet only 43 percent have implemented a knowledge management system.

More contact center research can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com.

Survey Reveals Recession Has Fundamentally Changed the IT Function as CIOs Look to a Multi-Sourced, Flexible Future Based Around Mobile Devices

Harvey Nash Group released its 2011 Harvey Nash / PA Consulting Group CIO Survey revealing that the IT function is emerging from the recession leaner, more flexible and partnering with a wider range of smaller local and offshore suppliers.

The 13th edition of the survey, undertaken by Harvey Nash in association with PA Consulting Group, reflected the views of over 2,500 technology leaders around the world and reveals that CIOs are:

-- Increasingly using flexible labor. 84 per cent of CIOs are looking to increase or maintain this level of flexibility. The majority of CIOs (76 per cent) have a flexible labor component of up to one-quarter of their entire workforce that includes the use of contract, temporary workers and offshore workers.

-- Spending a greater percentage of their IT budget on outsourced activity than ever before. Almost one-third of global CIOs will spend up to a quarter of their entire IT budget this year on outsourced activity, and almost half (46 per cent) expect to increase their outsource spend over the coming year.

-- Turning away from large-scale suppliers and increasingly partnering with multiple niche suppliers who can provide specialist skills to drive innovation around mobile, cloud and web computing. 39 per cent are expecting to increase their dependence on multi-sourcing in the next 12 months.

-- Focusing on building business rather than technical skills in their internal teams. In a significant drop this year, less than half (42 per cent) of global CIOs felt their organization suffered from a shortage of technology skills. This is a 16 per cent decline from 2010 and corresponds with the growth of multi-sourcing and use of flexible labor. By far the most in demand skills for internal teams were business analyses and business facing architecture.

More information on IT operations can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Survey Shines Light on Evolution of IT Role Within Small- and Mid-Sized Businesses

A recent survey of more than 500 decision makers shows that the IT role within small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) is evolving to include business development and day-to-day operations responsibilities.

The survey, conducted by Zoomerang Online Surveys and Polls, provides a glimpse of how IT is managed among SMBs and offers a snapshot of cloud computing awareness and adoption.

According to the survey, of the 78 percent indicating they have in-house support, 79 percent said that the role of IT is involved in other areas of the business, including operations, business development and sales. Of the 22 percent outsourcing support to vendors, 52 percent cited cost as the primary reason.

Following a traditional path of conservative investment in technology, SMBs have been slow to adopt new technologies, such as cloud computing. The survey found that only 10 percent of SMBs have deployed cloud technologies and 72 percent of respondents don't understand or are not familiar with the technology.

Of the businesses currently without cloud computing technologies, only 2 percent plan to deploy cloud-based solutions this year, with an additional 20 percent still weighing the cost and benefits of various solutions.

More information on IT can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

“Spend Less, but Grow More” is Easier Said Than Done as Companies Struggle to Balance Cost Management with Growth Plans

Just when America’s largest businesses thought they had solved the cost reduction-growth conundrum brought on by the Great Recession, many organizations continue to face a challenging paradox – grow more, spend less -- according to findings in Deloitte’s enterprise cost reduction survey.

The survey, which gauges the cost reduction and management practices of 139 executives in the United States from Fortune 1000 companies, reveals that 90 percent of respondents expect their company’s revenues to grow in the next two years – but 80 percent are likely to undertake cost improvement initiatives during the same timeframe.

The survey shows that over the next 24 months, 61 percent of respondents said their companies will look to cut costs in a few divisions, business units, functions or geographies through methods such as asset sales, IT cost reduction or divestiture. One-half of all surveyed respondents plan to intensify existing productivity improvement programs, such as six sigma and lean operations, to further reduce costs, while 35 percent plan to drive all divisions, business units and corporate functions to reduce a fixed percent of their costs. In addition, 54 percent of respondents expect to reduce costs by establishing targets in excess of 10 percent during the next two years.

Looking back at how organizations increased their cost-management capabilities during the past 24 months, respondents reported implementing new policies and procedures to strengthen compliance mechanisms (73 percent), improving forecasting, budgeting and reporting processes for effective cost management (67 percent), setting-up IT infrastructure, systems and business intelligence platforms to refine the collection and reporting of cost data (26 percent) and creating a new internal position to drive cost management (17 percent). However, some of these cost reduction efforts fell short, as 36 percent of the respondents reported that they were unable to meet their annual cost reduction targets.

More information can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Consumers Juggling Home and Mobile Electronics Devices Would Welcome One Source of Technical Help to Manage it All

Consumers who are juggling the use of their home-based and mobile consumer electronics devices would welcome integrated technical support to manage them, especially if they could turn to a single company for help, according to a study from Accenture.

Accenture conducted the survey to determine if consumers who are faced with a proliferation of new devices -- both personal and business -- perceive the need for integrated technology support across multiple digital devices. The 21-country survey focused on consumers who own both computers and mobile phones or smartphones.

A clear majority (63 percent) of the “super-users” surveyed said they would like to have one company provide technical support for most or all of their home and mobile consumer electronics devices, regardless of the specific communications services they use, which range from fixed landline to wireless, broadband, cable and satellite services. A “super-user” is defined as someone who owns and uses 14 or more consumer electronics devices.
When asked about the kinds of technical issues for which they would want support, all of the respondents focused primarily on computer-related issues, and:

-- sixty-eight percent indicated they would want support to reduce the likelihood of serious computer problems that could put data at risk or cost a lot of money to fix;

-- sixty-seven percent want increased security from virus and malware attacks that could put data at risk;

-- sixty-two percent desire improved computer speed for tasks such as browsing the Internet; and,

-- fifty-seven percent want help obtaining the latest software or security patches.

Respondents want various support options from one source

All of the consumers interviewed expressed interest in a wide variety of support options. Regarding remote support:

-- more than one-third (36 percent) indicated their top choice would be to work with someone remotely (such as chatting online, speaking on the phone, or communicating via email with a technician) and;

-- one-third (33 percent) prefer that technicians remotely access their computer at night or during other “down time.”

When asked to rank companies that would be the best fit to provide technical support for desktop or laptop computers, more than one-third (34 percent) of all respondents chose a company they pay for service on a monthly basis, such as a communications provider, cable or satellite company, and, more than half of the “super-users” (52 percent) agreed. More than half (58 percent) of smartphone consumers said they would look to mobile phone or smartphone providers as a likely source of technical support for these devices.

More information on service and support can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com.