Thursday, October 24, 2013

U.S. “Switching Economy” Puts Up To $1.3 Trillion of Revenue Up for Grabs for Companies Offering Superior Customer Experiences

Despite having more data and insights into consumer desires and preferences, companies in the U.S. have failed to meaningfully improve customer satisfaction or reverse rising switching rates among their customers. As a result, there is a potential $1.3 trillion of revenue at play in the U.S. market represented by the “switching economy,” according to new research released by Accenture.

The research revealed that 51 percent of U.S. consumers switched service providers in the past year due to poor customer service experiences, up five percent from 2012. Switching rates were highest among retailers, cable and satellite providers and retail banks – making companies in these sectors the most vulnerable, but also giving them potentially the most to gain.

Accenture’s analysis of consumer spending forecasts and switching rates revealed by the survey shows that $1.3 trillion of revenue is being transferred between companies in the U.S., forming a sizeable “switching economy.” The findings are published along with the ninth annual Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey, which measured the experiences of 12,867 customers in 32 countries and across 10 industries to gain insight into the changing dynamics of today’s “nonstop” customers and assess consumer attitudes toward marketing, sales and customer service practices. The survey included 1,256 U.S. customers.

The survey found that customers are increasingly frustrated with the level of services they experience: 91 percent of respondents are frustrated that they have to contact a company multiple times for the same reason; 90 percent by being put on hold for a long time; and 89 percent by having to repeat their issue to multiple representatives. There are also frustrations with marketing and sales practices: 85 percent of customers are frustrated by dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them; 84 percent by companies promising one thing, but delivering another; and 58 percent are frustrated with inconsistent experiences from channel to channel.

While up in some categories, the survey revealed that customer satisfaction levels have generally remained stagnant across industry sectors and overall satisfaction fell by one percent since 2012. Additionally, the rate of loyalty barely budged among U.S. customers, rising just one percent since 2012, and customers’ willingness to recommend a company rose by just two percent.

Against the high percentage of customers reporting they had switched providers in the last year, 81 percent said that the company could have done something differently to prevent them from switching. And, while the survey showed that price still plays an important role in the choice of provider, the customer experience is equally important.

Digital customer demands tailored experiences
The survey reveals 48 percent of U.S. customers use third-party online sources, such as official review sites, and one-quarter (25 percent) use customer reviews and comments from social media sites, to find out information about a company’s products and services. Word-of-mouth, including that shared via social media, continues to be the most important and impactful source of company information across industries and is used by 71 percent of the surveyed customers. In terms of the number of online channels used, 75 percent of respondents now use one or more online channels when researching companies’ products and services and 33 percent use mobile devices to access these online channels.

The gap between the use of digital technologies and the ability of companies to use them to improve customer experiences is highlighted by the survey’s findings that, among the 10 industries covered by the report, none made noticeable progress in providing customers with a tailored experience in 2013. In the utilities industry, only 18 percent of customers agreed their provider offered them a tailored experience. Even in industries, such as hotels and lodging and retail banking that are perceived to be leading in creating more personalized interactions, only 36 percent of customers acknowledge receiving a tailored experience, respectively.

Yet, while social media and online are regarded as important sources of information, one of the greatest frustrations customers have with companies is the perceived risk to privacy. Eighty-two percent of U.S. customers report that they feel companies they buy from cannot be trusted on how they use personal information provided to them.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Robert Half Releases 2014 Salary Guides

The just-released 2014 Salary Guides from Robert Half show that U.S. starting salaries for professional occupations are projected to increase an average of 3.7 percent next year. Technology positions are expected to see the largest gains among all fields researched, with an anticipated 5.6 percent increase in the average salary for newly hired workers. Accounting and finance professionals can expect starting salaries to rise an average of 3.4 percent, according to the research.  

Following is an overview of findings from the 2014 Salary Guides:
Accounting and Finance  
The average starting salary for a newly hired accounting and finance professional in the United States is forecast to rise 3.4 percent next year. Financial and business systems analysts are in demand. The market for internal auditors and entry-level accountants also has strengthened.

Overall, base compensation for information technology professionals in the United States is expected to increase 5.6 percent in the coming year. Mobile applications and software developers are in particularly strong demand. Business intelligence analysts also can expect to see higher than average salary increases.

Creative and Marketing
Professionals in creative fields in the United States can expect average starting salary gains of 3.3 percent in 2014. The shortage of creative talent with digital and mobile expertise continues, with user-experience and mobile designers in particular demand.

In the legal field, starting salaries for positions in the United States are anticipated to rise 2.7 percent, on average, in the coming year. Mid- and senior-level associates are sought by law firms looking to expand lucrative practice groups or invest in new service offerings.

Administrative and Office Support
Overall starting salaries for administrative professionals in the United States are expected to rise 3.3 percent in 2014. Executive and administrative assistants and customer service managers are in particular demand. Support staff also are needed in the healthcare field and in human resources.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2014

Gartner, Inc. highlighted the top ten technologies and trends that will be strategic for most organizations in 2014.  Gartner defines a strategic technology as one with the potential for significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to IT or the business, the need for a major dollar investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.

The top ten strategic technology trends for 2014 include:

Mobile Device Diversity and Management

Through 2018, the growing variety of devices, computing styles, user contexts and interaction paradigms will make "everything everywhere" strategies unachievable. The unexpected consequence of bring your own device (BYOD) programs is a doubling or even tripling of the size of the mobile workforce. This is placing tremendous strain on IT and Finance organizations. Enterprise policies on employee-owned hardware usage need to be thoroughly reviewed and, where necessary, updated and extended.

Mobile Apps and Applications

Gartner predicts that through 2014, improved JavaScript performance will begin to push HTML5 and the browser as a mainstream enterprise application development environment. Gartner recommends that developers focus on creating expanded user interface models including richer voice and video that can connect people in new and different ways. Apps will continue to grow while applications will begin to shrink.

The Internet of Everything

The Internet is expanding beyond PCs and mobile devices into enterprise assets such as field equipment, and consumer items such as cars and televisions. The problem is that most enterprises and technology vendors have yet to explore the possibilities of an expanded internet and are not operationally or organizationally ready. The combination of data streams and services created by digitizing everything creates four basic usage models – Manage; Monetize; Operate; Extend.

Hybrid Cloud and IT as Service Broker

Bringing together personal clouds and external private cloud services is an imperative. Enterprises should design private cloud services with a hybrid future in mind and make sure future integration/interoperability is possible.

Cloud/Client Architecture

Cloud/client computing models are shifting. In the cloud/client architecture, the client is a rich application running on an Internet-connected device, and the server is a set of application services hosted in an increasingly elastically scalable cloud computing platform. The cloud is the control point and system or record and applications can span multiple client devices. The client environment may be a native application or browser-based; the increasing power of the browser is available to many client devices, mobile and desktop alike.

The Era of Personal Cloud

The personal cloud era will mark a power shift away from devices toward services. In this new world, the specifics of devices will become less important for the organization to worry about, although the devices will still be necessary. Users will use a collection of devices, with the PC remaining one of many options, but no one device will be the primary hub. Rather, the personal cloud will take on that role.

Software Defined Anything

Software-defined anything (SDx) is a collective term that encapsulates the growing market momentum for improved standards for infrastructure programmability and data center interoperability driven by automation inherent to cloud computing, DevOps and fast infrastructure provisioning. As a collective, SDx also incorporates various initiatives like OpenStack, OpenFlow, the Open Compute Project and Open Rack, which share similar visions.

Web-Scale IT

Web-scale IT is a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting by rethinking positions across several dimensions. Large cloud services providers such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc., are re-inventing the way IT in which IT services can be delivered.  Their capabilities go beyond scale in terms of sheer size to also include scale as it pertains to speed and agility. If enterprises want to keep pace, then they need to emulate the architectures, processes and practices of these exemplary cloud providers.

Smart Machines

Through 2020, the smart machine era will blossom with a proliferation of contextually aware, intelligent personal assistants, smart advisors (such as IBM Watson), advanced global industrial systems and public availability of early examples of autonomous vehicles. The smart machine era will be the most disruptive in the history of IT. New systems that begin to fulfill some of the earliest visions for what information technologies might accomplish — doing what we thought only people could do and machines could not —are now finally emerging.

3-D Printing

Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 75 percent in 2014 followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015. While very expensive “additive manufacturing” devices have been around for 20 years, the market for devices ranging from $50,000 to $500, and with commensurate material and build capabilities, is nascent yet growing rapidly.
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Internet of Things Is Poised to Change Everything

The Internet of Things (IoT) represents a new construct in the information and communications technology (ICT) world that is occupying the minds of IT vendors, service providers, and systems integrators as it represents huge potential for new streams of revenue and new customers. International DataCorporation (IDC) has looked at the components, processes, and supporting IT and connectivity for the Internet of Things and expects IoT technology and services spending to generate global revenues of $4.8 trillion in 2012 and $8.9 trillion by 2020, growing at a compound annual rate (CAGR) of 7.9%.

Some enablers to the rise of IoT include:

-- Ongoing development of smart cities, cars, and houses

-- Enhanced connectivity infrastructure

-- An increasingly connected culture

Even though there is growing demand for the IoT, there are still several factors inhibiting growth of this market. This is not to say that they can't be overcome, but at present, they are hurdles that both vendors and enterprises will have to overcome to make IoT a reality. Some of these challenges are on the supply side, including lack of standards, global scalability, and a nascent ecosystem for application development. On the demand side, the challenges include lack of awareness and other IT/mobility priorities.

Despite these challenges, IDC expects the installed base of the Internet of Things will be approximately 212 billion "things" globally by the end of 2020. This will include 30.1 billion installed "connected (autonomous) things" in 2020. This is largely driven by intelligent systems that will be installed and collecting data – across both consumer and enterprise applications – by the end of the forecast period.

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