By: Steve Robins
Customer’s business problems like speeding up loan processing or improving the quality of customer service remain relatively constant. The specifics will evolve more quickly due to environmental forces and technological capabilities, but in most cases, the overall problems remain relatively constant. So, when addressing a problem, it’s important to separate the technology from the problem being solved. Remember, different technologies will be able to solve the same business issue over time.
Myopia? Consider the classic railroad story from Theodore Levitt’s 1975 HBS Marketing Mypoia article. Railroad companies failed to realize that trains were a means to an end – going from place to place, rather than the end itself. So when planes and autos came along, the train companies failed to respond and never again regained their footing.
Customer Care Technologies Evolve. A more recent example is evolving today in customer care. This is of particular interest to me since I was one of the first tech research analysts to write on eCRM back in 1998 (am I dating myself?) at The Yankee Group. Companies still need to provide good customer care to keep customers happy and avoid attrition, while at the same time working to keep costs low. Same problem BUT the technology to support that problem continues to evolve. So back in 1998 the old line call center vendors still dominated but point solutions for email auto response and chat were beginning to emerge. These later evolved into web-based customer service platforms which have migrated to “The Cloud” via the SaaS model.
ServiceTweets? It was inevitable (if not intentional) that CRM platforms would embrace Web 2.0. Remember: similar business problems but new ways to solve those problems, like… Twitter (!). Recently, SearchCRM talked about how Comcast has been monitoring Twitter and other Web 2.0 posts, trolling for customer service issues, among other things. The NY Times reported on how Salesforce.com is integrating Twitter into its service cloud (check out the video) for an integrated contact center experience. What’s really interesting is that now customers can actually have customer care dialogs without having to search for the service provider like Comcast. Instead, Comcast finds them. So Comcast can serve their customers in better ways. It also means that when you post a comment about Comcast, Comcast just may be watching behind the curtain which raises privacy concerns. But I digress…
Implications. Yes, the same macro business challenges remain (faster, cheaper, better, more intimate customer service). But Web 2.0 gives companies new ways to address them. As new Web 2.0 technologies come online, older tech companies avoid them at their peril. I.e., user companies will look to integrate Web 2.0 technologies into their contact centers to solve their business problems. And they’ll look to dump older technologies that are less effective at helping them meet their business goals. New technologies, same macro business problem.