Gartner Says Organisations That Integrate Communities Into Customer Support Can Realise Cost Reductions of Up to 50 Per Cent

Analysts Explore the Future CRM at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit 2012, 14-16 March in Orlando, Florida and the Gartner Customer Strategies &Technologies Summit 2012, 11-12 June in London

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Radical levels of customer service, which account for an average of 75 per cent all customer interactions, threaten to undermine the customer's affinity for brands in 2012, according to Gartner, Inc. It is critical for customer service organisations to figure out how to harmonise customer service processes that sometimes happen with a human support agent, sometimes through self-service and sometimes by peer-to-peer community networks.

"A greater focus on individualised service, powered by analytical systems that understand the customer's likely intent, is helping the service process," said Michael Maoz, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Thrown into the mix are two trends still in their early stages - peer-to-peer customer support and customer service via mobile devices, such as the iPad. Managing the pace of CRM customer service process change and technology change will require discipline and data across interaction channels."

Gartner's central predictions for the CRM customer service and support market are:

By 2014, organisations integrating communities into customer support will realise cost reductions ranging from 10 per cent to 50 per cent.

The cost savings are principally through the deflection of calls to the community, where the costs are less than 5 per cent of the cost of a technical support agent. During 2012, three industries will realise the biggest successes (up to 50 per cent savings on a per-case basis) with communities that solve customer support issues: B2B software, consumer electronics and telecommunications service providers. Laggards (less than 5 per cent savings) will not get involved in 2012. These will be health insurance, government and banking. The US and parts of Western Europe will lead the trend, with sharply reduced success over the next four years, as the concepts mature.

By 2014, customer fallout will drive down customer satisfaction in 70 per cent of organisations that shift customer support to communities.

Many organisations are employing communities as a platform for customer support. While there are examples of organisations experiencing moderate to great success in call deflection and increased first-contact resolution (FCR) cost savings, there are also unsuccessful community deployments. These unsuccessful deployments happen when the organisation thinks that if it creates community self-help sites, customers will come. Similarly, these deployments tend to be plagued by the perception that peer-to-peer communities require no administration or moderation. Organisations should recognise and plan for the administration and moderation required to maintain a customer support community, but be ready for the community to fail.

By 2015, 50 per cent of online customer self-service search activities will be via a virtual assistant for at least 1,500 large organisations.

More than 1,500 organisations worldwide are in various stages of production with virtual assistants (VAs). The results range from profound cost savings (5 per cent reduction in service costs) and increased customer loyalty to simply the entertainment of having a robotic presence on a website. But the number of organisations adding this capability is growing by 20 per cent per year, especially in travel, consumer goods, telecommunications and banking. A challenge is that computer-generated characters have limited ability to maintain an interesting dialogue with users; they need a well-structured and extensive knowledge management engine to become efficient, self-service productivity tools. VAs will lead to further downsizing of customer service centres.

By 2015, the marketing budget allocated to retaining customers and increasing loyalty through customer service will more than double.

As organisations attempt to get social, it is ever prevalent that marketing departments spearhead social media-based initiatives on their behalf. In marketing's continued effort to protect and evolve the organisation's brand through social media, the department increasingly engages in two-way communication.

Marketing and customer service departments will have to work in cohesion within an organization to successfully deliver on both strategies. Marketing is likely to fund initiatives that are jointly developed, executed, managed and measured by marketing and customer service. This will put marketing in a lead position to drive retention and loyalty strategies through customer service, improving the alignment between the two departments.

Through 2015, the dominant themes in customer service and support will be collaborative customer service processes, application migration to the cloud and support of mobile consumers.

Interaction channels have exploded in the past few years, from direct- and phone-based to the corporate website and across a growing selection of mobile devices and social media. To keep pace, the scope of functionality included in customer service and support (CSS) applications has expanded. Gartner analysts said it is time to build an iPad app competency. Continuing merger and acquisition activity is challenging organisations to adapt to a changing supplier landscape. Organisations have had difficulties managing and planning for an increasingly complex CSS solution portfolio. These organisations should use new delivery models such as cloud computing and mobile for extending and receiving customer service processes and applications.

More information is available in the report "Predicts 2012: CRM Customer Service and Support Staggers into the Posthuman Age," available on Gartner's website at This document is part of Gartner's overall 2012 Predicts coverage, which is available at The Gartner Predicts Special Report overview includes links to more than 70 Predicts reports, categorised by topic, industry and market.

Mr Maoz will speak on CRM market trends at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit in Orlando and the Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit in London. The Gartner Customer 360 Summit in Orlando is being held on 14-16 March at the Gaylord Palms. Additional information is available at Members of the media can register by contacting Christy Pettey at

For details of the Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit 2012 taking place on 11-12 June in London, please visit Members of the media can register by contacting Rob van der Meulen at

Additional information from the event will be shared on Twitter at and using #GartnerCRM.
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