The Top 5 Customer Service Predictions of 2011

Brian Jameson

The predications are in. Top analysts and thought leaders in the CRM and Customer Service space have made their predictions for what’s going to be hot in 2011. Rather than create my own list of (ill fated) predictions, I’ve composed a set of five, shared by a handful of experts. Here they are:

1. The Customer Experience will continue to redefine CRM

Relatively new in comparison to CRM, Customer Experience gained ground as a cornerstone for companies aiming to provide better customer service in 2010. With products and services becoming more commoditized, companies are turning to the Customer Experience to differentiate offerings and increase profits. CRM as a strategy and a technology platform accounts for the transactional and operational needs of an organization to manage customer interactions, but that alone is not enough to keep customers happy.

Positive (or negative) experiences are commonplace on consumers’ social media sites, which has placed increased emphasis on developing Customer Experience strategies in addition to CRM strategies. In 2011, companies will map customer touch points, improve customer processes, get sales and marketing more involved with customer service teams, and deploy customer feedback programs to improve customer attraction and retention.

  • In Bruce Temkin’s post on 8 Customer Experience Trends for 2011, he says "I expect to see more contact centers drop average handle time (AHT) as a core metric and revamp quality measures based on customer feedback."
  • Paul Greenberg posted his 2011 CRM Forecast - What's Up Wit' Dat - Part II and says, "In 2011, not only will the focus of companies move in the direction of improved customer experiences through provision of products, services, tools, and consumable experiences, but the vendors messaging will both continue to align toward that end and the products that they provide will reflect that message"

2. Social CRM will grow up, with merger and acquisition activity heating up

2010 was the year that Social Media Monitoring, Community Platforms, Social Rankings, and Engagement, became all the rage for Customer Service and Marketing pros. In 2011, Social CRM applications will reach adolescence by bringing enhanced social bells and whistles. Expect to see much more analytics and reporting coming to these tools from the truckloads of data being collected from the social data footprint.


It's likely that you will see more case studies, best practices, and use cases on Social CRM and how it fits into the larger CRM/Customer Service picture. Integration with other systems, like CRM and Agent Desktop software has the potential to give companies a fuller view of customer needs and wants within the same tools that customer service teams use to interact with customers in real time. The bigger Social CRM vendors and maybe some CRM heavyweights will likely acquire some of the smaller SCRM players to gain new functionality and/or portfolios of new customers.

  • Michael Moaz blogged about The Social CRM Market Consolidation Ahead, saying, "It’s likely that 45% of today’s Social CRM vendors will change ownership inside of 36 months. We’re in for some exciting times.
  • Ray "R" Wang replied to my tweet on Moaz’s post, @river_star, "More like 75% of today's #scrm vendors will change hands in 36 months. 45% may be too low."

3. Analytics and Customer Insights set to explode

As hinted at in the social prediction, there is a ton of data sitting out there on social sites. This data will provide companies will loads of insights into customer behavior. In 2011, expect more robust analytics and reporting packages for agent desktop software, customer feedback, and social CRM. Key stakeholders are hungry for new data sources to make decisions; companies will feed them by collecting this data, synthesizing it, analyzing, and reporting.

  • In his first post on CRM 2011 – What’s Up Wit’ Dat? Paul Greenberg articulates, "This is the big Kahuna. As is self-evident, there is an EXPLOSION of social data that’s now available via the web for companies to mine."
  • Bruce Temkin talks about Customer Feedback to garner customer insights in 2011. He says, "Companies will increasingly recognize that they need to integrate a deeper understanding of their customers throughout their company. That’s why Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs represents one of the most popular customer experience efforts."

4. Integration across channels and platforms

This is one of the highest requested needs we hear from RiverStar customers. Companies want a single view of the customer, regardless of the channel they are using. The single view of the customer should be able to access and pull data from various systems and be vendor neutral.

The days of "rip and replace" are dying because more applications are being delivered in the cloud and companies do not want to go through the headache of replacing legacy systems. In 2011, companies are looking to glue it all together to have better insights into customer information and link up processes between systems.

  • Denis Pombriant gave CRM Buyer 2011 his list of Strategic Opportunities and said this concerning integration: "There are now so many applications and application types on the market that we can safely give up any pretense that a single vendor could deliver all of a company's CRM needs. APIs and cloud computing make integration more important and feasible."
  • Mark Tamis said in his Customer Insights, Collaboration, and Cloud 2011 post, "… I believe that this year (2011) we will see more integrated platforms that link customer behavior gleaned through cross-channel engagement to transactional data.

5. Cloud, Cloud, and some more Cloud

One of the biggest economic impacts for customer service and call center teams is to migrate to the cloud or acquire platforms that reside in the cloud. Accessing applications in the cloud drives down upfront acquisition costs and eliminates costly infrastructure modifications and maintenance. Security of cloud application has always been a concern, but look to see more companies adopting the cloud as an equal alternative to premises based software.

  • Denis Pombriant – "After several years of debate about what cloud computing is or is not, customers are in a great position with lots of choices for solutions. It doesn't matter whether you prefer single tenant or multitenant solutions; the economics of running software in the cloud are so compelling that you can find a vendor that speaks your cloud dialect.
  • Mark Tamis – "The Cloud is slowly turning applications such as CRM into a commodity that is ubiquitously accessible (on-demand through whatever means we choose). The promise of Utility Computing is coming ever nearer…"

Want to read more of what Brian has to say? Check out All Aboard the Social CRM Train