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Integrating communities into customer support can halve costs - Gartner

23rd Feb 2012
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Gartner is predicting that business which integrate online communities into customer support can radically slash customer service costs. 

In a new set of forecasts, the analyst firm boldly suggests that businesses that leverage customer communities to support their service could achieve cost reductions of up to 50%.

Mobile phone service giffgaff has famously built its service around such a proposition, rewarding customers with minutes and other benefits for providing support to the community.

And Gartner believes that this model will become more commonplace as businesses become aware of the cost benefits.  

In other service predictions, Gartner has warned that radical levels of customer service, which account for an estimated 75% of all customer interactions, threaten to undermine the customer’s affinity in the brands in 2012.

The firm claims it is critical for customer service organisations to develop harmony within processes that sometimes occur with a human support agent through self-service and peer-to-peer community networks.

Michael Maoz from Gartner said: “A greater focus on individualized service, powered by analytical systems that understand the customer's likely intent, is helping the service process. 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 has also revealed new predictions for the future of CRM and predicted that by 2014, organisations integrating communities into customer support will see cost reductions from between 10-50%. According to the research, this is mostly due to a reduction of calls to the community, where the costs are less than 5% of the cost of a technical support agent. The B2B software, consumer electronics, and telecommunications services industries will be the biggest successes, according to Gartner.

By 2014, the analyst has predicted that customer fallout will drive down customer satisfaction in 70% of organisations that shift customer support to communities. Although some companies are enjoying moderate to great success in call deflection, there are some unsuccessful community deployments. Gartner claims this is a result of organisations thinking that customers will come if community self-help sites are created, as well as the false perception that peer-to-peer communities require no administration or moderation.

By the following year, half of online customer self-service activities will be via a virtual assistant (VA) for at least 1,500 large enterprises, said Gartner. According to the research, these enterprises worldwide are in various stages of VA production with results ranging from profound cost savings to and increased cuistomer loyalty. But the number of organisations adding this capability is growing by 20%, particularly in travel, consumer good, telecommunications and banking, said the organisation.

Also by 2015, the marketing budget allocated to retaining customers and increasing loyalty through customer service will more than double, predicted the analyst. As organizations attempt to get social, it is ever prevalent that marketing departments spearhead social media-based initiatives on their behalf, said Gartner. Additional predictions claim marketing will also increasingly engage in two-way communications to protect and evolve the organisation. To successfully achieve this, the analyst recommended that marketing and customer service departments work together within their organisation.

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, predicted Gartner. To keep pace with the explosion of customer interaction channels, the firm recommended organisations use new delivery models such as cloud computing and mobile. 

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