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Forrester Research is a technology and market research company that provides pragmatic advice to global leaders in business and technology.

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Build, buy or outsource customer service solutions?

Here's an approach to help you decide

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How do you choose the right customer service solution for your needs? It’s always best to take a systematic approach: (1) benchmark your current operations using our Assessment Framework to pinpoint areas for opportunity and (2) pragmatically investigate options to source your missing capabilities. Options range from repurposing technologies used elsewhere in your company, to outsourcing, to purchasing suite or vendor point-solutions. I recommend using the following process to step through the decision choices:

  • Step 1 - See if your company is using similar technologies that you can leverage: Web self-service, mobile, social, email, chat solutions, for example, are often deployed by Sales and Marketing. If you choose to leverage existing technologies, make sure that they can scale and operate at the level of performance and reliability to support customer service operations. Also make sure that the experience that the customer receives when interacting with these technologies is consistent across functional organisations.
  • Step 2 - Consider outsourcing: If there aren't existing technologies that you can leverage, consider outsourcing this entire capability, or perhaps a portion or all of your customer service operations, to a third-party organisation. In a recent Forrester survey, we found that 10% have already outsourced some or all of their operations or are very interested in doing so. Outsourcing can help reduce cost of operations, but can also improve the quality of services delivered and allow you to focus on core business activities that are mission-critical to your company.
  • Step 3 - Investigate CRM suite solutions: If you choose to buy customer service solutions, first consider the customer service capabilities of CRM suite solutions. During the past five years, these solutions (like, for example Microsoft, Oracle, SalesForce, SAP, SugarCRM) have greatly matured as vendors have focused on solidifying the foundational building blocks of their customer service capabilities. There are now many excellent solutions to choose from that not only provide customer service capabilities but can also be extended to provide holistic customer management capabilities at a later date.
  • Step 4 - Look at specialty vendors: In select cases, you may need to turn to specialty customer service vendors that deliver best-in-breed capabilities to strengthen key weaknesses in your current operations. Examples of point solutions that are the most commonly adopted are those that provide multichannel service (including social), knowledge management, communities, social listening, feedback management and virtual agents.
  • Step 5 - Build only at the last resort. The customer service landscape is very mature, and excellent specialty point solutions are commercially available. Moreover, many vendors have industry-specific solutions that incorporate best practices leveraged from customer input and insights gained during thousands of deployments. Before building your own software, ask yourself what unique needs you have that a vendor solution can’t meet. See whether you can change your business processes to be better aligned with the native processes that the vendor's solution supports. Only if your needs are very unique, should you consider building.

Download the new Forrester report to read more about the customer service solution selection process.

Posted by Kate Leggett

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