Survey: phones still best for customer service

Social media and the Internet have made customer service issues more acute; and holistic, omni-channel support is becoming the norm. However, customers are least satisfied with their service interactions through social media in particular.

Zendesk’s benchmark report released today shows that customers are most often satisfied with phone-based service (at 91%), followed by online chat support (at 85%)—and least satisfied with their service experience through the social channels of Twitter (81%) and Facebook (74%).  These latter channels are of course newer and, in many enterprises, stilled handled by marketing rather than service departments. They are also more often public and seldom as instantaneous as phone and chat support. But the newer, more public Twitter scores almost as well as email (82%), which, though older and more private, may be the slowest and most formulaic of the major service channels.

My guess is that a combination of factors offset the different channels. The telephone is the most human and can provide the quickest service response, though we all know that phone wait times, transfers and ill-prepared or difficult-to-understand representatives can be frustrating. Twitter and Facebook, on the other hand, may be the easiest for customers to access at the height of pique or when a customer feels the need to lash out publicly in order to get a response.

Service satisfaction varies by industry. The more business-oriented and higher price-point sectors that have reason for service interactions other than problem resolution or cancellations (IT services, government and nonprofit and education all at 95%) than consumer-oriented sectors without positive or neutral reasons for interaction (social media, entertainment and gaming, and financial services from 67% to 76%).

Service satisfaction also varies by country. With Canada and Australia scoring over 90%, but China and the United Arab Emirates below 60%. These trends tend to persist and Zendesk has found them to be correlated with the satisfaction of service center employees within different countries as well. Further, these findings somewhat parallel the results of ‘happiness’ surveys that are sometimes conducted with global citizenries. Denmark is not only reliably among the top five countries in in Zendesk’s benchmark, but it has also ranked as the happiest nation worldwide.

Is it thus a coincidence that the customer service firm Zendesk was started by three Danes? Perhaps not. And maybe that is the takeaway from their benchmark. A customer service prayer may be for the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can—and the wisdom to know the difference.

Verizon’s acquisitions provide an enterprise path to the cloud

At the end of last month Verizon acquired CloudSwitch, adding value to Verizon’s January acquisition of cloud data center provider Terremark. Around the world, big telecommunications providers such as AT&T, BT, Telstra and Verizon have been hard at work, diversifying and seeking new business opportunities as revenue from domestic and international voice traffic continues to decline. While existing expertise and infrastructure made networking and data hosting a logical new endeavor, recent moves such as the Terremark and CloudSwitch acquisitions tap into a growing enterprise requirement for easy and controlled paths out of the legacy data center and into the cloud.

The world’s biggest telephone companies are increasingly well established providers of co-location and hosting services, typically serving large international corporations with deep pockets and widely distributed workforces. Although smaller data center companies such as Savvis and Rackspace have successfully diversified from simple hosting to the provision of cloud computing solutions, the telcos have typically proved less able to manage the transition on their own.

InfoWorld’s David Linthicum commented at the time that Verizon acquired Terremark that “Verizon has the same problem as many other telecommunications giants: It has fat pipes and knows how to move data, but it doesn’t know how to turn its big honking networks into big honking cloud computing offerings.” Verizon is not alone. Elsewhere, Orange (a subsidiary of France Telecom) is simply reselling a GoGrid product to deliver a private cloud solution to customers, removing the need to develop and deploy a solution of its own.

NPRG Senior Analyst Ed Gubbins notes that

locating and building data centers, outfitting them with the necessary equipment, efficient energy supplies and software and building a capable staff is no small task for a company like Verizon with lots of other business segments it must attend to. “It takes time,”‘ Lowell McAdam, Verizon’s chief operating officer said . . . “That’s not our core competency.”

Terremark and competitors are proving more nimble and more able to adapt to changing data center usage patterns. It seems likely that Terremark executives will gain increasing control over Verizon’s existing data center facilities, accelerating the speed with which these can be transformed for the cloud. It remains to be seen, though, whether strategies that worked for Terremark will prove as successful when transplanted into Verizon’s very different organization.

Verizon’s $1.4 billion acquisition of Terremark in January gave the company a cloud computing capability and, as Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported, access to new markets. Although almost certainly requiring much less cash (terms were not disclosed), last month’s acquisition of Massachusetts startup CloudSwitch may ultimately prove more significant to Verizon’s ambitions. CloudSwitch, the winner of the LaunchPad showcase at GigaOM’s 2010 Structure conference, sells software to simplify the process of moving applications from an enterprise data center to the cloud.

Combining CloudSwitch software with existing Verizon data centers and bandwidth creates an increasingly compelling proposition. Customers no longer simply buy the pipe down which their data moves or access to the server on which their data or application is hosted. Instead, they are buying into a complete package, including networking, hosting and the software that links all of it to their existing on-premise data center. Each of these pieces may exist separately elsewhere, and each of those individual components may be cheaper or better than Verizon’s. But Verizon’s ability to package and brand a rounded set of services is likely to prove compelling, especially in industries where IT is simply a necessary cost of doing business. Verizon isn’t just selling bandwidth or storage or data processing; Verizon is selling peace of mind, and at the moment no other data center provider offers quite the same combination of capabilities.

With CloudSwitch, Verizon is no longer simply one choice among many for networking or hosting. Verizon has become a compelling choice for any enterprise that wishes to explore a hybrid environment in which existing on-premise applications are gradually transitioned out to hosting partners and, ultimately, the cloud.

Question of the week

Is acquisition the only way for telcos to compete in the cloud?

Twilio embraces VoIP as the phone network fades away

Twilio, which provides a service so companies and web services can add voice or SMS to their menu of options, now will offer developers the option to use all IP communications as well as the old-school phone and mobile networks.

Skype Is Killing It on Long Distance

Skype voice traffic is expected to grow by 45 billion minutes in 2010 to more than twice the volume added by all the world’s phone companies combined, according to research firm Telegeography. That means one out of five voice minutes is now going to Skype.

Creative Ways to Use Google Voice

Now that Google’s free telephone forwarding, screening and voicemail service Google Voice is open to anyone in the U.S., web workers are finding many creative ways to use it. Google Voice has an extensive list of features; here’re a few ideas on how to use them:

Do You Need a Landline?

2697847277_7ff7f9d36fMy cell phone number is on my business card. It’s the only number I ever give out. It makes sense, because I’m routinely not in my home office when someone calls me; if I want a client to be able to reach me, my cell phone is the best bet.

Many web workers rely on their cell phones for work these days and some have even moved to handling their phone calls entirely through their computers, with services like Skype. There are plenty of ways to do without a landline at this point, which leads us to the question of whether it’s even necessary to pay for a telephone line anymore. Read More about Do You Need a Landline?