Software Advice, an online consultancy for customer relationship management software, has published a report looking back over the past decade and a half at trends influencing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. The report specifically focuses on Customer Service tools and the small and midsize business market. 30 vendors that have been offering help desk, customer service, and/or service desk software to SMBs between the years 2000 and 2015 were included in the study.
The report has some interesting key takeaways. It turns out that the number of CRM software vendors offering self-service options and tools has grown dramatically over the last seven years. Back in 2005, only 25% of CRM vendors had support for self service channels. As of 2015, 86% of CRM vendors offered self-service support tools.
In a report that Software Advice released previously, they drilled into the most popular self-service channels. That earlier report showed that out of the leading six self-service channels, with FAQs ranking at the top, virtual agents came in last. However, Craig Borowski, a market researcher for Software Advice, sent me commentary on the newly published report in which he noted that virtual agents are likely to play an increasingly important role in the future.
Two other key takeaways from the report show that technologies and customer trends are likely paving the way to the growth of virtual agents that Borowski expects. These takeaways point to the central role played by both social media and mobile devices in servicing customers.
Half of CRM vendors now offer specialized tools to enable SMBs to manage their social media presence and the customer support scenarios that are initiated there. An example of such tools is an integration capability that enables a help desk agent to create a support ticket directly from a customer’s tweet.
Customer’s growing reliance on mobile devices is also confirmed in the report. In 2005, just half of all help desk vendors offered mobile capabilities. In 2015, 100% of the software vendors included in the study supported mobile channels. Examples of mobile CRM support include the ability for customers to access live chat from their smartphones and specialized customer support mobile apps.
Why do these trends bode well for virtual agents? Virtual agents can be integrated with speech technologies to provide customers with a simple, intuitive way to ask questions. Speech-enabled virtual agents lend themselves very well to mobile devices. Machine learning algorithms that power intelligent virtual agents enable them to spot trends and topics on social media far more quickly and comprehensively than humans can.
The growing popularity of customer self-service, social media, and mobile are laying the groundwork for significant growth in virtual agents. The Software Advice report on developments in customer service software offers valuable insights into self-service trends over the past decade and a half and exposes data that points to the trends of the future.