Nearly seven in 10 customers have had an unsatisfactory e-commerce experience in the past year, according to a new Forrester Wave on customer service solutions. That's a disturbing and eye-opening statistic, noted Kate Leggett, primary author of The Forrester Wave Customer Service Solutions For Enterprise Organizations Q2 2014 (registration required).

Leggett and co-authors Stephen Powers, Michael Facemire and Victoria Boutan identified the 11 most significant customer service solutions, but also warned that not all vendors are making the grade.

Strengthening Customer Support

Published last week, the report is based on vendor surveys conducted this past December and January. It identifies, in alphabetical order, the most significant vendors as eGain, Kana Enterprise, Microsoft, Moxie Software, Oracle Service Cloud, Oracle Siebel CRM, Pegasystems, Salesforce.com, SAP CRM, SAP Cloud for Service and SugarCRM.

Today, in the first of a two-part series, we'll look at market characteristics and trends. Tomorrow, we will take a deeper look at the vendors Forrester ranked as Leaders: Microsoft, Oracle Service Cloud, Oracle Siebel CRM, Pegasystems, Salesforce.com, Kana Enterprise and SAP CRM.

In the past five years, Leggett wrote in a blog accompanying the Wave report, vendors have been “solidifying the foundational building blocks of customer support capabilities.” They've added multiple new functions to their products, including social capabilities, business process management, business intelligence and mobility.

It also shows that vendors are targeting specific kinds of buyers from enterprises that respond to queries over the phone, to those that support teams in small-to-medium sized business across multichannel operations. It's a mature market, she noted, marked by a number of emerging and established trends.

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Meeting Customer Needs

Despite improved technologies, it isn't always easy to deliver good service. Organizations have to navigate rapidly changing customer expectations and look for vendor solutions that enable them to deliver personalized online experiences.

Businesses have to recognize several things, the report notes. First, company executives don’t decide how customer-centric their company is: the customers do. While some companies have yet to embrace the significance of this statement, most realize that good customer service is a win-win for both them and their customers.

Leggett said good customer service generates quantifiable impact on revenue, including:

  • Customer loyalty: Good customer experiences help generate long-term loyalty. They increase the likelihood of additional purchases, help prevent customers from switching to competitors and encourage word-of-mouth recommendations. According to Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CXI), a change of 10 percentage points is the equivalent of $1 billion in revenues.
  • Lower costs: When online customer service fails, 75 percent of consumers move to another channel. That forces retailers to develop new channels, at an average cost of $22 million a year per channel.
  • Customer retention: Good experiences help companies keep customers. 

Customer Experience Challenges

More than 50 percent of online shoppers abandon purchases if they cannot find answers to their questions and 75 percent will drop a company that wastes their time online according to the report.