Customer Service Software
BuyerView | 2013

Every year, Software Advice talks to hundreds of customer support managers, IT directors and other customer service software buyers, which provides us unparalleled insight into their motivations for investing in new technology. To create this report, we analyzed 361 interactions with buyers evaluating the top customer service systems to identify the following key findings. 

Key Findings:

  1. Significant percent of buyers (42%) were evaluating customer service software for the first time. They used manual methods such as spreadsheets and paper notes to manage operations.
  3. Among companies replacing an existing customer service system, inadequate funtionality and integrations topped the list of reasons why they were buying.
  5. Trouble ticketing, flexible reporting, interaction history, escalation management and workflow automation were the most commonly-requested features.

Many Buyers Are Purchasing a System for the First Time

While most of the companies in our sample were seeking to replace an existing system (either commercial software, or a proprietary system built specifically for that organization’s use), a surprising 42 percent were buying a customer service system for the first time.

Typically, the people in this latter category had been relying on disjointed, almost-manual tools, such as spreadsheets, email and paper notes.

Customer Service BuyerView Current System

Of buyers who did have a system, 30 percent said that their motivation to replace it was that the current program was not functionally robust enough. This was expressed in varying ways. Some said very specific things, such as their software couldn’t “track interactions” or “view tickets by agent.”

Others summed it up by saying, “we need something that is more specific to customer service operations,” as opposed to contact management software systems more geared toward sales or marketing.

Customer Service BuyerView Reasons Replacing

Second to the need for more functionality, 20 percent of buyers mentioned needing specific integrations to prevent redundant data entry and manual work.

Customer service software that integrates directly with Outlook or Gmail was mentioned most often as a means for keeping interactions from being “trapped in individual inboxes,” as several buyers put it. They described scenarios where the system didn’t have email integration, so agents were required to manually record notes in the software. Sometimes they would forget, or would wait, and so the data was not always up-to-date.

These poorly-automated processes really became a challenge for these buyers when they needed to scale their organization. About 16 percent of the companies we spoke to were experiencing a period of growth and needed a system that would support a larger team.

Additionally, ease of use was an issue for about 16 percent of buyers. They used descriptions such as “cumbersome,” “archaic” and “difficult to use” when describing their current system. Another 14 percent of buyers cited a lack of customizability as a reason for why they needed to purchase a new system. This ranged from needing to add custom fields in trouble tickets to wanting their brand to appear on self-service portals and automated emails.

First-Time Buyers Desire More Efficiency and Organization

In my interviews with our analysts, they shared that most of the first-time customer service software buyers sounded exhausted, exasperated and at their wits’ end.

“You don’t want to know how bad it is,” one support manager told us. They were “inundated with spreadsheets,” and customers were “demanding we do something about it.” This was a story I heard over and over again in talking with our team. In fact, 54 percent of those who had never had a formal system in place before said specifically that they needed to increase overall efficiency and organization.

Customer Service BuyerView First-Time Buyer Reasons

Thirty-one percent of buyers described the need to consolidate disparate databases. The customer’s contact information might be stored in a spreadsheet, while interactions and purchase history never left individual email inboxes (or worse, receipts).

“We need to keep everyone on the same page,” one business owner told us. In addition to customer information, buyers also talked about needing to consolidate “common fixes” or resolutions into one searchable knowledge base. They felt that having all of this information in one place would help them solve issues faster and prevent redundant efforts.

Ten percent of buyers described the need to solve issue more quickly. Customers would call with a problem, and often times the issue would “fall through the cracks.” The customer would have to call again for a status update, which often times led to further frustration. Or when the support team was backed up, it would take days or even weeks to respond to the customer, who by then solved their own issue and didn’t care enough to respond.

“We want to have better relationships with our customers than that,” one customer service manager told us.


Buyers Want Trouble Ticketing and Issue Resolution Tracking

Most of the buyers we spoke to wanted their new customer service software to do very specific things. While vendors might offer features that accomplish several of these capabilities at once, buyers mentioned these capabilities specifically:

Customer Service BuyerView Feature Requests

Significantly More Buyers Evaluated Cloud Systems

Of buyers who evaluated one specific deployment model over another, the vast majority were open to a cloud-based system when compared to on-premise. This type of software is typically housed off-site on servers managed by the software company, rather than on-premise where the software is housed on the buyers’ servers.

Customer Service BuyerView Deployment Model

Participant Demographics

This chart shows the annual revenue of the software buyers we included in the sample. Nearly half of buyers were small businesses with $5 million or less in annual revenue. 

Customer Service BuyerView Sample Revenue
This chart shows the number of software users for the buyers we included in the sample. More than three fourths of buyers have fewer than 10 customer service software users.

Customer Service BuyerView Sample Users

To further discuss this report, or if you have questions about our research, feel free to contact me at

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