CRM: Customer Service has two distinct categories that make up this domain which reflects the evolution of how service providers are viewing the concept of customer service. Customer service has evolved a new component called customer success. While call center approaches are inbound and reactive, customer success approaches are outbound and proactive.


Traditional scenarios could include a customer noticing a problem with a product or service and calling the service provider to resolve it. A customer success model could entail a service provider monitoring their customer’s experience, noticing something that may negatively impact the customer, and the provider proactively reaching out to that customer offering prevention or resolution of the issue.

The second component focuses on the concept of inbound call center customer service. This is an established proven approach to handling high volume, inbound customer service inquiries. There have been several successes in the history of the service provider industry and unfortunately legions of failures in implementing this model. We all have vivid memories of that great tech support person we talk to or that interminable wait we had before speaking with someone we could not understand.

The call center category represents the concept of a call center or a similar group of employees that are responsible for managing customers. This could be a large inbound call center that is fielding calls for new service creation or existing service maintenance. Alternatively, it could be a small group of outbound callers who are reaching out to prospective customers to buy a product or service.

In the B2C service provider space, this domain is often a central component for new customer creation and for ongoing customer care. Success or failure in this domain has a dramatic impact on the overall customer experience. Companies that have the appropriate people, process, and technology in this domain typically become market leaders with high customer satisfaction, low churn, and high upsell and cross-sell rates. Companies that fall short in this domain are subject to scathing ridicule in social media and often find themselves struggling to acquire or retain key customers. Key indicators in this area include net new customers, customer satisfaction (CSAT or NPS), first call resolution (FCR), average handle time (AHT), and customer churn.

In the B2B service provider space, this domain is typically used by a small number of resources that are responsible for customer care, including basic maintenance of customer and services, bill inquiry, logging trouble tickets, and supporting simple additions and changes to service. Typically, sales representatives and sales engineers manage the primary customer acquisition and are working in the CRM: SFA domain.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is perhaps the most consistently misused term in our industry. The customer relationship that is being managed by the software category is an exceedingly broad term that must be narrowed to make sure we are comparing similar software. ATG breaks CRM into four distinct categories, based on the channel that is being used to manage the customer relationship.


Sales Force Automation (SFA)

The tools used by sales teams to managed salespeople, prospects, opportunities, and pipeline

Customer Service

The tools used by customer service agents (historically in a call center environment) to manage customers or prospects


The tools used by a service provider's customers to manage their own services or accounts.

Partner Relationship Management (PRM)

Tools a service provider's partner to manage customers or prospects

CRM: Customer Service

Customer Success Call Center

Customer Creation

Customer creation is the process of creating a new customer within the company. The key to this process is providing an exceptional customer experience while obtaining the information necessary to ensure the product or service will be effectively provisioned or fulfilled plus that billing will be effective and occur in a timely manner. If the customer is created with incorrect data, the downstream processes will be negatively impacted.

Customer Maintenance

Customer maintenance is a process unique to the service provider space. Companies in this space typically keep careful track of company lifecycle duration (typically the number of months or years that a customer retains their service) and average revenue per user (ARPU) which tracks the dollars that are spent per month with the company. Companies that can keep their customers longer and raise the average revenue per month over time typically become leaders in their space.

Customer maintenance includes a broad set of process service modifications including up-sell, cross-sell, suspension, disconnection, and cancellation. Customer maintenance is closely related to the sub-domain customer service which handles important though not service-impacting customer requests.

Order Entry

Order entry is the process of creating a new service for a customer. Often this is the first and only service for a customer though in B2B it is very common for customers to have multiple services, each requiring effective order entry to capture the necessary information to provision and bill for the service effectively.

Order entry can be direct to a customer, or it can be a swivel chair exercise where the employee is entering the order from a previously generated quote or contract without direct interaction with the customer.

In the former example, it is important to capture the information in an efficient manner to provide a positive customer experience while gathering all the appropriate data at one time. In the latter example, the focus is on quality and completeness. The customer is not waiting on the line but relying on the information being complete and correct to ensure accurate provisioning and billing of the service.

Up-Sell, Cross-Sell & Expansion

These sales processes are the central methods for increasing average revenue per user, an essential growth metric for most businesses using a recurring revenue business model. These businesses also focus heavily on annual contract value.

Up-sellingis the process of selling more of a particular service. For example, moving from 6 MB internet speed for $25 per month to 18 MB for $45 per month is a typical up-sell.

Cross-selling is when a customer purchases a separate product or service in addition to what they had originally anticipated buying. For example, if the customer originally intended to buy internet service, but the sales representative convinced them to purchase phone and cable services too, the sales representative successfully performed cross-selling.

Expansionis the process of broadening the selling engagement with the customer to additional locations, business units, or channels. This process is not independent of up-selling and cross-selling, but it refers to specifically growing the size and buying power of the customer. For example, if a sales representative is selling software to the accounting group at John Deere in Missoula, MT, and they expand the sale to include the sales team plus two other locations, they have achieved expansion. A good CPQ application assists this process by allowing many child accounts, groups, and locations to be quoted at once.

The combination of up-selling and cross-selling is the primary method of driving more revenue within an existing customer base. Another common phrase is wallet share. Many service providers have a goal of increasing the wallet share from their customer base, which is often done through up-selling, cross-selling, or both. The concept of bundling or packaging is a method for accelerating an up-sell, cross-sell, or both.

Up-selling and cross-selling can be done at the time of customer creation or over the course of the life of the customer. In the context of a call center, many agents are compensated specifically for up-selling and cross-selling they perform in their typical customer care.

Have you heard a cross sell like this before?

"Thank you for using our cable services and updating your credit card information! Did you notice that we have expanded our internet offerings in your neighborhood and are offering free service for three months if you add it to your plan now?"

Customer Service

Call center customer service is typically done via inbound calls or chat sessions. Typical customer service requests include bill inquiry, trouble ticket management, simple disputes and adjustments, changing contact information, and technical support.

Case Management

Case management is a broad term that can include issue management, trouble ticket management, exception or approval management, and dispute management. It is simply a mechanism for creating, managing, and completing requests initiated by or on behalf of a customer.

Case management allows cases to be captured and distributed to the right individual or team for resolution while providing visibility of its ongoing status. There is typically a complete audit trail to document what was done, when, and by whom. Effective case management provides an excellent opportunity to take a potential negative with a customer and turn it into a positive.

Knowledge Management

Another core component of the modern customer service environment is knowledge management. CRM and knowledge management were once considered entirely different disciplines, with the two areas sharing little in common but perhaps the same data warehouse hardware and a vague understanding that both efforts were meant to improve business efficiency and customer satisfaction. It has become clear, however, that the two disciplines were really working toward the same goal, and to deliver continuous improvement to business clients, they would have to start speaking the same language. Thus CRM, knowledge management, and data search-and-retrieval solutions are converging – out of necessity and out of customer demand.

Knowledge management focuses largely on finding the right solution to a problem that requires detailed insight, be it locating the right expert at the right time or ensuring that the solution to a complex problem can be written once but reused many times. It is not difficult to understand why that capability is of great interest to CRM strategists. Industry estimates suggest that upwards of three-quarters of variable support costs come from the time and energy put into the resolution of customer support inquiries, rather than routing and post-call management.

Better knowledge management and CRM integration can help companies navigate complex support problems more easily. Many manufacturers, such as computer companies, sell a single product that may incorporate dozens or even hundreds of other components. Being able to cross-reference the entire collected library for technical support and conflict resolution can make the difference between first-call resolution and a lingering headache.

Customer success is emerging as a key enabler of differentiation for forward-thinking service providers. The evolution of reactive customer service to proactive customer success is one of the most profound changes that is impacting the service provider industry.

Payments & Adjustments

Call center agents are often able to manage inbound requests for payment or to handle disputes that may lead to credit adjustments to the customer’s balance. For payments, this could be receipt of one-off payments, changing the method of payment (for example from credit card to check), or simply updating credit card information.

Adjustmentsare changes to the customer’s accounts receivable or balance. Adjustments that are in the customer’s favor, end up being a credit to the accounts receivables, hence are called credit adjustments, or simply credits. Credit memo is another term that is used.

An adjustment that is made which is not in the customer’s favor and adds to their balance is called a debit adjustment. Although rare, it can be used to correct erroneous bills or to handle other things – a penalty for not sending a set-top box back, for example. Some service providers have a concept of a dispute, which is simply a higher order object that opens a case which will be investigated but could lead to a credit adjustment.

A Closer Look at the People, Process, and Technology of CRM: Customer Service


As might be expected, the customer success and customer service organizations are the torch-bearers for the CRM: Customer Service domain. Nearly all things related to the customer pass across their collective desks.

But there are other areas involved as well. The sales, product, finance, and billing groups make key contributions on an on-going basis, and the IT organization, as is true with every domain in the ecosystem, lends a hand when called upon.


ATG maintains a set of 75 key business processes to support management of customers and revenue for service providers. Thirty of these processes originate, or are impacted by, the CRM: Customer Service domain functions. Below are the key processes that are touched in CRM: Customer Service domain, categorized by the organizational unit that owns the process:

Customer Success Organization

New Customer Onboarding – the process of creating a customer account, properly provisioning products and/or services and communicating welcoming messages.

Customer Usage Monitoring – tracking and recording customer resource usage throughout a billing period and life cycle.

Retention/Churn Monitoring– the process of monitoring and anticipating customer turnover.

Social Network Monitoring– a way to track social media traffic and information and gather the “Voice of the Customer.”

NPS/CSAT Monitoring – process of tracking, reporting and following up on customer satisfaction metrics.

Customer Service Organization

Up-Sell Processing: Ongoing – the primary method for increasing Average Revenue per User (ARPU), and it is the process of moving a customer to a better product or service at some point during their relationship with your company.

Cross-Sell Processing: Ongoing– the primary method for increasing Average Revenue per User (ARPU), and it is the process of moving a customer to a similar product or service at some point during their relationship with your company.

Case Management Processing – a key aspect of customer service used for creating, managing, and completing requests from the customer.

Customer Inquiry – the process of routing customer questions & concerns to the right solution and tracking the outcome.

Knowledge Management – the ability of a business to identify, create, and distribute information quickly across their customer base and the entire organization.

Renewal Processing– methods used to renew a customer’s services, may be manual or automated.

Order Entry – creating a new service for a customer, including capturing the necessary information to provision and bill for the service effectively.

Sales Organization

Quote: Product Configuration – configuration of feature and attributes of products and services prior to a sale.

Quote: Product and Service Pricing – configuration of product and service pricing available through the quoting tool.

Quote: Product and Service Discount– configuration of product and service discounts based on certain criteria (e.g., volume discounts, geography).

Up-Sell Processing: Initial Order– selling a customer a separate, better product or service from what they had originally expressed interest in during the needs assessment.

Cross-Sell Processing: Initial Order – selling a customer a separate product or service from what they had originally expressed interest in during the needs assessment.

Product Organization

New Product Introduction Process – configuring attributes and introducing new products or services to the product catalog.

New Product Monetization Process – the configuration of pricing for a new product or service.

Bundled Product Introduction Process – the configuration and introduction of grouped products and services to the product catalog.

Promotion and Discount Process – the configuration of promotions and discounts to new or current products and services.

Finance-Billing Organization

Credit Card Processingmethods to receive credit card payments including authorization, payment gateway, processing, interchange, and credit card success.

Payment Processingthe steps taken to process different payment methods from customers and applying the payment to the corresponding account.

Dispute & Adjustment Processing – settling disputes/adjustments regarding customer payments or account – often involves recording a debit or credit to a customer account.


Maintenance and Oversight of Monetization Ecosystem – processes around ensuring that all touch points and connections within the ecosystem are optimized to their fullest potential.

Vendor Management of Monetization Ecosystem– oversight and communication duties of ecosystem software components and their vendors, including management of vendor roadmap and change logs and general relationship nurturing.

Monitoring & Testing of Vendor Functional Releases– as ecosystem components release updates and patches, each is checked and tested to confirm all systems are working together as required by the business’ requirements.

Cross-Training of Monetization Ecosystem Components– process for training organizational resources on the appropriate software systems.

Security Oversight of Monetization Ecosystem – process for maintaining and controlling access and permissions to ecosystem components.

Data Stewardship Across Monetization Ecosystemprocess of assigning ownership and sources of truth for data within the organization.

All Organizations

Daily, Periodic, or Ad Hoc Reporting (Extraction, Load, Report, Dashboard) – movement of data between domains to create single source of truth for reporting and dashboarding.


The CRM: Customer Service domain is the cornerstone of customer experience. This domain handholds the customer throughout their entire lifecycle with a company, from a salesperson’s first interaction with them via knowledge management functions, through the buying process to service delivery and case management.

There are two different software platforms for this domain, with the obvious delineation. Both customer success and call center software is available in the following formats:

  • Multi-Tenant Cloud
  • Single-Tenant Cloud
  • Native Platform
  • On-Premise Software

Key CRM: Customer Service Vendors


Founded: 1999
HQ: San Francisco, CA
Company Type: Public
Delivery Method: Cloud


Salesforce Service Cloud provides a seamless customer service integration for the Salesforce platform. Salesforce Service Cloud allows one location for all customer service related interactions to take place. Also, Salesforce Service Cloud creates a central knowledge management solution to expedite providing answers to common issues.


  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)


Salesforce targets organizations in many industries and of any size.


  • American Express
  • Adidas
  • US Bank
  • T-Mobile
  • Intuit


Founded: 2006
HQ: Redwood City, CA
Company Type: Public
Delivery Method: Cloud


Oracle Service Cloud enables clients to deliver web-based customer service, support through an omni-channel contact center, and service in the field. Oracle Service Cloud also contains a knowledge management platform to ensure all knowledge is effectively captured and held in a single space for internal and external users.


  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)


Oracle Service Cloud targets organizations of any size and industry.


  • Kohl's
  • Nestle
  • Cincinnati Bell
  • Kent County Council
  • Barcelo Hotels & Resorts


Founded: 2007
HQ: San Francisco, CA
Company Type: Public
Delivery Method: Cloud


Zendeskis a customer service platform designed for companies that want to make customer relationships more meaningful, personal, and productive. Zendesk begins by providing support and then helps businesses evolve to self-service while maintaining guidance by Zendesk. The combination of products offered allows businesses to be more reliable, flexible, and scalable. Improved customer experience is built from increased communication and data utilization.


  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)


Zendesk targets organizations in many industries and are any size.


  • Uber
  • Slack
  • Box
  • Shopify
  • Groupon


Founded: 2010
HQ: San Bruno, CA
Company Type: Privately Held
Delivery Method: Cloud


Freshdeskis a subsidiary of business software company Freshworks. Freshdesk is an online cloud-based customer service software providing refined helpdesk support by utilizing smart applications. The software helps users keep track of conversations, resolve issues, increase productivity, and improve efficiency across one secure, customized platform.


  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)


Freshdesk targets organizations in many industries. Target organizations are any size and have a need to provide sophisticated digital customer service and support resources.


  • American Express
  • Schneider Electric
  • HP
  • Pearson
  • Harvard University


Founded: 2001
HQ: San Ramon, CA
Company Type: Public
Delivery Method: Cloud


Five9provides cloud software for contact centers in the United States and internationally. It offers a suite of applications which enables the breadth of contact center-related customer service, sales, and marketing functions. It also acts as a hub for omni-channel engagement between the businesses and their customers. The software enables companies to manage the end-to-end customer experience in a single unified architecture.


  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)


Five9 targets SMBs to enterprises in many industries.


  • Open English
  • Booker
  • Innovative Vision
  • NetSuite


Founded: 2011
HQ: San Francisco, CA
Company Type: Privately Held
Delivery Method: Cloud


Talkdeskprovides a browser-based call center software solution for small to medium businesses. Its solutions enable users to optimize calls and know who is calling before answering the phone while also providing an overview of the customer with information from the company’s CRM system. Talkdesk integrates with over 30 commonly used CRM systems and offers a robust suite of APIs. Call center performance can be reviewed through call monitoring, real-time monitoring, and historical reports.


  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)


Talkdesk targets organizations in many industries which are usually small to medium businesses.


  • Shopify
  • PBS
  • Zumiez
  • Pete’s Coffee
  • Showtime

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