Real-Time Data, Real Time Results”
by Brendan B. Read
Senior Contributing Editor, Customer Interaction Solutions
The ability to effectively serve customers, individuals and organizations
alike requires that contact centers have information that is or
as close to real-time as possible i.e. real-time data. The more accurate
and complete that information is the better contact centers know their customers
the greater the likelihood that customer needs will be met, whether
the contacts are customer-or organization-initiated.
Obtaining that knowledge requires
careful analysis, and investment in the
tools and effort to perform this function.
Direct response and outbound telemarketing-
delivered offers and lists must be
precisely targeted to obtain results and to
avoid annoying customers and prospects.
At the same time there are limits to what
customers want organizations to know
about them, and on where that data,
and customers can be found. There have
been growing consumer privacy concerns
and resistance to using social networking
sites as marketing channels.
In response, we asked several leading professionals
to comment on data handling,
privacy laws, list acquisition and scrubbing/
appending, effects of new channels
such as SMS and social networking, and
on breaking down the silos to access data
in realtime. Here are their responses:
Paul King (News - Alert), President and COO
The first challenge is getting the data and
ensuring it is complete. This is a large undertaking
requiring skill at data management
due to the large quantities of data,
privacy policies and adherence, and accuracy
of results dependent upon complete
data to analyze. Second, the analysis needs
to be actionable. That means it needs to
be ready for use and presentation to the
customer directly, such as through a web
portal or to a retail or customer service
rep, such as in a contact center. Too often,
operators spend enormous amounts of
time and energy collecting and analyzing
data but not applying it back to the front
office or customer directly.
We analyze customer history to better
understand not only what offers to
make, but also to know through which
channel it should go to best deliver it
to that customer. This allows for direct
mail, text messaging, and contact center
interactions that are all dependent
upon customer preference. Offers can
be timed to ensure that contact centers
can adequately handle the response
rates so customers do not suffer a bad
customer service experience. It is also
vitally important that the contact centers
have the tools and offers available
to them to interact with the customer
in an intelligent way.
There is a constant process in place
to coordinate customer additions/
subtractions/modifications to ensure
the responses and offers are accurate
and on target. We have the capability
to not only track when, what and how
the offers were delivered, but also
to measure take up rates and track
customer usage afterwards to know if
the service is used or not. Up-selling
a service that is subsequently not
used by a customer generates a higher
propensity to churn.
Used properly, information from diverse
channels like SMS and social network
presents opportunities for operators. The
social networking side of things allows for
a new service to be picked up and communicated
more quickly and cost effectively
by targeting new services to the influencers
and letting them stimulate take up rates
and usage through networking with colleagues
and other social network members.
In essence it is a form of viral marketing.
The data silos are the result of business
silos. For instance, customer acquisition
and retention processes and organizations
are still separate functions in most
firms. As such, the customer lifecycle is
not owned end-to-end by any one group
in the organization. A second example
is the simple split of customers between
various billing platforms that provide
further splits of customer information
and prevent a 360 degree view of all
clients due to operational limits.
The best solutions to fixing these
continuing “ills” is first: provide a
platform to integrate all important
information in one place and share
it effectively. Second, reorganize the
classic ‘sales vs. retention’ organizations
and metrics into one customer
organization with metrics that reward
the correct behavior: namely acquiring
and holding onto profitable customers.
Tools need to be provided to represent
the information to the front end channels.
Analysis not put to work where
it is needed is like the proverbial tree
falling in the forest: who cares!
Oracle (News - Alert) (www.oracle.com)
Ed Margulies, Oracle Product
Management, CRM Service Products
The biggest challenge is not in collecting
the data, but being sure that the
data is used effectively. For example, too
many contact centers concentrate more
on collecting all the contact data, but
ignoring preference data. The successful
contact centers are the ones who attempt
to build an affinity with their customers.
That is, knowing things like what time
to call or if an e-mail is preferred instead
of a call. Customers also tend to be more
loyal if you are proactive in contacting
them about a special, or information,
that is important to them specifically. All
too often, companies rely on a ‘publication’
model rather than a personalized
‘push’ model that anticipates each customer’s
needs. This is why understanding
business intelligence and making it a
part of your campaign strategy is crucial
to foster a sense of loyalty and community
with your customers.
Privacy laws and other regulations are
acting as a catalyst for the enterprise to
be more sensitive to the individual preferences
and needs of customers. This is a
case where legislation may in fact be the
mother of invention. There have been
more innovations in data mining, analytics
and general business intelligence
directly because of privacy laws. There
is more diligence in list acquisition and
sources are being scrutinized more than
in the past. List scrubbing now include
delta matches with do-not-call-lists and
other opt-out data.
The use of multiple channels i.e. the
‘democratization of media types’ has
had a profound effect on our view of
customer data. For example, we are more
sensitive to not only how to contact
people--based on their media preferences--
but also when to contact them,
and when’ can mean a certain time of
day or mean only at the time when a
specific event occurs. Social networking
applications are rich in information
that can be combined with other data
to provide a comprehensive view of
customers. For example, a mash-up page
for customer contact may include their
Facebook (News - Alert) updates, local whether, or even
presence information. The intersection
between CRM, contact center and social
networking is a very exciting one - and
one that Oracle is beginning to exploit
in our planning.
Part of Oracle’s heritage is its ability to
apply technology to tearing down socalled
silos. That’s part of what Application
Integration Architecture or AIA
is all about. The idea is to orchestrate
user-centric business processes across
enterprise applications. The benefits to
integrating across applications are first,
you can enjoy business and IT efficiencies
in consolidating best practices and
data stores; second - being able to react
quicker based on orchestrated data
means a competitive edge; and third you
can accelerate innovation because instead
of running interference between disparate
data stores, you have more time to
solve bigger problems.
SugarCRM (News - Alert) (www.sugarcrm.com)
Martin Schneider, Director, Product
Data quality is a perennial issue. Many
times we have individuals entering
data that have no incentive to insure
quality of that data. Also, many times
companies push data entry out to the
customer, such as with web forms.
Sometimes this can help, as it allows
less data entry to be done at the point
of issue in the contact center but if the
customer has no incentive to get their
data correct, that data is pretty useless
after the initial point of contact.
We have seen government mandates
force organizations to be very careful
with their data and how they use it in
contact centers. Just because you may
have some great data around customer
activity doesn’t necessarily mean you
can act on it. Fortunately, most data
generated from a contact center is
based on a customer-triggered interaction,
which allows organizations to
utilize that data to market back to the
customer. But companies have to be
careful of privacy issues.
The quality of data due to privacy issues is not all that
affected: if you have a multi-channel approach to CRM.
A full CRM suite allows you to collect data from customers
at many touch points – such as through registering for
warranties online, or signing up for loyalty programs or
other value-add offers after a sale. If these data sets are all
in one place, organizations can easily create a holistic view
of their customers, even if they are limited in terms of what
data they can collect in other areas. The key is to load the
contact center agent with all the available data a customer
supplies willingly via other channels.
Companies in the B2C world are starting to become a little
more proactive in terms of owning their own customer lists
and using more creative methods of attracting interest in
their bands. The Web has been a huge factor by allowing a
company to reach out in a dialogue via blogs and consumer
forums, allowing them to reach people and create communities
and learn about who their customers are while
extending the brand identity.
If done correctly, this proliferation of channels presents
more opportunity to understand customers, and accumulate
a more holistic view of them. If you are confident that your
multi-channel strategy is working, you can ask for little
information about each customer at every touch point, so
the experience is non-invasive and highly adopted by them.
Putting all of these data sets together, organizations can
paint a vivid picture of their customers’ tastes and preferences.
Also, reporting on which channels seem the most
popular can instruct marketers and support leads on the
best way to interact with customers going forward.
The data silos tend to exist not because of technology decisions,
but due to business decisions. After the most recent tech
bust in 2001, many companies eschewed large or sweeping
technology purchases and instead focused on “quick wins” and
tactical moves. While these insured people kept their jobs and
didn’t make more the huge CRM failures that have become
the stuff of legend, they made for a very disparate data model
inside many a company.
With more inexpensive, yet full service CRM options available,
organizations of all sizes are starting to realize the benefit of
having all of their data in one system. It is a slow process, but I
think we will begin to see these silos disappear in a few years as
more and more companies standardize on one main system of
record for customer data.
Information solutions firms have been
developing applications and services that
deliver and analyze rich and accurate customer
data. These products and offerings
can make the difference between customers
answering the phone and saying ‘yes’,
and throwing way offers, saying ‘no’ or
‘put me on your Do Not Contact list’.
Here is a brief sample of some of the newest
information solutions on the market:
AccuData Integrated Marketing’s (www.
) AccuLeads Smart Selects
™ provides a simplified alternative
to standard consumer list demographics
selects. Each Smart Select focuses on
a pre-determined audience providing
instant access to popular and powerful
consumer segments including Boomers,
Affluents and GenNext. Each select automatically
identifies key demographics
like age, income, and date of birth.
® VisionScape™ segment analysis
and visualization tool suite. VisionScape
accesses a comprehensive library of
consumer behaviors and attitudes using
syndicated resources such as Mediamark
Research and Intelligence, Scarborough
Research, and DK Shifflet and Associates
to derive in-depth consumer
insights. Other information in Vision-
Scape includes InfoBase-X™ demographic
data, consumer purchasing
behavior, and business summary data.
what it says is the largest selection of
opt-in and qualified consumer cellphone
numbers and e-mail addresses, with 100
million cell phone user and 150 million
e-mail Do Not Call and CAN-SPAM respectively-
scrubbed databases. CellForce
can reach out to these potential buyers
with mobile SMS/e-mail advertising
campaigns. Its methodology assists with
making outreach programs successful,
including minimizing costly (to both
marketers and recipients) misdirected
messages, by reasonably ensuring that
these numbers and addresses are valid.
I-Distinct, 1-to-1 marketing service that
leverages in-depth knowledge about a
person’s demographics, attitudinal, behavioral
and lifestyle choices to develop
truly personalized marketing campaigns
that yield higher response rates,
increased sales and improved customer
retention and loyalty. I-Distinct profiles
customers or models prospects by
extracting information about them from
)’s data sources, then clusters
them based on lifestyle habits to identify
their individual ‘marketing DNA’. Personalized
messages are created, launched
by individualized marketing campaigns.
ElementOneSM analytics platform
performs sophisticated, relevant and actionable
customer analytics. It applies the
resulting intelligence not only to existing
customers but also to new prospects, even
in the split second before an agent answers
a call or content is served on a Web page.
ElementOne builds upon On-Demand
IdentificationSM services and their ability
to provide contact centers, marketers, risk
managers and Caller ID systems with
verified name and postal address for any
phone number, in subsecond time.
Trillium Software (www.trilliumsoftware.
), a unit of Harte-Hanks (www.
), Trillium Software®
System version 11.5 offers an expanded,
fully-integrated set of data profiling, validation
and cleansing capabilities across a
broader range of countries. The version
provides for example wider coverage of
street and house-level validation in fifteen
additional countries such as Austria,
Poland, Russia, and New Zealand. This
helps firms obtain accurate results for
global data, incorporating country-specific
rules, standards and cultural nuances.
Teradata (News - Alert) (www.teradata.com)
David Schrader, Director of Marketing
The biggest issue for most companies is getting the
customer data in one place which provides faster access
to up-to-date and high quality information and decreases
costs. For example, purchased information can benefit
everyone in the company, not be squirreled away in one
division’s systems. Having only one database of customer
information significantly decreases the cost infrastructure:
in licenses, but more importantly in maintenance
and data copying costs. Unfortunately, many contact
centers have their own silos of data within their operations.
That means they can’t get to an end-end view of
the customers even within that channel, much less take
advantage of the cross-channel, total customer experience
analytics. Where customers shop in a store, then call the
care centers, go online and shop, then call the care centers.
Most companies are far from the vaunted 360 degree
view of the customer.
DNC (Do Not Call) had a big impact which drove many
companies to focus on better inbound customer call
handling. Being ready with the ‘next best offer ‘when
customers call you is terribly important, but that requires
insights on purchase patterns and service patterns.
Tagging information and managing it requires good
data governance programs, as well as periodic audit and
information security practices. While these are “new” for
contact centers, they are old hat to the database administrators
(DBAs) and managers. What’s needed is more
interaction between the contact center owners and senior
executives and the DBAs within the marketing organizations
in most companies.
The new channels e.g. SMS/social networking is overhyped.
Additional communications channels such as SMS
will be the first to take advantage of the newer capabilities,
but there is a limit to how much information people are
willing to put up with or pay for. Social network analytics
are on the horizon, and there appear to be two areas of
shorter term significance: reputation analytics (what are
people saying about you) and communication networking
analytics (to whom, including influencer analytics).
So in one sense, the social networks will provide new data
append capabilities on the communication patterns, but
their ability to do that will butt up against privacy concerns
by most consumers.
Breaking down the silos boils down to people, process, and
technology, and the people issues are profound. Until the
care center group and the marketing group have regular
face to face meetings, nothing will change. Until the CEO
mandates by-the-metrics-oriented end-end customer experience
KPIs, nothing will change. Technologically, it’s about
getting all the customer information in one place and being
able to transform raw data into insights and useful information
for the front-line - like customer valuations, likelihood
to buy, at what price (if variable pricing can be done), and
product sequencing analysis. The list goes on and on, but
it means contact centers have to be contributing players to
some new thinking: that they need a ‘change agent’, a ‘risk
taker’: someone who can destroy the inertia.
Warehousing Data For Realtime Access
Just as firms carefully warehouse goods for order fulfillment
organizations should do likewise with customer data,
in data warehouses.
Data warehouses provide, according to Wikipedia a
common data model for all data of interest regardless of
source. This makes it easier to report and analyze information
than it would be if multiple data models were used to
Data warehouses have, like product warehouses, evolved
from storing items for when firms need them to just-intime
delivery where the information is in and out quickly,
known in this instance as active warehousing.
David Schrader, director of marketing, Teradata, which
makes data warehousing solutions, explains that contact
centers can use active data warehousing in two ways: to
react to customers who make inbound calls and to proactively
communicate with them.
In inbound applications agents can access specific details
about interactions in the data warehouses and use this
information to resolve issues and/or to cross-sell or upsell.
For outbound, events such as dropped-call records flowing
into the warehouses can automatically trigger apology
calls, with some kind of compensation for customers.
“In the past, data warehouses handled mostly strategic applications,
which did not require instant response time or
tight integration with operational systems such as the Web
or contact centers,” explains Schrader. “Today’s information
can be used through active data warehousing to drive
realtime customer interactions over all customer channels.”
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