TMC (News - Alert) this year celebrates 30 years of covering customer interaction, which means it couldn’t be a better time to look at where we’ve been with customer service and where we’re going. We’re also rebranding and retooling our customer experience effort. In this installment of our CUSTOMER coverage, we talk with Annie Weinberger, vice president of promote solutions at Autonomy (News - Alert), an HP company as of late 2011.
Autonomy was founded in 1996 by Mike Lynch when he developed an algorithm that extracts meaning in real-time from all forms of information, regardless of format, source, or language. This methodology and technology, Autonomy says, is transforming the way companies use and interact with data. Weinberger, in addition to her time at Autonomy, also has worked for 12 years at Interwoven, which Autonomy acquired.
We’re celebrating the 30-year anniversary of TMC’s Customer Interaction Solutions magazine. What has been the most important development in the past 30 years related to customer interactions?
There have been many milestones over the past three decades, but the most impactful has been one of the most recent, and that is the absolute explosion of information due to online commerce, mobile devices and social media. This huge array of human information in the form of social media, video, images, Web content, clickstreams, phone calls, e-mails, IM, and chat now makes up over 90 percent of the world’s data and is the fastest growing form of information. This is where customers share their experiences with a brand and indicate their buying preferences and where new insights can be gleaned that impact everything from SEO and advertising spend to customer engagement and new product development. The challenge of course is to be able to derive meaning from all of this unstructured human data that does not fit cleanly into a spreadsheet or back-end system, and that is Autonomy’s sweet spot.
How has the rise of IP-based networks impacted the call center – customer interactions at large?
VoIP technology has dramatically changed the contact center industry. Perhaps the biggest driver is that it allows for the centralization of telephony services while supporting greater distribution of clients. And, therefore, it is less expensive to deploy and maintain if a contact center has more than one location. So, most contact centers are embracing VoIP because it makes financial sense while offering a big step forward in available features and functions. For Autonomy, one of the greatest benefits is that now, because of VoIP, contact centers are able to more easily capture 100 percent of their interactions. This massive corpus of customer conversations is a very rich source for analytics. Of course, the contact center benefits from analysis of recorded calls, but so do many other parts of the organization including marketing, sales and even back-office functions like finance/billing, etc.
Historically, recording calls in an analog environment was very expensive. So, companies relied on call dispensation methods and post-call surveys to glean insights. Now, the technology has enabled analysis of the interactions directly, which is far more effective and responsive.
How is CRM changing?
Traditional CRM is all about capturing customer information in a database where it is for the most part siloed and stored. The problem is that CRM has become about internal processes and not about who the customer is and what they want in a brand experience. Companies need to supplement CRM data with behavioral information to get to the true heart of who their customers are.
How is marketing changing?
Marketing is changing in two related ways: Marketers are gaining more clout in their companies, and customers are gaining more power due to social media and the proliferation of other channels – contact center, mobile, Web, etc.
Marketing is right now being redefined. Marketers have more clout than ever, and with that comes new levels of accountability. Increasingly, they are responsible for driving revenue growth for their organizations. As such they are investing in a full spectrum of technologies that can help marketing become more data-driven, measuring every aspect of their function. The rapid adoption of Software-as-a-Service is in large part a result of this trend. Marketers don’t want to mess with the IT guys, they just want fast, easy-to-use applications that will help them meet and exceed their business goals. And consequently, it has been forecast that CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs by 2017.
On the flip side, the customer is now in charge – they drive how people feel about your product and your brand. If you’re not listening to your customer, you’re dead in the water. You have to listen to what your customer is saying – online, on social media and on the phone – and optimize. You can’t just rely on the brains in your organization to know what’s best.
How is the rise of cloud computing impacting how businesses target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
Cloud computing gives businesses more flexibility to deploy solutions. I’ve seen reluctance in some regulated industries to adopt cloud-based solutions for CIS, but the fact is, Autonomy’s secure cloud allows even highly regulated companies to provide very high impact CIS without fear of losing, leaking data or being out of compliance.
How is the widespread use of social networking technology impacting how businesses target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
Social cannot be denied. With almost a billion users, there are 700 Facebook (News - Alert) updates per second. People tweet 340 million times a day, and there are 105 Google Plus updates per second. How many of these relate to a brand? A lot. If a brand can grab this information and derive meaning from it, they can better understand each customer and deliver an optimized, personalized experience to that customer across their preferred channel and medium. And almost as important, social media provides a gateway to look for trends and customer desires, which can help drive product development.
How is the increased use and comfort level with video impacting how businesses target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
This is huge! Again, the consumers are driving this trend. Sixty hours of new video is uploaded to YouTube (News - Alert) every minute. YouTube is the second most popular search engine, only behind Google. Consumers want to learn and ingest information through videos, but many companies don’t feel like they have the right tools to deliver video in a way that is optimized to consumer preferences. Video is full of such rich information and data – images, text, voice – that companies are challenged to make their videos searchable and relevant. Having a technology solution that can watch a video like a person would – understand text, recognize people, find an exact point in a very long video that is what you’re looking for – ensures that when companies are able to optimize their video content, then consumers are easily able to find the information they need and business can target, engage and deliver video as customers expect.
What new tools and practices are businesses using to better leverage their own and/or outside data to target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
Companies thirst for a means to tap into any source of information in any format to find trends, patterns and sentiment in real-time to be able to immediately take action on that information. Autonomy’s IDOL platform is such a solution. Autonomy IDOL 10 lets organizations extract meaning and act on all forms of information, including audio, video, social media, e-mail and Web content, as well as structured data such as customer transaction logs and machine-based sensor data. We’ve deployed with 65,000 of the world’s leading organizations and helped them better engage with customers.
How is the mobile boom impacting how businesses target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
Companies used to be concerned that their customers could be anyone, but now they can also be anywhere. This presents a new layer of complexity when delivering to customers. Companies need to ensure that wherever a customer is, the brand experience is personalized yet consistent. A good example of this is our work with a leading airline, where we realized that the majority of customers were using the mobile platform to check in for flights. So rather than developing a mobile site the mirrored the website, we developed one that was optimized for simple procedures like checking in. It's about being able to provide the right experience to the right customer regardless of what channel they choose to use.
What other key trends are you seeing as it relates to how businesses target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
We think the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to customer power – that is not going to shift backwards. Looking ahead, the future is wide open and there are a lot of cool technologies to keep an eye on.
One really interesting trend is augmented reality. Autonomy has a technology called Aurasma that allows people to bridge the physical and virtual worlds by enhancing the real world with digital information. Through image recognition, Aurasma augments landmarks, billboards, magazine ads, and blank walls with videos and 3D animations. For example, by aiming their smartphones or tablets at a box of Tsubo shoes, a video pops out of the box that shows that pair of shoes on the runway, with the ability for the consumer to click through to a Web destination for more information. Newspapers, games, schools and automotive, entertainment, fashion and sports marketers are all embracing this technology to bring customers closer to brands and provide gateways for further engagement.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. For more information on registering for ITEXPO click here.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein