TMC (News - Alert) celebrates 30 years of covering customer interaction this year, 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 Lara Albert, vice president of global marketing at Globys.
For the past 15 years, Albert has helped clients in the telecommunications, financial services, food and beverage, consumer products, retail and transportation industries create relationships between their brands and consumers. At Kraft Foods and America Online she held brand management roles overseeing brand strategy, which included new products and consumer promotions across all marketing channels. She has led product marketing and strategy for VeriSign’s (News - Alert) Billing and Commerce group focused on the telecommunications market.
How and when was Globys established?
Albert: In 1996, CallVision was founded as a business focused around telecom e-billing and self-service. After 10 years, the growing and profitable business was sold to VeriSign, one of the world’s leading providers of infrastructure services. Within a year or so, the executive team of entrepreneurs began looking at what to do next and saw some technology trends that aligned well with the skills and experience of the team – mobile, analytics, and SaaS (News - Alert) or cloud. Instead of going the usual start-up route with their next venture, they saw an opportunity to purchase a business whose retained earnings could fund investment in new areas. In 2008, they partnered with investors to form Globys.
To whom does your company sell today?
Albert: Globys provides some of the world’s leading service providers with solutions that help them leverage their customer data assets to enhance the overall customer experience. A spin off from VeriSign Inc., one of the world’s leading providers of infrastructure services, Globys offers a suite of products that have helped meet the needs of leading service providers for more than 15 years.
Each of our applications is designed to transform customers’ data from across disparate systems into rich, more valuable intelligence, helping carriers to improve the overall customer experience and maximize customer lifetime value. Our contextual marketing solutions enable service providers to increase customer revenues and retention by determining the best context for engaging each customer and the most relevant message – whether marketing, educational, billing or network related – in order to influence specific customer behavior. Our self-service solutions help service providers’ customers gain a single view across multiple accounts and services – mobile, fixed or broadband – allowing them to better understand their complex bills and conduct sophisticated analyses and cost allocations. These solutions leverage rich customer purchase and usage data and can be used to upsell and cross sell other products and services.
Globys solutions have been deployed to more than 40 leading communications service providers around the world including T-Mobile, Telstra, CenturyLink, Bell Canada and Bell Aliant, Vodafone, Etisalat (News - Alert), and Telecom New Zealand. With a global client base, we have gained extensive experience delivering best-of-breed solutions as a managed service. Our software-as-a-service business model is proven to help service providers worldwide achieve the benefit of speed to market while minimizing ongoing operational risk.
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?
Albert: The development and extension of self-service channels, whether online, phone, retail kiosks, etc., have completely changed the way companies interact with their customers. Prior to the adoption of self-service, customers had very few options – go to a brick-and-mortar location or sit on the phone and wait to talk to a live person. With self-service, companies are able to provide convenient and efficient (from a provider’s standpoint) interactions for customers of all sizes. Instead of calling on an account manager for each and every need, Fortune 500 companies place their own orders, track the status and report on usage with a few clicks. Consumers order, activate and change features on their mobiles without ever interacting with a live person.
Self-service channels have set the standard for the experience that customers expect from their providers – consistent, convenient, and customized to their needs. Although you may lose the personal interaction, a large percentage of customers are more than willing to trade this for an experience with which they are familiar and trust. Time and time again, our clients have seen a substantial increase in customer satisfaction by successfully transferring supported interactions i.e., calls to the support center and manual report creation, to self-service.
In the past decade?
Albert: With mobile approaching six million users globally and superseding the reach of any other communications channel, customers have latched on to the ability to interact when, where and how they prefer. As the adoption of this channel grew at an unprecedented rate, the majority of the world’s most valuable brands, as well as other global and regional brands, jumped on the opportunity to interact with their customers while on the go and in a more dynamic, compelling manner. The past decade has been full of providers and marketers trying to define the optimal mobile experience and just as important, measure the success of their efforts. Whether an extension of self-service, entertainment apps or mobile promotions, the mobile channel has enabled providers to interact with customers in new ways.
In the recent past?
Albert: With the extension of these channels comes the advancement of the technologies to fuel these interactions. It’s not as easy as transporting an in-store experience to online and then to mobile. With something as personal as a mobile device – which customers carry all day, every day – customers expect you to know who they are, what they need, and how they need it. This demand for providing relevant, timely interactions has fueled a renewed need for and focus on analytics.
For years, analytics has helped define customer experiences and interactions – web searches prompt relevant ads, purchase history prompts product recommendations, segment profiles define upsell offers, etc. – but providers are realizing that what may have worked for other channels doesn’t necessarily translate to mobile. While the mobile channel enables more convenient, customer-initiated interactions, it also places increased pressure on providers to serve their customers more proactively. Whether you have a telecom operator sending an overage alert, a pharmacy alerting a prescription is ready, or a department store reminding you of today’s holiday sale, if customers are willing to provide information, they expect a relevant, more meaningful experience in return. The success of the mobile channel rests on this ability to interact with someone based on their behavior (habits and patterns) and context (best time to engage the user). With the right tools in place, more sophisticated analytics capabilities are enabling providers to leverage the rich customer data that is unique to mobile to deliver highly personalized and relevant interactions.
How is marketing changing?
Albert: Many operators’ marketing departments continue to find themselves running batch campaigns that target segments of customers and are geared toward pushing specific products. It’s a product-centric rather than customer-centric approach to marketing where the focus is more about delivering a consistent message than the right one. Campaign management suites have expanded to include business intelligence and even event marketing, but delivery rarely targets at the individual level and never incorporates time and place to maximize relevance for each individual customer. What marketers continue to achieve is average results because these campaigns are often ill-timed or irrelevant. Marketers remain challenged by traditional-style campaign processes, departmental dependencies, and latency in performance averages rather than driving real results.
What we’re seeing emerge is a new form of marketing – contextual marketing – which is a paradigm shift from traditional marketing. Contextual marketing leverages complex behavioral data and applies to it sophisticated analytics and automation to deliver the right communication or offer for each customer in the right context.
Contextual marketing works in a mobile environment because the mobile phone, unlike the Web for example, allows for highly personal and contextually relevant communications. Contextual marketing is built on an understanding and interpretation of complex operator data – relative location, social graph, usage, accessibility, and content – to determine when an individual is most receptive for what message based on their real-time behavior. Other systems rely on a batch of summary data or simple trigger data, e.g., a change in usage. They group customers into segments and deliver messages based on events versus marketing to individual customers in the right context. As a result, operators can better engage their customers throughout the entire lifecycle with the right information, content, and offers, including their own up-sell, cross-sell products and services as well as those from third parties.
How is the rise of cloud computing impacting how businesses target, engage with and deliver product/service/support to the customer?
Albert: The cloud is enabling businesses to gain a holistic view of their customers’ usage and behaviors. By consolidating disparate data from multiple devices and applying real-time analytics, smart cloud solutions have the ability to provide the insights (when/where/how should I engage with an individual customer) required for profitable engagements in today’s digital world.
Cloud services typically utilize a subscription model instead of traditional software license and maintenance model and often enable the user to self-serve so they can manage on their own the setup of the services, changes over time, termination of the service, etc. The impact to businesses of this model is profound. Instead of licensing a software package, acquiring the necessary hardware, and paying consultants to get it all up and running, a business can subscribe to a cloud service and be using it the same day for a fraction of the time, effort, and cost. And if it doesn’t meet their needs, they can unplug it without the loss of that same investment in time, effort, and cost.
How is the widespread use of social networking technology impacting how businesses target, engage and deliver to the customer?
Albert: There is no doubt that social networking is changing how customers interact and engage with each other, as well as their communities and global brands. As a result, we are seeing a real desire among businesses to leverage social network analytics in order to be smarter in how they engage with customers. Social network analytics can help a business determine, for example, who is connected to whom, who is an influencer within a social network, who is considered a ‘queen bee’, etc. We are seeing social network analysis helping businesses with customer acquisition, retention and churn, cross-sell and up-sell, and understand the next best event.
How is the increased use and comfort level with video impacting how businesses target, engage and deliver to the customer?
Albert: With video now driving 51 percent of U.S. wireless network traffic, it’s clear that consumers are quickly adopting this media channel. It’s entertaining, engaging and allows businesses to extend their messaging without the character limitations of SMS, for example. Video is also enabling businesses to leverage viral marketing. With social tagging and multi-location placement, your customer advocates can quickly spread your message to become the next ‘must-see.’
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.
Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO. Follow us on Twitter.
Edited by Braden Becker