Leveraging Customer Metrics For Strategic
BY DENNIS SPARACINO, ALPHABLOX AND CINDY O'REILLY, THINKFAST
In the past decade, the telecommunications industry has undergone a
major paradigm shift. Deregulation and a wave of industry consolidation
has created an extremely competitive landscape, one in which the stakes of
implementing a CRM initiative are enormous. The winners will claim market
dominance as a result of their ability to intimately understand and
completely satisfy their customers. In turn, customer satisfaction
generates bottom-line results by giving companies the ability to act on
their customer knowledge in ways that enable them to retain current
customers and acquire new ones.
To be certain, the ability to leverage customer-related metrics can
give any telecommunications company a significant competitive advantage.
Customer information is the focal point and primary enabler of competitive
differentiation and must be created, maintained and protected as a
valuable corporate asset. The customer knowledge base must be complete,
accurate, current and made accessible to all appropriate organizations and
functions within the company.
In particular, the information obtained from a call center or automated
call distribution system (ACD) can provide tremendous insight on its own
or complement additional information gathered from other systems such as
CRM, operation systems and support (OSS), and workforce management. The
challenge lies in creating a data-rich analytical repository that has four
- Provides all users with a holistic, common, yet detailed view of the
- Features an IT architecture with the technological capabilities to
integrate information from all customer-related sources,
- Provides users with data that are truly meaningful and actionable,
- Is user friendly and intuitive.
At the end of the day, telecommunications companies, like most other
organizations, are simply trying to gain a better understanding of what
drives their customers' behavior. They recognize the importance of having
a consistent view of their customers, regardless of what system or
technical feature is being used, and regardless of who is viewing the
information. For example, a data-rich analytical repository makes it easy
for the marketing department to leverage customer intelligence from the
call center system to make business decisions about product positioning
and campaign analysis. From a strategic perspective, management may have a
"balanced scorecard" initiative that focuses on customer
retention and leverages key performance indicators from the customer care
repository, all the more reason to create a repository that meets the
Taking A Holistic Approach
Developing a customer-centric information architecture with the
ability to enable all CRM applications and business processes is key. To
succeed, CRM initiatives must have a solid foundation of customer
knowledge, but in most organizations, this knowledge is fragmented in many
sources and widely dispersed across many functions. The ability to view
this knowledge from a holistic perspective, completely and consistently,
across the enterprise, becomes a critical success factor for any CRM
initiative. Creating, institutionalizing and leveraging a customer-centric
knowledge base provides a solid foundation for enabling all CRM
applications and business processes.
For example, call center data represent just one aspect of a strategic
CRM initiative that can best be viewed as a continuum of customer care.
With that in mind, call center metrics must be integrated with other
elements such as brand management metrics and campaign management metrics.
While many companies have become very proficient at examining the data
coming out of their call centers -- average handle time, speed of answer,
time in the queue, etc. -- it is important to ensure that these metrics
complement information captured from other systems, including operational
support systems (OSS), ERP and product management.
Integration Is Key
Telecommunications companies communicate with their customers through
a variety of channels, including ACDs, standard call-ins, e-mail and
postal mail. As a result, creating a complete view of the customer
requires that back-office systems are able to capture information from
every channel. More important, the underlying IT architecture must have
the capability to connect those business processes, thus facilitating a
single view of each customer regardless of who is viewing the information.
For example, the channel an individual customer uses to contact his or
her telecommunications company can provide that company's marketing
department with valuable information about how to target that customer in
the future and what channel to use when contacting them about additional
products and services. A customer who contacts the company via e-mail
might be targeted for additional services using an e-mail campaign.
Because e-mail campaigns are less expensive than direct mail campaigns,
the company benefits in numerous ways from its systems integration. Having
captured valuable customer knowledge in the first place, the company can
then act on it in a way that provides the greatest return.
Generating Actionable Data
With the abundance of data being captured from "customer care,"
the real key to making the data usable is collecting the right information
and delivering it to both strategic and operational decision makers. As
with any other technology deployment, a successful CRM solution begins
with a definition of what aspects of the business require improvement,
what steps are required to realize these improvements, and most important,
how the results will be measured.
In today's business environment, providing excellent customer service
requires having access to key information about customers and prospects.
The more information a company has about its customers, the better its
ability to personalize, individualize, anticipate and even predict the
successful outcome of its customer interactions. For telecommunications
companies, call centers provide an invaluable source of information from
which metrics and performance measurements can be generated.
However, most telecommunications companies make the mistake of
gathering too much information, most of which is never put to use.
Measuring call center metrics and performance means gathering information
about those areas that will drive utilization and affect service reps in
terms of staffing. This information can also be extremely advantageous
when it comes to product management.
Viewing your customer information from a holistic perspective and
integrating all customer-related systems creates data that become
actionable for users in a variety of functions, from marketing to
financial to top management. For example, say a telecommunications company
marketing analyst is using the Web to analyze data and notices an anomaly
about a specific customer. He or she then uses the company's CRM
application to look up the name of the customer's national account rep and
e-mails the data directly to the rep. Upon receipt, the account rep can
take immediate action. Meanwhile, the analyst has created an ad hoc view
that can be bookmarked for future use. He or she can also set a threshold
alert that will indicate when something is wrong.
The above example demonstrates the importance of having information
that is easy to access, relevant to specific business problems and can be
delivered to a broad range of users in a format that is easy to use. Many
telecommunications companies have taken steps to turn their data into
actionable customer intelligence by leveraging data assets and
decision-support technology. Analytical applications address this need by
combining relevant business information with business-specific analysis
logic and presenting the information in an intuitive interface. They
enable corporate executives and knowledge workers to access and use
valuable corporate information assets to more effectively measure, manage
and expand their businesses.
According to Elizabeth Shahnam, senior program director for data
warehousing and business intelligence at META Group, "Customer
relationship management (CRM) deployments are booming and strong analytics
are key for effective CRM. Every CRM deployment the consultancy has seen
that lacked a strong analytic component was unable to improve customer
The Web As A Strategic Tool
Once a company has taken steps to give users a holistic view of the
customer by providing clean, actionable data, distributing that
information in a timely and relevant way is key. The Web can facilitate
this process, disseminating information that is specific and meaningful
and appears on each user's desktop in a personalized manner.
The power of the Web is a highly touted subject, and telecommunications
companies and their call center customer service users are no exception
when it comes to the types of companies that can benefit from Web
technology. For starters, deployment of any Web application typically
requires a one-time effort, and because it provides an interface people
are accustomed to working with, training time and costs are minimized.
Users can quickly adapt to using it, without having to wait for new
desktops to arrive.
A telecommunications company will live or die based on its ability to
successfully execute a CRM initiative. The right IT architecture offers
enablers to help these companies reach their goals of implementing a
holistic CRM strategy that integrates all customer-related systems,
produces actionable data and is easy to use.
Just as a strategic CRM initiative should be driven by business
objectives, so should an organization's strategy for leveraging call
center metrics. Achieving the identified business objectives will depend
on your organization's ability to analyze the right business dimensions,
whether they involve the market, products, customers, or various financial
and statistical metrics. Are your measurements intended to appease Wall
Street, internal customers or external customers? Metrics mean nothing
unless they answer the questions being asked. Likewise, throwing
technology at customers won't make them loyal unless the technology
contributes to their satisfaction with the products and services your
Dennis Sparacino currently leads the AlphaBlox Professional Services
practice in the Central Region. Cindy O'Reilly is regional manager for
ThinkFast Consulting, Inc. in the Mountain Region. AlphaBlox and ThinkFast
Consulting are strategic partners for the development of analytical
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