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TMC Labs
October 2001


ThinkDirectMarketing.com, Inc.
Stamford, CT 06902
Ph: 203-964-9411; Fx: 203-978-5872
Web: www.thinkdirectmarketing.com

Price: MSRP ranges between 21 cents per match up to 2,000 matches, and 6 cents per match depending upon volume thereafter.

2001 Editors' Choice Awards

Occasionally, TMC Labs chooses to cover a product for which we can't use our usual in-house testing procedure of weights and measures, but rather, what we call a "first look": a product description and details about its features and functionality. This is often the case for software development kits (SDKs), because they are customizable solutions contingent upon a specific type of in-house architecture. We recently chose to take a first look at ThinkDirectMarketing's (TDMI's) DigitalData SDK. This product provides a customized solution that integrates with third-party CRM or IVR solutions, but there is a lot more involved than simply installing the product and "testing" it in the most literal sense.

The premise of DigitalData is the automation of the information-gathering process for point-of-sale systems, call center systems, CRM packages and IVR applications. By reading caller ID and ANI information, DigitalData allows its users' local servers to query its North American database via the Internet to, for example, supply call center agents with the appropriate contact information without requiring them to type any of it. Name, address, city, state, ZIP +4 and latitude and longitude information may be provided with each match. This is possible because TDMI provides the controls for developers and system integrators through the SDK to imbed into their premise solution's architecture, which will, in turn, grant access to TDMI's North American database and query tools. The users' solution is then able to query TDMI's database for information if a match isn't found locally. As a result, this provides agents, salespeople or IVR solutions with almost instant access to a new caller's contact information.

Since a control is a program module that (in this case) enhances the functionality of an existing enterprise user-interface function such as a screen-pop, DigitalData is not a stand-alone system. Rather, it's a tool that provides added functionality to an existing system. As ThinkDirectMarketing says, the SDK is designed to be used as part of another application environment running on an interactive voice response system, call center system, mapping system or other system or server.

DigitalData has been specifically engineered to integrate with most types of existing operating system architecture. As Edward Fleiss, VP of Technology and Business Development for ThinkDirectMarketing, said, "DigitalData can be added to any CRM or IVR solution that supports programming hooks." In case you're not a hard-coder, in programming, a "hook" is a code instruction that provides a breakpoint for future or further system expansion.

The DigitalData SDK arrived at TMC Labs burned onto a CD. As previously mentioned, the SDK provides query controls allowing a developer to embed them into almost any type of CRM or a software-based IVR solution. In the case of a Java or Active X environment, hard coding is alleviated via an installation wizard that will define search parameters. Other operating system environments may require manual coding to set up a query capable of examining all local databases before connecting and referencing TDMI's North American database for existing information. DigitalData controls are available for Microsoft NT Server, Java-compatible Unix and Unix variations. Some non-Java and ActiveX operating systems are also compatible, including AIX and Unix. The data are returned from TDMI's database in different forms, depending on the user's platform. ActiveX will return the data as a MS RDS recordset. Java-enabled Unix returns data as a result set. Unix and other operating systems read the returned data as a data string. TDMI says that if there is no match, it will return a NULL result in whichever form is appropriate to the user's operating system.

While DigitalData's queries using Java and Unix consist of phone numbers, area codes and ZIP code +4, its capabilities seem to be enhanced when used in conjunction with Windows-based operating systems. For example, TDMI provided us with the following list of data returned using a Windows-based operating system: consumer last name, business name, address, radius by address or coordinate or Standard Industry Classification (SIC). TDMI informed us that Windows-based searches can be filtered with the following qualifier fields: first name, city, state, country (U.S. and Canada), street number and direction.

A conceptual overview of the process in which a call is placed to a DigtialData-enabled call center begins by using caller ID or ANI information. The ACD/CRM server looks for a match between the incoming phone number and the local database. If a match is found, the information is displayed for the agent. If a match is not found, a query is sent to the TDMI North American database, which boasts over 118 million consumers (according to TDMI's Web site), both residential and business listings. The information is then aggregated almost instantaneously (according to TDMI) and is delivered. The ACD/CRM server processes the information and distributes it at the customer premise. The unknown prospect's data are sent to the agent's interface, populating the form or fields an agent would normally need to fill out when collecting the customer information. The amount of information presented depends upon the platform of operation, as previously stated. The contact center's account is then charged a fee on a per-match basis.

TDMI maintains DigitalData saves contact centers money by automating data collection, which the company says will help eliminate typos and lost opportunities due to incorrect information while decreasing the costs associated with transcription. As a result, TDMI reports that this will allow more customers to be better served by agents. Additionally, DigitalData has the ability to capture abandoned calls during peak periods. Its capabilities also include fast turnaround, as TDMI claims its servers return results to the customer's application server in two seconds or less. ThinkDirectMarketing.com has licensed its data, which is updated monthly from data aggregator Acxiom Corporation.

TDMI has projected that the cost of a single agent handling a call is $2.25 per minute and that it takes from 30 seconds to one minute, on average, for an agent to enter baseline data. The cost of a DigitalData match is 21 cents, with a total productivity savings of $1.00 to $2.00 per match. With three calls per hour, they say that a company can save $36.00 per day, or an average of $930.00 per month. TDMI also adds that based on those numbers, a company with a 100-agent contact center could save approximately $93,000 per month.

TDMI is hoping to help companies currently employing point-of-sale systems, call center systems, CRM packages and IVR applications by providing instant access to new customers' contact information. While many solutions today provide the caller ID and ANI features, few are linked to a database providing location information. Additionally, by the time this review is published, TDMI says their database will have the capability to append additional demographic information using the Claritas PRIZM Segmentation system as well.

As it stands, there are several compelling advantages to using a solution such as DigitalData. While DigitalData definitely expands a company's understanding of its customers, an additional benefit is the way it can enhance a customer's perception of a company. Frontline data at-the-ready are very advantageous, as they help agents more quickly develop rapport with customers. In a similar manner, to maintain an even level of service on more than one front, an IVR environment can help provide the same bolstering effect by increasing the level of service and decreasing the timeframe in which a successful customer contact is accomplished.

DigitalData appears to provide equally appealing advantages internally. The ability to track and store all incoming calls provides an alternate avenue to adding call center staff at peak hours. Additionally, the "missed" incoming call log could also conceivably be used as a tool to derive leads for sales or marketing. The proposed cost savings is also attractive.

Founded in 1998, ThinkDirectMarketing. com, Inc. specializes in online marketing database products and services. TDMI designs, develops and distributes products and services that automate and streamline direct marketing and CRM processes. TDMI has also partnered with companies offering customer interaction solutions such as Interactive Intelligence. As a result, TDMI's product is built into Interactive Intelligence's Customer Interaction Center product.

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