TMCnet - World's Largest Communications and Technology Community



November 2008 | Volume 27 / Number 6
CRM, BPO & Teleservices

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:

AperioCI (www.aperioci.com)
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
Marketing, SugarCRM

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.

Information Solutions
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. accudata.com) 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.

Acxiom (News - Alert)’s (www.acxiom.com) PersonicX ® 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.

CellForce (www.cellforce.com) offers 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.

IntellidynTM’s (www.intellidyn.com) 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 Intellidyn (News - Alert)’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.

TARGUSinfo (News - Alert)’s (www.targusinfo.com) 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. com), a unit of Harte-Hanks (www. hartehanks.com), 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.

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.

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 pull information.

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.”

CIS Magazine Table of Contents

Technology Marketing Corporation

2 Trap Falls Road Suite 106, Shelton, CT 06484 USA
Ph: +1-203-852-6800, 800-243-6002

General comments: tmc@tmcnet.com.
Comments about this site: webmaster@tmcnet.com.


© 2021 Technology Marketing Corporation. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy