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When the CRM Forum delegates came home from last week's Information Management Awards in London - where we were finalists in three categories - we just knew we'd been within a hair's breadth of winning an award.  Or a commendation.  Or perhaps recognition as a runner-up. 

But we're not bitter.  

Below is an interview with eLoyalty, who won Best New Business Award for its Loyalty Support Services at the recent Solutions Integrator SI Impact Awards, kindly sent to us by SI thenselves.

Introduction: TSC’s eLoyalty spinoff is putting a new twist on two of the industry’s hottest trends. In the process it’s helping clients strengthen ties to their customers and securing its own spot in the emerging Internet economy.

Hardly a newcomer to the burgeoning customer-relationship-management (CRM) market, the Enterprise Customer Management unit of Technology Solutions Co. (TSC) in Chicago has been plying the CRM waters since 1994. The unit was recently spun off from TSC and formed into a new company called eLoyalty, led by President and CEO Kelly Conway. As the new firm prepares for an IPO later this year, it must advance its core business in the face of dramatic market changes and some of the most vexing integration challenges in the industry.

Solutions Integrator: What are the biggest challenges for eLoyalty in the next year?

Kelly Conway: There are a couple. Successfully executing the spinoff while maintaining the strong momentum we have is one challenge.

Additionally, we’re at the beginning of significant paradigm shifts in this industry. One is the next generation of the Internet. We think that integrating the Internet with the back-end fulfillment systems and the remote sales force, call centers, and traditional electronic channels -- so that you have a common customer experience and influence across channels -- will be a powerful model. We are starting to build, market, and aggressively deploy these types of solutions now.

We also have an initiative to host some of the customer-relationship and -loyalty infrastructure. Instead of building these complex applications onsite, we would actually build the servers and switches remotely and then operate and deploy them to customers on a hosted basis. It’s a form of the ASP [application service provider] model, but it’s more about hosting the infrastructure and the complex interconnections, rather than one specific application.

We would provide things like ACDs [automatic call distribution services], VRUs [voice-response units], Web servers, CTI [computer-telephony integration] middleware, Internet telephony, e-mail routing, CTI databases, voice-recognition servers, real-time chat sessions -- all the things to create the common customer experience, wrapped around the business applications. This stuff is very complex to implement, operate, enhance, and maintain.

Solutions Integrator: What are the rewards in this business?

Kelly Conway: There are a number of rewards. First is working with the world’s best customers on their most strategic projects and using the most innovative technology and processes available. From a more traditional view, the amount of growth, the enthusiasm surrounding the launch of eLoyalty, the financial momentum, and the response we got from investment bankers is very exciting.

Solutions Integrator: Why do customers choose your company over competitors?

Kelly Conway: I thinks it’s our focus. Focused companies generally do better. I can’t wake up tomorrow and say I’m going to do SAP. This is what we do, and we’re going to live and die by this. It makes you be better.

Solutions Integrator: What’s the next step in creating competitive advantage?

Kelly Conway: Extending the hosting model and continuing to build the technology and process expertise. Also, we’ll wrap this into a proposition for customers that creates more certainty of the business benefits, which we want to guarantee. Offering this contractually is something we'd like to do in the next 12 to 18 months.

Solutions Integrator: What value does recognition from a program like the SI Impact Awards have for your company?

Kelly Conway: It has a lot of value, particularly as we launch eLoyalty. Being recognized has tremendous branding value internally and in the marketplace. As you know, this is the ultimate momentum business. When you have great momentum, it feeds on itself. You’re able to hire the best people and get the best customers. This kind of award adds fuel to the momentum we have already.

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