Member Since: 8th Feb 2007
VP & Research Director Ventana Research
28th May 2012
While I agree with much of what is in this article, I think there are a few points which miss the mark. At Ventana Research we believe cloud computing, mobility, collaboration, big data, social media and business analytics will lead to more innovation in the way business operate and how they consume IT. As result we further believe that companies must now operate multimedia marketing, sales and customer service, and customer service in particular will be the responsibility of multiple business units. Getting customer engagement right will therefore be no easy task and will require cultural change as well as people, process, information and technology change. The foundation will be a single customer view. Unlike Ray, I believe this is now achievable with several vendors now able to integrate and process customer data from multiple structured and unstructured sources, combine this with event driven data and thus produce a single view. We recommend organizations seek these out to help provide the information to drive new initiatives.
I am also no social media zealot but you can’t ignore the obvious; consumers, especially the younger generation, live, play, collaborate on Facebook and companies ignore this at their peril. Getting its use right is also not easy but I believe companies must build it into their multimedia customer engagement strategy. As another indicator the impact Facebook is having, I am seeing more and more vendors make their user interface look like Facebook, so new users are more comfortable using their products.
As for privacy (and making payments), I believe once more there is a cultural shift and many people, once again particularly the younger generations, and not so concerned as were previous generations. Like it or not it is hard to stay private: make anything but a cash payment and someone, somewhere is capturing it, make a phone call or send an email and it is likely someone is capturing it, write on social media and for sure someone is capturing it. Maybe people don’t understand the implications but in an internet-dependent world, I suggest it would be hard to go back to “the good old days”, and I am not a member of a younger generation).
22nd Jun 2010
18th Feb 2010
Not sure what has rattled Hugh’s cage but I don’t agree at all with the sentiment about behind this article. CRM and BI weren’t invented by industry analysts, they we software products created by vendors looking to satisfy market demand. If they have gone off the rails then, as I write quite often, it is because buyers don’t get behind the hype. CRM never could “manage” customer relationships, no software ever could. It is down to a company’s policies, strategies, processes and people; companies that have become truly customer centric will tell you this. Technology is only an enabler, so companies must decide what they want to do and then match that with technology that can support them.
The same is true of BI; and to put Google and BI in the same bucket is only confusing the point. Google lets you search the web to find information about companies, products, people etc. – it doesn’t tell you how your company is performing. Information does that, and BI products produce information from data, and no one application, be it ERP, CRM or financials, is going to produce a full picture. Take a favorite example of mine, the 360-degree view of the customer. Companies need this to drive marketing and sales initiatives, to provide personalized service, to answer specific customer questions in a call center or web-self service portal, and indeed to survive in today’s market place. The challenge I found in my research is that customer data sits in anything upto 22 different systems inside a company, plus more if you include partner and social media systems. And it is only by pulling all this data together and using a BI tool that companies can produce a complete view of their customers.
What my research does support is the view that many companies do use spreadsheets to carry out this critical task. Now I have nothing against spreadsheets, I use them every day, but if you want to pull customer data from ERP, CRM, financials, billing, letters, emails, phone calls, social media sites etc. they are hardly ideal and require lots of manual effort. This is where specialist BI (or analytics) tools come into their own and I can’t recommend strongly enough that companies do a proper evaluation of what tools are on the market that can help them identify how their companies are performing and what they can do to improve.
8th Feb 2010
In some respects I couldn’t agree more. In 6 years of surveying companies on subjects related to marketing, sales, customer service and the contact center, I have also concluded that very few, if any companies have a 360-degree, or single view of the customer, or as it is now sometimes called “the voice of the customer”. One particular research project into customer information management, also confirmed that the heart of the problem is the diversity and volume of customer data that is stored in all sorts of systems across the enterprise. Infact the results of this survey led me to conclude that 90%+ of company CEOs don’t (can’t) really know how many active customers they have!!
And this struggle with customer-related data is getting worse as the volume and types of customer data is just exploding. Now to get a full picture of their customers, companies need to include content from and analysis of written documents (letters, emails, surveys, IM scripts etc.), voice recordings and of course comments made on social media sites.
The good news is that some software vendors are stepping up to the challenge, with several in the customer MDM space releasing products that can clean customer data and synchronize it across multiple sources, others that can create a single customer data hub, and more niche analytics vendors that can integrate multiple sources of structured, unstructured, event-related and social media content into their analysis. So I predict in the very near future (< 2 years), companies will be able to create a single view of their customers that will allow them to target micro-groups of customers with different marketing campaigns, sales strategies and different levels, types of customer service.
What I am not entirely sure about is the “customer intelligence command centre” My experience tells me that companies will continue to be organized in silo’s and these multiple data sources will continue to exist. So what companies need is a top quality, single source of customer information from which they all work and that this is presented to them in formats applicable to their roles.
19th Nov 2009
I couldn’t agree more, except with an extra twist – culture. It is all well and good someone in an organization deciding they need to become customer centric but if the culture is not there, then the initiative will fail. Let me give you an example. I decided to swap broadband suppliers to a company that I am pretty sure would call themselves customer focussed. One pre-install survey and one installation visit and I am apparently 3 clicks away from the “best broadband experience anyone can get”. Oh no; 3 days later, several long waits to speak to customer service, and I ask to be disconnected. Noone seemed too surprised and so one week later I have all the equipment (they don’t collect), a small bill and another example of exceedingly bad customer service. Does anyone at the company know about this? I am sure they do. Do they care? It seems not. This for me is just one more example that “companies can talk the talk” but unless they put actions behind the words then customer centricity is just more consultancy speak.
27th Oct 2009
As usual a thought provoking article, much of which I agree with. As with many of these social media sites my big question is "what is their business model?", and when will the likes of twitter start charging (and for what)? Will it go away if they do, I doubt it as someone else will take their place.
But actually that misses a key point when it comes to the customer experience. My perception is, just like Dave, most people use these sites to highlight bad experiences – does anyone tweet to say a company gave them a great experience. They are essentially channels to let off steam because nothing else works, which is of course a major problem in itself. So rather than channels to deliver experiences, they are sources of customer feed-back that companies MUST build into their customer experience (management) strategies and processes. Knowing what you customers are saying about you is in my view essential if companies are going to change for the better, and prosper in these tough times. So I think gaining insights from social media content is where companies should focus.
12th Oct 2009
Good article, with lots of good points. However I find one or two of the points confusing. For me customer service is not just about first contact resolution, communicating with customers through their preferred channel of communication, or being aware of what customers are saying on social media sites – it is an enterprise issue where these examples are just a few components of a much wider issue. If I am flying to New York, get picked up at home, delivered to a curbside check-in, am channeled through a priority security channel and get a nice lounge to wait in – that is good customer service. If my fridge breaks down and an engineer turns up in an hour and fixes it – that is good customer service. If I call a contact center, and the agent recognizes me, has all the information at hand, and has authority to resolve my issue – that is good customer service. If I write a nasty comment about a company on twitter, that is not customer service.
The common characteristics in all my examples, and all good customer service, are that they consist of a series of good experiences that are personalized, and are within the context of my situation. So I absolutely agree that the customer experience is now what counts, and they will add up to good customer service.
So where does social media sit? Well more often than not social media entries are as the result of a bad experience – funny people rarely shout about the good ones. Companies need to know about these and need to factor that information, along with the rest of the customer information they have, into how they handle the next experience. So if social media is to become integrated into a customer service strategy then companies need to respond like-for-like and use it as a channel to answer customer issues. So in my view companies need to be cognizant of social media entries, integrate this information with other information about the customer and then use that integrated, 360degree view to optimize customer service across all touch points.
14th Apr 2009
While I agree with the tenant of your argument, I don’t think you go far enough. My research confirms that increasing customer satisfaction is indeed top of the agenda for most companies. But in isolation for two main reasons it is meaningless. One, most companies measure satisfaction on a transactional level and while one interaction can seem to go well the customer may well not be happy with the overall relationship. Two, you eluded to this but what counts in business today is outcomes and what companies need to measure is what are the results from their actions – if customer satisfaction doesn’t result in a positive business outcome then by itself it is of little use.