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The 'where' factor: How is location awareness revolutionising CRM?

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20th May 2010
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How is the incorporation of location into CRM systems addressing an analytic blind spot and customer service shortcomings for organisations - and who is benefiting?

Like most technologies, CRM was overhyped in the early days, but has now matured to become a trusted and critical delivery element of competitive enterprise strategies. Today, CRM applications are witnessing reinvigorated growth, underpinned by multi-dimensional data, extended via web services, and driven by the fundamental business need to acquire, serve and grow customers. 
In the public sector, Government CRM systems capture service request details, route the request to the proper agency, track workflow progress, and measure performance. This coordinated approach helps to improve agency efficiency and bridge municipal silos. In the private sector, commercial CRM systems use a consumer-centric approach, focusing on acquiring and retaining customers through data capture to enhance customer retention with the goal of a 360-degree view of the consumer. 
However, both CRM approaches are missing a fundamental element – location.
Location, location, location
 
Location is ubiquitous. Location influences most (if not all) business behaviour and outcomes, making its applicability almost universal. Yet many organisations have not thought about the geographic and location aspects of their business data across processes or decision making. In short, this lack of location awareness is an analytic blind spot for the majority of organisations today.
According to Ovum, 80% of enterprise data contains geospatial co-ordinates that can be visualised on a map as points, lines or areas. However, this location component of data is not being capitalised on by many organisations and IT systems. Traditional business intelligence systems have looked at ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’, but have ignored the core analytical dimension of ‘where’. Location is a core analytic dimension. Within this data lies a vast pool of intelligence that largely remains untapped today. In fact, only 28% of organisations are truly innovative in their business when it comes to the context of location. (Ventana Research – Benchmark Research into Location Intelligence – Feb 2009). The same report found that 61% of organisations found that using location data helps to improve customer services.
When we think of ‘location aware’ systems or ‘location centric’ tools we typically think of GIS systems. But technology has evolved far beyond the days of thematic maps and low level tools. Increasing use of mobile devices and the growing adoption of GPS and RFID have made it easier to identify the location of people and things. Consumer mapping tools, such as Google Maps and associated mash-ups, have also helped to educate consumers and have raised expectations among business IT users of how and what their IT systems should provide in terms of location aware data, services and devices.
Location awareness is an enabler of business decisions. It helps organisations to optimise their strategy, operations and performance through the provision of analytically driven intelligence and insights. Location Aware technologies also improve and accelerate business efficiency and performance, particularly in customer/citizen centric processes. A Location Aware solution integrated with an existing customer database enables an organisation to visually identify its most valuable customers; better asses risk scenarios, see how demographics correlate with specific objectives or revenue goals, and target new customers/citizens with similar demographic characteristics.
Location aware CRM
Incorporating location into CRM systems is known as location aware CRM. With location aware CRM, organisations are able to integrate all of the benefits of location intelligence with the underlying core disciplines of CRM, such as data quality, data integration, customer communications management and data-as-a-service. This takes critical data intelligence out of low level tables hidden in a database and into the boardroom for a more holistic view and better decision making.
The combination of these disciplines means organisations can now access important location aware information (such as flood risk data for example), cleanse and validate the data ensuring it is fit for purpose, integrate and enrich it with internal systems and processes, analyse and visualise it as needed (e.g. check the flood risk potential of selected post codes), and then seamlessly and effectively route and communicate that data  both internally and with specific customers or citizens using structured or unstructured data. This gives organisations the ability to locate, connect and communicate from a location aware data platform.
Location aware CRM solutions comprise location intelligence, data management and customer communications management solutions that enable organisations to unlock the value of their data assets. By providing greater levels of insight, accuracy and efficiency, organisations can harness previously unobtainable benefits that generate new opportunities from their data, drive deeper business understanding, sustain stronger customer relationships and improve competitive performance.
Who is benefiting?
So who is capitalising on this trend and what benefits are they gaining? The public sector is perhaps one of the most advanced sectors in its adoption of location aware technologies. Governments today are facing challenges such as rapid population growth, particularly from immigration, carbon footprint reduction, resource shortages, increasing requests for planning permission, as well as terrorist threats and security concerns. Many local governments are deploying location-based systems to help improve their planning capabilities for security functions, enhance disaster forecasting, pandemics and emergency preparedness, better manage carbon footprint reduction, and enhance citizen-centric self service capabilities.
One example of location intelligence in citizen self-services is Southwark Council. Southwark Council is using web mapping technology to significantly enhance the mapping services provided to citizens via the Council’s website, delivering the type of seamless and intuitive user experience that online citizens have come to expect from the Web 2.0 world. Known as Southwark Interactive Mapping, Southwark Council is incorporating location in its citizen services and communications.
The interactive map - www.southwark.gov.uk/YourServices/maps - enables citizens to activate overlays on top of a detailed map of the borough – for example, clicking on ‘Controlled parking zones’ instantly highlights the relevant areas on the map. Other overlay options include ‘Schools’, ‘Recycling Sites’, ‘Planning Applications’ and ‘Conservation Areas’. Southwark Council is also making location and mapping functionality more available throughout its website, for instance, enabling citizens to launch spatial searches and address look-ups from whichever page they’re on. The Council hopes to see a tripling of traffic on its dedicated interactive mapping page over the next two months.
The private sector is incorporating location elements in a wide range of CRM and customer focused applications. For example, the Electricity Supply Board in the Republic of Ireland has deployed a location-based solution to help with its network and planning optimisation. Elsewhere, European telcos have incorporated location elements into customer communication management suites, with one leading provider of telecoms and broadband solutions reporting that will reap cost savings of £250,000 through better intelligence around customer postcodes. 
As the market matures, and organisations get savvier with location as a lead component of their reports and analyses, we will see demand for ‘what if’ scenario modelling, such as crime profiling for fraud, planning or insurance purposes. Location awareness is enabling organisations to get closer to their customers and citizens. By extending CRM systems at the front end and adding in the ‘Where Factor’ around geography and postcodes, organisations can unlock their data assets and make better use of the location element in order to drive deeper business insights that improve competitiveness and business performance. If you haven’t considered the ‘Where Factor’ in your own organisation’s systems, you’re leaving a significant amount of data intelligence unexploited.
Mark Bishop is product manager for Pitney Bowes Business Insight. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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By pabra
20th May 2010 11:26

A better link to the Southwark Council map is here: http://maps.southwark.gov.uk/connect/index.jsp?tooltip=yes

One day all local maps will be like this

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By theopriestley
20th May 2010 13:35

Something I looked into in 2009 was the combination of location-aware business process management. I liaised with a GIS outfit in the US to look into GIS-enabled processes. This is becoming a lot more relevant outside of simple scenarios. Aviva and Prudential in the UK have implemented claims processing and decisioning based on locational information, so much like in the scenario pointed out regarding flood warnings etc they can make decisions a lot quicker based on available GIS data which wasn't available before.

In the same way 'social crm' is opening doors to collaboration and transparency, location data is doing much the same from a different perspective, enabling both to work together would be something else...

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