Friday, December 28, 2007

On predicting the future

I was trying to watch for all kinds of list including CRM predicitions for 2008, but Paul Greenberg apparently has a keener eye than me. He's come up with a comprehensive list of predictions from various researchers and key crm minds out there. Rather than copying his work, I thought I'd just refer to it. Enjoy reading his post.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

On CRM and User Adoption

Triggered by a post on the usability of enterprise software, I ended up reading an article on CRM and user adoption. CRM spending is on the rise again in the US (us Europeans have been experiencing a CRM "mini" boom since mid 2006 already), but one of the main issues in succesful CRM technology implementations is getting users to work with the system, atleast according to AMR Research. One of the most interesting remarks made in the interview with Robert Bois is the following:

"The challenge in CRM is really specific to the sales and marketing applications. Much of the software on the market today helps automate process, but doesn’t necessarily provide incremental value back to the user. Sales people often complain that CRM or SFA is just an administrative burden, and does little more than prove to their boss that they are doing their job. So adoption wanes, and users go back to using familiar tools like spreadsheets, databases or even just Rolodexes." Robert Bois, AMR Research

Over the years I've been involved in service and sales related projects and have worked together with colleagues implementing marketing resource management or automation systems. I've found that service related employees adopt crm solutions far quicker than sales or marketing professionals, mostly because sales professionals do not recognize the added value of a CRM solution, or perhaps I should say because the added value of a CRM solution is not always communicated clearly to sales and marketing professionals. The aim of this post is not to provide a solution to this issue, that has dominated the CRM arena for quite some time, but to merely go into a number of possible causes.

Adoption by service representatives

A CRM application, providing a consitent view of the customer, is the key asset for a service representative. If a service representative would have to work with a combination of spreadsheets, access databases, dispersed information he would simply not be able to perform his work in an efficient, customer friendly way. In other words, a CRM, or service automation application, makes a service representatives life easier and customers happier, which in turn leads to automatic high levels of user adoption. A key driver in implementing a service related CRM application is enhancing a customers experience, by making the job of the service rep (call centre agent or field engineer) easier.

Adoption by sales representatives

Perhaps I should start of with a definition of what a sales rep is, for the purpose of this post a sales rep is the hard working man or woman, travelling around the country or his district to perform face to face sales activities and not the student with a side job in a call centre selling a cheap product, or a long distance phone subscription. What motivates the typical sales representative? His sales based bonus! In my personal experience adoption of sales force automation application is the lowest among simple, one man, account management driven, sales environments. The reason for this is simple, his bonus will not increase by spending time on recording information on a sales visit or recording customer attributes needed for segmentation purposes. Only when a need arises to share information among a team of account managers, jointly pitching to close a deal, does the sales rep start entering and sharing information, after all, if he doesn't share, he might not help win the deal and therefore loose out on his bonus. A typical SFA implementation focuses on asking sales reps to enter information that can be used by the (sometimes hated) 'HQ' to improve segmentation and ensure sales reps focus on selling to the right customers. I believe the key to getting user adoption is to ensure a sales specific CRM system also provides direct benefits to a sales rep that allow him to close a deal (and thereby increas his bonus) quicker. Don't implement an SFA solution just to get more information on your customers for better segmentation so that you can in the end replace your field sales reps with a call centre (which could be your end goal off course), which will require you to beat your sales reps with a stick to get them to work with the system. Implement order or product configuration possibilities as well, provide your representatives with the means to quickly calculate prices and generate offers for customers and sell, sell, sell! This will make the job of the sales rep easier, increase his bonus, and will motivate him to enter the information the rest of the company needs to better target customers and develop new product or service propositions.

On end of year lists and receiving accolades

The holiday season is upon us and a new year is about to start, which means it's time for all kinds of top x of 2007 lists. I've been watching out for these kinds of lists in the CRM area, to see if anything worth sharing was being published on the web. Much to my suprise I seem to have made it onto one of these top x lists, apparently I'm one of the top 20 CRM bloggers, according to Inside CRM. I'm pretty proud of the fact that I'm appearing on this list, with CRM greats like Paul Greenberg, even if I'm only in 20th place. Let's see if I make the list again next year.

On outsourcing your services

A consistent brand experience and high quality service usually leads to a significant decrease in customer churn, after all, a happy customer remains a customer. Some companies are finding benefits in outsourcing customer service to achieve a more consistent brand experience, which sounds somewhat contradictory. An article on Destination CRM provides some more insight into what to look for when wanting to outsource your services.

Monday, December 17, 2007

On seeing the financial benefits of an improved customer experience

An article on CRM daily, written by Natalie L. Petouhoff and Brian R. Johnson from Hitachi Consulting in the US, provides interesting insights into the quantifiable benefits of an enhanced customer experience. All too often CRM applications are implemented just to replace a legacy system, because of a management hype, or due to an intangible need for a new and consistent customer experience. Natalie and Brian provide interesting insights into how to tie the customer experience to financial long and short term objectives of a company and ensure accountability and commitment from senior management through a tie-in with financial reporting standards. Read the article up to page 4, as it turns to a bit of a sales pitch after that.

Friday, December 14, 2007

On customer service lessons from a shopping survey

Marketwatch posted the results of a Wharton survey into the way women and men shop (US Based). The overall results indicate that men are more focussed on buying whereas women tend to shop around. The article also contains some interesting pointers on service within a store, such as a man's tendency to never return to a shop once the item they need has been out of stock once, whereas women tend to not return if they do not get enough attention from shop assistants. Perhaps something to look at when optimizing / revitalizing your storefront / service concept.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On Salesforce to salesforce

Already a big Web 2.0 application, is adding additional features to its product: Social Networking. The salesforce to salesforce part of has been recently launched and provides opportunities for salesforce subcribers and developers to connect and collaborate. Read more on this at Destination CRM.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

On customer data integration (3)

This is post 3 of a 4 part series on the concept and application of Customer Data Integration (hereafter referred to as CDI). The first post dealt with the definition of a number of concepts that make up the field of CDI. The second post, dealt with applying these concepts and defining an overall CDI approach. This, the third post will deal with key success factors in implementing CDI. The fourth post will highlight some of the application solutions that provide CDI specific solutions.

Key success factors

Projects often fail, because the goals and targets are not clearly defined at the outset of a project. The key success factors detailed in this post are mainly derived out of this principle, and measuring whether your CDI implementation is still on target to achieve it's goals. There are of course other KSF's that one could list, but I've limited myself to the three below:

KSF 1. Get the basics right, define a data model first.

In implementing a customer master data application one has to define a uniform customer model (sometimes combined with a uniform product model). The uniform customer model should contain the definition of the attributes a customer has within your organization and which attributes are available in which of your domains. In other words, a customer for your organization is: Someone with a first and last name, a date of birth, social security number, a number of hobbies and a visiting and billing address. The address entity is made up of street, house number, zip code, city, country code etc. The hobbies may be interesting for your marketing department, but not so much for the billing department and as such is not a shared attribute. Define your a bandwidth for deviation in domains and agree on using this as the basis for application implementations. Be sure to leverage the customer master application you have selected, it usually has a standard data model that only need limited revision. Introducing a governance structure such as a design authority that monitors whether projects and departments stick to this guideline can help ensuring success. Only start implementing applications, once you have the customer model defined!

KSF 2. Consolidating customer facing processes

Look at all your customer facing processes, can they be consolidated or reorganized? Would it be beneficial to your organization to consolidate the existing customer call center into a single one, without the need for a customer master system? One of the main reasons behind needing a customer master systems is the need for consistent and on time customer data across channels and processes. If the processes and organizational elements can be consolidated, the need for a customer master system may diminish as well. In other words: get your organization in order, before trying to implement new technology!

KSF 2. One step at a time

The biggest benefits of CDI are reaped once every process is connected to the system of record for your customers, but this does not mean one needs to take one big jump straight to the top of the CDI mountain. This leap could either see you crash landing into the side of the mountain, or jumping over it and completely missing the goal. As with any IT implementation, try to break your CDI initiative into small steps, which deliver quick results while keeping your organization on the right road to climbing the top. Trying to reach the top with a turbocharged initiative could lead to you loosing out on business and not being able to work, once the turbo fails. Get your customer data model in order, get your processes aligned, try out your CDI system for a small department before slowly rolling out across your organization.


Success is not success if it's not measured. In order to ensure one delivers added value through CDI one needs to measure whether improvements are made. In the second post I referred to identifying the pain as one of the first steps in implementing a CDI solution. This first step should also help you in creating a baseline measurement for your CDI KPI's. The first KPI's fall under the category data quality KPI's:

  • Level of duplication (how many customers have you stored more than once).
  • Standardization of data (How many different ways do you to have to store a D.o.B. for instance?).
  • Data completeness (What percentage of attributes in your uniform data model has been given a value, on average).

Initial scores for the KPI's mentioned in the bullets above can be found using data profiling tools (such as Informatica Data Quality ). Frequent measurement throughout your CDI initiative should allow you to measure whether your customer data improves over time.

  • Throughput time and measuring reduction. Is the time it takes to complete your customer intake or order intake process reduced? Is your customer information available across processes and channels quicker? Measure up front and measure during project execution to see a reduction.
  • Customer satisfaction surveys. An obvious KPI is to measure customer satisfaction and measure improvements over time. Are you customers more satisfied because they are able to quickly execute and close interactions (instead having to cal 3 times for each product a customer has, a move is handled with a single call).
  • Net promoter score. The amount of customers that recommend you or your products to others minus the amount of customers that discourage / recommend against buying your products to others. Also a key indicator of customer satisfaction. Does the NPS improve as your CDI initiative moves forward?
  • Number of complaints registered. Related to customer satisfaction, are your customers complaining less as your CDI initiative moves forward?

Post 4 - Vendor specific solutions

The fourth post in the series, which is to be posted next week, will dive into a number of vendor specific CDI solutions and their maturity.

On CRM in 2008

It's time to look back at 2007 and gaze in to what the future holds for all of us. CRM Magazine features an article on CRM 2.0 and possible developments in the CRM arena in 2008. Interesting to see Mitchel Lager's view of the future combined with the views and vision of several industry experts and research analysts. The focus of the article, as in CRM 2.0, is on collaboration, the collaborative enterpise and working together with your customers. Let's see whether the trends and predictions in this article will indeed manifest themselves in 2008.

Friday, November 30, 2007

On the cost of customer data security

Within the US security breaches for companies are leading to significant costs in order to re-imburse clients for privacy loss, improving security for IT applications and adapting to ever evolving technology developments. Read this article to find out how much US companies are loosing. I wonder what the cost of data security and security breaches is in the European market place, with it's stricter and beter regulated privacy laws.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Customer Data Integration (2)

This is post 2 of a 4 part series on the concept and application of Customer Data Integration (hereafter referred to as CDI). The first post dealt with the definition of a number of concepts that make up the field of CDI. This, the second post, deals with applying these concepts and defining an overall CDI approach. Post three will deal with key success factors in implementing CDI. The fourth post will highlight some of the application solutions that provide CDI specific solutions.

Defining a CDI Solution

There are many reasons for wanting or needing an integrated CDI environment, such as the need for a consistent customer view across all channels and specific touch points. One way of doing this could be to support all these channels and customer touch points with a single application and generic and uniform processes. Over the past years it has been proven to be rather costly and difficult to integrate legacy applications into a single platform, whereas this does not always lead to quantifiable benefits. A more feasible solution, especially in today's Service Oriented Architecture World is to create a single system of record for customer data. This single system of record is then integrated to other applications over an Enterprise Service Bus for Create, Read, Update and Delete functionality (See slide 1 of the integrated Slide Share Presentation).

Climbing the CDI mountain

In order to reach the top of the mountain, or in other words an implemented CDI application, one would have to complete 4 distinct steps (see slide2 of the integrated slide share presentation). Much of these steps re-use elements of a typical CRM, Business Process Redesign or Generic Enterpise Application Implementation approach and may seem rather obvious.

  1. Identify the pain
  2. Develop the vision
  3. Select components
  4. Deliver value

each of these steps is detailed in the following paragraphs.

1. Identify the pain

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. First perform an assessment of whether a problem exists and if so, what the cause of this problem is. This can be either quality of data, such as customers that appear multiple times, with a slightly different spelling of the last name, or the fact that data or updates are not made available to all channels in a timely fashion. The pain-points are most easily identified through performing an customer data quality assessment and identifying all application, touchpoints and processes that use customer data. The outcome should be a simple identification of pain points and the rationale behind why they are pain points.

2. Develop the vision

The keyword in developing the vision is prioritization and value. Do not spend months of process re-engineering and application implementation work and budget on that one system that only makes up 10% of your customer contacts. Use the pareto principle and if simply developing a service bus that integrates two specific customer systems does the trick then do that, instead of trying to convert and integrate these two systems into a single instance. Focus on defining quick wins,for instance improve quality of data through applying a data quality tool such as Informatica IDQ or Human Inference on existing Customer systems, instead of developing new ones. Another example would be discovering that most value is gained by integrating two existing touchpoints, but not by replacing their systems. The outcome of this phase should be a roadmap and a business case.

3. Select components

Redesign your organization, technical application architecture and processes, based on the roadmap created in step 2. Select the tools for your CDI approach, what technology needs to be implemented and who is going to do it (a vendor, third party or someone / a department within the organization?). Also define who's in charge of implementing the vision. The outcome should be a technology and organizational change focussed set of initiatives that are to be performed / completed within an 12 - 18 month horizon (preferably quicker)

4. Delvier value

Implement the initiatives and measure the result. Ensure your business case is met by identifying if the pain points have been resolved or partly resovled. Can you perform an administrative move of a customer quicker, do less customers complain that they still don't have that product you promised and less customers complain on the quality of service and speed with which changes / complaints are handled.

The next post is on measuring how this value is delivered, what are do's, don'ts and key performance indicators.

Monday, November 26, 2007

On as an application platform

Apparently wants to become the new Microsoft. With the recent launch of and the AppExchange platform certainly seems to be making steps in that direction. An article on CRM-Daily contains the views of several industry experts on this.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On CRM 2.0

Making everything 2.0 seems to be one of the leading trends over the past couple of year(s). After the web, CRM is now being enhanced and revised into CRM 2.0. Check out this blog post by Paul Greenberg on CRM 2.0 and VRM. I will be checking out the CRM 2.0 wiki and might make some contributions.

On outsourced call centers

I thought that the boom in outsourcing call centres to India and other locations around the world was slowing down. Apparently that's not the case. Avaya, the technology company, has concluded that the market keeps on growing after global research I wonder if this research also includes research to hosted call centre solutions such as Oracle's Telephony at Work solutions.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On Customer Data Integration (1)

This is to become post 1 of a 4 part series on the concept and application of Customer Data Integration (hereafter referred to as CDI). This first post will go into the definition of a number of concepts that make up the field of CDI. The second post will deal with applying these concepts and defining an overall CDI approach. Post three will deal with key succes factors in implementing CDI. The fourth post will highlight some of the application solutions that provide CDI specific solutions.

What is Customer Data Integration
according to Gartner CDI is : 'a combination of technologies, processes and services to develop and maintain an accurate, timely and complete view of the customer….across multiple sources of customer data..' This is the definition that will be used during the remainder of these series. It's important to stress that CDI is more than just technology to ensure a single view of the customer, it can involve a change in business processes and requires a company to focus on the need for correct customer data.

Challenges addressed through CDI
Ensure a single point of entry for customer data, enter your customer data only once, and have it available for use in all channels once the data has been entered.
All channels are provided with consistent and accurate data, through use of data quality tools.
By providing all channels with consistent customer data, one is able to enhance a customers experience and perception of level of service. The customer experience can be made consistent across all channels.
If your customer data is of higher quality, the reliability of data for segmentation and marketing is significantly improved.
A single source for customer data allows a company to better manage it's customer data privacy. Ensuring compliance with laws and regulations is easier for a single system, as opposed to dispersed, diffuse customer date stored in multiple systems.

Elements of CDI
Customer Master Data Systems, a single source that stores your customers in a consistent way. Typically an application that is exposed to other application using EAI / SOA based tooling. A customer master data application provides a data model which allows storing all your customer related data, such as contact, account and address information (installed base information can also belong to this domain), whereas operation data, such as opportunities, leads, activities / meetings, are stored in operational CRM systems

Data Quality Tools, however strict the procedure you have for data entry is, one will always make mistakes such as duplicate entry of data, incomplete address information etc. Data Quality Tools can prevent common mistakes from being made, by providing data matching and data cleansing services. Data matching entails matching new entries to existing data, based on certain algorythms to determine potential and complete matches of data entered. Data cleansing tools provide automatic enhancement and validation of data, such as address information or names of companies based on postal code data or chamber of commerce reference information.

Enterprise Application Integration. In today's world of SOA enable applications EAI plays an important role. A customer master application is worthless without it being exposed to other applications as a data provider. If your perfect model of customer data cannot be accessed through operational applications, the benefits of CDI cannot be reaped. Enterprise application technology provides authentication, transformation and transport for XML based services to and from your customer master system, to ensure the correct data is actually delivered on request, but only to applications that are allowed to access that data.

The second part of this series will deal with an application of these concepts.

On customer data proliferation and ownership

Who's data is it anyway? In recent history sales people relied on their own network to close sales and score their bonus. Social networking and google have made it far more easy to find a new contact within a firm you would like to sell to. Jim Fowler has posted an interesting article on CRM daily about data ownership in the Web 2.0 world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Service Enhancement in the Manufacturing Industry

Deloitte recently published an article, based on it's gobal service and parts management benchmarking study, which indicates that only a small number of manufacturing companies are actually able to reap the benefits from an effective service strategy. Perhaps this spells out a bright future for spending on service effectiveness / field service crm projects in the near future.

Click here for the article

Monday, November 12, 2007

On consolidation in the BI Market - IBM to buy Cognos

After the recent news that SAP is to acquire Business Objects, IBM has decided to try and snatch up Cognos. I wonder how this will affect SAP and Oracle, who are both intent on snatching up a large part of the BI market.

On Oracle On Demand

Oracle is set to unveil a new set of On Demand CRM applications as part of their CRM on Demand offerings. Apparently a session was held last Friday to show a sneak preview of the functionality that is to be unveiled at open world later today. For more info see ZDNet

Deloitte consulting also recently announced a new strategic alliance with Oracle for it's CRM on Demand applications. Deloitte Consulting is to be the first global strategic partner and systems integrator to sign a partnership deal with Oracle for implementing On Demand CRM applications.

On Mobile CRM

Having been involved in implementing Mobile CRM technology, I've found that one of the major pitfalls in implementing mobile solutions is trying to provide full process coverage on a limited functionality mobile device. CRM Daily has interviewed a number of industry experts that are saying the same thing. Click here for the full story