Sunday, December 28, 2008

Moving to wordpress

As of today my blog is also available on the following domain:

Just testing whether I like Wordpress better than Blogger.

On 2009 - the year of sustainability

The new year is approaching, 2008 is ending with some of us feeling the consequences of the credit crunch. It's time to look towards the future. Every new day and new year opens a wealth of new opportunities,  even in a crisis. 2008 ends with a starting recession, many business are facing tough times. I do not have a crystal ball and am not much of a fortune teller either, nonetheless I would like to offer my views on 2009, from a CRM perspective that is.

2009 - the year of sustainability
In 2007 and 2008 we've been able to see a new trend rise, sustainability and environmental awareness. We've come to realise that we need to use the earth scarce resources wisely. Sustainability can also be applied as an economic and not environment term however. Wikipedia lists the following for the term sustainability:

Sustainability, in a general sense, is the capacity to maintain a certain process or state indefinitely.


So sustainability can also be applied to your business as the capacity to remain operating and to remain in business. How could one survice the current economic crisis and what does sustainability in crisis mean?

  1. Sustainable operating model

  2. Sustainable customer base

  3. Sustainable investments

A sustainable operating model
The first thing companies focus on in a crisis is operational excellence. Reducing expenditure and increasing efficiency. Cut out unnecessary costs and focus on the core of your companies operation. This could mean divesting or closing retail outlets and changing your channel partner strategy. Perhaps others are better at selling and marketing your products than you are. Operation Excellence also marks a path to lower cost channels, such a self service internet channels as opposed to contact centers or an on-site repair man. In other words, I believe that 2009 will lead to companies employing self service more and more, as a means to both improve customer service (24/7 access) and reduce cost.

Sustainable customer base
During a boom companies typicall focus on Sales & Marketing when it comes to their CRM investments, trying to get a piece of an ever increasing pie. In a crisis the pie usually stays the same size or gets a bit smaller. Unless you provide an innovative product or service for which a whole new pie exists, you will try to have to make do with getting a bigger piece of the existing pie. The focus, in my view, should be to focus on preserving your existing customer base through excellent service, and gaining new market share through word-of-mouth marketing. Spending heavily on marketing campaigns for a .05 percent marketshare increase is nonsense if your existing customers are leaving. So keep your current customers, provide excellent service, preferably better than your competitors, and gain marketshare that way. After all, the cost of acquiring a new customer is 5 times higher than keeping your existing customers and convincing them to spend a bit more with your company.

Sustainable investments
Due to the credit crunch most companies are no longer able to draw unlimited financing from either the stock market, or the credit market, one has to invest wisely. Invest in improving your current products or services, products or services that are complimentary to your current portfolio and invest in customer service. Secondly make sure you invest in a way that is environmentally sustainable and use that as a marketing tool.

Sustainability and CRM?
So what does this mean for your CRM efforts. I feel that 2009 will see an increase in spending on improved customer service, through more possibilities for self service, increased spending on cost-efficient call centers (through products such as Oracle Contact Centre Anywhere) and increased spending on loyalty management applications. Loyalty management spending will be directed at keeping existing market share and growing the existing customer base through word-of-mouth marketing.

I'm looking forward to another interesting year in CRM, CRM Applications and IT.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On social CRM II

One of my former colleagues at Deloitte, Fabio Cipriani, the author of the blog cooperativo, shared a presentation on slideshare about Social CRM, how it extends CRM 1.0 and what the potential benifits are. Definitely worth taking a look at.

Social CRM
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: marketing strategy)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

On the first steps of Social CRM

Traditional CRM is about gathering data and knowing all about your customer. Gaining insight into your customer and his or her behavior traditionally allows a company to better respond to it's customer needs, provide better quality service and generally leads to market succes. Over the last 10 years companies have invested in CRM systems for Sales, Marketing and Service and gather quite a lot of data on their customers and customer behavior. Much of this data has been put to good use, it is a lot easier to get high value services from the companies you do business with and companies or government insitutions are able to adapt quickly to the changing needs of their customers / consituents. 

Our behavior as consumers is changing however. They way we interact with companies, make decisions on which products to purchase has changed significantly since the late '90s. The usage of internet has risen dramatically, using social networking sites like facebook and myspace have become part of our daily routine and do we even remember how we used to find information before Google? When I recently bought a new LCD flat panel HD TV I did most of my research online (but I still bought it at a brick and mortar store). This changed behavior provides companies new possibilities to interact with (potential) customers. The number of possible touchpoints has greatly increased, if a company is able to capitalise on the wealth of opportunities today's Web 2.0 environment offers. 

Image courtesy of Brent Leary (

Not only are consumers searching for information about your company or your products or services online, web 2.0, communities, blogs and other tools offer companies a wealth of information on your consumers as well. As the graph above indicates social media users believe that companies should engage the customer in a conversation on Social Media sites.  The challenge however is to use social media in a non intrusive way. No one wants to be 'friended' by a company on facebook, I however would like to have the opportunity to contact companies for service regarding their product online, possibly through branded communities. I would also applaud VRM like applications that would allow me to inform all the companies that I do business with of an address change online (perhaps through something as simple as Plaxo). Social Media also offers the possibility to research your clients and determine how to best serve or contact them. Using Social Media for CRM is far from mature, Oracle has started offering plugins for popular social media tools in it's Siebel CRM application and others are sure to follow. We are on the verge of a new development in CRM and we'll see loads of tools popping up that will allow companies and consumers alike to engage in mutually benificial conversations with each other. The future holds a lot of promise, let's see what will happen in 2009.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Linkdump - MDM still a buzzword, but a backbreaker for most companies

Check out this article on the buzzworthiness of MDM vs. the challenge that most companies seem to have in implementing MDM solutions. It's not an article that adds a lot of value to most MDM discussions or offers solutions, but does point out an interesting fact. The MDM market still has a load of potential, but software vendors and systems integrators alike are not yet able to help their clients with implementing an succesful MDM solution. Time for something new perhaps?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

On solving the customer service puzzle (or CRM is a business strategy, NOT software!)

Or atleast, one view on how the pieces of the puzzle can be made to fit. Drew stevens recently wrote an article on the customer service puzzle, which was brought to my attention
by Jim Berkowitz . The focal points of Drew's article are ensuring the whole company focusses on providing an excellent service or product to your customer and ensuring you regularly interact with your customers. Something we can all agree with.

Drew also outlines one point I disagree with: 'refrain from CRM'. Like many others Drew mistakenly views CRM as 'software systems'. CRM is not a piece of software or a system, but a business strategy. The business strategy that should force companies to focus on providing added value to customers. In other words, CRM is the 'focus on the customer throughout the whole company' that Drew is referring to. Paul Greenberg's definition of CRM systems says it best:

"CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a system and a
technology, designed to improve human interactions in a business environment".

CRM systems, like Oracle's Siebel CRM, SAP CRM and are valuable enablers to help companies achieve their customer focussed business goals, if implemented in the right manner. CRM and CRM software implementation should be about your business goals,
and not because some IT guy wants to try out a new piece of fancy software. So Drew, I agree with your points, but I think that implementing a CRM application with your other points in mind will only help a company to solve the customer service puzzle.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On the rise of IP based Contact Centers

A few interesting points from a recent article on CRM daily: IP Systems have come of age. The need for truly integrated call centers, lower cost infrastructure and the lower costs of IP based systems are leading to a rise in the implementation of IP based Contact Center systems. Fully integrated systems that can handle multiple channels (Voice, Chat, E-mail and Fax) in a single queue and over different locations, instead of the loosely integrated, old, copperwire based PBX and TDM systems.

some interesting quotes from this article.

"That cut-over to having a majority of contact center seats IP-enabled could occur in the next few years. This trend, say analysts and suppliers, is being driven by legacy switch replacement cycles, adoption of IP by small/midsized contact centers, new sites, remote agents and informal contact centers, and by customer migration to text and e-mail from voice."

These IP based systems are not always implemented as a replacement for TDM based systems, but sometimes serve as an addition, enabeling quick deployment of new call and contact centers.
"Raun Kilgo, Director of Product Management, Aspect reports that while there has been increased IP adoption among his firm's customers it has not been, in most instances, as replacements for TDM. "

"Most of our customers have already invested in and are comfortable with TDM applications for their mission-critical inbound and outbound work and would need
a compelling event to rip and replace their existing infrastructure ," reports
Kilgo. "Alternatively, IP is the ideal solution for companies implementing new
contact centers or deploying remote or at-home agents."

Remote agents or the possibility to quickly scale up a call center in the event of an adverse event are benefits an IP based solution offers.

"Another advantage IP provides is reduced facilities and IT expenses through less wiring and no need for separate phone rooms: calls are increasingly handled via integrated, centralized and often off-site data centers. That also means faster, easier, and less costly expansion. New contact centers can be up and running in weeks, with no more sometimes lengthy waits for the telcos to install the lines."

The real advantage of having an IP based solution, in my view, is something which could be dubbed the pervasive contact center. All your employees can virtually become part of the call center, so that experts are able to answer your customers inquiries, when an agent is not able to. Providing a correct and direct answer to a question, without the hated call back request is something should enable you to quickly increase customer satisfaction.

Call escalations, especially support calls to outside experts at regional or head offices or who are mobile or at home are easier to set up and have greater functionality with IP, provided it is coupled with unified communications.

In other words, IP based contact center systems hold a lot of promise for the present and the future, when combined with On Premise or On Demand based CRM applications can enable you to better serve your customers and achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Friday, September 5, 2008

On Socialized CRM - Linkdump

A quote from an article on

User adoption has long been a major problem bedeviling enterprise CRM deployments and, while this might sound somewhat simplistic, the key reason for this is pretty straightforward: CRM suites, for the most part, have not been designed with benefits to the individual salesperson top-of-mind. Social-networking functions are, by design, aimed specifically at individuals—and can therefore help turn the paradigm of CRM adoption on its head: Users who see the benefits of using a tool are more likely to use it.

Interesting, will the combination of CRM tools and Social Networks aid user adoption? Read the full article here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On Paul Greenberg's CRM State of the Union

Paul Greenberg, CRM Guru and author of CRM at the speed of light recently published his CRM state of the union for 2008. His presentation details the history and evolution of CRM into CRM 2.0 and outlines a number of developments for the future. You can find the on Paul's blog here

Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Robert Scoble at

Robert Scoble, blogger and technology journalist recently visited He was there to interview Mark Benioff and took some time to talk about SFDC and Google with Kraig Swensrud. Check his interview with Kraig here at SalesForceWatch. Robert recently twittered that his interview with Mark Benioff will be online later this week.

Update: The interview with Mark is up and can be viewed here

Linkdump - CRM Buzzword cheatsheet

Want to impress people at the next CRM event you're attending? Read the CRM Buzzword cheatsheet. Also useful to brush up on / refresh your knowledge of what and who is hot in CRM today. 

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On VRM: Doc Searls Keynote @ Mobile Monday Amsterdam

Doc Searls, Harvard's Godfather of the concept of VRM recently visited Amsterdam, to hold a keynote speach at Mobile Monday. Mobile Monday Amsterdam is a monthly meeting where minds in mobile marketing, applications, services and service providers meet to discuss future developments and opportunities in the Mobile Market place. Since I'm not part of the mobile arena I do not attend these meetings, but I was keen on finding out what Doc Searls had to say on VRM. Fortunately his keynote is available on the internet and, as Doc Searls puts it himself, 'things..are too easy to steal', so I've embedded it below. Thanks to Mobile Monday Amsterdam and Yuri van Geest

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On CRM, VRM and CRM 2.0 - check InsideCRM

Paul Greenberg, one of the worlds biggest experts on CRM, has written an article on how CRM and VRM are / can be combined into CRM 2.0. Worth checking out. Read it here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On Oracle as the Leader in Enterprise 2.0 Solutions

Enterprise 2.0 spending will rise to US$ 4.6 Billion by 2013, according to a new report by Forrester research. Oracle seems to have the ambition to become one of the front runners in integrating Web 2.0 solutions into their packaged applications, to allow companies to really start building a 2.0 Enterprise and integrate Social Media, such as LinkedIn, RSS Readers, iGoogle Widgets and other mashups into their products. I was at the Oracle CRM Customer Day in the Netherlands yesterday and saw Anthony Lye, Senior VP of CRM development at Oracle, present Enterprise / Web 2.0 and it's integration with Oracle's Siebel CRM, in it's hosted or On Premise applications and frankly, I was impressed by the level of integration that has already available. The screenshot below (courtesy of Oracle and .

I believe that Oracle is at the forefront of Enterpise 2.0 and significantly ahead of the competition, quite possibly due to Oracle's extensive envolvement in OpenSocial, the Google headed Social API initiative.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On Gartner's CRM Handbook

Just found the new Gartner CRM Handbook on CustomerThink, sponsored by and providing information on the keys to On Demand / CRM success. The document seems to be a bit of a celebrations of the fact that SFDC has joined Siebel as a leader in the Sales Force Automation Magic Quadrant, but also offers some insights to CRM newcomers.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Linkdump - Web 2.0 and CRM

Using Web 2.0 to engage the customer - ThinkCustomers:The1to1 Blog

Bungee labs mashing up old-school crm with new-school Web 2.0 - CNET

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gartner, CRM and SOA

Just found this article while scanning through my long long list of unread feeds in Google Reader. Gartner has released a report on how CRM software is paving the way for SOA related developments. Some quotes from the article below.

SOA has become the near-universally accepted method for delivering next-generation enterprise applications, Gartner vice president, John Radcliffe acknowledged. And while SAP, Microsoft and Oracle had all made advances in their CRM offerings, users still faced uncertainty about how to progress.
SOA remains a buzzword, there are not a lot of companies that know how to apply a true service oriented architecture. Most enterprise applications are not truly enabled to take their place in a service oriented architecture, as yet.

Enterprise users are desperate for better guidance about how to proceed with SOA implementations, noted Radcliffe, as it should allow them to build more business-responsive IT infrastructures, while also offering a way to upgrade applications incrementally – thus avoiding the cost and expense of large enterprise application deployments.

But a lot remains to be done, for both SAP, Oracle and Microsoft. SAP's SOA strategy is comprehensive, but not built on open standards and requires the use of proprietary technology. Microsoft's CRM products are just beginning to gain a place in the market and have a long way to go. As for Oracle, the Fusion suite of products seems to offer a lot of functionality, but it is not understood by or communicated clearly to both Oracle's customers and partners. It seems therefore that there will be some road to travel before SOA enabled enterprise applications enter the market place and companies are ready to start using them.

Will Benioff succeed Larry Ellison at Oracle?

Former FT report Tom Foremski seems to think so. Read his post on why Marc Benioff is the candidate to follow in Larry Ellisons footsteps

Friday, March 14, 2008

On the advent of the chief customer officer

After the rise (and subsequent decline) of the CMO, a new CXO type role seems to be emerging. As companies devote more attention to Customer Experience Management, some companies are moving to appoint a Chief Customer Officer, or Chief Customer Experience Officer. The main responsibility of the CCO is to ensure a consitent customer experience and to counter negative outings in (on social) media outlets. An article on CustomerThink outlines the rationale behind the CCO.

On social media and Oracle On Demand

Oracle has released version 15 of CRM On Demand and has apparently included a number of interesting Social Media Features, such as befriending customer contacts, subscribing to a friend feeds etc. Read the full story on what has been added and how this makes Oracle On Demand more CRM 2.0 on Paul Greenberg's Blog

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

On the future of social networks

One of the most interesting Web 2.0 trends, the advent of social networking, will certainly also impact the CRM, CRM 2.0 and most probably the VRM field. Charlene Li, from Forrester Research, recently held a presentation on the future of Social Networks at the Social Graph 2008 event in San Francisco

Worthwhile to click through for a bit. (Via Marketingfacts)

On Gartner's 7 initiatives to improve the customer experience

Jim Berkowitz has created a post that summarizes / outlines a number of recent Gartner publications on Customer Experience Management. Check it out.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

On CRM Vendor Selection and Requirements Analysis

Richard Boardman, of Mareeba CRM Consulting has posted an article on CRM Requirements analysis and how this can help control costs when a company lays down clear requirements, before starting vendor selection for a new CRM system.

I agree with Richard that laying down a clear set of requirements is certainly necessary before selecting a CRM vendor and that some companies overlook their actual needs and the functionality of the selected product, which sometimes leads to challenges when undertaking the actual implementation of a CRM system.

I do feel however that one does not necessarily need to create a full blueprint of the CRM processes merely for vendor selection purposes. A high level specification, together with knowledgable evaluators of vendor's propositions or products should also go a long way. The full blueprint can than be created, taken the functionality of the selected CRM package into account and ensuring that the COTS functionality purchased is leveraged in the right way.

On a VRM One Pager

I've posted about VRM before, mostly outlining the some of the challenges I see and some opportunities. I didn't fully explain the concept of VRM in a clear-cut and consise manner however. If you want to get a real ide on the promise of VRM, read Adriana Lukas' One Pager

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On Single Tenant CRM On Demand

Software-as-a-Service, but not sharing it with other users. Oracle has announced Single Tenant, Enterprise Edition, CRM on Demand. Read this article on CRM Daily

On Vendor Relationship Management (VRM)

Over the last week I’ve been diving into the concept of Vendor Relationship Management, which is being developed by CRM experts around the world and lead by a Harvard project group. Vendor relationship management is being defined as reciprocal to CRM. Vendor Relationship Management places the consumer in control of the relationship it has with several companies that sell the consumer certain products or services. The key is to not confuse this concept with Partner or Supplier Relationship Management which has existed for some quite some time in the Business 2 Business arena. VRM is a CRM for you and me as consumers and is fueled by the innovations and rise of the use of Social Media and Social Networks.

The concept
The project VRM pages do not offer a readymade definition of VRM, as the concept is still being worked on. The goal of VRM is clearly stated however.

“The goal of VRM is to improve the relationship between Demand and Supply by
providing new and better ways for the former to relate to the latter. In a
larger sense, VRM immodestly intends to improve markets and their mechanisms by equipping customers to be independent leaders and not just captive followers in
their relationships with vendors and other parties on the supply side of the
Another definition is offered by one of the individuals participating in Project VRM, Alec Muffet.

“Technical outline: the feeds-based VRM concept is for you to be able to manage,
manipulate and share information - e.g. hotels you have visited, flights you
have taken, wines you have enjoyed - using a pluggable web-based software
platform similar to Wordpress or Movable Type; however unlike those tools
which deal with free-form blog posts, instead your data is be stored as
objects (encoded in pertinent open-standards formats) which are then
“shared” via secure, self-referential, closed and authenticated ATOM or RSS
feeds that can be read, aggregated or further processed by “subscribers”
whom you authorize via your “friends list”.
The effect is: your data is held in one place and is authoritative.
Your subscribers can see it. When you change it, your subscribers will see the changes. No longer will you need to tell people when you change your address. They’ll already know.”(


Applications of VRM
VRM is an interesting concept because it is intended to make your live easier and provide you with more control over your relationship with vendors. It would be a great improvement if you would have a single environment where you can control the information you share with vendors and inform them of changes in your desires and contact details. In my view several solvable issues exist in further refining the concept of VRM and providing technology that can be used to manage your vendor relationships:

1. Trust, who do you allow to receive your information and updates? What kind of information are you willing to share with all kinds of vendors, and what information do you want to only provide to a small number of providers (such as bank and/or credit card details). I feel it would be necessary to define several trust levels and assign vendors a certain trust level (high, medium, low), that allows you to control who receives what kind of update, without the need to perform an elaborate setup of attributes for each vendor.

2. Technology providers, Alec Muffett mentions the re-use of existing technology such as MovableType and Wordpress. Doc Searls, who is heading up Project VRM at Harvard also outlines the re-use of existing technology as one of the key points in further refining VRM. The issue I see here is that the technology selected must have a certain, and possibly very high, level of security, you do not want your updates to be readily available to wrong doers. I foresee an opportunity for companies that you already trust with your information and that provide a high level of security, such as PayPal or your Bank’s Internet banking application, to become key players in the VRM space.

3. Acceptance by vendors, user adoption is an issue with all kinds of applications and this also goes for VRM. Key Vendors, such as companies you interact with frequently (your cable company, cellphone provider, internet service provider etc.) should subscribe to your personal feed, if the concept is to become widely accepted. This means that your VRM feed needs to be based on widely accepted, open standards (XML / Web services), allowing companies to quickly adapt their systems to subscribe to your VRM system. Each platform that provides VRM functionality should also adhere to these open standards and not try to create lock-in by developing proprietary VRM feeds.

VRM Technology now
Within the Dutch Market there are already two interesting concepts that are VRM avant-la-lettre, such as the
Rabo notabox (Dutch) and TNT Post’s Privver (Dutch) (Now de Digitale Brievenbus, or Digital Mailbox). Both services provide a way to digitally receive invoices, provide payments and send updates to a limited number of companies through a secure environment, in which you control which company you allow to send you a digital invoice.
When it comes to providing address and other updates to the outside world,
Plaxo Pulse is perhaps one of the best examples of how a feed based system could work.

More information
A whitepaper was recently made available on
Google Docs which provides more insight into VRM and possible applications. It would be interesting to see whether the VRM project is able to crowdsource a viable VRM solution with the help of industry experts around the world.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On and Oracle

Rumour has it that has asked Oracle to buy it. If that deal goes through it would be interesting to see what that means for CRM on Demand as a hosted platform and how is going to be integrated into fusion. Read this analysis of why the deal is a good idea.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

On Siebel UCM

A couple of weeks a go I held an internal presentation on Oracle's Siebel Universal Customer Master. I've been lucky enough to have been involved in two UCM implementations, for both version 7.5 and 8.0. I thought it wise to also share this presentation here. The presentation describes the product, advantages and drawbacks, as well as most likely implementation scenarios.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

On marketing and the social customer

Just read this interesting article, by Elana Anderson on CustomerThink, about how marketeers could leverage Web 2.0 and social networks to improve their company's reputation. I do believe that the tips in this article not only hold true for people in the marketing professio, but also in the customer service profession, or in fact any representative on a company that notices something being said on a social network.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On Oracle and BEA: What about Fusion Middleware?

According to this article on CRM Daily, Oracle has significantly increased it's bid for BEA to US$ 8.5 Million, and it looks like the deal will be closed. The press release apparently states that the acquisition of BEA is complementary to Oracle's existing product suite, but I seriously wonder what this means for Fusion Middleware? Will this cause delays in the Fusion Roadmap? Let's wait and see.

Update 22:19:
Read the press release here
See what other's are saying through TechnoRati

Monday, January 14, 2008

On justification for CRM investments

I've just read through an interesting article by Scott Santucci on CustomerThink. I do not neccessarily agree with his views, but the premise of his post is interesting however. What would you say if your CEO asked you "What did I get for my CRM Investment?". It's probably impossible for most CRM consultants, Sales or Services Process Owners, CIO's or IT Managers to answer that question. Why? Because most companies implementing a CRM solution "forget" to define key success factors or CRM success KPI's at the outset of their process improvement or application implementation projects or programs.

It's hard to say what the best measure of success of a CRM process improvement or CRM application implementation is, because every companies situation is more or less unique and an analysis of the current CRM environment must be made before one embarks on re-engineering processes or applications. Scott's has a point when he says a company needs to figure out what makes it's sales force tick, before embarking on a large investment in CRM technology. But this applies to every investment:

  1. define a Key Performance Indicator, or metric (number of calls, conversion rate of opportunities, quality of customer data) of what you would like to improve that is measurable.
  2. Measure continously during your project and also during the lifecycle of your new process or application.
Perhaps the best advise is to not be afraid to kill a project or discontinue an investment when it fails to yield the results you had expected at the onset. It is better to stop spending time and money on a failed initiative than to keep on investing because of a promise that an application or project would run for X number of years.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

On predictions for 2008

Much like the end of the year, everyone seems to be publishing predictions, trends and the future as a year begins. A little bit later than I had anticipated, I'd like to put in my two cents as well, from a European, or perhaps more specifically, from a Dutch perspective.

CRM Process

Service instead of sales
Increasing focus is being put on improving service and ensuring customer service meets the expectations of customers. It seems however that most companies now use optimal sales processes and support these processes with an up to date crm system. Companies are starting to realise that making a sale is only one interaction, whereas service interactions occur more frequently and have a significant impact on the probability a customer will renew their contract. 2008 will see an increased focus on Customer Experience Management and Word of Mouth Marketing. The Net Promoter Score will remain an important metric for companies, even though it has been receiving some bad press.

Making your customer his own service representative
A second trend in CRM in 2008 is derived from increased pressure on cost efficient customer service. Not all products are sold at such a price that warrants service representatives making a service visit, or a call centre that provides simple services such as adjusting a cellphone price plan. Customers aren't stupid and aren't willing to pay a premium for activities they can perform themselves through a web based or voice response system. I expect that self service applications found within the Internet domain and are used by Internet Service Providers, will quickly make their way to cell phone, SaaS and other subscription based services in 2008.

Citizen Relationship Management
In other countries, like the UK, local and national governments have already hopped on the CRM train. Increasingly Dutch National and Local Governmental institutions are seeing the benefits of standardized CRM solutions for case management and customer interaction management. By gathering dispersed information in a single system, local governments are able to provide better service to it's citizens or inhabitants by providing a single point of contact that is used to answer a multitude of questions in an efficient way, reducing frustration and the feeling of being caught in a bureaucratic trap. Larger municipalities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Almere have implemented typical customer or citizen relationship management processes and systems and other cities and national government institutions will probably follow suit in 2008.

CRM Solutions
Continuing rise of analytical CRM Within the Netherlands the CRM boom of the end of the last century has been followed by a rise in analytical CRM applications starting in 2004. Most companies are using analytical CRM applications to make the most out of their operational CRM data and leverage that data within their marketing efforts. Some companies are lagging behind in utilising effective data warehouses and analysis tools that provide a better insight into customer value, and these companies will continue to invest in implementing analytical CRM systems. In other words, a lot of effort has been spent in gathering customer interaction data and customer profile data, let's use that data to sell more and provide better service! Replacing early CRM boom systems ('90's-'04) with new ones
Companies are continuously in the process of upgrading their CRM systems to new versions. With the Rise of SOA, Web 2.0 and CRM 2.0, I expect that companies will take a more radical move, by replacing their CRM systems with new systems and rethinking their existing CRM functionality, and revamping their CRM processes. As indicated earlier in this post, the focus will be on improving the customer experience. Social Customer Networks / Media

An excellent example of a company utilising social media to improve it's reputation is UPC, a large cable TV operator active all over Europe. UPC had (and for the most part still is) been suffering from a bad reputation, as a company that provides below average service, and started a number of initiatives to turn that image around. Beside revamping their service desk, UPC also created a webcare team, dealing with search engine reputation management, or responding to negative customer stories on the web, taking action and trying to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The UPC Webcare team uses TechnoRati, Google, and monitors several forums to find negative customer reactions or issues. A number of companies have already started with Webcare teams themselves and I trust more companies in the B2C field that are struggling with their reputation, such as Energy and Utility Companies, TelCo's and other Cable companies will follow suit. Check this story (in Dutch) for more information on UPC's Webcare teams.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

On CRM and User Adoption (2)

A little while ago I posted about the difficulty in getting Sales Representatives to use CRM applications, as opposed to Service Reps. A recent survey in California, by the Sales Lead Management Association, shows some interesting results, as quoted in this Chris Bucholtz article on Inside CRM. Chris quotes the survey's somewhat suprising results:

"83 percent of the respondents don’t track ROI on investments in lead generation. Just 5 percent tracked ROI on SFA. How do these companies know whether their systems are helping or if they’re just making busy work for consultants or IT people?"
One could arrive at a number of conclusions based on this survey, such as:
  1. SFA Solutions are implemented for the simple reason that everybody's doing it.
  2. It's still difficult to measure ROI for CRM implementations.
I believe the main reason for not tracking ROI on SFA investments is the latter. Most companies simply do not know how to measure return, because the benefits of an SFA application are not always tangible and realized immediately after implementation. A series of blog postings on ITToolbox contains observations with regard to measuring CRM ROI, and can provide interesting insights for those who are struggling with the issue of CRM ROI.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

On Dutch telecommunication industry predictions

Every once in a while I feel I need to plug my employer, Deloitte Consulting. In February the global practices of Deloitte will publish their yearly report on predictions for developments in the telecom, media and high tech industries. If you happen to be in the Netherlands on February 13th, and happen to speak Dutch, register for the briefing here

Friday, January 4, 2008

On customer data integration (4)

This is post 4 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. The third post dealt with key success factors in implementing CDI. This, the fourth post, will highlight some of the application solutions that provide CDI specific solutions.

Types of CDI applications

Two distinct types of CDI applications exists:

1. Data Quality Tools, aimed at improving data quality by providing cleansing and deduplication functionality

2. Master Data Management Tools, aimed at providing a single repository of customer data, made available to other applications through SOA functionality

This post is primarily aimed at the data quality tools (see table below). I will post on Siebel UCM and other MDM tools next week, outside of this series.

Table 1. DQ / Customer MDM vendors

InformaticaInformatica Data QualityDQ
OracleSiebel UCMMDM
IBMCustomer Information FileMDM
SAS / DatafluxData Quality Integration SolutionDQ
IBM / WebsphereWebsphere Quality StageDQ
Trillium SoftwareTS Quality Series 7

TS Discovery 5

TS Enrichment Series 7

Human InferenceHuman Inference DQ SuiteDQ


Comprehensive suite of Data Quality solutions, IDQ (based on acquired Similarity Systems functionality), can be used for both online and off line cleansing and deduplication, provides profiling and migration tools through Powercentre functionality

Key characteristics

  • Flexible, allows for creation and maintenance of specific DQ rules
  • Single repository, easily distributed, simplifies maintenance
  • Ease of integration with both Oracle and SAP products, due to open architecture / adherence to SOA standards


  • Only a small subset of rules is provided standard, one must build the DQ rules, leveraging functionality provided by the tool
  • Does not provide standard cleansing functionality (address / zipcode checks, naming conventions etc.)

IBM / Websphere

IBM's Websphere suite provides standardised data quality solutions, aimed at both packaged applications, as well as to be used within custom application development.

Key characteristics

  • Supports multi language data
  • Easily import and export meta data
  • Pre-built objects and tables to define and customize data quality processes
  • Easy integration within J2EE custom built applications


  • Requires Websphere background and programming experience
  • Perhaps less obvious choice when the MDM solution is an SAP or Oracle based packaged solution.

SAS / Dataflux

Dataflux Data Quality provides a single repository with which one can both improve quality of data, profile data to identify areas for improvement and deduplicate existing data in customer data systems. Dataflux is a wholly owned subsidiary of SAS.

Key characteristics

  • A single repository, with flexibility to customize Data quality ruling
  • Provides international support
  • Seamless integration with SAP


  • Although internationally oriented, limited presence, relevance outside of US
  • Unclear what integration is provided with Oracle based products


Provides applications that are used to both improve data quality as well as ensure integration and migration of customer data across the enterprise

Key Characteristics

  • Best–of–class status for global name and address cleansing.

  • Extensive automation of data profiling.
  • SAP Partner, easy integration


  • Limited use for non-customer data

Human Inference

Human Inference provides a comprehensive suite of DQ tools that focus on compliance (SOx, Basel II, Anti-Terrorism) and deduplication and standardisation of customer data. The products HI delivers provide a rich set of out of the box functionality that can easily be leveraged.

Key Characteristics

  • Best–of–class status for global name and address cleansing.

  • Anti-terrorism specific functionality for financial services industry

  • Comprehensive algorithm for semantic comparison of name and address data

  • Provides out of the box functionality, which lowers the time to implement the solution


  • Limitations in flexibility

Vendor conclusion

Over the years that I've been active in implementing CRM applications I've been involved in two CDI implementations that involved CDI solutions, one based on Informatica, the other using Human Inference. Whilst Human Inference provided a comprehensive and easy to use solution for the financial services industry in particular, I've found that IDQ is the best solution for companies looking for a flexible solution in which they can implement their own standards for matching, cleansing and deduplication.