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.