CRM = Customer Rejection Management #crm #crmfail #customerservice

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Every major organization has some form of customer call center. You may have renamed yours “contact center.” They are manned by staff that are trained, tooled-up with technology and incentivized to support customers. The center is critical because it drives long term sales and protects repeat revenue. It may even be considered a “profit center.”

Customer Strategy

But your customers are calling you less, and only when they really have to. I would suggest that CRM stands for “customer rejection management” rather than customer relationship management; and this is by design. There are three strategies that companies are adopting that are driving customers away, giving you less insight into your customers and their needs, and, ultimately, alienating them.

These strategies are:

  • Outsourcing: lets a call center operator talk to your customers;
  • Self service: lets them find their own answers; and
  • Search/social networking: lets someone else help them.

All three strategies are driven by a cost-center/cost-reduction mindset.

But the one time you force your customers to contact you is when they don’t want to. This is called non-value demand. In other words, you are making your customers do something that has no real value for them.

Either you make them call a number and sit on hold after they have navigated through a labyrinthine list of menu options; or you make them go to an unintelligible website, register by entering a huge list of personal information, wait for a validation email, and then make them try to navigate your website – all with little or no guidance or step by step instructions. Sound familiar?

Here are some examples of non-value demand:

  • Report a fault or error in a product or service.
  • Fix a problem in a product or service.
  • Confirm or acknowledge a change of contract or other details.
  • Update personal details.

The opposite of non value demand is value-demand. This is something initiated by the customer that they want for their benefit. They may not want to talk to you but it is worth their time and effort. Some examples are:

  • Ask for an increase in credit limit.
  • Cancel a product or service.
  • Order a product or service.
  • Give feedback.

What makes both non-value demand and value-demand non-functional is that companies often compound it with poorly thought through, inadequately tested and inconsistently applied business processes. I am not just talking about the screens in the CRM application but the end-to-end process: the customer journey.

This makes the experience even worse for everybody. The customer is confused and frustrated. The call center operator is uncomfortable and frustrated; i.e., the customer leaves the call upset, no matter how good, positive or cheerful your call center person is.

Good process design

The explosive growth of social networking means that there is now a wide range of ways that a customer may get their question answered. They can call you, search your website, email you, search for the answer on a forum, post the question on a social networking site like LinkedIn or Facebook, or on a micro-blogging site like Twitter.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to take a look at front office processes, and take a customer-centric perspective. Put the customer at the heart of the situation and think about their journey.

The good news is that most of the back office processes can stay the same.

This is the opportunity to take a faster, more effective yet proven approach to process capture/discovery, CRM design, and the adoption of new working practices for your customer facing staff. This can be done through interactive, collaborative process mapping sessions, rapid CRM system prototyping or role-based guided process walk-throughs delivering links to systems, videos, on screen entry, documents and forms, in the context of an end-to-end process.

Gone are consultants interviewing staff and producing complex flowcharts that cover the entire wall of the project office. The end to six to 12 month CRM/IT-centric projects. Say goodbye to offsite CRM systems training courses.

Just theory? No = Success.

Is this approach just theory, you ask? No. It can be seen on every street in the UK in Carphone Warehouse stores, with an initiative they call ‘How2’. (Full disclosure: Carphone Warehouse is a TIBCO client.)

If you can’t make it out of the office, Carphone Warehouse has documented its project in videos from several perspectives including a retail store, back office, the project sponsor. The results speak for themselves. Just from the deployment to 815 stores the ROI was 1100% in year one, customer satisfaction (NPS) was up 25%, an additional revenue of £5M in the first year and they’ve saved £50,000 per year on telephone support calls to stores. In fact, the company has just won a Gartner BPM Excellence Award in the Leveraging BPM Technology category.

Just theory? No = FAIL.

I’ll contrast this with the non-value demand experience of another UK retailer … which shall go unnamed.

Last year I moved the family to the USA and before we left we rented out our house. We called the UK-based retailer, 30 days in advance to cancel our TV/phone/broadband service (value demand). The person at the call center was very helpful. A letter arrived in the post confirming the cancellation of the TV. The letter read:

Sorry to hear you decided to cancel your subscription. Your viewing will stop on dd/mm/yyyy. (The date was wrong: non-value demand contact required.) We are delighted that you want to continue your service etc., etc., etc. (Wrong again = non-value demand contact required.).”

So we make a non-value demand call. A very helpful and friendly call center representative said that we would be receiving separate letters from each department (telephone, broadband, TV) cancelling the services.  Each, presumably, saying the other services would continue, confusing us or prompting more non-value demand calls. We were advised to simply ignore these letters when they arrived, which we did.

About a week ago we were sent a letter prompting another non-value demand call. There is a credit on the account and they wanted me to call them to let them know if we would like a check and where to send it. Far better would have been to credit our bank account or attach a check to the letter.

Processs-led thinking leads to happy customers

The people who design operational processes should think about how it feels from a customer perspective. Then how the effective use of technology can enhance the experience for everyone. The social media revolution taking place is the perfect catalyst.

Ahhh!! I feel better now. Who should I call to tell?

Conflicting data or the data divide? #bigdata

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This week there have been two reports released. One from OfCom (Independent regulator and competition authority
for the UK communications industries) which has reported that the UK’s mobile users are consuming more data on their phones and tablets than any other leading nation for the first time. A second from Office for National Statistics has reported that 7.63 million adults in the UK have never used the internet which is 15 per cent of the population. They have coined a moniker for these people – “the internots”.

So are the reports in conflict ie wrong? Or is there something else happening?

Let’s explore the reports in a little more detail.

Ofcom’s report, which you can download here, shows that the UK has one of the highest levels of penetration of smartphones in the world at 58 per cent of the population, while just fewer than one in five owns a tablet computer. As a result, British consumers are downloading the most data on mobiles and tablets. In December 2011, the average UK mobile connection used 424 megabytes of data, higher than any other leading country, pushing Japan into second place at 392 megabytes and the US into sixth at 319 megabytes.

One-sixth of all website traffic in the UK was on a mobile, tablet or other connected device, higher than any other country in Europe. James Thickett, Ofcom’s director of research, said: “Our research shows that UK consumers continue to benefit from one of the most advanced markets for communications products and services.”

Overall, the average UK viewer watches more than four hours of television every day, with only the USA, at 293 minutes, and Italy, 253 minutes, watching more.

Whilst at the other end of the spectrum, apparently 7.63 million adults in the UK have never used the internet. That’s 15 per cent. So who are these technophobes who have never gone online? Roughly half, it seems, are over-75s and/or defined as disabled, and not in a position to use a computer. But that still leaves over 3.5 million.  How dot the conduct their lives without email and Facebook?. But more importantly how to they managed to get things done with more and more Government and commercial services delivered as on-line, self-serve websites.

So is there an issue with the reports from the 2 organisations? Or maybe this is the consumer equivalent of the Data Divide that exists in the commercial world. The Data Divide came from a research project by Vanson Bourne and was highlighted by Mark Darbyshire, TIBCO’s EMEA CTO in some recent interviews.

The report highlights were covered by in this article, and Mark summarised neatly the challenges for UK businesses:

“It looks increasingly like UK companies are lagging behind their continental counterparts. The ability to alert and then convert a transient opportunity or avert an impending threat will be crucial for long term survival. Those trapped by the data divide will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.”


Gartner Nexus of Forces. Scarier than Halloween.

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Scared. Threatened. Dragged out of your comfort zone. Struggling to make sense of the future.

You should be. The opening keynote was inspiring, theatrical and terrifying in equal measure. The key theme for Gartner’s annual Symposium IT Expo in Orlando last week and this week in Barcelona for nearly 10,000 delegates was the Nexus of Forces.

 The Nexus of Forces

“A Nexus of converging forces — social, mobile, cloud and information — is building upon and transforming user behavior while creating new business opportunities.

Research over the past several years has identified the independent evolution of four powerful forces: social, mobile, cloud and information. As a result of consumerization and the ubiquity of connected smart devices, people’s behavior has caused a convergence of these forces.”

Whilst most people recognize these forces at work in their personal and business lives, it is the implications that are either liberating or terrifying, depending on your viewpoint. For those business leaders looking to leapfrog their competition or a nimble start-up looking to wrong foot an incumbent it is an exciting time. However, Gartner raised a warning to senior IT leaders: “Their existing architectures are becoming obsolete.”

But it gets worse. These powerful forces are reshaping industries with a frightening ferocity. Those in the music, print, news and media industries have seen their world ripped apart in the last few years. Existing business models no longer work, and the incumbent players have had to completely reinvent themselves to compete with startups who have been able to scale rapidly unfettered by legacy operations and systems. But more critically, the startups are not constrained in their thinking.

CIO challenge: reinvent yourself

The challenge that Gartner set from the keynote was to CIOs to reinvent themselves. To think more like entrepreneurs. To obsolete their businesses before someone else does. That means the CIO cannot spend time thinking about “keeping the lights on”.  Whilst that is clearly important, designing the future state business alongside the CEO and CMO is far more important.

But, how many CIOs have the skills, vision and courage to think and act like an entrepreneur who is not afraid? Not afraid to fail. Not afraid the future. Not afraid of the unknown.

Is being a geek starting to be cool again?

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We were talking to my son, Max, about how he and his friend are geeks. But Max got defensive and said that he was a geek and was proud of it, and certainly his friend wasn’t.

That is great news. The biggest risk to the long term future of the IT industry is a lack of kids thinking that it is cool. A lack of IT talent is a global issue, according to recruitment group Hays Information Technology. How can’t be technology be cool? The iPhone, iPad, Kinect, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, the internet…

In fact, technology is at the heart of all of our lives. It has dramatically changed the way that we work, play, live, laugh and love.

But being involved in technology has huge negative connotations. Very few women get into IT, whilst there is absolutely no reason why they would be disadvantaged compared with men. That is over 50% of potential the workforce. And the other 50% are ambivolent.

How do we change this image? Being selfish, I will continue to set up and run technology companies, and I need a talented resources. But maybe there is a change as The Discovery Channel’s recent article Wide Angle: Cool Tech Jobs; Discovery Tech talks to technologists who love their jobs, shows.  And Max’s reaction.

Standing in the fire hose of data: drowning or refreshing?

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Big Data is a great topic.

Everyone recognises the rise the volumes of data being generated by individuals, systems and devices. There are some fabulous headline figures about data. It is the journalists, analyst and bloggers dream.

IT vendors are jumping onto the bandwagon and any analysis and reporting capability they have is being rapidly rearchitected to be able to cope with the dramatic increase in data volumes. Some of this is still marketing-ware. Others are already shipping. But this is reactive. A cynical response to “sell more stuff”.

Big Data – so what

What is far more interesting is the discussion that was a major part of the keynote of the TUCON TIBCO User Conference;  “What opportunities does Big Data open up?”

The strapline of the conference is “Everything is different” and the walls of the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas are littered with some compelling statistics about the exponential rise in data volumes.  The ideas is ‘whilst you were sleeping’, but of course we’re in Las Vegas, so sleep is a secondary item!!

However, some of the numbers are staggering, Whilst you were sleeping….

  • 294 billions emails were sent
  • 35 millions apps were downloaded
  • more iPhones were bought than babies born
  • 250 millions photos uploaded to Facebook
  • 2 million blog posts were written
  • information consumed on the internet would fill 168 millions DVDs

Big Data goes to work

The numbers are almost incomprehensible and they require different approaches to drive any value out of the stream of data.  There is simply too much to capture, store in a database and later run reports.  That is 20th century thinking.

The exponential rise in data requires different approaches and thinking. We need to analyst the “data in motion”, on the fly, in real time.  We need to glean some insights as it passes and much if it is only valuable  ‘in the moment’.

Real companies real examples

I have had the pleasure at TUCON of interviewing each of the keynote speakers for some video case studies. Whilst they covered different industries and a wide range of sizes of company, there has been a common theme.  They are harnessing the stream of data, making sense of it, and using the insights from the data to be able to transform their company’s products and services.  They are able to offer what Vivek Ranadive, TIBCOs’s founder and CEO, calls “extreme value”; something that differentiates the star performers from the also-rans.

Here are just 2 examples

Rick Welts, Golden State Warriors 

Rick Welts is President and COO of Golden State Warriors, the Bay Area basketball team. His entire career has been in the NBA and he is focused on using the different streams of customer data to dramatically improve the experience of going to a game. Interestingly, the enjoyment of the experience is not tied to the result of the game. Which is lucky because in the past the Warriors lost more than they won. But that is changing.

They look at the entire end to end process, from when you leave your house , park at the ground, watch the game, get refreshments, leave the ground and get home. The question they are asking is ”How can we improve every facet of that end to end experience”.

Technology has a vital role to play and TIBCO is helping them with analysis of the data and also the development of a mobile app that will enhance the fan’s connection with the team and enjoyment at the game.

Rick’s passion and enthusiasm for basketball and the potential opportunities to leverage data and technology were infectious. I hope that comes over in the video footage.

Tom Siebel, C3  

Tom Siebel is best known in technology circles as the founder and CEO of Siebel Systems that was sold to Oracle in 2006 for $5.9 billion. He made enough that finding work was no longer necessary. But like most entrepreneurs he is driven and in 2009 he launched C3, an energy management company. He saw the opportunity to capture all the data being generated by sensors in companies and homes. C3 offers a family of software solutions that help companies to understand, optimize, and report on their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, in order to reduce cost, risk, and environmental impact.

A visionary Big Data company, considering it was launched years before the term Big Data was coined.

C3’s SaaS based software is driving incredible savings for companies such Constellation Energy and GE and the recent deal announced with Pacific Gas and Electric.

“We see significant value for our commercial and industrial customers from using C3’s energy and emissions management solution. With C3, customers can not only better understand the details of their use, but PG&E can also identify the most appropriate high value mitigation projects for rapid energy savings.”  Saul Zambrano,  Sr. Director, Products Group, Customer Energy Solutions PG&E

As Tom said, no longer do you need huge financial backing to be able to launch a software company, unlike the days when he founded Siebel Systems. With SaaS technology platforms available which are paid based on consumption the start-up costs can be low. The challenge is the integration of multiple streams of data from systems both inside his clients but also from 3rd party systems. That is where his long relationship with TIBCO comes in. Siebel Systems and TIBCO had a long relationship, and so Tom again turned to TIBCO for help on the really tough integration issues he faced with his clients.

What was refreshing was that Tom’s vision was to build a significant company over the next decade. He recognizes that value takes time to build. He and the other panelists at TUCON, (Vivek Ranadivé , Scott McNealy, K.R. Sridhar) were wonderfully dismissive of over-hyped social media companies with sky high but rapidly dropping valuations.

Big Data opens up new opportunities

So Big Data is allowing existing companies to deliver “extreme value”. It is a massive competitive differentiator, but it does require discontinuous, visionary thinking. The technology is available from TIBCO to make sense of the data, but the new opportunities will require reshaping their companies. That means process redesign and  reengineering. But the technology is also available to do that from TIBCO.

For startups there are huge opportunities to exploit Big Data, enter the market and side-step the incumbent players. And with cloud based applications paid on a consumption basis the barriers to entry have never been lower.

We live in exciting times. Let’s dive in.

Business is Social – the script according to’s Benioff

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If you were one of the 90,000 who attended Dreamforce you would have been swept away in the energy and euphoria that is the machine. Who couldn’t be. It is now the largest tech conference with 800 sessions, 350 partners and big name bands. And now has a run rate of $3bn per year.  Impressive stuff.

Woooooooowwwwwww!!?!! I’m reaaaaaaaaaallly pumped.

For those who missed it, below is the first 17 minutes of Marc’s keynote. Make sure you have lots of room so you can jump around and punch the air.

But all that said, there are some very important messages here. Every year extends its vision for the socially enabled enterprise and more importantly it is showing a road map for clients to follow. This is critical because the vast gulf between the “socially enabled enterprises” and the laggards is growing daily at a ferocious rate.

Luckily social is not relevant to us

And don’t think it only applies to retailers or B2C companies. The same rules apply for B2B companies dealing with their partners and customers and every company in terms of getting the best from their employees.

The social revolution is now upon us – well, most of us. 4.5 billion social users. Now 70% of businesses use social to connect with customers and McKinsey estimate there is $1.3trn of value to be gained by better use of social.

IDC estimate that the annual growth of social is 47%, and there is 123% growth in social customer interaction and at the last count there were 150m customer social transactions per day. That, ladies and gentlemen is the “customer revolution”.

A recent IBM Global CEO Study conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,709 CEOs, general managers and senior public sector leaders around the globe. These leaders confirmed that our new connected era is changing how people engage. How are CEOs responding to the complexity of increasingly interconnected organizations, markets, societies and governments? The key findings center on:

  • Employees. Empowering employees through values
  • Customers. Engaging customers as individuals
  • Partnering. Amplifying innovation with partnerships

Some really important things to consider here as I am about to fly to TUCON, TIBCO’s annual user conference.

The social revolution

So the question you need to ask yourself is, “Is your company going through a social revolution?

Cue the video