Category Archives: Self-service

Marketing Technology: Mobile People & Portable Brands

The idea of mobile communications is not something new, it’s just that things have progressed immensely since the days prior to the Internet and PDA devices.

What lies ahead is a huge opportunity for brands to get closer to their customers daily lives by  becoming integral to their cutomers’ processes. For me, the idea orignated when I was at IBM where self-serve technologies, such as the ATM and airline check-in kiosk were beginning to take hold. One of my colleagues quipped “Yes, it’s really about the customer saying to the brand ‘come into my process’ but I will remain in control of the transaction”.

This was compelling as it freed the customer not only from delays (lineups at the airport) but it suggested that the customer could transact when and where they pleased – on their own terms.

With mobile devices – PDA’s if you will, customer (and brands) can enjoy more freedom than ever before. No longer encumbered by a fixed location to transact, bank customers can now do their banking from wherever and whenever they choose. The same goes for those who travel by air, say, using Air Canada or Virgin Airways.

Mobile applications can and are being developed for many brand categories. Pharmaceutical apps can help patients with prescription continuance and information on disease states; automotive dealerships send service alerts so that maintenance schedules are adhered to; transit systems can notify passengers when the next bus is about to arrive at a stop.

At the end of the day, its about people who are mobile, devices that enable ‘anywhere computing’ and brands that are portable – the ultimate engagement & collaboration.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

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Becoming Customer-Centric: The Social Enterprise

“Time discovers truth”, said the Roman philosopher Seneca 2000 years ago.

With this in mind, it’s been some time since I taught the course “Becoming Customer-Centric” at IBM‘s Advanced Business Institute in Palisades, NY. This was when the Internet was an enabler of e-business and  CRM was in its early days. Social networks did not exist.

So I recently thought of the “Social Enterprise”. Back in Y2K,  CRM was seen as the panacea for companies with a vision to become customer-centric. This is to say, enterprises lead with technology to drive CRM implementation. Other companies adopted the “Outside-In” view, with the customer as focal point, as their approach to delivering optimal business value across every customer touchpoint.

Things are much different now and for the better. Here’s why:

1. The Portable Brand: The web and the world of the customer has given rise to the Open Brand – On-demand, Personal, Engagement and Networking. This does not mean loss of brand control, but instead, new opportunity to deliver flawless customer experiences, across all touchpoints, according to the brand promise. Mobile applications now afford customers to interact with their favourite brands as they are on the move around the physical and virtual worlds, hence the “Portable Brand”.

2. Customer Outsourcing: New opportunties abound, especially in customer service at pennies per transaction. This is especially true for mobile apps at under $0.10 per contact but also of web-based transactions where customers provide instant feedback on the experience. Customers are saying “come into my process” as they exert their new found powers to influence the relationship agenda.

3. The Web as Data Warehouse: The Internet is a vast but unorganized data warehouse of customer experience stories waiting to be mined –  it’s like harvesting bottled water from a huge stream virtually for free; a new era of customer behavioural analytics will re-define the traditional purchase funnel;

4. “Outside-In” rediscovered: Companies can extend their boundaries deep into the customer’s world in a most personal way to the point where the company/customer boundary disappears. This effectively renders the product-led “Inside-out” approach to process design and technology selection obsolete especially for brands that evoke high emotional involvement on the part of the customer;

5.Sense & Respond” is redefined: The Social Web transcends geography therefore providing global brands with a unique opportunity to leverage their footprint in all markets, in real time, always on. Companies are taking on new ways of listening to customers via online monitoring of consumer-generated content, running viral advertising campaigns and engaging cusumers in on-line forums and communities.

Upon further reflection, those days at the Palisades might as well been in Seneca’s time.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

The Media Prism: Earned, Paid and Owned

In a recent post by Brian Solis, “Why Brands are Becoming Media“, there was reference to a grid developed by Forrester that attempts to define a new way to segment media channels or ‘customer touchpoints’:

The above is a fine represention as it brings a high level order to this complex new media mix. As a CRM and Marketing Technology professional I believe in being focused on business process with a  view to implementation. Here is my ‘managerial’ grid:

Clearly the media landscape is changing continuously and many more iterations will develop as we move along the maturity curve. At this point, it’s not so much a matter of what is right or wrong, rather, what works best for each of us as we look through the multi-faceted media prism.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

The Portable Brand: Take Your Bank With You

Forrester’s Latest on CRM Trends:Opinion

Forrester Research has recently released it’s 2010  perspective on CRM. William Band, the lead analyst, prefaces the report by asking “As the economy recovers, what are the key trends that will drive customer relationship management (CRM) strategies and technology adoption in 2010?”

Here are my own observations on some of Forrester’s 11 key trends:

Trend #1) Companies return to investing in their most important asset — customers: This should never stop but credit to those who realize the importance of this vital asset. By re-orienting the enterprise back to the customer, companies will be able to sense and response to emerging wants and needs in period of tremendous upheaval in the marketplace. Various aspects of the web that affect the way consumers shop for and purchase will translate in to changes across all customer-facing touchpoints of the enterprise and filter back to the supply chain.

Trend #4) Social CRM hype reaches a crescendo, but projects remain in pilot mode: Makes sense as sCRM technology has outpaced the CMO’s ability to absorb and understand the business utility of a wide variety of applications.  For example, FourSquare, while it has intriguing possiblities for retailers, is only at the stage where some (mainly coffee shops) are offering discounts on product. Companies, such as Ford Motor Company, have seen promising results with viral campaigns, notably a significant number of pre-orders in the US market for the soon-to-be-launched Fiesta.  At the other end of the spectrum, few companies have been able to derive clear benefits from Social Networks such as Facebook, other than having a web presence. 

Trend #5) Customer service embraces real-time methods: This is a huge opportunity as it will generate two clear deliverables for the business case – reduce costs of customer service delivery and drive down cycle time to problem resolution. This trend falls in the category of ‘quick hit’ as it takes little effort to set up extension of the customer service function on Twitter and conversation can take place in real time. Additionally, it has the potential to offload contact centre traffic and deliver the added beneft of broadening the customer’s touchpoint options for contacting the enterprise for service/product queries.

Trend #8) Mobile CRM becomes a must-have capability: This may be the jewel in the crown. Not surprisingly, the travel industry has been quick to embrace this technology, as it has been at the forefront of self-serve for some time re. airline check-in kiosk at the airport, via desktop or mobile device. Hilton Hotels, for example, has rolled out mobile apps that enable guests to manage their reservation status remotely, use the GPS function to search for hotels, order special services while en route or check their frequent stay points balance while travelling. I call this “being able to take your brand with you anywhere you go” CRM.

Trend #10) Scrutiny of business cases remains intense: As it should. With some much in front of the CMO these days, the range of possibilities is intensely confusing. I believe that this is one of the main obstacles to adoption, early or otherwise, as too many people advocate one technology solution over another without providing the necessary guidance to client companies. What is needed are clear strategy and process roadmaps with an eye to benefits and outcomes rather than an obsessive (and futile) focus on ROI. Until such time, piloting projects will remain the order of the day rather implementing cross-enterprise processes and technologies that support the business transformation.

Thanks to the Forrester team for prompting this dialogue on CRM.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Social Networks: The New Outsourcing Frontier

Kiosk by ISDA Design Winner Toshihiro Fujimura

It occured to me recently that one of the biggest opportunities for CRM consulting resides in the domain of social media platforms. Ten years ago, in the salad days of CRM process consulting, much of the focus was on customer service response via call centres. These were also the early days of multi-channel customer service whereby web and telephone were becoming integrated into the customer service experience.

For example, if you had were a member of the Starwood (eg. Sheraton, W, Westin, Four Points) Preferred Guest program, you could contact Starwood customer service via their web site. If you had a query regarding missing frequent stay points, you could use the ‘Call Me’ feature which, via the web site, prompted an almost instantaneous telephone call from a Starwood customer service representative (CSR). Once points were remitted, a refresh of the Starwood website would immediately reflect the customer’s updated account balance.

Social networks like Twitter and Facebook now present new opportunities for customer service that drive both engagement and reduce operating costs. For example, since the Twitter application is free, customers could have their own dedicated account (within a closed network to ensure customer privacy), in order to deal with relatively simple transactions such as routine account queries. CSR’s in turn, could send out special offers. One example might be to offer a promotional rate to customers that have booked into a recently opened hotel. Another might be to provide additional points via Twitter for a guest that has reached a milestone upon checking out (reaching clip level for Marriott Silver status), via a mobile application.

It used to be said that the cost of sending a sales rep out to make an in-person call was about $500 per meeting. With telephone, the cost of a transaction went to $10 per call. With the web, this was down to less than a dollar. Social media platforms: close to zero.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia