Some of the winners gathered on stage for a panel discussion with Don Peppers, and shared some interesting tidbits and specific steps they took that helped make their projects a success.
For example, Sprint Nextel, which won the gold award for customer experience, slashed its churn rate 75% over a two-year period and realized $200 million in costs savings as part of its project to overhaul the customer experience.
Sprint-Nextel is no stranger to CRM news. Three years ago, the company grabbed headlines when it decided to fire 1,000 customers. While some CRM experts at the time lauded it as a savvy move, the company has clearly made a commitment to customers. In fact, Sprint Nextel’s CEO Dan Hesse couldn’t make the Gartner event because he was across the country presenting their improvement in customer satisfaction at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum.
Instead, Lance Williams, director of customer management, accepted the award and shared some insight into Sprint’s CRM initiatives. For example, a review of the company’s multiple service channels found that some customers were having trouble activating their new phones through the self-service website. They would call contact center reps that weren’t authorized to help them and would direct customers to the retail store, where, oftentimes, customers would simply turn the phone back in rather than wait to deal with the activation.
Peppers asked the panel what challenges they faced with their initiatives and for Sprint Nextel it was clearly the data.
“We’re here about a big program, a piece of software — that was cross channel analytics,” Williams said. “The data is king in this and that was the piece that was so hard. That was why Sprint failed in past endeavors. The data was all over the place.”
It was also a tough sell to management. The company was in a risk-taking environment, but Williams still needed to get funding and got money for bigger projects by proving the value of some short-term quick wins like IVR.
For Navy Federal Credit Union, the winner of the gold award for growth, the problem was not data but rather its own success.
“In many ways we rested on our laurels,” said Annie Sebastian, head of member growth strategy and member research and intelligence. “Fifty percent of our membership is under 35. There was no imperative to make a change.”
However, the firm set out to maximize each interaction in late 2007 to spur growth.
“We were positioned for the recession and those conversations,” Sebastian said. “Now, looking back we see we couldn’t have timed it better.”
Diefendorf Capital Planning Associates, winner of the gold award for efficiency, didn’t wait to line up its entire CRM project; it took it a piece at a time, said CEO Monroe Diefendorf.
“If I had to wait for all the lights to turn green to go from New York to Philadelphia I’d never leave my driveway,” he said.
Diefendorf is ensuring its staff’s ongoing familiarity and adoption of the CRM system by making training part of the annual employee reviews. Employees must take courses and qualify.
Drugstore.com, winner of the gold award for innovation, created a virtual corner store and invested in chat and knowledge management. The contact center wanted to be more than a cost center and found more than one way to do that, according to Lisa Larsen, director of customer care.
It saves the chats about specific brands and sells that to its suppliers who pay for that customer insight.
Drugstore.com is also monitoring social media and reacting, often sending out a chat link in the Twitter message to draw that conversation inside.
“That’s the goal to go find a complaint and figure it out before it becomes an issue,” Larsen said.
Navy Federal Credit Union is working to train “certified communicators” in its contact centers to be prepared for when it does have chat – which requires a set of skills that can be different than those the typical call center agent has. In the meantime, the organization is monitoring social media and letting others help.
“We’ve been monitoring for a long time,” Sebastian said. “A lot of the times customers will jump in and defend you and it’s more authentic if it comes from them.”
Sprint Nextel has community sites where “super user” customers provide answers to other customers. They’re rewarded not with money but status and rewards like special access to new devices or up front information.
“That content, a lot of times is extremely complex and things we wouldn’t have thought about internally,” Williams said.]]>
It all seems like ages ago now, but every once in a while, something surfaces to remind us to remain vigilant. Need a reminder? Ask British Sky Broadcasting Corp (BSkyB). Or maybe instead you should ask EDS and HP.
HP, which acquired EDS in 2008, recently settled a longstanding lawsuit in Great Britain with BSkyB for £270 million, or roughly $460 million. BSkyB claimed EDS misrepresented its ability to build a CRM system for the BSkyB contact centers when it contracted with the services provider in 2000. This past January, a British court ruled EDS had indeed misrepresented itself.
That’s a big bill. As Computerworld reports, it’s more than four times the amount of the original $109 million contract. BSkyB claimed it spent $311 million on software, integration and infrastructure related costs and expected to spend another $90 million at the time the lawsuit was filed.
Over on ZDNet, Michael Krigsman breaks down some of the lessons learned and offers a link to the filing. He writes:
Enterprise buyers of consulting services on large IT projects should not accept vague promises from third party service providers at face value. During the sales process, before you hire, ask prospective consulting vendors how they will make good on the promises.
The devil is always in the details, so be sure your services provider backs up claims with written contracts that clearly describe how the vendor will deliver against the promises.
At the same time, enterprise buyers are ultimately responsible for the success of their own projects. If a project is too large or complex for your organization to understand and digest, then perhaps scale it down to manageable size. Success most likely depends on doing just that.
Meanwhile, Karl Flinders at Inside Outsourcing wonders if it will force an increase in costs related to contract insurance, if it will force IT salespeople to stop lying or if PWC should file its own lawsuit because it lost out on the original contract.
Interestingly, it appears as though Accenture may have been the one to go in and clean up the mess. At least, BSkyB was not turned off from Systems Integrators entirely. Accenture has BSkyB listed on its corporate website as a CRM call center customer.
Also interesting is that this news breaks as Marin County is suing Deloitte for a failed SAP implementation.
Where companies like Waste Management were taking SAP to court for their failed projects, it seems like some IT project victims are turning on the Systems Integrators (SIs).
What else is to be learned? Well, it’s important to remember that the BSkyB case originated in 2000, back when people were throwing gobs of money at CRM vendors and SIs. People have gotten a little smarter about deploying CRM and vendors have gotten better about ensuring CRM success. I spoke with one SAP customer – yes SAP – that was quite happy with its project and leaned on SAP’s free best practices package to help it along.
Even Gartner, which was responsible for promoting much of the doom and gloom around CRM failure, has changed its tune. Two years ago it was telling people to stop focusing on CRM failure.
Yet it’s still a good idea to be wary of vendor claims. And to double-check those SIs. An older article we ran on choosing a Siebel consultant still holds plenty of good advice.
And maybe it’s a good idea to turn a skeptical eye to the latest hype. Social CRM anyone? As Denis Pombriant writes, Social CRM is already seeing a backlash.]]>
Robert Brower, CommVault’s vice president of global customer support and services, discussed his company’s approach to technical support via contact centers distributed across the world and how it measures its customer service.
In this 16-minute podcast, Brower describes:
I had a chance to hear a bit from April Field, consumer affairs manager for ConAgra, the food giant that makes products like Hunt’s Tomatoes and Chef Boyardee. It also makes use of PolyVista for text mining.
ConAgra has 75 agents taking customer calls in a work-at-home model and last year took about 300,000 calls. Last fall, the company embarked on a “raised bar program,” part of which entailed agents taking down customer complaints verbatim.
“It’s hard to fix something if you don’t know what they don’t like about it,” Field said. “No matter how colorful the commentary, it’s word for word in the verbatim.”
ConAgra began text mining those verbatims and has applied some interesting business processes based on the analytics. For example, when the company changed the recipe on a “whiskey steak” frozen meal, switching from a barbecue sauce to a Dijon mustard-based sauce, many customers complained about the change. ConAgra sent a message to all who complained explaining that the recipe was different, along with a coupon for ConAgra products.
ConAgra also uses text analytics to monitor its manufacturing operations. For example, when the company started receiving a large number of complaints about excess vinegar flavor in its Beanie Weenies baked beans, it was able to track the batch number back to the plant and check on any formulation issues and who was working that day.
In another incident, ConAgra was receiving complaints that its ReddiWhip whipped cream was too watery. Through text analytics, it discovered that one grocery chain in the eastern United States was not refrigerating it properly.
Additionally, social networks like Twitter and Facebook provide huge promise for text analytics. But, as Fern Halper of the Hurwitz Group writes in her post on the Text Analytics Summit, companies need more than that:
On the technology panel, all of the participants (Lexalytics, IBM, SPSS/IBM, Clarabridge, Attensity) were quick to point out that while social media is an important source of data, it is not the only source. In many instances, it is important to integrate this data with internal data to get the best read on a problem, customer,etc. This is obvious but underscores two points. First, these vendors need to differentiate themselves from the 150+ listening posts and social media analysis SaaS vendors that exclusively utilize social media and are clouding the market. Second, integrating data from multiple sources is a must have for many companies.
The conference attendance also seems to be shifting slowly from the vendor and consultant crowd to more and more end users, many of whom are struggling to find ways to get text analytics projects funded.
As Gerard Britton, a speaker at the conference noted, they may find an unexpected ally in their legal department.
Text analytics offers the chance to save big on e-discovery, Britton said. Even a midsize company can spend $10 million a year handling e-discovery issues. Text analytics isn’t going to remove all of that, but it can save 35 to 40% of the reviewing costs for e-discovery, Britton said.
Consider a legal action where a company has to hand over documents relative to the case of the opposition. Thousands of documents are given to a room full of attorneys to determine whether a set of documents is relevant to the case. Text analytics can, at the least, cluster like documents together so that, for example, one attorney is reading email and documents that relate to one another versus multiple attorneys having to go back and forth over the same email string or product documentation.
“Lawyers bill by the hour. They understand this,” Britton said. “Speeding up goes against the grain. You need a platform that provides you with time per document. In even medium size litigation you can have cluster in the thousands.”
Britton has built his own tool using SPSS’s Clementine, some Java programming and some simple SQL code, but vows the legal — or perhaps more likely the finance — department will be willing to pitch in on text analytics if it can cut e-discovery 40%.
But of course, despite all the cool technology we saw at the Summit, as my colleague Mark Brunelli notes in a story on Intuit’s text analytics initiative, text analytics are no substitute for human interaction.]]>
Under the proposed legislation, businesses would have to disclose when and where a call is transferred to an overseas location as well as face a $0.25 excise tax on a customer service call placed overseas.
Let’s leave the politics of it all aside for a moment. There’s plenty of blogs out there questioning how committed Schumer is to this, how much is grandstanding, mid-term elections or making a play for the Senate leadership should current Majority Leader Harry Reid be defeated in Nevada.
We’ll also leave aside the chance of this legislation actually becoming law as well.
Assuming for now that it does, it would put a serious damper on the offshore outsourcing business — at least the tax would. Sure, there’s a big difference in salaries between Buffalo and Bangalore, but $0.25 per call could add up pretty quickly. If only part of that legislation passes and it’s a matter of telling customers where there call is going, I think most people won’t object to strenuously — particularly if the alternative means paying for their calls to customer service.
In fact, that’s something that’s been getting some attention. John Ragsdale, at Eye on Service, has already called for the end of free customer service for highly technical support. Companies like Plumchoice, Support.com and SupportSpace are already offering for-fee technical support to consumers, he notes.
Additionally, should the option of low-cost, overseas call centers be removed, more companies will likely turn to the at-home agent model. While an at-home agent in North America is still going to demand a higher salary than an agent in India, they’re typically willing to sacrifice some salary for flexibility and providing a lower-cost alternative than the in-house agent.
Certainly, self-service technology would see a surge in investment. The one thing cheaper than an offshore agent is a piece of software. Of course that’s only if it works. If your customer gets fed up and takes their business elsewhere, there’s some different math involved.
Or maybe, just maybe, Schumer’s bill would force companies to stop focusing on cost savings in the call center and start focusing on treating call centers as a profit center by taking advantage of upsell and cross-sell opportunities and on improving the customer experience.]]>