Voices of CRM

November 2, 2012  7:50 PM

Hold the phone: Report says companies not measuring cost of customer channels

Albert McKeon Albert McKeon Profile: Albert McKeon

It’s wise to pinch a grain of salt on any study released by a software or service provider.

With that said, it’s worth considering one bit of data in a report issued this week by Dimension Data, an IT service provider in Johannesburg, South Africa. The report said that contact centers aren’t measuring the cost effectiveness of social and mobile channels.

Citing data from 637 contact centers around the world, Dimension Data first offered an assessment shared by almost anyone who’s wired: the fast adoption of mobile and smartphone devices have transformed business.

But that was followed by a surprising bit of information: The Report claims organizations aren’t measuring the cost of new contact center options, typically non-agent, self-help channels that connect to mobile and social channels.

“The absence of cost measurement activity on every channel outside of the telephone is staggering,” the report said.

Only 27.9% of Internet, 19.4 % of Web chat, 9.9% of social media, and 6.1% of smartphone application contacts are being measured, the report said.  What’s more: Despite not gauging cost effectiveness, just 14.6% of the surveyed contact centers have any plans to use any measurements.

“This contradicts emerging practices that link customer satisfaction scores directly to profitability, such as the tracking of share price performance against the voice of the customer — a growing trend among forward-thinking organizations,” the report said.

It will be interesting to see if any think tank follows up on Dimension Data’s report.

Just about every CRM expert speaks to the need of integrating social and mobile channels to connect with customers. If organizations don’t measure cost and ROI of non-telephone channels, they won’t understand how to make the most of those connections.

September 17, 2012  8:09 PM

On the eve of Dreamforce, this writer’s head is filled with questions

Albert McKeon Albert McKeon Profile: Albert McKeon

I don’t know what to expect at Dreamforce 2012, Salesforce.com’s 10th annual conference.

Well, I do expect my head to spin from the sheer number of attendees — an anticipated 70,000 — and the relatively smaller throng of Salesforce partner vendors, only about 350 businesses or so.

But having covered technology for only six months now in my gig as a writer and editor for SearchCRM.com, I hope not to get lost in the weeds of software platform stipulations, interface specifications and all sorts of dense tech talk.

Don’t get me wrong. Those issues are important, and I’ll listen. But what I really want to hear is users’ opinions of the Salesforce.com line of products and how these tools affect their jobs.

How efficient is Sales Cloud and Service Cloud? Has Chatter opened the lines of communication within the company? How well have the Salesforce platforms integrated with older systems?

“The Social Enterprise”  is the theme of this year’s Dreamforce. Salesforce intends to demonstrate how social media doesn’t just boost B2C, but it also drives commerce.

I’m interested to learn how deep users have dived into social. Are they only listening? Are they analyzing social media-based textual data, and, if so, how do they use it to react to customers?

And what will the new line of products expected to be announced at Dreamforce – including Touch and Chatterbox – mean to Salesforce.com users and potential customers? Are they still trying to familiarize with older social media tools, and are these annual product releases too much to handle?

More than anything, I want to understand what companies think of customer experience management. Is it just a marketing term?  Is it a child of CRM? Or really taking centerstage? For companies that have taken it on, has handling CEM overwhelmed companies, or is it line with current practices?

I’ll be attending a few informational sessions and meeting a few vendors, but mostly, I’ll spend Dreamforce talking to users. I’d like to hear your stories and see what you think of this latest technology.

If you see me, stop to chat. Or email me, or send me a note on Twitter.

September 5, 2012  8:24 PM

Salesforce.com no longer wants to be The Social Enterprise

Albert McKeon Albert McKeon Profile: Albert McKeon

After prompting the objections of just about every business and non-profit organization, Salesforce.com has dropped its attempt to trademark the phrase “social enterprise.”

The cloud-based CRM software company announced Tuesday it would end its pursuit of a trademark on the phrase, as well as remove all references to the term in marketing materials.

Salesforce had tried to trademark “social enterprise” in the U.S., Australia, Europe and Jamaica. After the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Salesforce’s application, the company still forged ahead, appealing the decision.

But by Tuesday, the pressure and potential public relations mess became too big to ignore.

For one, the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA), an organization of more than 1,000 members, started a website “to tell the stories of a global movement that began long before Salesforce.com began using the phrase to describe its cloud products.”  (On Tuesday, the organization said it was grateful for Salesforce’s reversal and now has to figure out what to do next with the website.)

And Salesforce’s potential ownership of the phrase not only irked businesses that sell social-based products, it also drew protests from non-profit organizations that work in the social sector. They claimed a business holding a trademark on a popular, generic term would cause confusion about groups that do work for no profit.

In a statement announcing the end of its chase of “social enterprise,” Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com CEO, wrote: “It was never our intention to create confusion in the social sector, which we have supported since our founding.”

August 31, 2012  3:54 PM

Inbound marketing crowd share ideas at HubSpot conference

Albert McKeon Albert McKeon Profile: Albert McKeon

BOSTON – Ninja tips, a talk about the importance of introverts and a trip in a musical time machine were some of the highlights of the inaugural Inbound 2012 marketing conference held this week.

Hosted by the Cambridge, Mass.-based marketing firm HubSpot, the four-day Inbound conference drew nearly 3,000 professionals, all eager to review the latest in inbound marketing tools and techniques.

Those ninja tips weren’t about breaking concrete blocks, but rather were marketing activities infused with wisdom for inbound marketers. Author Susan Cain spoke about how corporate culture underestimates the value of introverted leaders. And Cyndi Lauper sang new material but also gave the crowd what it wanted: 1980s hits such “All Through the Night.”

HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah used the conference to pitch the company’s latest product: a new version of its marketing software. HubSpot 3 offers an “Amazon.com-like” personalization with 10 new or rebuilt tools that allow users to tailor their websites and marketing to the unique interests of customers.

In one of the many smaller group talks at the conference, Paul Roetzer, founder of the inbound marketing firm PR20/20, advised attendees to revisit their company’s mission and procedures.

Roetzer recalled how his Cleveland-based firm had 15 new campaign clients in 2009. He estimated these new clients would bring his company more than $500,000 in revenue. But within a year, 13 of those clients had left for various reasons and PR20/20 let one go.

That quick churn of clients led Roetzer to review what went wrong. He found the firm had promised too much. Roetzer recognized PR20/20 would have to choose the “right clients,” committing to “people who want to commit to you.” He recommended watching for red flags with clients — like sensing a contact is unhappy in a phone conversation.

Roetzer also advised his audience to take a sophisticated approach to growth by assessing business and marketing strengths, preparing an honest forecast for potential success, determining talent needs and team structures, and allocating resources to avoid burnout.

Jean Tang, founder of MarketSmiths, a copywriting collective for industries and individuals in New York, enjoyed Roetzer’s talk but “respectfully” disagreed with one suggestion: offering clients a questionnaire to assess her company’s performance. She prefers unscripted conversation to gauge their opinions.

August 14, 2012  4:18 PM

Salesforce.com to expand Chatter into enterprise service network

Albert McKeon Albert McKeon Profile: Albert McKeon

Building upon the social aspect of its Chatter program, Salesforce.com next year will offer a new application that allows companies to create social networks for their customers and partners.

Salesforce Communities will be available online starting today to select users, and will have its official release by mid-2013, according to Salesforce Chatter’s senior vice president of marketing, Doug Bewsher.

Chatter enables social conversation within a company, and that product drove the creation of the more externally-focused Communities offering, Bewsher said Monday in an interview.

Communities creates external networks that companies can use to interact with partners and customers, allowing for a conversation all in one place, Bewsher said.

According to a Salesforce.com press release, Communities will offer “seamless” deal registration for a company’s partners, provide access to sales tools and allow for collaboration with experts. On the customer end, interaction between a company’s agents and peers will give customers better and faster service. And for marketing, companies can create open communities around events and campaigns.

Communities allows information taken from social networks to be uploaded to a company’s CRM system. A company needs to have a Salesforce.com license to establish a community, but its participants don’t have to be Salesforce.com customers.

August 3, 2012  4:03 PM

Oracle and Salesforce.com top Ventana’s sales performance management software rankings

Albert McKeon Albert McKeon Profile: Albert McKeon

Some like it hot, so some should like Oracle and Salesforce.com.

So goes the thinking of Ventana Research in its Value Index, an annual ranking of software vendors in the sales performance management market. Again evaluating vendors across seven categories – including manageability and ROI – Ventana found Oracle’s Fusion CRM and Salesforce’s products to be the “hot” dogs of the group.

Six other vendors nipped at their heels: SAP, Xactly, Microsoft, Varicent, CallidusCloud and Synygy. They had slightly lower Value Index scores than Oracle and Salesforce.com, but ranked high enough to earn “hot” designations. The other vendor researched, Nice Systems, was thought to be “warm.”

Ventana based its rankings partially upon a survey that last year quizzed 233 organizations about their sales performance management needs.

Three out of five respondents said it is important to provide sales information to their operations and finance departments, but acknowledged that information isn’t always available. Scattered information about sales prompted 58% of the organizations to invest in new sales software, with the problem more pronounced in large organizations (66%) and manufacturing companies (65%).

More than half of respondents use basic desktop spreadsheets like Excel to track sales performance. Among them, nearly half said they had difficulty managing sales efficiently — with good reason. Spreadsheets are error-prone, hard to audit and monitor, and are not easy to email from server to server, the survey said.

Nearly all of the survey participants (97%) said sales analytics was an important application; 36% have already deployed sales analytics and 23% plan to do so within a year.

To devise its Value Index, Ventana evaluated software in five product-related categories — usability, manageability, reliability, capability, adaptability – as well as two customer assurance categories: vendor validation and TCO/ROI.

Varicent, Synygy, SAP and CallidusCloud scored well on the customer assurance end of the scale, but so did Oracle and Salesforce.com, whereas those two hot vendors also led the pack in the product-related categories.

Varicent topped last year’s Value Index for Sales Performance Management. It was followed by Synygy, Xactly and Callidus Software, which also were rated as Hot Vendors, and then Merced Systems, SAP, salesforce.com, Oracle and Microsoft, which earned the Warm Vendor rating.


July 23, 2012  8:31 PM

Microsoft Dynamics CRM introduces security and transparency Web page

Albert McKeon Albert McKeon Profile: Albert McKeon

Microsoft unveiled a Web page Monday that details privacy and security information for users of its Dynamics CRM Online service.

The page – called Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Trust Center – echoes an industry trend in which vendors detail how they handle customer data and the steps they take to ensure its protection, and, perhaps most important, its uptime.

Salesforce.com, for instance, offers Trust.Salesforce.com, which gives live and historical data on system performance, news about planned maintenance and information on how the vendor protects customer data. Netsuite has a similar offering with Infrastructure.

Microsoft touted the Trust Center as a window into how it uses and safeguards data.

For instance, Trust Center breaks down data use limits. This particular section shows that while account and address book data may be used for promotions, customer and usage data will not be used for such purposes. It also highlights how business services data is not shared with systems that are used for advertising.

Another section of the Trust Center provides the geographic boundary where a user’s CRM data will be stored; Microsoft doesn’t disclose the exact location of its data centers. Many customers continue to express concern over government access to their data and the U.S. PATRIOT Act.

And it spells out the program’s certification with the Web security benchmark ISO27001 and its adherence to the European Union Data Protection Directive.

Microsoft used the announcement of Trust Center to promote the CRM program’s existent registration with the Cloud Security Alliance’s Security Trust & Assurance Registry Program. Microsoft Office 365 and Windows Azure also have Trust Centers and CSA STAR registrations.

According to a recent Gartner Inc. report, by 2016 more than 50% of Global 1000 companies will store customer-sensitive data in the public cloud. “Transparency in a cloud vendor is key and security should be as big of a concern with online deployments as with on-premises deployments,” Gartner analyst Gene Phifer said in the report.

July 20, 2012  7:06 PM

With acquisition, contact center software firm drops its kit and Ciboodle

Albert McKeon Albert McKeon Profile: Albert McKeon

A contact center software company finally put down its Sword.

The Scotland-based SwordCiboodle surrendered its unusual corporate name this week after being acquired by Kana, a Sunnyvale, Calif., provider of customer service solutions. The company will move forward with only “Kana Software” in the masthead.

The Kana brand name “is stronger and more mature in key markets,” according to Mitch Lieberman, the vice president of market strategy for SwordCiboodle.

“That said, Ciboodle will be missed by some. There is no middle ground, though, people loved it or hated it and the ‘Sword’ in front made it tougher to say,” Lieberman wrote in an email.

SwordCiboodle started in 1986 with a softer name. Whereas Sword and Scotland conjured visions of battle, initially the company was known as Graham Technology (think crackers.)

When the Sword Group bought Graham Technology in 2008, the company first switched to “Ciboodle,” recognizing the name of its flagship customer interaction platform. Later it added the weapon, with “SwordCiboodle” reflecting its corporate parentage.

Lieberman said KANA and Ciboodle are a good fit, both centering on customer service solutions for the enterprise.

“Ciboodle has built a reputation providing contact center, agent desktop, business process management and case management solutions,” Lieberman wrote. “KANA has built a reputation providing email response management, knowledge management, Web self-service and chat, and more recently social listening.”

Everyone at Ciboodle and Kana looks forward to the days ahead, Lieberman wrote, particularly one minor advantage to the deal.

“I will not miss the ‘No, Key-boodle, not See-boodle’ conversations, though.”

June 29, 2012  1:37 PM

The ultimate customer experience: Owning your own island

Albert McKeon Albert McKeon Profile: Albert McKeon

Buying a Hawaiian island creates headlines. And it certainly will bury the headlines your company wants to generate with a new product line.

On Monday, as Oracle Corp. announced it will bundle its CRM, marketing and other software products into a suite that focuses on customer experience, news continued to spread like volcanic lava that the company’s CEO was about to buy an island.

Big nui (Hawaiian for news) indeed.  Larry Ellison had an eye on purchasing most of Lanai, an island near Maui. Word of the real estate deal broke June 20, and by Thursday, Ellison had closed the deal.

Ellison bought 88,000 acres of Lanai, about 98% of its 141 square miles. According to the Maui News, the former owner – Castle & Cooke Inc. — had asked for as much as $600 million for this American slice of paradise.

The deal landed Ellison control of the island’s tourism, as well as ownership of two golf courses, two resorts, commercial and residential buildings and lots of open space.

Meanwhile, on Monday night – with tech reporters already briefed days in advance on Oracle’s product announcement – company co-President Mark Hurd held court on a Gotham Hall stage in New York to unveil Oracle Customer Experience (CX).

The suite enables businesses to respond to a market centered on the customer experience, Anthony Lye, the company’s senior vice president of CRM, told SearchCRM in an interview. It includes familiar Oracle products — such as the Fusion CRM platform — and offerings the company recently captured through acquisitions, including FatWire, RightNow and Vitrue.

Although it couldn’t complete with visions of sun and surf, the product announcement wasn’t completely buried in the news cycle.

Tech publications covered the new strategy. And the unveiling spawned a fair share of tweets – including, “You say you want a (customer experience) revolution?” and “Is the whole greater than the parts yet?” –.

But a Google search during Monday always first offered scores of results about Ellison’s purchase. And most of Twitter was abuzz about Ellison’s new digs

Among those tweets, Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, a Web content sharing company, wrote: “The shocking news today should be that Larry Ellison didn’t previously own an island.”

And former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich offered: “Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is buying Hawaii’s 6th-largest island. Other billionaires are buying the rest of America in the 2012 election.”

June 22, 2012  3:44 PM

CA turns online customer community wasteland into active collaboration

Albert McKeon Albert McKeon Profile: Albert McKeon

BOSTON – CA Technologies had an urgent need to make its online community actually feel like a community.

Eight years ago, the Islandia, N.Y., IT management and software company, was wrestling with eight different community sites — a Web dissonance that frayed customer input and made introducing new products even more difficult.

Consolidating the myriad destinations into three Web communities with a single sign-on and a shared aesthetic was left to J.J. Lovett and Samuel Creek, the director of community programs and the principal business analyst, respectively, for CA Technologies.

Creek and Lovett offered their story at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. They preached how an online community can reenergize a company by tapping the knowledge of its users and partners.

Things looked bleak even before 2004, Lovett said. The company had more than 300 unconnected regional groups that met face-to-face and had almost no online collaboration capabilities. Additionally, many of the groups were independent user groups operating independently, he said.

Not only that, but an accounting scandal that rocked CA had created an environment of secrecy. People were reluctant to share.

At the time, the company’s outreach program centered on aging products that were losing value, Lovett said. CA Technologies wanted to organically introduce new products and get those disparate groups to collaborate as one.

At first, the company formed an online system that had eight groups linked to similar products. The groups had community autonomy, but each had their own user profile and look and feel.

That created system challenges: collaboration was rudimentary, and there were problems with membership tracking, document sharing and event planning. Eventually the system collapsed. Collaboration was more of a headache than when they started, Lovett said.

“Sam and his team built this system and we thought there’d be weeping in the streets,” Lovett said. “We found the system wasn’t being leveraged. We created this environment and it was an empty house.”

One administrator came across a post on one of the sites that asked plainly, “Is anyone there?” The post had been there for weeks.

“We thought they would abandon their 20-year-old listservs,” Creek said. “This was not the case. We had created this huge mansion but there was one thing missing and that was us, the vendor.”

So with executive backing that continues to this day, the company started three communities — SSO, MyCA and CA – that offer a uniform look and single sign-on, Creek said. “We created it with the idea of (having) global communities with regional communities underneath,” he said.

What CA Technologies did was “blink first” with the new communities, building a relationship between vendors and customers and encouraging customers to participate with content initiatives, Lovett said. Membership has grown, and participation and value measurements have increased, he said.

To build a following, the company posted tips on three or four issues to drive conversation, and it also took advantage of SEO.

The number of CA Technologies message board posts that offer solutions to questions has increased 600% since April 2011, Creek and Lovett said. And the number of positive ratings or likes of member content has risen more than 272% since that time.

With this success, mid-level executives started talking to top-level executives, Lovett said. Having a top executive who understands what a community means to growth helps.

Creek and Lovett suggested that companies build social software layers around the core of their communities, making full use of social monitoring and analytics to understand customers. Communities should also recognize the voices of experts, they said.

The buy-in that CA Technologies has engendered means the company can ask customers questions anytime it wants, Creek said.

But the work hasn’t stopped. The company’s goal is to create a 360-degree profile of the customer through the communities. It won’t be easy. The plan is to build a data mart, combining data from SAP, Salesforce.com and a technical support system built on a mainframe in 1978 and offering up that data, Creek said. “So an account manager can go in and…see who are champions are.”

Barney Beal contributed to this post

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