April 10, 2000
The Well-Rounded Customer
Companies must strive for a complete view of their customers as the relationship shifts from commerce to collaboration
By Jeff Sweat
|And from our sister publications:|
Send Us Your Feedback
ittenhouse Financial Services Inc. doesn't have a 360-degree view of its customers. But it has about 330 degrees covered, and the company's ambitious efforts to gather customer data--and understand it--suggest the other 30 degrees aren't far behind.
The Radnor, Pa., company, which sells financial services such as mutual funds through brokerage firms such as Merrill Lynch and Paine Webber, is opening every avenue to its customers, then leveraging technology to harvest and analyze the data from those interactions. Customers contacting the company via E-mail are greeted by eGain Inc.'s E-mail response-management software, which passes the message to an appropriate customer-service representative. Those coming in over the Web or through a call center are connected via Siebel Systems Inc.'s Siebel 99 customer-relationship management suite.
Regardless of where the customer enters, the interaction is recorded in the Siebel software--which integrates with Rittenhouse's other customer-management systems--then analyzed for clues about customer behavior. "If someone touches us, we know about it," says Bill Crager, Rittenhouse's managing director.
The securities firm isn't alone in trying to get a complete picture of its customers--a 360-degree view that tracks customers across multiple channels and over time. The 360-degree customer isn't just a name in a database, a voice in a call center, a shopping cart in a checkout line, or an order on a Web site. He or she is a real person, with complex tastes, hobbies, personality traits, and buying patterns. That customer is also a remembered quantity--particularly important in the Internet age, when it's so easy for customers to come and go.
In the past, for example, if customers left Rittenhouse and then came back, the brokerage firm had to start new relationships with them. "We'd treat them as if we didn't know them," Crager says. But the CRM system has a long memory. "Whether they contact us on a daily basis or months apart, we can pick up where they left off," he says.
That's important because "customers are learning how to control the business relationship," says Sam Galucci, senior VP of eLoyalty Inc., a CRM consulting firm. To succeed, companies must meet customers on their terms:
If customers communicate with a company across multiple channels--online, via E-mail, and in person, for example--they expect the company to be aware of their actions across all those channels.
"How frustrating would it be if I sent you two or three E-mails about Valentine's Day after you'd just paid a visit to a retail store and told the clerk you'd broken up with your spouse?" asks Joe Hage, director of relationship marketing at 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. in Westbury, N.Y. "Every time somebody says something, we as a company should be listening." To make sure that happens, the flower retailer is building a system--expected to be in place later this year--that will connect information stored in its point-of-sale systems and call-center database, so any employee interacting with a customer knows about all the interactions that person has had with the company.
Companies form a 360-degree customer view by gathering data from all possible sources, then analyzing it. Data collection can be a challenge, but it's the analysis that's key--it sheds light on the tiny details that mark the way consumers live, shop, and buy. "A panoramic view of the customer is only possible with an analytic view of the customer," says Liz Shahnam, an analyst with the Meta Group. IT users agree. "It's great to accumulate data, but you have to have a plan to understand and use it," Crager says.
Still, while almost every business would like to have a complete view of its customers, few have all the pieces in place: software that collects E-mail, phone, retail, and Web data, then analyzes it and turns its findings into action.
Many companies are like New York insurance giant Metropolitan Life Inc., which is implementing a CRM workflow system from Chordiant Software Inc. that will link all its customer systems across all its divisions. But the company hasn't decided exactly what it will do when that data pipeline is connected. "What's being sold here is the future, but today we're still building the bricks and mortar to make the future happen," says VP of workflow systems Alan Harris.
Galucci of eLoyalty estimates that only 5% of IT organizations are putting in a 360-degree customer system. The other 95% are just now connecting their sales and services organizations to a common database. They're installing systems that address a specific need--a more-efficient sales process, for example, or better E-mail response--but not systems that will give their companies a complete view of their customers.
A confluence of CRM technology has made it easier for companies to get customer data, but it has also confused the issue. Which products should companies use--CRM, customer analysis, data warehousing, E-mail response management, marketing automation, sales-force automation, Web customer service, or all of the above? There's something for every aspect of the customer interaction, but every new tool means one more component that must be integrated with everything else.
Photo of Hage by Edward Santalone
- I Can See Clearly Now - E2 Conference Boston
- Get practical strategies to build a solid plan for profitability and success - Mobile Commerce World - Mobile Commerce World
- Learn how to enage customers through mobility - Mobile Commerce World - Mobile Commerce World
- Learn how to best integrate mobile commerce with your current systems -- Mobile Commerce World - Mobile Commerce World
- How to Choose a SaaS Vendor - E2 Conference Boston
This Week's Issue
Free Print SubscriptionSubscribe
Current Government Issue
- The Government CIO 25: These influential and accomplished government IT leaders are finding ways to be cost efficient and still innovate.
- Rethink Video Surveillance: It's not just about networked cameras anymore. New technology provides analytics, automation, facial recognition, real-time alerts and situational-awareness capabilities.
- Read the Current Issue