Complete Customer Picture Isn't In Focus - InformationWeek

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5/23/2002
12:34 PM
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Complete Customer Picture Isn't In Focus

It's all about the customer. Serve the customer. Sell to the customer. That seems to be the mantra for every business these days. Pumping up customer satisfaction is an important priority regardless of a person's role in the company.

Yet a lack of integration between front-office and back-office applications often prevents customer-service, sales, marketing, and other support personnel from assisting customers in the way businesses would like. Most companies claim to be more customer-focused than in the past, but IT systems tend to be more focused on products than consumers.

Most businesses still aren't able to retrieve a complete picture of their customers from their IT infrastructure. Only 17% of 150 business-technology professionals interviewed in February say their company's Web, E-mail, and call centers are integrated with one another, according to a research study for InformationWeek Research and Optimize magazine. And 83% say these systems are either somewhat or not at all connected.

Few Close TiesTo rectify the situation, IT departments are concentrating on improving customer service. Although budgets remain tight and IT layoffs are common, 27% expect spending on customer-relationship management strategies will increase in 2002 compared with 2001. Two-thirds say the time and money spent will be the same as last year. Only one in 10 respondents say their company will spend far less time and money on customer-relationship initiatives this year than it did last year.

Some integration already has been achieved. Two in five sites surveyed have tied in call-center reports to their data-warehouse operations. Integration such as this gives businesses a competitive edge in analyzing why customers are contacting call centers. In all, 35% of businesses are also feeding sales data into a customer database, letting them identify cross-selling opportunities and take advantage of customer-buying preferences.

There's still much to be done. Vendors are working to integrate Web-services technology in products. Businesses are pursuing integration strategies to connect supply-chain, order-management, marketing, sales, client-support, and financial applications to create a complete picture of their customers.

How is your company working to improve its understanding of its customers? Let us know at the address below.

Jennifer Maselli
Senior Editor
[email protected]



Diverse Expectations Diverse Expectations
In this era of economic restraint, financial backing seldom comes without certain expectations, and company call centers are no exception. Overwhelmingly, businesses expect their call centers to manage customers in a variety of ways.

More than half of the 150 business-technology professionals interviewed in February for the InformationWeek Research and Optimize magazine survey say their call center's aim is customer retention. Two in five say its role is to monitor consumer activity, compared with a third of sites where the focus is on winning new clients and augmenting sales. And for 30% of respondents, call centers are expected to work at automating customer interaction and to help cut costs through such efforts.

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