Monday, October 24, 2011


Narrowing focus to Cloud Services/Cloud Computing. Check out my new FredInTheClouds blog!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Six Steps to Effective Customer Engagement: Step 4, Enable Business Collaboration (Social Networking at Work)

(Part of an ongoing series of articles about Customer Engagement strategies.)

"For a company to successfully earn the trust of its customers, there must exist a vibrant culture within the organization that recognizes the importance of trust and enables and empowers employees to act upon that perspective. - "The State of Customer Experience Capabilities and Competencies," SAS Institute Inc. and Peppers & Rogers Group

Just as consumers are seeking to support themselves and reach out to social communities when they need assistance, so are the people who make up businesses. Businesses should capitalize on the acceptance of collaboration and social networks by their employees through providing them the same tools with which they are familiar from outside the work environment: blogs, wikis, function-driven communities, profile updates, etc. By creating collaborative environments throughout the organization, a company can become more productive while simultaneously embracing what their employees are seeking as individuals.

Collaborative environments help break down – or eliminate entirely – traditional cross-departmental and “business vs. IT” barriers. Creating a social environment promotes communication and cooperation and ultimately yields a faster time-to-market for new business initiatives.

By putting in place the same social structures that people are using in their personal lives, businesses can become more productive, more collaborative, and improve employee satisfaction and retention.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Six Steps to Effective Customer Engagement: Step 3, Deliver Seamless Experiences for Delighted Customers

(Part of an ongoing series of articles about Customer Engagement strategies.)

Automating processes and empowering customer self-service by offering rich multichannel points of engagement can result in operations cost savings of 33% or more.

Market leadership requires delighting customers every time over a sustained period. Each interaction should be direct and personalized: from empowering new customers to on-board themselves, to delivering compelling and personalized offers and providing consistent experiences across the lifespan of the relationship, to giving today’s customers the ability to self-help that they are demanding. These personalized interactions can result from previous purchasing history, channel preference, and up-to-date transaction information from inside the company or across affiliate organizations. And, when the situation calls for it, a specific customer engagement needs to flow across departments and across channels without making the customer feel like they are doing all the work.

The reality is that companies often fail to delight their customers, not because they don’t want to do so, but because they simply don’t have the technology required to make it possible. Companies can’t provide the information necessary to meet the customer’s expectations, and they can’t offer the same level of service across different channels. Customers can do one thing via a web portal, another via an IVR system, and yet another only if they call and speak to a live representative – and information does not flow freely between the various systems and departments.

Agile, enabling technologies must be brought to bear to expose the right data and provide access to features at the right time, ensuring the customer only has to answer questions a single time whether they are sitting in their office or using their cell phone on vacation.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Six Steps to Effective Customer Engagement: Step 2, Have Smarter Conversations

(Part of an ongoing series of articles about Customer Engagement strategies.)

Companies must be prepared to engage ‘anytime and anywhere’ with their prospects, customers and partners. However, critical data and the customer-oriented information required for smart conversations is scattered across back-office systems and repositories, each with unique data structures and dedicated interfaces that are typically not designed to engage directly with customers. This makes it difficult to access, collect, and present relevant information in a meaningful way, limiting the ways that companies can reach out to customers and vice versa. Customers demand rich conversations and interactions that draw upon the information and functionality of this conglomeration of business systems, and they want those conversations to happen across the entire spectrum of communication channels.

Smart conversations should be customer-focused, direct, informed and personalized. Relevant data should be seamlessly collected from across the company to deliver real-time historical context; and the entry of new transaction information must be coordinated across processes that flow throughout the enterprise. Siloed systems make this a near impossibility, so enabling technology must be applied to draw upon the power and previous investment in legacy systems and synchronize real-time data prior to either reaching out to the customer or enabling self-service capabilities.

Smart conversations can be automated and allow customer or partner self-help; they can be two-party with an internal knowledge expert providing guidance to a customer; or they can be multi-part and collaborative. But, in all cases, the right information has to be provided at the right time and delivered effectively – which is only possible when a company is aware of the information and functionality they already possess. What’s more, that information and functionality must then be accessible by relevant parties in an effortless and transparent manner.

By breaking down technology barriers and exposing the richness of existing investments, companies can provide customers with positive engagement each and every time they interact.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Six Steps to Effective Customer Engagement: Step 1, Embrace a True Multichannel Strategy

(Part of an ongoing series of articles about Customer Engagement strategies.)

Since the early to mid-90s, communication channels have been emerging at a staggering rate. Business that had previously been conducted across only one or two primary channels less than twenty years ago – phone, mail order – is now happening across a dozen or more channels, and companies have been scrambling to keep up. The result has been a lack of strategic approach to communication channels, and companies finding themselves falling behind their customers.

The traditional solution has been to build channel-specific interaction points for customers and partners, including functionality within each channel that is often limited to technology constraints unique to that channel. This costly and time-consuming approach is reactive instead of proactive, and subsequently is certain to lag behind marketplace demands. This approach also makes it almost impossible for customers to begin a task in one channel then easily complete it in another channel, or get assistance from a customer service representative without having to provide the same information multiple times.

Instead, companies need to first create a shared foundation, including information, processes, and functionality that will feed – or ideally, drive – all channels. This strategy needs to encompass common services that the company wants to deliver to customers and partners, and then treat each and every channel merely as a window into those services.

Once there is a shared, common foundation for information, processes and functions communication channels simply become windows into the company, not confusing bolted-on appendages that are not synchronized.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A New Model for Customer Engagement: The Relationship Mindshift

(Part of an ongoing series of articles about Customer Engagement strategies.)

In this period of economic uncertainty – marked by some signs of renewed growth, but with continued softness in consumer confidence and cautious discretionary spending – companies must focus more than ever on maintaining customer loyalty, cross-selling and up-selling offerings, and acquiring new customers efficiently. Coupled with the continued emergence of the web, mobile platforms, and social networks as viable business channels, companies must be prepared to engage with their prospects and customers anytime, anywhere, via any channel, at their convenience, or they will lose relevance, customers and market share.

Today’s customer looks vastly different from the customer of five, or even two years ago – and tomorrow’s customer will be more different yet. Customers are not only tech savvy, but are increasingly on-line around the clock. They are more driven to find their own answers and solve their own problems, and, when they cannot solve their problems on their own, to meaningfully engage through social media with others who are trying to solve the same or similar problems.

More and more customers are also showing a preference for subscription-based offerings, which means that companies need to offer web-based services that promote customer ‘stickiness’ – loyalty, regular and repeated engagement, etc. – in order to maximize revenue. But, because consumers have more choices than ever, it is increasingly easier to “unplug” one service provider and “plug into” another, when a customer is unhappy.

The Relationship Mindshift

The first step toward meeting today’s customer where they live is to make a fundamental mindshift in how your company will create and maintain relationships with prospects, customers, and business partners.

People want meaningful and positive interactions with the companies with which they do business – every single time they do business with them – and they expect consistency across all communication channels. Focusing on building and maintaining these business relationships will be the most critical success factor for businesses moving forward, across virtually every industry sector.

Companies must be well-positioned to maximize the value of their relationships with customers and partners through the continual and rapid launch of creative offerings – recombined or bundled products/services, personalized and targeted campaigns, etc. – and then be able to measure the effectiveness of those offerings while also guaranteeing optimized service levels tailored to the unique needs of each individual consumer. This will require movement toward campaign-driven sales patterns, agile business systems, and proactive business intelligence/analytics. Without re-evaluating an organization’s approach to conducting business, and embracing the shift to enabling and maintaining long-term, positive relationships, companies will likely repeat common mistakes of the past: siloed systems, disjointed and inconsistent functionality, fragmented and inconsistent customer touch points, all of which lead to dissatisfied and frustrated customers.

Unhappy customers are ten times more likely to stop doing business with their current proviers.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A New Model for Customer Engagement

I recently collaborated on a white paper about effective customer engagement and what it takes from an operational and technological perspective to achieve it. So, over my next few posts, I'll share bits of that paper, including the key steps to take in order to enable multichannel customer engagement in today's ever-changing customer landscape.

First, an overview:

In today’s competitive business climate, customers expect more than ever from the companies with which they do business. Customers are tech savvy and want to engage with companies when, where and how they prefer, and they want that engagement to be meaningful, consistent and efficient. What’s more, as new communication channels continue to emerge at a staggering rate, effectively engaging customers has become even more complex. Companies that are willing and able to embrace a new way of engaging their customers will be better positioned for acquiring and retaining customers and building loyalty.

This series of posts will discuss the six steps to effective customer engagement, including embracing a true multichannel strategy, having smarter conversations, delivering seamless experiences for delighted customers, enabling business collaboration, leveraging affiliates, partners and bundled offerings, and measuring customer retention, loyalty and revenue potential through real-time business analytics.

Additionally, I will take a closer look at ‘relationship architecture’ – the technology foundation that streamlines and helps manage all aspects of customer-facing business initiatives. Establishing a relationship architecture will provide lasting benefits to the company, partners and the customer, ultimately leading to success for the business.

Only those companies willing to embrace today’s ‘rules of engagement’ will emerge as leaders over the next decade. Acquiring and retaining customers and building loyalty calls for ‘A New Model for Customer Engagement’.