by Michael Maoz | August 21, 2013 | Comments Off
Here in the NorthEast section of the United States university students are flocking back to campus and the wealthy New England finance types are burrowing into a final weekend on Nantucket or Menemsha. The rest of us are long ago back to work. But in the transition there was time to read what often is overlooked: Press Releases and Press pieces on CRM and CRM vendors. Trolling through the mass of words, paens to the vaulted capabilities of CRM vendors whose true prowess, thanks to our wonderful client base, is well known to us, it felt a bit like entering a Twilight Zone of misinformation and accepted truths.
Anyone with a trusting but pragmatic personality naturally questions the Press Release. Is it true, or is it aspirational, or is it false? Is it intentionally misleading and true because nothing is clearly stated regardless of the impression created? What are the writer’s underlying assumptions when they write “CRM is a commodity?” Is it a subtle shot at a competitor with that Trading symbol, or a poor conceived notion of the term?
And then there are the CRM-oriented journals, written largely by individuals with a stake in being perceived positively by software or service vendor rather than an end consumer of the software and/or service: how can they be trusted? Do they know that they don’t know, or think that they know but don’t, or do they actually know the veracity of claims made?
There is no small measure of Emperor’s New Clothese afoot in both the world of vendor-sponsored CRM-focused journals and in Press Releases. One might not think about it or know this unless in daily contact with organizations selecting and deploying the solutions. In the end, one of the beauties of our job as analysts is that 75 percent of our research time is with the end user: CIO, VP of Customer Support, Marketing, Sales, eCommerce. That is not to say that the 25% of time spent evaluating technology and technology vendors is not essential/critical – this is a vital and exciting part of the process. But what is unique is having a global network of clients from all industries and sizes to validate and/or challenge what we have seen and heard from the IT providers.
As a final comment: The IT providers, by a wide margin, are attempting to provide us with accurate information and seek our insights as well. Yet for a large company there is a challenge: how to retrieve from the field the most accurate information as to the efficacy of the software or service in real-world settings. Often the folks writing presentations and presenting information to analysts are not in the field designing, configuring, integrating, testing and data-loading and scaling a product to full production. They often are shocked by our lack of enthusiasm and apparent bland expressions. But we are listening, and listening carefully, and then taking what is seen and heard and measuring it against what unfolds for their customers who have accepted the story line, and then advising clients on the delta (if there is one) between inspiration and real-world. And providing the vendors themselves the unvarnished reactions of their prospects and clients, while providing full confidentiality.
Does this make sense? Do you have a preferred approach to benchmarking solutions?
Category: Applications CIO CRM Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership Tags:
by Michael Maoz | August 12, 2013 | 2 Comments
Let’s face it: the five year cost of CRM software in a SaaS model has eclipsed on premise software costs for most organizations. We should re-state this: most businesses will not face this issue head on. Obfuscating and a disengenuous sleight-of-hand accounting razzamatazz can give the vague appearance that SaaS is cheaper. SaaS is evolving like Client/Server in the Cloud: next-gen vendor lock-in. Our Open API, our partners, our certification, through our system. Other than that you have complete choice.
The prices have risen as functionality has been added. The argument that it would get cheaper because of economies of scale for the vendor has not translated into lower costs. There still is nothing available to run a global customer support organization for a consumer-oriented enterprise. Most of the vendors in the space can’t make a profit. Software suppliers who have entered the space have not grown significantly, and everyone has to point to the same one or two players, though they are the exception proving the rule. Lack of global data centers to deliver the application servers and store sensitive customer data, as well as integrate with local telephone switches and CTI protocols has also slowed adoption.
And yet SaaS continues to attract CRM application buyers, and for good reason: the desire to outsource infrastructure and IT expertise and lower fixed costs continues unabated. The gutting of internal IT expertise appears irreversible. The only impediment to adoption is lack of product, and lack of competition where there is product.
The cost to a vendor to build out a global capability is steep, and the handful of software companies who have the wherewithal have not seen the CRM space as sufficiently promising to go wide and go deep. That leaves essentially a largely non-competitive market for global scale CRM in a SaaS model.
The result means that unit prices have and will continue to go up for buyers/subscribers. The advice would be to keep a watch on vendor lock-in, and weigh the trade offs between ‘most-of-suite’ versus best-of-breed. It is going to be a long four years until a more competitive global market evolves for SaaS in the Sales and Customer Service CRM space, and keeping options open is not a bad idea as the dust settles.
Or do you see it differently? We see what we see – and there may be hard evidence versus a few anecdotal and incomplete estimates of the above – so jump in and respond!
Category: Analytics for Social CRM Applications CIO Cloud Contact Center CRM Innovation and Customer Experience IT Governance Leadership SaaS and Cloud Computing Sales Force Automation SFA Social CRM Social Networking Social Software Strategic Planning Vendor Contracts Tags:
by Michael Maoz | August 1, 2013 | 3 Comments
Summer on the East Coast of the United States is magical, as temperatures in the Northeast can veer between 55f and 102f in a matter of days, and blazing dry days can be supplanted by near torrential downpours. It is also a time of travel for vacation versus work, and time to laugh at things that, when one is rushed, can be aggravating. Like hotels that don’t remember who you are, or that you have been a loyal customer for 15 years (in central Washington, DC), or when one asks, “are there any less expensive places to park a car than here – where it is $40/night?” And the answer is, “Not that I know of, sir.” But then when I go for a walk there is a sign right across the street for a rate $5 cheaper. Of course I walk back into the hotel and ask the sweet receptionist: “what about across the street? It is $5 less expensive.” Her answer? “Sir, generally people don’t consider $5 to be worth the effort.” To which your intrepid guest asks: ‘Bottled water in the room is $6, would you cross the street to the CVS to buy it for $1?” That puzzled her. “But how can you compare!” Enough said.
Then there is the rental car company that can’t switch your bill from the credit card on file to another credit card without putting you in a 20 minute queue, even if you are a Gold Customer. Or messaging systems from airlines that tell you your plane is 90 minutes delayed but neglect to update you that the delay is gone and now you must be there on time. And then there is my brilliant hands-free headset that I got for my iPhone4 six months ago, which is modestly touted as “The world’s smartest headset.” Until I upgraded to the iPhone5, and it won’t pair. It may be smart, but only about the past – not the future. And try the headset maker’s corporate website and type “iPhone5″ into the browser and what do you get? The very headset that is incompatible with the iPhone5. In fact until one opens a PDF with technical detail and gets to the bottom, there is no mention of what is/is not compatible.
The list is endless of terrific companies, and the CIOs at all of these terrific companies are waist deep in the big muddy of Big Data. They are attending conferences, hiring data scientists, and using ever more cutting edge analytics tools to mine data and engineer the human soul. All of that is great, and at the same time the startlingly obvious process failures are more likely to diminish trust and lower customer engagement with a Brand or company. The Siren-sound of Big Data is calling, but it can’t be at the expense of the obvious. But the obvious – the small things that are easily tweaked – are not on the CIO’s agenda because they won’t gain her/him visibility in the Boardroom or with the CEO.
Here’s the thing: of course Big Data should be exploited. But like a balance investment portfolio, the factors that drive customer excellence need to be tended to first: no customers means no need for Big Data – except to find your next job.
If you are not careful and fail to keep your eye focused on the customer experience, all of this infatuation with data mining may come back to haunt you. It took Marvin Lee Aday (AKA Meat Loaf) and his buddy Jim Steinman five years to finally produce Bat out of Hell in 1977, but it went on to sell tens of millions of albums. One of the best numbers summarizes the CIO’s dilemma well. It is, Paradise by the Dashboard Light, and the key lines are:
I swore that I would love you to the end of time!
So now I’m praying for the end of time
To hurry up and arrive
‘Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you
I don’t think that I can really survive.
So let’s look before we leap with Big Data, and give ongoing customer engagement initiatives their due.
Category: Analytics for Social CRM Applications CIO CRM Customer Centric Web Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership Social Networking Social Software Strategic Planning Tags:
by Michael Maoz | June 25, 2013 | 1 Comment
Watching Raffaello D’Andrea show the future of robots and the role of algorithms fascinates. Download it or watch it when you have time: Raffaello D’Andrea: The astounding athletic power of quadcopters. Though I wondered during the incredible demonstration if Major League Baseball would have robotic players within 25 years, it also reminded of the mining of consumer data and how consumers might be looking for significant quid pro quo for their free transfer of labor and data.
Recently I experienced a group of 500 US High School students in the 11th Grade (like Fifth Form in some systems) sitting to take their college standardized tests. If you have ever experienced this or know young people who have, the tests, three in total, drag on for hours and test Mathematical skills, Reading and Writing skills. They are gruelling, and judging by the enormous changes in scores that the same student can receive after taking the test multiple times and before and after tutoring, they seem to be of dubious value. Be that as it may, one interesting bit is that about 10% of each test consists of questions that are experimental. They are there to see how the students perform, and they are used to generate the next generation of test. Though there is no value to getting them wrong or right, they drag the test out, can raise anxiety, and students cannot identify these valueless questions nor are they compensated. Dickens would love this exploitation of tired and anxious children.
How many of us in business are similarly exploiting consumers? Sucking up their credit card data, their Facebook posts to friends and family, their geo-location, driving behaviour, talk time, contacts, their Pinterest responses, forum participation, flight details – it is getting endless what we can vacuum up, analyze and exploit. What are we telling clients – clearly and explicitly – about our electronic voyeurism? Are we showing them that surveillance is good? That we guarantee that it is benign? That the results are good for them?
We might think that consumers know that all of the wonderful ‘free apps’ that they have been drawn into are free up to a point. Look, mom, I found my classmate from the Third Grade! Track, track, track. Data mined, results sold, consumer gets to turn over more data. At some point it is like the old Chestnut of the parents returning from vacation and they give their child a T-Shirt that reads, ‘My parents went to Club Med and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt!’
Perhaps consumers will always be quiescent and not see the data gathering and mining as insidious. There is a good chance that they will always see it as a fair exchange of value. But what if they don’t? What if instead they begin to question the price of exposing their preferences and activity? What if a modern Dickens writes a Bleak House about you and your invasive data gathering and the legal labyrinth that ensues? Of course this may not happen, but perhaps we had all begin to prepare to explain ourselves a bit more carefully, and show the value a bit more explicitly, and explain consumer rights in the data mining age just a bit more clearly.
What do you think? Nothing to worry about now and never, or could a consumer backlash happen?
Category: Analytics for Social CRM Applications CIO Cloud CRM Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership Social CRM Social Networking Strategic Planning Tags:
by Michael Maoz | June 13, 2013 | 1 Comment
All right: that is enough of a nod to the US Navy’s decision to eliminate ALL UPPER CASE in its messages. The past is the past and uppercase makes too many waves for sensitive young recruits. On the topic of the established order and its antiquated ways, it was disappointing to see the state of CRM software used for engaging the customer of 2013 and beyond. What is in it? Rows and columns of data, extracted and plopped on a screen, lacking any intelligence, regurgitated information about account, contact, contract value, blah blah and very blah.
Where is the next generation of customer engagement software? Software that is not a pile of stored procedures and database triggers, but truly intelligent, looking for the nexus of customer location, social connections, sentiment, mobile device that they are carrying or the state of the object they are interacting with. Something that is highly contextual that matches the customer’s intent – now and in the near future: the knowable but perhaps currently unknown to you – with the intent of the enterprise to win them over and serve them profitably over the long haul?
If you are candid with yourself, this is not the software that your company has procured from any of the core business application vendors. They are largely data regurgitators. Even if they are serving it up faster, in more locations, on more devices, and from the Cloud, it is still clueless about any of the new fundamentals that will guide customer relationships over the next ten years.
What is wrong? I think the Kinks put it best in Give the People What they Want:
Well, it’s been said before, the world is a stage
A different performance with every age.
Open up the history book to any old page
Bring on the lions and open the cage.
Give the people what they want
When we stop buying or subscribing to the latest version of the same stuff with a prettier interface, something might improve. However, most of us are gutting our internal IT resources and looking to the skies for help. Or the Cloud.
One point to raise on the issue of current-generation sales and support systems is on the efficacy of outcome from the end-user perspective. Not from an IT perspective and not from the narrow definition of near term shift from Capex to Opex – but from the perspective of: have your employees become more effective and have your customers become more engaged with you and your brand? In the end, would these not be the gating factors to measure software success? Versus: wow, I deployed a Cloud solution.
There is an entire new crop of small startups delivering amazing capabilities in understanding intent, connections, importance/value, location, contextual information needs – and we are writing about them. For now, spend some time imagining how things might be better and look for niche technologies that will be disruptive to something very small in the enterprise. Try lots of little innovation projects with advanced analytical bolt-ons and see the world of new possibilities in customer engagement.
Anyone tried any yet?
Category: Analytics for Social CRM Applications CIO Cloud CRM Customer Centric Web Gamification Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership SaaS and Cloud Computing Social CRM Social Networking Social Software Strategic Planning Tags:
by Michael Maoz | June 12, 2013 | 1 Comment
For a year or so already, just about no driver in Israel’s metropolitan areas was ever out of finger reach of Waze. Slowly, waves of Waze users have crept into the US. It is fun and useful, especially when you have a companion in the car. One of Google’s first principles is “Focus on the user and all else will follow,” and acquiring Waze fits that and several other of their core tenets. Let’s hope that the combination of Google and Waze adds additional value. There are so many odd edges to other social media programs that this is not necessarily the case.
How is this scenario: you are at the airport sitting in the executive lounge of an airline where you have flown for a long, long time, spent umpteen quid with, and suffered the many petty indignities that are an inevitable byproduct of the true joy of travel (and lest we forget: traveling the world remains an awesome experience). Sitting not far from you in the lounge, the lounge to which you are invited because of the status or miles or money you have expended, sits a traveller who is not a frequent flyer of the airline, does not travel much, does not particularly like your airline, but…. because of a high “Klout Score” has been invited. Yes, his tangled skein of connections to hundreds, or tens of thousands of people through participation in FourSquare and Pinterest and Twitter and Facebook and through the many Instagrams and Vines and Tumblr blog posts and references, has earned him what you got through cold, hard cash.
And the kicker is, when your flight is cancelled and you need to be re-routed, non-frequent flyer guy is the first to the desk and manages to grab the last seat that will lead to your destination – because he heard it first via a buddy on Twitter. Welcome to the new world where interconnections trump your transactional relationship with your airline, and tomorrow your bank, hotel, grocer, and online retailer. And no one at any of these establishments had the idea to let you know that this is happening.
So soon you will be turned down for the better interest rate, or preferred room, or early access to an offer because, despite your relative affluence your lack of interconnectedness with a mass of others leaves your relative value statistically less valuable in the long run. The question is not, “will this really happen,” because it has already begun. The questions will be “do you fall in line, develop a strong network so as not to left behind” and “at what price is it worth it to reveal all of the minutiae of your likes, habits, travels, spending – to keep up your status that once flowed naturally with increasing earnings or credit rating.
Businesses are struggling with how soon do they move into this new world of social connections and clout and affiliation strength and influence – however this may be measured. In the meantime, as you do dip your Marketing toe into this new field, be careful not to alienate your established base of customers that earned their positions the old fashioned way. Nuance will be everything here with this type of probability and gamification approach.
Have any of you begun influence-based perks, incentives, and personalized customer support yet? Let’s here about it.
Category: Analytics for Social CRM Applications CIO CRM Gamification Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership Social CRM Social Networking Social Software Strategic Planning Twitter Tags:
by Michael Maoz | June 11, 2013 | Comments Off
Yes it has been a while but there were too many research areas that required attention and my narrow bandwidth and almost obsessive need to focus on the task ahead left no time to just reflect. The heavy travel is over, and in ways it is refreshing to be on the road, meeting clients across the US, across Europe, and Asia. The view from California’s Silicon Valley (Maybe San Francisco to Cupertino) is mainly digital smog once you hit Central Europe, with patches of sunshine.
What does one hear once the ‘out there’ is right in front of you? That social media, surreptitious data gathering, spying on the young and unaware and old and unaware, on the homogenization of behaviour, of a future of drone-like responses from folks with their eyes and minds in a mobile device and jonesing when they aren’t able to – some list – kind of worries business leaders. They see their autonomy eroded already, but they are yet to see the value. Will all of the social media analysis translate into value for the enterprise through more loyalty, when every other business is doing the exact same thing? Will there ever be an elegant way to accommodate “Big Data” when they have not managed to tame “Little Data?”
Who will be in charge, and how will we keep the project threads from tangling, and how to prioritize, winnow, measure and advance social media projects for Marketing, Sales, eCommerce and Customer Service. These were the top questions that we encountered out there. Close behind were questions of: who will help us? Agencies? Consultancies? What software will we need? How do we create the budget? From IT or from Marketing or from somewhere else?
On a flight home from London last week I was summarizing the “Most heard questions about Social” and on my playlist popped in Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé and I realized it would all be OK. Regardless of the trials that they encountered, through hard knocks and good fortune their great beauty was intact. As a natural optimist, the thought came: were this story written for technology and media in 2013 the story might end that they ended up with a kind of personal web, one that knew their intent and didn’t abuse or misuse their data.
Here is the question: what are your top three questions about your own enterprise use of Social Media? Customer facing or employee facing? I’ll let you know what I uncover…
Category: Analytics for Social CRM Applications CIO CRM Customer Centric Web Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership SaaS and Cloud Computing Sales Force Automation SFA Social CRM Social Networking Social Software Strategic Planning Tags:
by Michael Maoz | May 15, 2013 | 2 Comments
Each April or May for the past 12 years we have published the Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Service Contact Centers,” but this year we’ve dared to disturb the universe by replacing it with The Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center. (If you are a Gartner client you can find it at http://www.gartner.com/document/2482521. The question my colleagues are asking is: in a world where you are rated, in part, by how many people click on your research, WHY abandon a very highly read document for one that no one has ever heard of? Well, everyone from the Midrash to Karl Marx to Chaim Potok have written that all beginnings are difficult. Yes, but why begin at all?
The genesis of the Customer Engagement Center idea is evolutionary, and in no way revolutionary. Call Centers ruled the ’70s through 1990s, and Contact Centers have ruled ever since. Dinosaurs too ruled for a long time, and in the same way, Contact Centers are having their own asteroid collision theory now. Why? Because just responding to a customer’s immediate request for help is grossly insufficient. Phone, email, IVR, chat are all fab when designed properly. But that is reactive for the most part. Today, were we to drop our organizational handcuffs, we have the ability to extend our reach into Social Media. Is a customer or prospect who posts to Facebook, or to a community site, or out to Twitter, any less deserving of our attention?
The major transition is from “Contact” to “Engagement.” It will take most organizations a long time to relinquish the idea that the Digital Marketing group does the listening, but no one does responding – at least not systematically. It is not marketings job, but neither is it the job, in most organizations, for Customer Support to engage on social media. And what about consistent business rules? Today there is one set of rules for traditional contact, and another set of quasi-al fresco approach to social engagement.
The bottom line: sometimes it’s good to stretch ones field of vision. The phrase “Customer Engagement Center” may or may not ever enter the common vocabulary of IT or business buyers. Already there have been many nay-sayers (life Hem, Haw, Sniff and Scuffy from Who Moved My Cheese) who think the change is too big, or that it is much ado about nothing. And that might just be. Life has a way of self-healing, and the new term may be scabbed over and gone. OR, something else might happen: organizations will start to see that the concept of customer engagement – the act of treating customers with intent, integrity, consistency and gaining their trust – is a winning ticket.
What do you think? Flash in the pan, or an idea with legs?
(Thank you for an amazing Customer360 Conference in San Diego – just great attendees, providing such great feedback and asking wonderful questions!! Off to London in a couple of weeks to see how our EU clients – see http://gtnr.it/181SMyp )
Category: Applications CIO Contact Center CRM Gamification Innovation and Customer Experience IT Governance Leadership Social CRM Social Networking Social Software Strategic Planning Tags:
by Michael Maoz | April 26, 2013 | 1 Comment
The complexity of the the “No Software” challenge is overwhelming the line of business buyers in Sales, Marketing and Customer Support. The idea of subscribing to a cool new software package and building a complex sales force or customer service team on your own, with your own budget, and then Oliver-style coming to CIO and asking, “Please sir….” when the going gets tough… well it’s just not working out.
All of the old issues are the new issues: latency, integration techniques, consistency, security, compliance, availability, contracting and procurement: it’s like your kids realizing as they get older that you are smarter than you first appeared. Oh – six sales divisions procured six separate setups of an application? The social team has three separate tools and wants seamless integration? Oops, the Cloud vendor has no SLA for disaster recovery and doesn’t pass EU Data Privacy rules? And now you want the CIO to come help? Isn’t this rich?
As software as a service makes further inroads, especially multi-tenanted, there is a higher degree of urgency in synchronizing Cloud efforts currently disconnected from any central planning. What we were gaining on the roundabouts we are losing on the swings, and IT has great experience in straightening things out.
So how do ‘we’ begin, when the genesis of the entire problem of SaaS proliferation and disjointedness happened because there is no “we?” Well: the CEO needs to jump in. All of the pieces will fall into place. In the meantime, it is time for CIOs to map out the diverse SaaS application sets drifting around the enterprise and come up with a plan to harmonize the efforts.
What do you think?
Category: Applications CIO Cloud CRM Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership SaaS and Cloud Computing Sales Force Automation SFA Social CRM Social Networking Social Software Strategic Planning Tags:
by Michael Maoz | April 4, 2013 | Comments Off
I am at the Gartner BPM Summit down in Washington, DC. It has been a terrific experience. As a ‘first time’ speaker at the conference, my dance card started empty as the relevance of ‘The Customer Experience’ wasn’t intuitive to the BPMers in attendance. But a funny thing happened after I presented – my day filled with appointments to discuss the connection between BPM and CRM. We are on the National Harbor, not the Big Sandy River, and this is not a tale of Hatfield feuding with McCoy, but more Guinevere falling for Lancelot (or was it the other way round?). The role of King Arthur in this story is “End to End Process” that really means mid-office efficiency and process optimization/speed. Instead, a part of BPM’s passion and power will be unleashed on bringing consistency to customer touchpoints that it has not, to date, had as much success in.
Judging by the attendee reaction to the ideas, we can predict that the next 18 months will see significant research from Gartner pointing to the way that these extremely talented BPM experts in your organization can work together with Customer Support, with your Mobile team, with your digital media experts, and even with Marketing and Sales to make your current CRM efforts more pinpoint and impactful.
As for me – back to work! I have an 8AM meeting and more throughout the day – with really bright and dedicated BPM professionals.
Category: Applications CIO Cloud CRM Gamification Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership Sales Force Automation Social CRM Social Networking Strategic Planning Tags: