In the spring of 1999, cable company MediaOne entered into an agreement to merge with telecommunications giant AT&T. At the same time, MediaOne was engaged in its ongoing national network upgrade that would provide consumers with high-speed Internet access, local telephone service and digital video. MediaOne had a lot on its plate and wanted a focused, effective tool to cross sell and upsell its new services and products. The company needed a way to leverage the ongoing contact it had with its 5 million customers in the video arena, as well as with the new prospects who received marketing information about the new products and services.
Mark Voboril, vice president of consumer marketing and information at MediaOne, wanted "a tool that specialized in upselling and cross selling" and one that could "manage rules without having operational latency, so that it would be able to trigger stuff quickly. And second, we wanted to be able to add intelligence from a learning engine standpoint over time. That would help us in the future drive more information-based marketing decisions at... the point of contact with the customer, whether that would be through an [inbound or outbound] customer call center or a Web site or e-mail. E.piphany's Real-Time Personalization Solution seemed to be in that niche market."
E.piphany acquired RightPoint in January 2000, adding a real-time personalization application to its analysis toolkit. The company renamed the product the E.piphany Real-Time Personalization Solution, and on April 12th, completed the integration of the application into its E.piphany E.4 product. Gayle Crowell, president of E.piphany.net and former president, CEO and chairman of the board of RightPoint, explains the real-time personalization technology as "a combination of a whole set of analytics with campaign management" that allows for "the ability to present that information back across all touchpoints in real time."
The technology is made of basically three parts. The first part is an analysis engine, which uses data mining and neural networks, and also includes a self-learning engine and collaborative filtering. Analytical technologies are put into play that allow analysis of a customer based on behavioral, historical and real-time data. The second piece is the product's ability to then do campaign management that allows you to create, manage, monitor and refine campaigns that you have ongoing within your organization at any given time.
The third piece is a Web-architected interface solution that allows knowledge workers within the organization to have access to campaign information. Crowell explains that past technologies depended on reporting, where sales would run an analysis of customers, create a report, and pass it on to marketing to create an effective campaign. But E.piphany's solution gives people real-time access to personalized "information about an individual customer so that they can use it at the moment that a customer is in their hand. So if I call into the call center, this software will go off and do this dynamic analysis of me on the fly. Then, literally in subsecond time, it would present back to the agent... something like this: 'Gayle would be most likely to be interested in campaign number five for the following reasons. Please present this offer to her when you are finished servicing her.'"
Rules of the Game
The solution builds in business process rules, which Voboril sees as key to the success of the tool. Defining those rules and updating them with new products, processes and technology helps keep the solution effective. Voboril says, "Maintaining the rules on an ongoing basis is going to be important. Because you're going to get an initial bang--but if you don't maintain your rules from there, your benefit will probably drop off."
MediaOne set up three pilot programs to try out the personalization product. The company tested an inbound sales group, an inbound service group and a save-queue group. Voboril reports double-digit improvement in both sales close rates and productivity for upselling video services in inbound service. The save-queue data is still being analyzed as of posting.
The pilots provided MediaOne with important information. "The trials were invaluable because they didn't require us to make a huge investment at the beginning," Voboril says. "They told us how to better plan and implement it."
Not all users were enthusiastic about the tool. More experienced reps and sales professionals had mixed feelings about it. Voboril explains, "They know how to read the customer. They do their job very well. Where it really helps is with less experienced, less seasoned folks. The way the job market is these days you have more of those."
MediaOne expects to roll out the real-time personalization tool to 200 seats initially, half to sales reps, half to inbound service agents.
"For service we are trying to increase upselling our customers to products and services in the video services arena. So we're looking to understand customers' needs and recommend to them products that most meet those needs," Voboril says.
"In sales, we will be cross selling. If a customer calls in for one of our products based on some marketing communication, the rep will be delivered a screen suggesting what's the next-best product to offer him, if there even is a next-best product to offer him, and in what kind of tone and manner the rep should offer that product." The rep runs through a series of dialogs and scripts that, depending on what data is entered, determine "what exact flavor of high-speed data or flavor of telephone service or flavor of digital video service to offer that customer, and in what tone.... We use the E.piphany Real-Time Personalization Solution to leverage our business knowledge.
"We expect to get the same performance we got in our tests--double digit improvement. We wouldn't be rolling it out if we didn't think it would be beneficial to both us and the consumer."