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eConvergent Presents: Delivering the Holy Grail of e-Business
In this white paper, solutions provider eConvergent explains how total view of a supplier-client relationship translates into a need for the eCRM system to integrate all of a company's communication channels, internal and external, electronic or legacy, into its business functions from sales, marketing and service, through fulfillment and finance, to product development.
Posted Jan 19, 2001
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The Internet Shifts Power Back to the Customer
e-Business has delivered a powerful weapon to the customer: the power of immediate choice. In today's Business-to- Consumer (B2C) environment a click of a mouse is all it takes for a buyer to switch from Amazon.com to Barnes and Noble or vice versa. In the Business-to-Business (B2B) world where customers are fewer and cost vastly more to acquire and maintain, the loss of one client drops straight to the bottom line with significant, immediate impact on profitability.

Although it is common to regard B2B and B2C as separate models, in reality, for some if not all of the partners in a B2B network, an increasing proportion of the ultimate customers are reached through B2C outlets. Customer dissatisfaction with any component partner in this B2B-B2C extended net can quickly have a trading impact on all. As a result, e-businesses that are benefiting from the compressed business cycles the Internet delivers are also finding that the same speed applies equally to the financial damage caused by the loss of customer satisfaction. This is true for anyone involved in e-commerce, including multinational corporations, click-and-mortar retailers and pure e-businesses.

On Wall street and in corporate boardrooms, the rush to e-businesses rapidly moved to the search for sustainable e-commerce profitability. In recent past, with the agreement of investors, e-businesses have focused their strategy on customer acquisition. With valuations based on customer growth rates and market share, the lion's share of a company's resources have gone to marketing and sales activities backed by the technology priority of providing strong e-business transaction handling. This focus has overlooked the fact that the path to profitability will be based on repeat orders and a growing share of purchases from existing customers. One imbalance created by this dynamic is that many e-businesses and click-and-mortar companies have built first-generation systems, infrastructures, methodologies and even cultures that are transaction-centric, rather than customer-centric.

"It will become progressively harder for firms that cannot or do not want to trade online to survive."
- -The Economist, June 1999

Wall street Changes e-Business Valuation Metrics
While it is widely accepted among business managers that e-commerce is essential for business survival, only recently have these same managers come to realize that the proliferation of e-commerce competition has fundamentally changed the relationship between buyers and sellers- -in favor of the buyers. While e-businesses were focusing on customer acquisition, the customers were learning that they have the power of instant choice and the means to speedily exercise it. Although it is argued that the cost of customer acquisition in B2C is still low, the cost of a lost customer far exceeds the cost of acquiring a replacement. In the B2B sector this differential is significantly larger. e-Businesses are now driven to focus on the complex and difficult task of building a sustainable customer base and then on extracting a greater proportion of those customer's spending. This pressure comes as the competition is rapidly and fiercely expanding, fueled by massive investment in new companies, and increasingly aggressive moves from click-and-mortar organizations and incumbent market leaders.

The recent sharp correction in dot.com valuations is in part the result of a new focus among investors seeking companies where customer satisfaction leads to the fundamental business values of customer retention, repeat business, an increasing share of the customers' spending, all coupled with lower costs. The loud and clear message is that the Internet is driving electronic Customer Relationship Management (eCRM) to be the number one priority for e-business managers in 2000, elevating eCRM from a tactical consideration to a strategic competitive weapon.

The eCRM Opportunity
The totality of the buyer-seller relationship is composed of many different relationships, including outbound marketing, sales inquiries and fulfillment, the process of customer acquisition, initial sales transactions, routine customer service, complaint handling, the automated delivery of marketing literature, etc. These individual activities blend into complexity of each individual supplier client relationship among hundreds or hundreds of thousands of such relationships. This complex, and changing dynamic, presents the e-business with an enormous task if he wishes to ensure that each of these relationships leads to Total Customer Satisfaction.

This total view of a supplier-client relationship translates into a need for the eCRM system to integrate all of a company's communication channels, internal and external, electronic or legacy, into its business functions from sales, marketing and service, through fulfillment and finance, to product development. Achieving this objective enables a company to have a total, integrated view of all its internal and external relationships and to focus them on achieving total customer satisfaction. When implemented correctly, the eCRM solution can create a new type of relationship between the buyer and seller.

We call this One Relationship, where both the buyer and seller benefit from seamless, frictionless, effective and personalized interaction. Whether the need is a question with an ordering process, a response to marketing outreach, or a customer service issue, the customer's interaction with the supplier, in either a B2C or B2B setting, is immediate and satisfying. The business that eliminates the need for its customers to manage multiple contact points and multiple relationships will win.

"eCRM will be the difference between winners and losers in the e-business world of the 21st Century."
- -Alex Brown Equity Research, 11/99

CRM in the Past
The eCRM application vendors that exist today address only parts of the total eCRM problem, with either stand-alone point products or hosted solutions using the Application Service Provider (ASP) model. Point products, although rich in component functionality, present the e-business with the complex and resource consuming task of integrating a number of such applications into a custom-designed infrastructure, a process fraught with risk, delay and high capital cost, factors that work against the pressures of time-to-market and limited capital that e-businesses face.

The Application Service Provider (ASP), a business model in which the ASP contracts to provide an eCRM application from a remote data center, also has significant shortcoming. While the ASP approach may make it easier and more cost-effective for companies to deploy these point-product applications, the ASP is not capable of tackling the fundamental problem of providing a single relationship between the buyer and seller. Effectively, the ASP is simply a new sales and distribution channel for the application/product-centric approach, providing little benefit in terms of an individual e-business' total needs.

With neither a point-product solution nor an ASP is the user able to focus his total business systems upon a single view of the customer, nor to drive these systems with a single objective of Total Customer Satisfaction.

Technology Barriers to Total Customer Satisfaction
The Internet creates high customer expectations in terms of the speed and efficiency of a supplier company's service, which in turn establish new technical problems to be overcome in creating eCRM. These barriers can be divided into three primary functional areas:

  • Interaction management blending all forms of customer interaction into a single, seamless system
  • Relationship management a smooth flow of information between marketing, sales, service and the customer
  • Knowledge management a single repository of analytic information to enable companies to provide personalized products and services.

    First, the customer requires that the full range of possible methods of interaction between client and supplier must be transparently available to the customer and fully integrated into the solution. Thus, eCRM must be capable of channel-independent communication even within a single transaction. Telephone, fax, email, chat, and Internet interactions must be handled seamlessly and transparently.

    The converse of this issue presents a second requirement: the supplier's personal need to be able to use the multichannels to create a single comprehensive view of each customer. This requirement is becoming incrementally important as today's e-business customer increasingly expects a return to the personalized ‘high-touch' service that characterized the best practices of commerce prior to the era of mass merchandising.

    Thirdly, the data from multichannel communications must be automatically available to the supplier through one repository for customer data, behavior and business analytics. Only in this way will he be able to create comprehensive and current analyses and reports in the certainty that the raw data is all consistently and fully utilized.

    Not all e-commerce activities are totally Internet based. Many, including those that are developments within established brick-and-mortar concerns, have existing legacy systems. Those e-businesses with quality legacy point prod-ucts they wish or need to retain are now faced with the problem of how to restructure their systems to place the strategic focus on eCRM while still maximizing the value of their legacy components.

    The eConvergent Response--the BSP and eMerge™
    To meet the Total Satisfaction requirements of e-businesses eConvergent has created a new business model--the Business Solution Provider (BSP), and whole new eCRM concept: eMerge.

    The Business Solution Provider objective is to deliver everything required to solve a critical business problem. By combining best-of-breed technology, custom technology and content, domain expertise and professional services, and 24x7 performance management and application support, the BSP provides the richness and robustness of a fully custom solution with the cost-effectiveness and rapid deployment time scales of an out-hosted solution. The BSP industry is transforming the way enterprises deploy information solutions. Rather than buying technology and applications as they have in the past, companies are creating strategic relationships with the emerging class of BSPs to deploy sophisticated systems for business critical problems. For many forward-looking companies, the BSP offer the opportunity to outsource business functions that fall outside of their core expertise.

    To achieve these benefits for eCRM, eConvergent created the eMerge customer satisfaction solution. eMerge delivers an innovative technology infrastructure that blends as many as twenty applications into a single, cohesive system, and a business methodology to ensure that the services works optimally for the specific needs of each client. The BSP utilizes hosting to deliver the capital preservation and delegation benefits of an ASP. But the business model is in fact totally different: the BSP creates and then hosts a unique, custom turnkey solution from multiple applications. The BSP model utilizes preconfiguration to drive down the cost of the turnkey solution and to enable eConvergent to deliver the fully guaranteed custom installation within approximately 60 days. The eMerge infrastructure also allows the functionality of the client's system to evolve as his business needs develop or new best-of-breed technology becomes available.

    Intelligence-based Routing and Media Blending
    The core objective of the eMerge eCRM approach is to create a single relationship between buyers and sellers--regardless of communication type, customer requirement, functional area, or company representative. With a single relationship, customers enjoy the feeling of a single point-of-contact for all interaction with their suppliers, and new levels of personalized attention. At the same time, the supplier benefits from a complete view of that customer, and the ability to provide better products and services. With a single relationship, a supplier can understand the customer's needs in the context of the complete history of the relationship- -no matter how the interaction occurs, or with whom. Further, the information the company needs to provide what the customer needs is available to the right people- -at the moment of contact.

    eMerge helps companies create one buyer-seller relationship. By enabling companies to leverage their greatest business advantage--the historical relationship with a customer--and utilizes that knowledge to create unparalleled customer familiarity. Media blending is the key component required to truly deliver a consistent experience to customers, regardless of their choice for access. Using true media blending, a single skill profile can be maintained per agent that defines not only their skills across all media channels, but their level of proficiency relative to other skills, as well. Likewise, a single profile repository can be accessed for companies to determine the appropriate priority to assign to a customer, instead of assigning priority based on the method of access, as many systems are forced to do, due to their lack of visibility and control across all channels. Combining the agent skill information with the customer priority profile, the media blender can make the ultimate match between the customer type, the contact point (e.g., Web, e-mail, phone, fax) and a representative. eConvergent selected the best-of-breed applications for customer interaction, web chat and collaboration, email, telephony and fax, etc. With its own proprietary, innovative technology infrastructure, eConvergent simply plugs these applications into the infrastructure, allowing the solution to evolve and scale according to an organization's needs.

    This plug-in approach guarantees industry-leading technology in all aspects of the solution and protects companies from technology obsolescence. As evidence of this, video and wireless interaction will be integrated in the near future.

    eConvergent's eMerge
    eMerge is a fully integrated and customized suite of solutions hosted and delivered by eConvergent. Leading Edge Technology

  • Infrastructure
  • Blended Multichannels
  • Best-of-Breed Applications
  • Comprehensive Business Services
  • Converge™ Business Methodology
  • Business Consulting
  • Legacy Bridge and e-Commerce Bridge Integration
  • Managed Service Center Hosting
  • eCenter Knowledge Laboratory
  • Proactive Performance Management
  • 24x7 Technical Support

    Leading Edge Technology
    The infrastructure includes an impressive array of best-of-breed, multichannel applications- -all integrated into a unified, end-to-end solution with a single repository for business intelligence. Employees access the applications through their familiar Web browsers.

    Here is where eConvergent has developed proprietary and technology to be patented. The four key objectives met by the eMerge technology infrastructure are:

  • To created an infrastructure that enables the design of a turnkey custom system from a preconfigured base.
  • To create the functions necessary to complete a total solution built from off-the-shelf applications.
  • To provide an open bridge for legacy and back office systems.
  • To embed into the architecture the business methodology to productize e-business expertise.

    The first objective delivers a full turnkey system in a fraction of the time taken in the recent past and at a fraction of the cost, using the finest eCRM technology available from any source. The second objective covers the integration of such functionality as media blending, a common administrative and management system for all application modules, a common module interface and a single framework for the collection of business intelligence. The third is accomplished by building links from the middleware to specific APIs. The fourth objective enables the customer's purpose to be blended into a single comprehensive infrastructure.

    Best-of-Breed Applications
    eMerge includes best-of-breed channel applications (e.g., Web collaboration, chat, e-mail, telephony, fax, etc.) and business applications (e.g., eCRM, business analytics, etc.) that have been blended to create eConvergent's unique business solution. Leveraging the flexibility of this infrastructure, a customer's experience becomes seamless across all channels, while the company immediately gains the benefit of unified and normalized multichannel business intelligence and management. The eConvergent-designed Unified Administration tool provides a graphical interface to administer all eMerge system components.

    Customer Touch-Points Through Blended Multichannels
    To provide a high-touch solution an e-business needs to be able to address each customer's issues immediately and effectively no matter what method of communication is involved. To achieve this objective eMerge blends sophisticated Web, e-mail, phone and fax communication within a single integrated module that is based upon the world's leading communications management software.

    eMerge incorporates telephony software to provide a server that includes a digital PBX system, Automatic Call Distributor (ACD), programmable IVR (interactive voice response system--available in Release 2.0), voice mail system and fax server. The technology uses the Java virtual machine (VM) to route the phone system through the server. Tightly integrated into eMerge is web collaboration software. In eMerge this technology enables a "click-for-help" button on the customer's Web site to connect browsers to service representatives in real time with two-line call-back, single-line VoIP call-through, single-line text chat, call-me/meet-me options, assisted page navigation and sharing, eClient page push, assisted form completion and integrated tracking. Based on accumulated Web information (e.g., URLs visited, time spent on a Web page, etc.) and customer database lookup, contact requests are filtered to provide a single agent desktop queue for the blended extension requests.

    eConvergent has integrated E-mail Response Management (eRMS) within the total eMerge infrastructure to handle email communications, including auto-acknowledgement, auto-response, rapid build templates with auto-suggest, integrated tracking and skills-based routing.

    Business Analytics
    One of the most powerful advantages of eConvergent's eMerge solution is the ability to capture the total customer experience in a single business intelligence repository, and leverage that information to tailor services to a company's most important customers. eMerge not only gives companies a total view of their customer's entire customer relationship experience, but also organizes the data in a manner that creates intelligence, rather than just contact statistics.

    eConvergent's enterprise approach is based on a sophisticated datamart architecture that enables flexible, extensible and powerful analytical data mining. eMerge provides state-of-the art Customer Relationship Management technology. This component allows the capture, access, and update of data from all customer interactions. Its capabilities include detailed customer profile and information, multimedia contact history, case history and activity, contact journal, work assignment and management, and an integrated knowledge base.

    Consolidated Reporting provides real-time and historical reporting. Standard reports include: Contact Detail, Contact Expanded, Contact Queue Profile, Contact Summary, Resource Detail, and Resource Summary.

    Comprehensive Business Services
    Sophisticated technology is just part of the eConvergent total business solution. Through our breakthrough Converge business methodology, we deliver comprehensive business services that help align our powerful technology closely with a company's business processes and corporate objectives. We help them create more effective customer interaction processes, develop and solidify business processes, and leverage back-office and legacy systems. We also ensure that our solution evolves in the optimum way to meet your changing business needs.

    Converge Business Methodology
    A key component of eConvergent's eMerge is the provision of strong e-business and eCRM domain expertise to focus on the strategic business issues of each individual client. eConvergent has developed a patented business methodology- -Converge--to deliver the full value of this service. By adding this component and making it central to eConvergent's relationship with the client, eMerge offers a single complete technology solution from one resource, a solution aimed directly at driving customer satisfaction with the resulting benefits of increasing repeat business and profitability.

    Converge eCRM consulting includes Channel Consulting, eCRM consulting, Contact Center Operational Consulting, System Integration and Business Intelligence/Customer Analytics. Converge is delivered in five phases: strategy Alignment, Benefits Analysis, Rapid Prototype, Deployment, and Benefits Review. The purpose of the strategy Alignment is to understand the client's business goals and to map them to an eMerge implementation plan. The Benefits Analysis refines the benefits to measurable objectives and then associates them with specific eMerge usage points. The Rapid Prototype refines the configuration details by instituting a structured walk-through of eMerge in the context of that client's business processes. The Benefits Review is a quarterly analysis of actual results against the previously established measurable checkpoints and presents conclusions and recommendations for management.

    strategic Channel Consulting
    A key differentiator in the value of eConvergent's BSP approach is the provision of strategic channel consulting to its clients. eConvergent is able to provide channel design and marketing services to aid the user in crafting customer- centric strategies to maximize the benefits of the blended multiple channels and the powerful functionality delivered by eMerge. This early stage service is very important in ensuring that clients have the best possible consulting to ensure that they develop and refine their business objectives rather than their technical objectives alone.

    Operational Consulting
    Provided as part of the total eMerge solution, Converge operational consulting focuses on precisely tailoring eMerge to the individual client's specific needs, financial constraints and system configuration. It also ensures that eConvergent provides the necessary type and level of support at every stage of the implementation.

    System Integration Services
    Although eMerge is predesigned in terms of its total functionality, each user's system has to be configured to integrate in the optimum manner only those technology modules, channels and legacy components that are required. eConvergent undertakes both the maintenance and upgrading of the proprietary infrastructure that links these elements and provides the client with protection against the risks involved when it is necessary to upgrade or change channels or technology modules as capabilities evolve.

    Managed Service Centers (MSC)
    Located in Qwest CyberCenters and utilizing Qwest's high speed voice and data network, the eConvergent MSCs are based on the company's own secure network architecture, data processing infrastructure, best of industry blended technologies, and supported by the company's own service staff. With advanced reliability and redundancy technologies deployed throughout the service center, the eConvergent MSCs are designed to provide 24x7 operation, and the industry's highest service level availability. The MSC also leverages the company's sophisticated intrusion detection systems, ensuring total system security. The MSCs are managed by eConvergent's Network Operations Center (NOC), giving the company unrivalled control over its infrastructure.

    Network Management System
    Firewall technology is implemented at key points to ensure the security of our Managed Service Centers (MSC) and our Network Operation Center (NOC) systems. Firewalls are in place between the MSCs and customer Internet traffic entering the MSC for purposes of web collaboration. A firewall is also placed at the user company's location for the primary purpose of protecting them from unauthorized access. For further security of customer related documentation housed in the NOC systems, an additional firewall protects the NOC from unauthorized access from within the MSC.

    eCenter Knowledge Laboratory
    eConvergent is constantly refining its Converge methodology and redefining the state-of-the-art process for eCRM. Through the company's eCenter, an R&D laboratory that is constantly testing new and innovative technologies and processes, eConvergent is focused on making its clients' customer interactions more effective. New technologies that are found and tested through this service are implemented into eConvergent's innovative technology infrastructure to deliver the latest technology transparently to its clients. eConvergent provides customer access to the eCenter, helping forward-looking companies ensure that they are on the leading edge of the eCRM revolution.

    Client Manager
    eMerge users are provided with the services of a dedicated eCRM expert as Client Manager whose responsibility is to ensure the client is optimally served by all the eMerge services and technology that he has contracted both during and after installation. With typically ten years or more of IT consulting or systems integration experience, the Client Manager can not only ensure a speedy and effective installation, but also serve as a technology and business systems advisor to the user.

    Proactive Performance Management
    eConvergent has built a state-of-the art Network Operations Center (NOC) that provides 24x7 domain-specific support and systems reliability services. The NOC monitors eConvergent's Managed Service Centers where the eMerge solutions are hosted. Any fault, hardware or software, is immediately relayed to the NOC. The NOC works to proactively preempt failure or problem cases without allowing the situation to reach the stage of performance degradation or interruption.

    24x7 Technical Support
    Our Customer Care Center backs our clients with technical support 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. We provide support on all eConvergent-supplied components including:

  • eMerge applications, including channel applications and business applications.
  • Configurations to the eMerge offering done as a part of the implementation. .
  • egacy system issues that are related to integration work done as part of an eConvergent systems integration engagement.

    Our technical support representatives address all support issues in a timely and professional manner. Support also includes initial training of your people

    The Bottom Line
    E-commerce is growing and evolving faster than any form of commerce ever. The first phase of the e-business land grab is already history and the second phase about to begin as the pioneer dot.coms have matured and now seek to move solely from land grabbing to solidifying profitable high-touch customer relationships. To be a player in an e-business market, a supplier now has to face a very steep startup curve and deliver the high levels of customer satisfaction not seen since before the days of mass merchandising. A dot.com can no longer afford to fail to meet customer expectations in a drive for market share nor can he afford the time and the multiple millions of dollars required to develop an in-house or SI-created custom system.

    eMerge and eConvergent's breakthrough BSP model provides a fixed time/fixed price turnkey best-of-breed solution with a deployment guarantee for a predictable monthly fee. All the user needs to provide is the necessary employees, their PC's with a familiar web browser, and data access. eMerge from eConvergent creates a new class of buyer-seller relationship, integrating each of the component parts and the blended channels data into a single view of the customer, and then further integrating each relationship into a total and comprehensive view of the user's customer universe. Never before has it been possible for a business to achieve this level of knowledge and efficiency in the pursuit of customer satisfaction. Never before has it been possible to systematically and dynamically focus a supplier's business practices to the single aim of total customer satisfaction.

    eMerge from eConvergent provides a unique opportunity to drive an e-business to achieve the key elements of sustainable profitability: customer stability, customer satisfaction, repeat business and an increased share of the customer's spending. These significant benefits are obtainable for a fixed, predetermined monthly charge, enabling capital preservation, and control over operating costs. eConvergent's fixed time/fixed cost guarantee delivers the industry's leading eCRM product, custom-integrated on time and on budget. In so doing, eConvergent enables its clients to refocus critical resources away from tactical software issues and ongoing product development and onto the key strategic issues that leverage their e-business expertise, driving to Total Customer Satisfaction, which will be the hallmark of the winners in this first decade of the new millennium.

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