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 5,000,000 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, explains what his company wanted: "We were looking for a tool that specialized in upselling and cross selling. There are a lot of tools out there that do a lot of things in addition to that, but we were focused on something that would meet our near-term needs of being able to 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." Such a move would help MediaOne drive more information-based marketing decisions at the point of contact with the customer (whether through an inbound customer call center, an outbound customer call center, a Web site or e-mail). "E.piphany's Real-Time Personalization Solution seemed to be in that niche market, whereas others were trying to be more holistic call-center solutions. We're focused on the specific application and how it would interact with our marketing infrastructure that supports all of our campaigns. We wanted an open system that would be able to be integrated into our existing campaign management infrastructure and be focused on upselling and cross selling. They seemed to be in that spot--that's what they do."
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 12, 2000, 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: "It's a combination of a whole set of analytics with campaign management and then the ability to present that information back across all touchpoints in real time. So you've got a lot of analytics combined with campaign management that's in a very easy to use Web-architected platform that allows you to take that action at that moment in time--the ideal time to optimize an interaction--when it is occurring, not later."
The technology is made of basically three parts. The first part is an engine, which does a number of things. It does analysis using data mining and neural networks, and there's a self-learning engine and collaborative filtering, as well. Analytical technologies are put into play that allow analysis of a customer based on behavioral, historical and real-time data. The second piece of the technology is the ability to 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 an interface--a Web-architected solution that allows knowledge workers within the organization to immediately have access to that information. Crowell explains: "In the past, the way most technologies worked was you had to do reporting. You had to do all this analysis about your customers, then you had to print out these big reports and then you'd give them back to the marketing department and they'd effectively create campaigns. What ours does--in a real-time fashion--is give people access to all this 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 that would say 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. You've got to be involved in all the rules for a long time. It will take somebody to maintain those rules in order to help do that. That requires a change in thinking from our typical kind of marketing and sales strategies. It does require an investment in that view. As we roll this tool out, we're working a lot to make sure that there are people that can do that and will evolve the rules. We're putting in processes to make sure that happens."
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 sales close rates and double-digit improvement in productivity for upselling video services in inbound service. The save-queue data is still being analyzed.
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, because there is such great opportunity out there for your veteran folks, so it's hard to keep them around."
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. There is a series of scripting that goes along with that that allows us to decide in real time what's the best thing for that consumer. The rep will go through this dialog, check a couple boxes, hit the rate screen/get offer button and the software will come back with 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 determine what tone, because we drive all the scripts. We use advanced modeling techniques on the background information to classify consumers in these segments. 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. We want to make offers efficiently and we want to make pertinent offers to the consumers. MediaOne's pretty big on driving benefits to customers and to MediaOne through advanced ways of profiling and targeting customers."