"I don't think the best thing in the world is to get a customer off the phone as quickly as possible," says Roger Siboni, president and CEO of E.piphany. In a sense, that's the mission statement of his company and the analytical CRM movement in general--providing companies with the tools to make customer relationships successful and profitable by understanding interactions, not avoiding them.
Siboni came to E.piphany in 1998 after a 23-year tenure at KPMG, where he rose from a research position to become deputy chairman and chief operations officer of the company. Years at the highest levels of technology consulting put him in a number of important phone directories, and one day John Dorr of E.piphany investor Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers called with a career opportunity. "I was 42 years old, and looking at at least 20 more of essentially doing the same thing [at KPMG]: There's nothing more you can do when you're running the firm," he says, and thus began his reign at E.piphany.
He sees himself as a CRM pioneer, beginning with a decade-old speech he gave on the merits of sales force automation, through his efforts to move KPMG's consulting practice away from "peaking" ERP markets and into CRM and now his term with E.piphany. "I'd like to think that I've been one of the most vocal and visible evangelists for CRM being about understanding customers and delivering against customer expectations, as opposed to simply providing operational systems that make sales or marketing or service processes more efficient," he says.
Trust a former Big Five deputy chairman to steer a company toward customers that pay their bills on time and in full. "I was never really enthusiastic about dot coms. When we went public, we had no dot com [customers], for which we were criticized," he says. "Today, that focus on the Fortune 1000 and Global 1000 has turned out to be a tremendous asset--we have over 25 percent of the Fortune 100 companies, and we've not been as adversely impacted as so many companies that have their dependency on the dot com, net-marketplace infrastructure." But they certainly were impacted--E.piphany's stock, which traded in the mid-100s in the early months of 2000, plummeted during the spring dot com crash, albeit not as dramatically as some.
Although E.piphany is not a dot com by any stretch, the company has attracted and spent money at an aggressive pace, making four major acquisitions in 2000, including a $3 billion deal for fellow upstart Octane Software. It sounds like a lot of money, because it is, but Siboni says that ultimately the valuation isn't the most important component. "You tend not to look at the dollars so much, you look at the fit around three dimensions: people, products and customers." In acquiring Octane, Siboni doubled his workforce, picked up veteran management talent bred at Scopus and PeopleSoft, a Web-enabled operational CRM suite, to pair with the existing Web analytics, and a customer list he could be proud of. Thus, he concluded it was a bargain to give up 25 percent of his company in the process.
Siboni wouldn't say if he felt E.piphany could have been a success without him, but he feels that one of his greatest contributions to the company is ensuring that it can go on without him. "I came to the company with a mentality of hiring the best people I could and having them hire the best people they could," says Siboni. When challenged, he says that's more than just a feel-good line out of the generic CEO playbook. "I think most companies have a hard time trying to hire people that are better than them. It's very hard to enter into a hiring situation with a view that every time you hire someone, you're looking to hire your successor."
All that person has to do is wait for Siboni to get bored again...in another 20 years or so.