• February 12, 2003
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

ICCM Tip: Make It Personal

Personalization still rules. At least that was the message delivered during yesterday's opening keynote address at the Call Center Las Vegas 2003 Conference and Expo at the Mandalay Bay Conference Center. Martha Rogers, noted industry speaker and founder of Peppers & Rogers Group, launched the conference with her keynote titled "Rethinking Business Strategy in a Customer-Centric World." Her message, not unlike previous ones, was for organizations to focus on individual customers based on the information customers provide. To further illustrate her point, Rogers pulled out a small waist device that can measure the amount of steps a person takes in a day, how far that person walked that day, and how many calories the person burned. The data is stored, and when the customer logs on to the product's Web site it can suggest a comfortable pair of shoes based on each person's walking habits. Her husband, Rogers said, walks so much that he is considered a jogger and therefore, several jogging shoes are suggested when he logs on to the product's Web site. When talking about customer value, especially today, it is difficult not to at least acknowledge the current state of the struggling economy. However, Rogers maintained, you don't have to beat the economy, just competitors. "This economy is really not fun. Pessimism rules. It's tough to get by. The thing is, you don't have to beat the economy, you just have to outrun your competitor," she said. Rogers referred to a story of two backpackers who encounter a charging bear. Immediately, one backpacker drops his backpack and takes off. The other, flustered, follows behind and screams, "We're never going to outrun the bear!" To which the lead runner shouts back, "I don't need to outrun the bear. I just need to outrun you!" To beat competitors Rogers said personalized communication is the key. Always know more about a particular customer than your competitors, she advises, by regularly asking them for more information about themselves. This way, organizations can think of customer specific initiatives to improve relationships--tasks competitors cannot do without the personalized information. "We can't manage customers. That's not appropriate, but we have to manage our own company to optimize relationships," Rogers said. To that effect, she said interaction between an organization and its customers is required and these interactions should create positive experiences and bolster customer loyalty. Loyal customers, she said, are generally more profitable, as "the cost of serving a loyal customer is nearly always lower." Great customer service is not enough, however. The ability to remember a customer, or specific information about a customer, is very important. In addition to great customer service, Rogers suggested following four rules: Identify individual customers and provide the ability to link that information with other databases in the company. Differentiate customers by value and needs--essentially, identify your most profitable customers. Interact with customers more cost effectively. And, finally, customize some aspect of the enterprise behavior. With these tips, despite the bearish economy, organizations can stay ahead of competitors, Rogers said, ending her speech on an optimistic note: "You folks are in an incredible business and the changes you make over the next couple of years are going to profoundly affect our lives." Attendees responded favorably to Rogers' speech. "We know customer loyalty will thrive if you keep asking them personal information that can change our behavior toward them," said Ashish Mukherji, vice president of IT services at e4e Inc., a venture capital firm looking to help U.S. call center companies open offshore call centers in India. "I like her. I've read her books," said Ellen Johnson, a vice president responsible for retail online banking at The Huntington National Bank. One of the ways Johnson's organization interacts with customers is through an idea factory where customers can suggest ideas to better their customer experience. Sometimes they pay off and changes are made within the company, Johnson said. Following the keynote address, breakout sessions covered such issues as speech recognition, voiceover Internet protocol (VoIP), workforce optimization, analytics, and more. More than 115 vendors, including Avaya, Cisco Systems, Click2Coach, Informatica, Genesys, Oracle, SAP, Siebel, and Verint displayed their wares in the exhibit hall for show-goers to view their products.
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