The place where the Customer counts

Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

The place where the Customer counts - Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

The importance of a real customer understanding for (Social) CRM

How many times have we read about Social CRM stuff and on the importance of creating an engagement environment correctly supported by technology along the main customer-facing perspectives (Marketing, Sales, Service and – last added – Innovation)?

Maybe too much and also this blog, I admit, committed this sin. Now we have more case studies to show and tell to enhance the intrinsic benefits of a Social CRM approach in business but we have also noticed the potential pitfalls of a new CRM “failure” due to tech stuff predomination on business strategy and analysis.

Maybe there is a lack of structured framework to support a social business model or maybe it won’t ever be and we’ll see an everlasting battle between strategy, organization, process and technology business components.

In this situation what I think is becoming more and more important for organizations, to understand the real drivers for the change, is a real understanding of their customers. And what you need to understand them? Tipically:

  • quantitative analysis of customer behaviour through “transactional” measurements that track the way they interact with your business landscape
  • qualitative analysis of customer thinking through a wise mix of human and automatic analysis of content produced during formal (i.e. VoC, speech analysis or survey outputs) and informal (free opinions expressed on social media) interactions

While the quantification of customer behaviours is quite a normal output for structured organizations which use descriptive and predictive analysis on data coming from customer/prospect databases where all their lifecycles’ information – produced by legacy and CRM platforms – are archived, the second task is just at the beginning of a hard path to walk even if it’s the “dark side of the customer moon” which we need to know to have a complete and 360° comprehension of the people that exchange values with your companies. And it’s a hard task first of all because we are just beginning to handle big data from social communication platforms (private or public) but, mainly, cause we’re not well prepared to extract sense and meanings from them.

The biggest challenge, in fact, is to map coherently your customers journey in order to formalize collected data and help you to get through the information-insight-knowledge funnel where:

  • information –> data are re-organized in order to be intelligible
  • insight –> pieces of information are correlated to specific entities (the analysis linchpins) gaining meaning
  • knowledge –> meaning elements become the leverages which support action and change

So, typical output from this kind of activities can support your organizations to decline operationally your social business strategy identifying:

Process –> how are you serving your customers? where do you excel? where do you need to re-design processes with a more customer-centric perspective?

Organization –> where do you have to create osmosis between silos to make easier and fluent the knowledge exchange? do you need to re-think you internal structure to help your resources with their job-to-be-done?

Technology –> which are the essential features mandatory to support the organization and its ecosystem to reach their objectives of mutual benefits?

Not easy at all, but now it’s really time to help analysts with their “comprehension” task and the only way you can support them with a scalable solution in a world of big data (big volumes, high velocity and extreme variety) is investing in semantic tool capabilities (I’m not talking about sentiment with it’s accuracy problems) which can filter and categorize entities, concepts and their correlations in order to give more “sense” to your informative assets.

What do you think? Must these new features be one of the foremost area where you need to invest?

My personal review on G-Force EMEA 2012

Great time in Barcelona attending to the G-Force 2012 by Genesys. I’ve been invited here as a CRM and Social CRM blogger by the Italian Regional company, to have a look at what they are going to launch next months in terms of new solution features and best practices witnessed by their main customers. So I would like to report what happened there and to share with you my considerations.

First perspective: Who’s who

Genesys is a well-known worldwide B2B company, operating as a leader in the Collaborative CRM market, which mainly sell customer service software and contact center solutions for enterprises. Recently (02/02/2012), Genesys has been officially acquired by Permira Funds and Technology Crossover Ventures for US$ 1,5 billion, coming definitely out of the Alcatel-Lucent organizational structure and becoming again independent. This recent circumstance gives Genesys new opportunities to focus on its business having top management free to operate with its own strategic views and operational leverages unless Permira potential interference (but it doesn’t seem so); and in the current economic situation is a really important working condition.

Second Perspective: The event model

The 2012 G-Force EMEA event had a traditional structure with general sessions led by key managers and breakout session in which were shared case histories directly by Genesys customers.

Moreover there was a very rich and interesting booth area with business partner and Genesys suite demo stands available for customers and press/analysts.

Third perspective: So what? (a.k.a. the event contents that I liked)

Genesys is a market leader for their extensive offering in applications and service for interaction and channel management, and the last 8 months were crucial for the changes that introduced and which have forced the company to re-design its strategy roadmap.

Genesys CEO Paul Segre and his managers know it very well cause they’re leading their people towards a model of company which have to offer to their clientele the best and most complete contact management suite, helping them to provide the best final customer experience possible. Yes, because – even if it’s strange to hear that from a software vendor – the main message of the conference was “Save the world from a Bad Customer Service” (which is Genesys pay-off and I hope also corporate vision) and this perspective is really comforting cause is the sign that companies (or better some of them) are finally recognizing the long term value of a customer-centric approach (even in a B2B market).

Even if Genesys during these years has “failed” to analyze, interiorize and “productize” (sorry for the awful word) best practices in order to quickly apply them on new deployments, something is deeply changed in the ability to execute and the investments on research and development. After all, this is a mandatory approach when your new investors (which typically invests in high growth company such as Facebook (???), Groupon, etc.) ask you a challenging 22% as revenue annual growth rate. So the key drivers of this “new deal” must be:

– Rapid deployment (editor’s note: simplicity)

– Lower TCO

– Best practices productization

Four pillars of Geneysis offerBut don’t forget innovation and how’s changing the customer service world so, the four pillars on which the new Genesys strategy will be based, and R&D is investing, are:

– SIP (Session Initial Protocol)

– Big Data

– Cloud

– Social

Beyond the typical communication application business I found really interesting to see Genesys well aware of its role on topics like Big Data and Social, maybe because Collaborative CRM vendors aren’t typically mentioned in Social CRM discussions. Indeed I think that they have to conquer again their role after the partial loss of the social interaction market due to the entrance of social media listening companies. These ones, in fact, are now well beyond their primary scope of social analytical reporting, developing and deploying engagement consoles and/or integration capacities with main Operational CRM vendors (i.e. case history). So thanks to Social Engagement module, Genesys integrates traditional and social channels considering every piece of interaction as a tessera of the overall conversation picture and using proprietary semantic algorithm to route it appropriately to the right resource (after many year of tests on email text analysis). In this sense, the announcement of Genesys presence at the Dreamforce (look at the session title here) can be seen as a strategic path to a really profitable partnership.

Finally consider how data coming from interaction and channel attitudes can contribute to the Big Data subject and to the wealth of information necessary to deeply understand your customers…terrific!

Mobile and Web engagementNext topics on the stage? Obviously Mobile (Engagement) and a very interesting Web Engagement module which, based on navigation behaviors, indentifies irregular/atypical trends and triggers supporting alerts to help customers activating an interaction through different channels (i.e. chat).

So the dream of a real consistent cross-channel experience seems coming true and close at hand.

Fourth perspective: The case

Despite numerous sessions held by many customers and coping with their experience (I really appreciated the Akbank and Belgacom ones), on the main stage has been presented probably the most interesting case by Ben Kay, Head of Digital Strategy & Adoption at Everything Everywhere Ltd (the newco running T-Mobile and Orange in UK).

The most important step of his show were:

Route to a Social PilotMain ingredients for a social pilot – the fundamental activity of listening your people is combined to more internal aspects where a clear company ambition together with team building capacity and the will to work hard and honestly can let you succeed.

A simple and clear mission with few boundariesOrganizational aspects are leading components of a great social strategy because only investing in skilled people and nurturing them through empowerment, good engagement frameworks and a solid social media policy can help your company to reach a real sustainable edge. But what about the right metrics?

EE Social Business FrameworkEE social business framework where a physical central management capability (The Social Hub) assures control of 5 work streams which deliver the social experience, acts to achieve its business objectives, monitors this effort through a set of predefined KPIs; striving to the realization of EE vision.

The Social HubFifth perspective: The chat

I had also the opportunity to meet with Keith Pearce and have a chat about his role in Genesys as VP Customer experience. And once again I found really inspiring to understand that a Collaborative CRM vendor like Genesys is enriching its portfolio trying to offer added value through business consulting practice which design optimized customer experience to its customers. It’s hard to do it in a context where consulting partners help Genesys to sell its products but who knows Genesys potential better than Genesys? Who can really configure Genesys products/services optimally once the customer journey is mapped? I wish Keith good luck for his job and I hope his little “baby” will grow big and healthy as soon as possible.

Last perspective: My final considerations

Lots of things during the G-Force had inspired me and others let me a little bit confused. I think that a 22% Revenue AGR is very challenging even for a leader like Genesys. The main point is that its product/services are complex and specifically focused on enterprise market which is quite saturated, giving room only for a bloody battle between giants. As Gartner said in its last MQ for Contact Center Infrastructure Worldwide, it’s time to raise the bar and begin to compete in the midmarket with new products/services tailored for this kind of organizations and needs (and I think that in the short we’ll have some good news).

Then I’d sincerely like to suggest Genesys to improve their product’s user experience cause interfaces looks to me a little bit “oldie”. Nowadays, visualization is quite an art mixed with science and, for sure, an important piece of an application’ success. Besides, even if I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of practice, I can see great potentiality in the application of a gamification approach in the design of this class of UIs.

Finally I’d expect new developments on Social Engagement module aligning it to social media monitoring best practices, particularly improving its scraping capabilities and number/type of information sources.

What I really liked during these 3 days were:

  • the new business vision based on a customer experience approach more than a mere product promotion (value vs. usual stuff)
  • the possible development of a business consulting practice inside Genesys that can give more value to its offer
  • a complete solution that really want to offer the enabling factors for a real cross-channel experience
  • real interactions between customers with different experience, sharing information and best practices
  • exhaustive real-time demos held by qualified and professional experts.


A special thank you goes to the Italian Regional company and precisely to Paolo Mariottini, Paolo Bergamini, Aida Mazzitelli, Stefania Covatta and Carlo Rossi that invited me to this special event, creating a professional, transparent and genuine relation with me and the other blogger Luca Conti.

Social Business Forum 2012 – Big data bring big value to the Social CRM

Here it is, my presentation at the Open Conference in Milan at the Social Business Forum 2012. Great experience, great people, lots of insight and lots of new points of view about the evolution of topics like Social CRM, Social Business and Analytics. I need some time to handle all this information and to elaborate some thought to express on a new blog post (stay tuned cause outcomes will be surprising ;)). A big “thank you” to the deus-ex-machina Emanuele Quintarelli (that I called the Event Man), Emanuele Scotti and Rosario Sica and all the OpenKnowledge guys for their invitation.

In my speech I wanted to give to the audience – even if the topic was maybe a little bit “tough” – some information about a topic that, from a hype phase, is now consolidating and that I’m sure will bring lots of value to various aspects of your business strategies and, in particular, to Social CRM.

What’s it all about?

Big data is about technologies and practices that allow us to handle huge amount of data coming from a variety of sources typically in a stream structure. The phenomenon of social platform adoption and people collaboration together with a new set of antennas/sensors embedded in different products and contexts (first of all mobile phones and Rfid) let these data explosion become a reality giving new challenge to the companies hungry of infomation about their customers. The three drivers that typify Big data are volume, variety and velocity. These respectively bring with them business opportunities and risks as well: richness of information and lots of noise, completeness of information and too many sources to be handled, up-to-date information and risk of information loss.

Big data sources inside Social Business ecosystem

In a social business ecosystem where all actors exchange information of all kinds, everyone is characterized by three classes of attributes.

  • Myself: all data typically defining my unique profile.
  • Myworld: all data representing my experiences with products/services I typically use for personal or professional use.
  • Myrelations: all data identyfing my membership to different communities (friendship, interests, hobbies, professional links, etc.).

Let’s get a Social CRM definition

How Big data are useful for Social CRM? Before we have to give a definition of Social CRM and the most appreciated one was given by the most famous CRM expert Paul Greenberg which highlighted the strategic perspective of CRM (social or not).

The shift from CRM to Social CRM

Starting from the three famous CRM pillars (collaborative, operational and analytical ones) we can see that shifting from a traditional to a social approach we have gained, for sure, more channels where conversations occur (direct to the companies or within people excluding a direct invovment of companies), new activities and multi/cross-channel operational approaches and, finally, what about analytical improvements?

The Big data funnel for Social CRM

Now we have the opportunity to start from the real human experience that, interacting with different touchpoints, leaves tracks in the shape of raw data (i.e. transactions, interactions through traditional channels, web & social, location-based). The challenge for modern companies is to take these continuos data streams, transform them in information (giving meaning to data) and make insight (extract piece of information that is relevant for the business cause is actionable).

Now we are plenty of “human” data

From a customer perspective the three classes of attributes Myself, Myworld and Myrelations can give us a really complete view on his essence (more than traditional profiling and transacational attributes).

What’s pratically changing?

Segmentation practices must change cause we can enrich our understading of customers through new information that characterize them not as simple targets but as beings that naturally express themselves belonging to communities (or tribes if you want).

So it’s time to really understand your people

Now you have the opportunity to really understand customers’ attitudes, experiences, emotions and opinions. You are more close to understand their real nature as human beings.

How can we handle it?

But there’s a problem. Big data, with their specific characteristics, make difficult to address our attention to the right information, and “right” means useful for your customers and your business. Mainly in the case of unstructured data handling (i.e. text) you need human intervention for decision making but because of our cognitive limitations we need more and more some help to support us in processing, understanding and selecting information.

What’s in it for me?

Thanks to descriptive and predictive analytics we have all the methods and analysis that can support us in many businessapplications, especially in a proactive way.

Can we trust Analytics?

But lots of companies are suspicious about analytics accuracy and think that only high values of accuracy bring significant outcomes. Wrong. First of all people confuse precision with accuaracy ( and that can create dangerous misunderstandings but, more than that, the impact of analytical errors strongly depends on the business contexts and priorities so it’s normal that you maight focus your attention only to some kind of errors and drop others depending on your business objective.

An example for Social Customer Service

Well, it0s clear directly seeing the slide that correct analytical handling of structured and unstrctured data can provide proactively more information at your CSRs in order to better serve your customers fulfilling their expectations and improving their satisfaction.

Great opportunities but pay attention to the issues

Finally you’ve to remember that big opportunities bring also big potential issues that you must address. First of all about policies (liability, security and privacy), access (not every data is transparent and available so it’s mandatory to find trustworthy approaches to incentivize data sharing) and technologies (framework like hadoop are necessary to support massive parallel and distributed application processes). But be sure to spread inside your oganizations an analytical culture and to find the best analytical talent that must have not only strong analytical skills but also great expertise in decision making to support top and middle management in this important phase.