Outsourcing Customer Interaction Management | Article

Are You Missing the Wealth of Customer Information?

Customer InteractionBefore Del Monte Foods decided to outsource its customer interaction management, the company held yearly sales meetings. Representatives received five-inch binders filled with information about products, clients, and company information. The system proved to be very ineffective because it was time consuming, and the information became out of date long before new binders were issued.

Then Del Monte began using outsourced Marketing and Sales Effectiveness (MSE) tools from Proscape Technologies, a Washington, PA-based software and professional services company. “Proscape has cut down on the errors and mistakes in our sales and customer information,” says Mark Resnick, Del Monte’s vice president, sales planning.

Customer data is considered the Holy Grail of the customer relationship. With it, a business can customize, personalize, and analyze the whole relationship with the customer. However, each of the thousands of pieces of data a company collects about any given customer each day are just that–data. Not until someone analyzes and cleans the data can it become useful, actionable information.

That’s where outsourced customer interaction management comes in. Your company doesn’t have to fork out the huge salary for a statistician, the capital to put the hardware and software into place to collect data, the salary for a data base administrator, or any of the other myriad costs associated with implementing customer interaction management.

“This is the way things are moving,” says Del Monte’s Resnick. “If you understand what you want up front, this is really the only way to communicate and get current information about customers.”

According to Chad Pariseau, Proscape’s vice president, Consumer Goods Sector, some companies are missing the boat by not implementing good customer interaction management technologies. “Account executives are missing an opportunity to be more informed,” he says. Of the millions of bytes of customer information that are available on a daily basis, Scottsdale, AZ-based Cahners In-Stat Group estimates that only about 1,600 out of 95,000 medium to large businesses are taking full advantage of that information.

Most companies that do collect information are just collecting raw data, observes Pariseau. “They don’t have the analytical skills to process the information,” he says. And the big opportunity is to transform the raw data into actionable information and consumer insight.

Finding the Right Solution

“We see people missing the boat in a couple of different ways,” says Larry Goldman, vice president, Customer Solutions, for Braun Consulting in Redmond, WA. “They go first to the touch points and have no true understanding of the customer. Or, when they do focus on the analytical side, they don’t have the in-house skills to analyze the data they collect.”

For that reason, Goldman suggests outsourcing customer interaction management solutions to a company that specializes in analyzing the data collected. But, he warns, be aware of the disparate locations from which information will be collected before entering into an agreement with an outsourcer. “Determine from the beginning who is responsible for data sourcing and data cleansing,” he says. “That’s going to be 70 percent of the effort.”

More importantly, says Jerry McLaughlin, CEO of San Francisco, CA-based Truis Corporation, “The biggest point of failure is when companies try to build business processes around the interaction management system.” To be successful, he suggests finding a system that works around your current culture and processes.

The Human Factor

Although customer interaction management is potentially the most effective tool available for really knowing who your customers are, there is one additional factor that will prevent it from being effective–the people who have to use the system. If the customer interaction management system doesn’t tie seamlessly in with all of the touch point technologies and business processes within a company, then users won’t make a conscious effort to use the system, says McLaughlin.

Additionally, if users don’t see the value of the customer interaction management system–the benefits and ways in which it will make their jobs easier–then the system will be just one more piece of unwanted technology. “If you’re constantly delivering value and showing how the system will benefit users,” says Goldman, “then users will be more willing to make use of the system.”

Tying internal triggers and monitoring systems into customer interaction management will also help increase user participation. A trigger prompts the user to add or update information in the interaction management software whenever a customer’s records are accessed, making it unnecessary for the user to think about using the system.

Goldman suggests finding an outsourcer who offers a monitoring system within its customer interaction management application. The monitoring system will report who has used the system, how often, and for what, he says. “Then if John over in sales starts complaining about not having the right tools, but he hasn’t accessed the system, you can suggest he try it.”

Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:

  • Many companies are missing the opportunity to know their customers as intimately as possible.
  • Most companies do not have the in-house skill set to collect, cleanse and analyze data to turn it into actionable information.
  • Customer interaction management should be built around existing business processes rather than building business processes around customer interaction management.
  • People are the key to making customer interaction management work. To make the human element effective, show them the benefits of using the customer interaction management system.
  • Find an outsourcer that offers an understanding of the needs of your company and is willing to take charge of the collection, cleansing and analytical processes. Then build your customer interaction management around your business processes.


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