interaction channels--imperative for CRM success
a Web-only interface sufficient for providing efficient
customer service? Or should e-tailers consider other
options besides the Web for customer support?
marks more than the official beginning of the 21st century.
It also marks one year since the first of many dotcom
flaws surfaced. Think about it, all the major dotcoms
geared up for the 1999/2000-holiday season and most
failed. Why? Because they embraced "Web only"
a mistake that cost them, and their customers, dearly.
E-tailers put up Web stores and opened for business.
flocked to the sites to eliminate
their shopping pain. But, when the orders didn't come,
were begging for service. Unfortunately, there wasn't
any. Customer service agents didn't have visibility
on the online transactions and when customers called
the e-tailer's call center, they couldn't get answers
to basic questions, like "Did my order ship?"
and "When will I get my shipment?"
Now that a year has gone by and we've seen the demise
of many of those dotcoms, we can look at the lessons
learned to avoid the same mistakes, and the failures.
The major flaw: in the race to online success, everyone
gambled on Web-only. But the Web is just one more channel
through which to sell and provide customer service.
It is imperative that businesses always give customers
the choice of interacting with their company in the
manner that is most comfortable for them all the customer
contact channels need to be linked together to ensure
a 360 degree view of the customer profile.
A recent report by Jupiter Communications showed that
only 37 percent of Web ventures currently combine three
or more customer service
channels on their websites. Those that do, have all
the channels connected and synchronized into a seamless
customer service experience!
Remember, if the channels
aren't in sync, then they are working against each other
not with each other and the resulting damage
done to the customer relationship
may be irreparable.
As a service-oriented organization catering to the needs
of a Web-savvy generation, you need to utilize the
Web as an essential vehicle to
deliver world-class customer service
and to provide alternatives to
reducing the cost of service.
But, don't just think about Web self-service.
Your call center must evolve into an interaction center
so that unlike the failed e-tailers your customer service
agents will have full visibility over Web transactions,
as well as traditional service
requests and field service. Also, you have to simplify
your "face" to the customer.
Customer loyalty is fleeting today. Customers now expect
To be able to deliver world-class service, you have
to ensure that
Web interactions and direct, phone and partner interactions
are all consistent.
Businesses face considerable challenges
in integrating these interaction
channels, each with its
distinct technology platforms, into
a cohesive whole. According to a
recent survey by the Meta Group, about 60 percent of
costs go into integration.
IT experts everywhere struggle with
the need to make sense of and
maintain the various technology
platforms and software components that make up the foundation
of how they communicate with, and manage and serve customers.
Given the speed at which e-business
is conducted, organizations can no longer afford to
spend too much time on long implementation cycles for
CRM initiatives. There are technologies and applications
today in the form of a pre-packaged, integrated suite
from one vendor that can help an enterprise move toward
integrating and coordinating their business functions,
infrastructure, interaction channels and even external
companies such as suppliers or distributors.
This option provides a very high degree of integration
to ensure consistent
and easy access to customer
data and a unified view of customer across the company.
This enables businesses to enhance the quality of customer
interaction, as each customer-facing agent whether sales,
customer service or marketing has access to the same
information and the complete customer
account history. Integrated business intelligence tools
also help to develop more effective campaigns, services
and products, and identify unique cross-sell and up-selling
An integrated CRM component within a complete e-business
built on a single technology stack and designed to function
together seamlessly addresses all
of the issues that come along with
coping with disparate systems.
Businesses also enjoy lower
integration, maintenance and upgrade costs.
With critical resources freed up,
businesses can focus on the most
important thing meeting and
managing their customers' needs well.
Lisa Arthur, Vice President, Oracle Corp can be reached