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CRM analytics–an array of options

The market for customer relationship management (CRM) software is complex. Gartner has defined more than 80 types of CRM applications, and tracks more than 350 vendors in the space, according its report, The Elusive CRM Magic Quadrant. Major categories of applications include multichannel campaign management, sales force automation and customer service contact centers. More recently, social software has also been used to promote sales and support customer service.

CRM analytical tools provide a common thread, because they are used across many of those applications and offer important measures of the effectiveness of customer-related initiatives. For example, analytics help determine whether an ad campaign is successful, and how satisfied customers are with products and services. They also determine which information in a user self-service Web site is being accessed and which customer questions have gone unanswered.

The particular metrics chosen are critical. To be useful and meaningful, metrics need to be aligned with corporate strategy. “If your organization wants to lower customer support costs,” says Kimberly Collins, managing VP at Gartner CRM, “minimizing the length of a call with the contact center might be a target. But if the objective is to upsell or cross-sell to each customer, then identifying what sequence of events leads to a ‘conversion’ or sale would be more appropriate.”

The analytic tools may be an integral component of a CRM suite, a separate product designed specifically for a CRM application or a generic business intelligence (BI) solution that can be used for analyses of CRM data as well as of other data. The optimal solution depends on the organization’s goals and resources, including any legacy systems that are in place.

Customer support

Big Fish Games, which develops and distributes computer and online games, wanted a robust Web-based CRM system, and chose the RightNow CX customer experience suite. RightNow CX manages Internet, contact center and social network touch points. Analytic tools are built into the system to provide continuous feedback and reports across all the channels.

One area of particular emphasis is customer support, whether the needs are administrative or technical in nature. A help button links to a screen on which users can type in a question or click on a short list of Q&As in several categories. For example, under “Games and Installation,” users can find out how to change the default location of a downloaded game. “Technical Issues” provides answers on error messages and suggests adjustments to make in operating systems to improve performance.

The answers are stored in a knowledgebase within RightNow. Because the same knowledgebase is used by customers who are accessing it directly and by customer service reps who are helping customers, the information obtained in each case is consistent. Big Fish Games monitors incoming questions and identifies areas where users are not finding the answers they need. “We discovery the gaps by mining the searches or by reading questions submitted to support staff,” says Cory Finnell, CIO at Big Fish Games. The company also conducts post-contact surveys and solicits feedback to understand customer needs.

Designed for interaction

Information gaps can be remedied quickly with new content. Finnell continues, “Our ongoing analyses let us respond with near real-time speed to issues that customers have with our products,” In addition, the questions and comments are passed along to other departments, including those that are responsible for product development. “The changes we make based on the analyses of customers’ questions help solve their problems and also contribute to our growth, since we are able to improve our products as a result,” he says.

RightNow CX was designed from the start for customer interaction, rather than just improving internal efficiencies, according to Andrew Hull, director of product marketing at RightNow, and includes analytics as an integral part. “We unify all the channels, such as e-mail response management, Web site support, chat and community,” he says, “as well as handling traditional interactions in contact centers.” More than 500 analytical reports are provided out of the box, and others can be created as needed.

Lost causes and sleeping dogs

As the name suggests, Portrait Software is all about providing a complete picture of customers and then engaging with them. Portrait’s products are designed to work with existing CRM systems and exploit the information they contain. “Many CRM systems have information in silos that have evolved over the years,” says Jeff Nicholson, VP of product marketing at Portrait. “Portrait takes this information and operationalizes it at all the touch points, including Web sites, call centers, direct marketing and stores.” Advanced analytics provide a deep level of customer understanding for an important “rear-view mirror” perspective, while predictive insight provides a critical forward vision for future customer-facing strategy.

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