TMC this year celebrates 30 years of covering customer interaction, which means it couldn’t be a better time to look at where we’ve been with customer service and where we’re going. We’re also rebranding our customer experience coverage. In this installment of our CUSTOMER coverage, we talk with Don Keane (News - Alert), vice president of marketing and business development at Angel Inc. Keane has held senior marketing positions at leading global consumer and enterprise companies such as General Mills, EarthLink, Intuit, and Rust-Oleum.
Part of the MicroStrategy (News - Alert) Inc. family of companies, Angel sells a SaaS cloud-based platform that delivers analytics, business intelligence reporting, contact center, IVR, and mobile functionality to mid-market and enterprise customers across a variety of verticals.
We’re celebrating the 30-year anniversary of TMC’s (News - Alert) Customer Interaction Solutions magazine. What has been the most important development in the past 30 years related to customer interactions?
Keane: Over the last 30 years, companies are realizing more and more the importance of providing their customers with all the necessary tools to keep customers happy in order to retain them. Acquiring new customers can be difficult, time consuming and expensive. Having a base of happy, highly satisfied customers provides a strong revenue base for any company as well as references and incredible word of mouth to drive new business.
In the past decade?
Keane: In the past decade, enterprise, especially mid-market, began the migration to cloud services. This has been a massive game changer. Ease of deployment, instant scalability, low start-up costs, always on have changed the game for how businesses deploy and manage technology, and it has had a very positive impact on how, when and to what level businesses can interact with their customers.
In the recent past?
Keane: The biggest recent improvement has been the dawn of useful, real-time and actionable reporting and analytics for mid-market and enterprise companies to utilize when interacting with their end customers. For years, the contact center was an island that operated in the back room and allowed for little measurement, actionable data or integration of information into other ERP systems. Today, with the cloud as the back-end, reporting, analytics, and even business intelligence reporting and analytics, allows businesses to measure their results to make improvements on their call centers. This makes the contact center and overall customer experience a critical differentiator for many businesses.
How has the rise of IP-based networks impacted the call center? Customer interactions at large?
Keane: IP-based networks have allowed for a huge cost savings for the contact center, as a business’s data is now stored in the cloud. Web-based call center technology creates a business environment that is no longer constrained by the traditional call center and allows businesses to interact with their customers where and how they desire. The IP technology is getting better every day in delivering a satisfying experience to businesses and callers.
How is the rise of cloud computing impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver product/service/support to the customer?
Keane: Cloud computing is making it easier, more effective and more efficient for businesses to interact with their customers. Businesses can easily deploy and manage existing and new services to their customers in real time, so they no longer have to wait weeks to deploy improvements based on antiquated on-premises solutions. The convenience factor of cloud computing has also impacted businesses and their customers as the businesses are able to offer their customers products that can be access by a web portal from any location and desktop in the world.
How is the widespread use of social networking technology impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver to the customer?
Keane: Social networking is another big game changer over the last couple of years. At a minimum it has allowed businesses to better access and hear their customers in real time. This has been eye opening to many businesses that have had to learn the hard way that certain services need improvement. At a maximum, businesses can now use social as a data-rich, two-way street of active, ongoing communication with their customers. This two-way street allows for the development of very strong customer satisfaction and a relationship with the customer, leading to loyalty. It also allows for some amazing customer data mining with a plethora of products and services, like Wisdom.
How is the increased use and comfort level with video impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver to the customer?
Keane: Video is very hot right now and providing a new, very personalized customer experience that hasn’t existed. It’s very powerful to actually see someone vs. just hearing the individual’s voice and speaks to the industry’s next generation opportunity around multi-channel and multi-model experiences.
What new tools and practices are businesses using to better leverage their own and/or outside data to target, engage with, and deliver to the customer?
Keane: The introduction of BI into customer engagement management is a big step forward, allowing actionable data analysis for businesses to see results in order to provide an enjoyable customer experience and improve their systems. Additionally, moving the contact center management to the CMO function vs. the CFO or COO is another big step forward in better aligning the business, brand and end-to-end customer experience. No one will worry more about delighting existing and new customers than the CMO or marketing function in an organization.
How is the mobile boom impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver to the customer?
Keane: Mobile has made everything much more accessible, as it’s all at your fingertips. Mobile devices started as mobile calling devices, moved to current information tools, and are moving to productivity tools over the next few years. It’s all about transacting on mobile devices over the next five years.
What other key trends are you seeing as it relates to how businesses target, engage with, and deliver to the customer?
Keane: If cloud services are the new backbone for customer engagement management, multi-channel are the solutions that will be deployed. It’s important to support all forms of communication that exist now to allow the customer decide who he/she wants to interact with and how, in your business. Voice, chat, SMS, social, and voice biometrics are all ways that customers may or may not want to interact with you.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. For more information on registering for ITEXPO click here.
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