Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Study of 25 Brands Highlights Inconsistencies in Content and Touch Points

Marketers must become much more adept at delivering relevant, targeted and consistent brand messaging and information across multiplying channels of customer interaction and communication, reports a new study by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council.
The CMO Council ranked Home Depot top of the list in customer experience followed by Marriott Hotels, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, AllState Insurance and Dell. Those scoring less well were DirectTV, Major League Soccer, JetBlue, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Music TV (MTV) and Comcast.

In light of recent industry upheavals in industries such as aviation, automotive, banking, diversified financial services and home building, the need for a major focus on the overall customer experience is arguably more important today than ever. Some of the study’s highest-ranked companies offered the most consistent customer experience across all customer touch points, ranging from web sites to advertising programs to call centers to in-store presentations.

Home Depot, the top-ranked brand, did not stand out in a single category, but it communicates an even, consistent and accurate brand message. It leverages the belief, “You Can Do It, We Can Help,” clearly through its web site, call center, events and in-store content channels.

Other companies that scored in the top quintile in the CMO Council study were Marriott Hotels, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, AllState Insurance and Dell. Rankings were contingent on the consistency and accuracy of branding and messaging on their Web sites and in their call centers, advertising, marketing collateral, retail displays and customer-centric events. Companies that ranked in the lower quintile were DirectTV, Major League Soccer, JetBlue, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Music TV (MTV) and Comcast.

Hurting many companies, in particular, were negative customer call center experiences, causing the rankings of many companies to plummet. Prime examples were DirectTV and Comcast. Ominously, consumers have stated that a single negative experience with a brand can alter the decision to do business with a company. According to a 2007 Harris Interactive poll of more than 2,000 adult consumers, 80 percent of consumers will never go back to an organization after a negative experience. Seventy four percent of unhappy customers would register a complaint or tell others.

More information on CRM can be found at http://www.crmindustry.com/

Monday, September 29, 2008

Contrasting Views on Cloud Computing Are Creating Confusion

The term "cloud computing" is being loosely applied and defined differently, and it's creating a lot of confusion in the market, according to Gartner, Inc. Analysts say it is imperative to understand these different perspectives and set the proper expectations to obtain the anticipated benefits.

Gartner defines cloud computing as a style of computing in which massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided "as a service" using Internet technologies to multiple external customers. However, there have been different perceptions of what is included in cloud computing.

The two prevalent views of cloud computing are as follows:

-The cloud is an idea that derives from the perspective of the Internet/Web/software as a service (SaaS). The focus is more on cloud than computing with the emphasis placed on access to services from elsewhere (that is, from the cloud). This cloud is a global-class phenomenon and a high-level concept that can refer to a range of services extending from system infrastructure (for example, compute services and storage services) through applications (for example, CRM) and business processes (for example, payroll services). Gartner's definition is along these lines, with the off-premises nature of cloud services being the point of reference, and applicability to intraenterprise use as a secondary effect.

-The second popular interpretation is a use of technologies, including virtualization and automation, that focuses more on the computing than on the cloud aspect, with emphasis placed on the technologies that enable the creation and delivery of service-based capabilities. This perspective is an extension of traditional data center approaches and can be applied to entirely internal enterprise systems with no use of external off-premises capabilities provided by a third party.

Gartner recommends that users clearly separate the consideration of cloud computing and cloud computing services from the use of cloud computing-related concepts and technologies for the creation of internal systems. Both perspectives (services and technologies) are valuable and should be pursued; however, they are two separate but related initiatives.

More information on CRM can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Friday, September 26, 2008

Embrace Technology Chaos To Drive Business Results

At its recently concluded Business & Technology Leadership Forum 2008, Forrester Research, Inc. told IT and business executives that their organizations must embrace chaotic technologies such as the proliferation of consumer devices, social networking tools, and cloud-based collaboration services. Forrester also unveiled new data from its forthcoming Q3 2008 North America Business Technology Online Survey. The data revealed:

Business execs are more aware of technology's importance but see IT as ineffective. Eight-two percent of those surveyed agreed that technology is a core component of their products and services. More than 70 percent agreed that technology is central to how they differentiate themselves from competitors and that it is essential for their distribution and sales model. However, less than 40 percent of the respondents said IT was very effective in supporting them in those areas.

Business execs feel that IT doesn't support critical business drivers. Eighty-two percent of respondents indicated that lowering overall operating costs is a key business imperative, but only 42 percent said IT supported this goal well. Similarly, 78 percent said that improving workforce productivity is a key business goal, but only 45 percent said IT was providing strong support in this area.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Online Community Compensation Study Sets the Benchmark for Salaries in the Industry

Forum One Networks, a strategy and research group specializing in online communities, conducted the first in-depth study of online community staff compensation to date. The Online Community Compensation Survey reported, on average, that survey participants had a job satisfaction rating of 4.2 out of 5. Of the 225 respondents, 65% were salaried and work 41-50 hours per week. While 78% of those surveyed were 31 years of age or older, individual salaries greatly, with salaries ranging anywhere from $25K annually to $150K annually.

Many respondents stated that their companies don’t have a full appreciation for their job duties and responsibilities and as a result, their salaries are lower than they should be. One survey respondent notes that “companies will pay more for community staff once the value is realized. In order to add to our community team…we are showing the value that the community has to our company as a whole, such as; reducing support calls, up-sells, and generally more satisfied customers. Then it’s easier to justify salaries and increased staff.” The survey includes detailed information on salaries by gender, age and location. Perhaps one of the most interesting findings is that women who participated in the survey are paid 91% of the average men’s salaries.

More information on CRM can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Monday, September 22, 2008

Retailers Believe Online Shopping More Resilient Than Other Channels

Despite a struggling economy throughout most of this year, the majority of online retailers continue to be cautiously optimistic about how their businesses will perform during the next 12 months. According to The State of Retailing Online 2008, the 11th annual Shop.org study conducted by Forrester Research, Inc., 72 percent of online retailers believe that the online channel is better suited to withstand an economic slowdown than offline channels.

About one-third (35%) of online retailers surveyed said they expect their online business to perform better than expected in the next 12 months, while another third (33%) anticipate their online business will perform the same as expected. This optimistic outlook is driven primarily by past results. According to the report, 81 percent of online retailers surveyed reported that their eCommerce business was profitable in 2007, and 75 percent were also more profitable last year than in 2006. Almost half (49%) of online retailers said that their average conversion rate in 2007 was higher than in 2006, and that 36 percent of total sales for the online retailers were driven by repeat customers—higher than in 2006. However, due to their outlook for the US economy, 37 percent of survey respondents noted that they've lowered their expectations for their online business performance in the next 12 months.

The report advises that online retailers must still execute well to capture possible sales. Additionally, it cautions that those sales may not necessarily be the highest-margin revenue due to increased input costs and the pressure to offer promotions such as free shipping.

The report notes that online retailers are still challenged in creating cohesive customer experiences among multiple sales channels. While many web teams continue to operate in silos, apart from store and catalog teams, multichannel retailers report that half of online customers also shop in the company's stores or through its catalogs, exemplifying why online employees should have a vested interest in stores' performance and vice versa. The report recommends that online retailers devise practical, measurable goals and incentives to motivate employees in all parts of the company — whether they are tied directly to the web or not — to promote sales in all channels that the retailer offers.

More information on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Many Social Software Projects Fail Due to IT Managers Not Having a Well-Defined Purpose to Succeed

Many social software projects fail because IT managers wrongly believe that successful communities form spontaneously after social software tools are installed, according to Gartner Inc. IT and business managers in charge of deploying social software need to choose a core purpose for the community and arrange implementation to achieve that purpose.

The perception that communities on the public Internet appear to arise overnight and quickly grow to encompass millions of participants has led many organizations to assume that social software does not require the system-building rigor typical of many deployments. However, most successful social sites start with a defined purpose and a limited scope.

Gartner maintains that users need a well-defined purpose of appropriate scope around which to mobilize and that a good purpose for a social application has seven key characteristics:

1. MagneticThe purpose should draw people directly to participate, immediately appealing to the "What's in it for me?" characteristic.

2. AlignedPurpose should align with business value, that is the "What's in it for the business?" value, be it direct or indirect.

3. Low RiskOrganizations are advised to resist the temptation to opt for high-risk communities, which seem to offer the greatest potential for business value. They are better revisited once social applications have gained momentum.

4. Properly scopedGartner advises organizations to start with a minimal scope and focus on growing a community's scale as fast as possible. Once the community has scaled up, users will guide on how to expand the scope.

5. Facilitates EvolutionPurposes must be selected that both the organization and community can build on. A "purpose road map" will allow for growing the scope of communities or establishing other applications and communities with the goal of progressing toward a highly collaborative enterprise.

6. MeasurableThe success of a good purpose can be measured. Especially early on, when organizations are skeptical of social applications, Gartner advises choosing a purpose where business and community value can be clearly measured.

7. Community-DrivenThe value must come from the community. The best communities contribute far more to themselves than do the enterprises that support them. If the purpose requires the enterprise to contribute most of the content, and the community participants are mere readers, the enterprise has simply used the new technologies as another channel to push communications.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Monday, September 15, 2008

Research Reveals Best Practices in Partner Relationship Management

Every company that sells products and solutions through channel partnerships is looking for new ways to maximize value from channel sales. In order to grow channel revenue, organizations must empower channel partners with incentives and resources. The need to manage the channel becomes equally as important as managing the company’s own internal sales and marketing efforts. As a result, manufacturers rely heavily on technology to automate and standardize channel management with the goal of reducing channel conflict, improving partner loyalty, and increasing the overall revenue for the manufacturer. A recent research study entitled, “Channel Sales: Renaissance in Partner Management”, conducted by the Aberdeen Group reveals that 72% of survey respondents lack sufficient visibility into the performance of channel partners and 84% of all respondents are exploring investments in channel management in the next 12 to 24 months.

While the challenges of increasing channel revenue (88%) and increasing visibility into the channel (28%) to improve forecasting and channel management were identified by all respondents as the top two factors causing companies to focus resources on channel management, the research reveals that Best-in-Class organization demonstrate superior performance in annual channel revenue by continually recruiting new partners and focusing on cross-selling/up-selling initiatives with existing partners. Best-in-Class companies indicated that they currently utilize partner relationship management solutions (89%), lead referral systems (59%), and lead tracking tools (55%) to improve the effectiveness of channel partners. Despite the adoption of technology solutions, the research reveals that Best-in-Class companies yield higher returns than all others by supplementing technology adoption with processes and other organizational capabilities. The result is increased revenue growth for Best-in-Class companies.

The report demonstrates the value of collectively leveraging organizational practices in process, performance measurement, knowledge management, and technology to provide a foundation for partner success. By combining organizational capabilities with a two-pronged strategic approach focusing on partner recruitment and cross-sell/up-sell initiatives, Best-in-Class companies are able to positively affect performance in average order value and deal size.
More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Greenest Generation: Survey Reveals Older Demographics as Biggest Users of Green Products

Bucking the belief that environmentalism is a youth movement, consumers over 55 years old are the most prolific users of green products in the United States, according to survey results released by ICOM Information & Communications.

Both male and female groups 55 years and over reported above average usage of environmentally friendly home goods. Leading the way was the 55-59 year-old female demographic, who was more than twice as likely as the average consumer to use green products. Males 65-69 years old were second, more than 1.7 times as likely to use than the average American.

In a rare insight to the penetration of green products into the American home, 61.9% of survey respondents said that they do use some type of environmentally friendly product. When asked why they elect to purchase eco-friendly goods, a leading 33% of the group selected the self-gratifying “makes me feel good about myself.”

When asked why they elect not to purchase or use green products, 50% of non-adopters cited high prices as the main factor. The next highest reason selected for avoiding green goods was “I do not believe that they are that much better for the environment,” at 17%.
Of those that said they do not use environmentally friendly products, both male and female demographics aged 25-34 years old were among the “least likely to use” when compared with the national average.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Monday, September 8, 2008

Yankee Group Reports Declare the Anywhere Connectivity Revolution the Largest Technology Transformation Yet

Yankee Group has released two new reports that predict that the Anywhere connectivity revolution will be the largest technology transformation the world has yet seen, far surpassing the cultural and economic effects of the internet revolution. These Yankee Group Reports, The Anywhere Tipping Point and The Anywhere Economy, reveal that Anywhere connectivity is a global phenomenon, with the financial impact of the Anywhere Network soaring to nearly US$1 trillion in the next 5 years alone. The reports also forecast that 16 countries will reach the Anywhere "tipping point" by 2012, when the number of broadband lines will exceed the number of people in those regions.

Yankee Group defines Anywhere as the trend of ubiquitous connectivity, bringing the ability to connect all of us and the things we care about. The Anywhere revolution is being sparked by three trends: 1) the internet as a digital communications standard; 2) increasing demand for broadband capacity; and 3) the game–changing ubiquity of wireless networks. These catalysts are inciting a revolution whose impact will be far greater than the sum of these parts.

The reports also reveal that:

--The Anywhere Network already accounts for US$590 billion in spending annually and touches one out of seven people globally. Spending will grow to US$903 billion in 5 years.

--Two dozen countries around the world are now transforming because of increasing connectivity, with more than one broadband line for every three citizens today.

--Japan, Sweden and Italy will be the first countries to achieve the Anywhere tipping point, reaching more than one broadband line per person next year.

--Sixteen countries across many areas of Europe, North America and Asia will become Anywhere Economies by 2012.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Influencer Programs Hold the Key to Building Increased Long Term Engagement in Online Communities

Forum One Networks, a strategy and research group specializing in online communities, has found in a recent study, Online Community Marketing, Growth and Engagement, that companies who have employed influencer programs are at a competitive advantage to build longer term loyalty from their community members.

Most companies are focused on short term, tactical metrics such as; time spent on site, activity on the site, frequency on site and other standard metrics. A smaller set of research participants reported developing influencer programs with an eye toward building long term engagement. One respondent noted that their community building efforts “ … are not campaign-based for short term ROI, but long term for building brand advocates and evangelists. Expected payback is subtle, over years, not weeks, but clearly evident within weeks.”

As online community practitioners work to develop better metrics, ROI and best practices, building effective influencer programs will likely become more standard practice. According to Bill Johnston, chief community officer for Forum One Networks, “Influencer programs are becoming important elements of a mature community strategy. Companies are beginning to see the long term value of finding, thanking and engaging the key influencers in their community.”

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com