First Coffee for November 15, 2005

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
| CRM, ERP, Contact Center, Turkish Coffee and Astroichthiology:

First Coffee for November 15, 2005

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is a Steve Miller Band classic run – Sailor, Brave New World and The Best of 1968-1973:

Today we’re happy to have Dan Vetras, the CEO of Talisma taking time out of his schedule to answer some question First Coffee had:

FC: Hi Dan, thanks for your time. Talisma is now working in the Customer Interaction Management space, how does that jibe with CRM systems?

DV: CIM unifies all of the “point” products critical for communicating with customers today, including e-mail, chat, Web self service, collaboration, and, soon, VoIP – through a common set of knowledge, monitoring, and reporting tools to optimize current and future interactions. CIM products also tap into relevant information across other businesses products such as CRM systems so that agents can access appropriate information for faster, more accurate inquiry resolutions.

By working in tandem with CRM and back office systems, companies benefit by enabling easy access to the critical data in those systems needed to efficiently and effectively resolve the current customer interaction at hand.

FC: What was the thinking behind Talisma basically changing direction, and focusing on Customer Interaction Management?

Businesses need help managing the overwhelming amount of customer interactions they deal with on a regular basis as a result of the new forms of Internet-based communications. Businesses today need help delivering effective customer support in the customer’s preferred channel of communication. They also need help with cross-channel quality monitoring and measurement.

Consider a key market driver such as Internet usage. Who doesn’t use the Internet? Since the advent of the ‘Net, adoption rates have increased every year and are still rising with projections of 15 percent over the next five years. Because all of our communications are becoming more Internet-centric, businesses must be able to deliver customer service and sales support in ways that are relevant to the customer.

In a nutshell, as the total number of Internet communications are on the rise, e-mail, chat, Web self service, VoIP, and other technologies are already the de facto choices for many customers and their chosen channel of interaction. Companies don’t really have a choice anymore and must offer these channel choices if they don’t already. By integrating these channels with a CIM product, business will benefit from a universal view of the customers, access to third party information, and a holistic view of all interactions to optimize operations and efficiencies.

Through corporate acquisitions and the company’s product development roadmap, Talisma has been offering multi-channel CRM products to industry leading companies for many years. Today, we’re using our strengths and hoping to capitalize on a huge market that is forecasted to reach to $2.6 billion in 2008 from $1.2 billion today, according to Datamonitor, by integrating our multi-channel CRM point products and taking customer interaction management to the next level with the right set of monitoring and reporting tools.

FC: How does CIM respond to market needs today?

DV: Today, people prefer to use Internet-centric means of communications and CIM enables businesses to offer relevant Internet-based communication through multiple channels that are seamlessly integrated for more effective and efficient interactions. Companies don’t have the luxury of choice and need to offer multi-channels communication choices such as e-mail, chat and Web self service. These and other Internet-centric technology are on the rise and businesses that integrate these offerings and tie them into existing data will benefit by delivering a seamless customer experience that will exceed customer expectations.

 FC: Why should companies implement CIM strategies? What are some examples of the benefits of CIM?

DV: Many companies, especially large enterprises, have CRM systems in place and are ready to embrace a more customer centric strategy by focusing on the customer interaction at hand not heavy data bases. CIM brings all of the relevant information that can help resolve an inquiry more efficiently and effectively into a single view.

By deploying a CIM strategy, agents have easy access to this relevant information and customers have easy access to the communication channel of their choice. CIM provides the relevant information required to address the customer issue, at the right time. These combined elements will result in a positive customer experience each and every time.

End-users today have become channel agnostic, a term which indicates how a customer might  “channel surf.” For example, a customer might communicate with a company via chat one day and the next day use the company’s web site for customer self service. And, the following week,  the same customer might revisit the web site and send an e-mail to customer service. People do not choose the same communication channel all of the time and, as a result, all channels must be integrated and all must be leveraging the same source of knowledge to deliver a seamless customer experience across the board.

There are many benefits of CIM including faster, more accurate inquiry resolution; more effective customer dialogues; access to assistance through the most appropriate and preferred interaction channels; seamless escalation across channels; and customer centric proactive features.

FC: What are your plans for Talisma’s CRM offering and how do they diverge from the CIM products?

DV: The latest version of Talisma CRM, version 7.0, is shipping November 2005 and many of its features are particularly advantageous for the Higher Education community, which is the target vertical for the product going forward.

FC: Talisma has operations around the world, but what type of work comes out of your Bangalore operations?

DV: What started in Bangalore in 1999 as an e-mail management company has grown to a truly global business. Talisma has a team of 250 located all over the world in North American, Europe, and Asia. Bangalore is home to many Talisma employees whose job functions vary from software developers and engineers to sales, service, and marketing.

FC: What’s the best music to listen to while working?

DV: I sometimes keep the radio in my office on, which is tuned 103.7, “The Mountain” (KMTT-FM). It plays a good mix of popular and classic rock by musicians as varied as Robert Cray, Marc Cohn, Coldplay, Clapton, Sheryl Crow, etc.

FC: As well as some artists whose names don’t begin with “C.” Why does Talisma see India as such a key market?

DV: India is the land of emerging opportunity. Today, the Indian economy is growing at 7-8% annually and IT spending is growing 25-30% annually. Both of these growth rates are among the fastest in the world. Furthermore, Indian companies have always been very customer service oriented, so there is a natural fit for our product. India is a world leader in the Business Process Outsourcing market and call center industries. Not only are these sectors growing faster than 30 percent but Talisma has a clear value proposition for these industries that go hand in hand with CIM software.

In addition, many countries in the South East Asia region look to India to provide technology leadership, so establishing a strong base in India is vital to doing well in the whole of South East Asia. Additionally, working with large global concerns in this market has provided the company with an excellent foothold into other operations of said company throughout the world.

Talisma’s focus on the Indian market has proved strategic and our success in the area is evidenced by revenue growth which has been more than 120% Year-on-Year in FY05.

The numbers are strong because in several CIM and CRM categories, Talisma is the undisputed market leader in India. For example, Talisma recently received the Frost & Sullivan award for market leadership in E-mail Response Management systems, owning just more than half of the total market.

Unique to most software providers operating in India, Talisma is one of the few success stories among software products that originated in India, a country known for software services. For this reason, and for the fact that Talisma has been in the Indian market since 1999, Talisma has tremendous brand equity in corporate India.

FC: What does “Talisma” mean?

DV: Talisma is derived from “talisman,” which is a charm that can produce magical or miraculous effects. It also can help ward off evil spirits. It’s also fun to say.

FC: What kind of future do you see for the on-demand model in CIM?

DV: No doubt about it: On-demand software is here to stay. Talisma views it as a mean to an end – not the end in and of itself. It’s not about the method of delivery but about the application – its functionality and ease of use so that end user will embrace it.

Talisma will continue to offer software both for onsite deployments and on-demand instances in order to meet the needs of all our customers. The key is to make on-demand software secure, scalable, and interoperable with other products. If it can’t function at the level an enterprise-class customer would expect it to, why should a small business have to use it?

Some of the market leaders providing on demand software are having trouble with this scalability and interoperability and we’re picking up a lot of business from the companies who need these features.

We have found that scalable, on-demand software is a great way for customers to try our products, without making much of a capital or resource investment. Once it proves itself, larger enterprises often decide that owning it makes more sense from an economical and customization standpoint.

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