First Coffee for 4 April 2006

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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First Coffee for 4 April 2006

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is X’s More Fun In The New World, the last great album by the last American band that mattered:

As the first step in what company officials are calling a “major European CRM initiative,” Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, has announced that it will deploy Siperian Hub XT in an effort to create a Consolidated Customer Master as “one true source” of customer data across all of its European and Canadian markets.

Pfizer’s CCM will serve as “a significant part of the data foundation for upcoming CRM initiatives,” officials explain.

Pfizer intends to use Siperian Hub XT to unify customer information from multiple systems and functional areas across 22 markets. In taking this step, Pfizer claims it will become “the first international customer to take advantage of the recently announced Siperian Hub XT and its international capabilities.”

In an effort to maximize and integrate their corporate data assets including customer (i.e. prescribers, pharmacists, governmental entities, organizations, and patients), locations and products, Pfizer’s CCM will unify customer information from multiple sources and systems, create and maintain what officials hope is “a unique, complete and accurate customer profile,” making that profile information available to all operational applications in real-time.

Justin Sowers, Director of Global Business Technology for Pfizer, said “ultimately, the CCM will enable the business to perform sophisticated analytics to derive actionable customer insights. A well-designed data model and web services layer will facilitate integration with other enterprise systems and scaling to all EuCan markets, from a technology perspective.”

Evidently creating a unique and scalable master data hub is tougher than normal for pharmaceutical companies, given their varying data sets and hierarchies. According to a January 9, 2006 Gartner report titled “Creating the Single Customer View With Customer Data Integration,” analyst John Radcliffe said “pharmaceutical companies… have the normal consistency and data quality problems because of fragmented internal systems, but they have additional challenges because of their reliance on the acquisition and use of external third-party data to understand the behavior of prescribing physicians.”

Bad news for those of us who believe the theory behind CRM is that customer satisfaction is the magic key to business: The airlines.

It’s a commonplace to note that airline service is getting worse – people tell First Coffee that some American airlines are charging for pillows now. Pillows. Thank God I live in a part of the world where you still get free beer and wine on flights. And I must diverge with TMC Dear Leader and Nobel Laureate Rich Tehrani, who says airlines charging for food is a good idea, presumably on the theory that it keeps costs down. It doesn’t, what it does is create a new set of costs for those who want food. In other words, if a $200 ticket gets you a flight and food and the airline switches to a pay-for-food model, your ticket price doesn’t go down to $195 if you don’t want the food, it goes to $205 if you do.

Anyway another of those studies showing that complaints about airline customer service are on the rise (yawn) was released, showing that JetBlue and other low-fare airlines once again held the top rankings in a national survey of carrier quality, according to the Associated Press, followed by Air Tran, Independence Air and perennial customer satisfaction poster child Southwest.

Now the bad news – “Independence has since gone out of business.”

Wha… how… who… how can this be? Their customer service satisfaction numbers were top of the class, companies who do that don’t go out of business within a year, do they? It’s the ones all customers hate for unusually bad service, the Braniffs and Pan Ams, the Piedmonts and TWAs who disappear, right? You mean… business plans matter too?

The AP reports that Brent Bowen, a study co-author and professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Aviation Institute, says customers are less satisfied with airline service because carriers have slashed jobs and rolled back workers’ pay and benefits, developments that affect customer service.

“The demoralized work force is probably contributing to the fact that the consumer doesn’t feel as well-treated any more,” Bowen told the AP.

Somebody doesn’t get it, though. The AP theorizes that “Intense competition from low-fare airlines and high jet-fuel prices have forced many established carriers to cut back or charge passengers for amenities.”

Okay, then explain why the low-fare airlines have higher customer satisfaction scores than the “established carriers.”

You know, just once I want to see someone from the airline industry come out and say what they all know: “We’ve got the monopoly on providing the service, and if you don’t like it you can drive from Dallas to Los Angeles, pal. Now shut up and get back in line.”

Tidbits to chew on from the study:

Southwest Airlines had the lowest rate of complaints, 0.18 per 100,000 passengers, while US Airways had the highest, 1.86. And ATA had the highest rate of denied boardings, 2.75 per 10,000 passengers; JetBlue had the lowest at 0.

Get that? Zero.

In related news, JetBlue will offer spa products on its coast-to-coast redeye flights, according to AP, “overnight passengers kits that contain eye masks, earplugs, moisturizer, lip balm and a promotional offer from the spa company.” Just to show they care. Little things that matter.

The airline has also started offering a self-serve pantry filled with snacks and hot towels on the flights, part of what JetBlue is calling “Shut-Eye” service. Money quote: Eric Brinker, JetBlue’s director of product development and customer experience, says “JetBlue is not going to be the airline to nickel and dime its customers.”

Look for JetBlue to win next year too.

The JGS Group, specialists in reimbursement intelligence (there’s a field First Coffee wasn’t aware existed) and strategies for the medical device industry, have announced a service that will deploy ad hoc contact center services for medical device companies in the midst of a recall.

JGS will provide toll-free telephone and e-mail contact centers where device manufacturers can refer customers and physicians during a recall to obtain billing and reimbursement information.

“In our experience with the clients using our contact center services, call volume can more than triple for companies after a recall is implemented,” said Jennifer Murray, President and CEO of the JGS Group. “Sales reps, physicians and patients want billing and reimbursement information as quickly as possible for the recalled devices to help ensure immediate care.”

Makes sense, kind of like the Christmas rush. The Recall Reimbursement Intelligence Contact Center service offers such features as a contact center that can be set up in 24-48 hours, replete with a dedicated toll-free phone line, e-mail account, and fax number for questions or requests for recall-related reimbursement information.

They’re also promising trained reimbursement associates with expertise in coding, coverage and other recall-related information; recorded phone calls to protect the client in audits and subpoenas; short-term contracts: 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, 12 month, depending on magnitude of the recall; scripted communications; a database detailing all contact center interactions; and periodic reports documenting each interaction.

First Coffee suspects another professional target market for this product will be tort lawyers who file class-action medical suits, since they work as assiduously as the medical device companies to collect this sort of info on the same recalls.

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