LearnCenter and VivaKi, Travel Benchmark Survey, TargusInfo, AT&T Biz Solution, CHOBS, Ntractive

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

LearnCenter and VivaKi, Travel Benchmark Survey, TargusInfo, AT&T Biz Solution, CHOBS, Ntractive

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Mick Jagger's 1993 solo album Wandering Spirit. I bow to nobody in my appreciation of the Rolling Stones, which is why I refused to buy any of their solo albums, but I heard "Evening Gown" from this album in a 2006 duet between Jagger and Jerry Lee Lewis, thought hm, that sounds pretty good, listened to the clips from Wandering Spirit on iTunes and was impressed enough to give it a shot. 

Learn.com, a vendor of on-demand workforce development and productivity, has announced that the VivaKi Nerve Center, a core division of France's Publicis Groupe's VivaKi entity, chose the LearnCenter Platform for online training "to their global employees."

As opposed, presumably, to their extraterrestial employees. 

VivaKi officials say they're expecting the software to provide savings in administrative time, such as time spent on completing training registration, as well as savings in travel and "just-in-time" training.

"We selected Learn.com because it will provide us with all the tools we need," says Barbara Jobs, VP, Talent and Development, VivaKi Nerve Center, adding that the product offers "the opportunity for us to add new components at no charge" and that it lets them "create different sub groups that can be controlled by each group within our ecosystem, each with its own look and feel."

The VivaKi Nerve Center is a core Publicis Groupe resource within VivaKi. Learn.com's products include the LearnCenter learning and talent management suite, WebRoom Web conferencing suite, PeopleCenter Application Builder, FormFlow Custom Form Creation and other products.

The results of the first eTravel Benchmark survey from online research firm eDigitalResearch are in. Evidently online travel industry as a whole "has some way to go in order to compete with 'best in breed' companies for Web site engagement and customer service." 

But we didn't have to tell you that, did we?

According to survey officials, that online travel sites "need to look beyond the 'wow' factor," and "work harder at improving the entire end to end Web site experience" if they are to build trusted, long-term relationships that encourage customers to buy from them time and time again.

The eTravel Benchmark survey uses eDigitalResearch's eMysteryShopper tool to measure the usability of 18 channel crossing, cruise and airline sites, comparing "seven key areas" ranging from first impressions to the search and booking process. 

"The recipe for a successful site is a simple one," the study's authors conclude. "What customers want is a clear step-by-step process. They want a site that is easy to purchase from but at the same time that has the inspirational 'wow' factor to keep them engaged. Add to that transparent pricing, great customer service, and of course a great trip and you've cracked it." 

Great. So there you are. Go thou and do likewise. I don't see the problem.

Not that it'll shake up American consumers' habits, but if you're a Brit looking for a weekend in France or a Frenchie eager to sample the joys of Birmingham, you'll be pleased to know that "channel crossing operators fared better in the survey with P&O Ferries emerging as the top performer and Stena Line second."

And this will shock nobody either: The study found that airlines advertising for business in Britian were "notably let down by poor first impressions and disappointing customer service." When measured on telephone customer service, just one airline, British Airways, made it into the top 10 rankings, rated seventh and just two airlines (Virgin Atlantic and British Airways) scored highly enough to make the top 10 for email customer service.

The study used something it called a "net promoter score" to find which sites are most likely to be recommended through word of mouth. The sector as a whole achieved score of +5, whereas the same metric returned scores for retail at +27, finance at +18 and car manufacturing at +7.

Derek Eccleston, Head of Research at eDigitalResearch, said in a sector whose customers are "particularly promiscuous, switching brands for a better deal, looking for recommendations and picking the purchase channel that most suits them at that particular time, failing to perform well across the board is more than a missed opportunity, it is commercial suicide." No doubt companies should use protection against the dangers of such promiscuity, and we'll stop with this metaphor right... now.

The Jagger album's pretty good so far, standout cuts are "Evening Gown" and "Don't Tear Me Up," but "Sweet Thing?" Mick, I thought we'd discussed the falsetto deal after "Emotional Rescue." I'll overlook it this time, but why don't we not let it happen again, 'mkay?

AT&T Business Solutions wants you to know that it ended an active second quarter, which saw the introduction of a utility-based, storage-as-a-service offer, a small business bundle for wired and wireless service starting at under $100.

Globally, the business unit announced a number of agreements with telecom service providers to "expand its worldwide reach." Other highlights include the introduction of AT&T Telepresence Solution offer with multi-point encryption features for greater security.

Officials of the unit say they remain committed to increasing their commitment to smart grid technology through a commitment with Cooper Power Systems to jointly market and sell to utility companies smart grid sensor devices certified on AT&T's wireless data network. The unit also launched an AT&T private content distribution service for the delivery of rich media content behind the corporate firewall.

As to the unit's global designs, they signed a "go-to-market" agreement to develop and deploy telecom projects with TDC, a communications vendor in Denmark and the wider Nordic business market. They also concluded a memorandum of understanding with Telkom South Africa, and in April opened a new regional headquarters office in Dubai Internet City to work the Africa and Middle East market.

Vienna, Virginia-based TARGUSinfo, which sells On-Demand Insight, a product for higher education prospects and customers, will provide online lead verification, lead scoring and analytics to Grand Canyon Education

GCE is a "regionally accredited" provider of online and campus-based post-secondary education services. As "Grand Canyon University" -- contest to write the lyrics to their football fight song now open -- they offer education for teachers, health and business professionals.

Christel Mosby, senior vice president of marketing, Grand Canyon University. "After a comprehensive review of the services available on the market, we felt that TARGUSinfo not only has the most accurate data to verify prospective students, but has the analytical wherewithal to help us target, score and understand our ideal students better."

Founded in 1949, Phoenix-based Grand Canyon University describes itself as "a traditional regionally accredited, private, Christian university offering campus-based and online bachelor's and master's degree programs through the Ken Blanchard College of Business, College of Education, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and College of Liberal Arts."

Evidently Grand Canyon officials believe that "at the moment a prospect student reaches out over the phone, in-person or on the Web, education marketers have a split second to convince them to enroll." First Coffee remembers taking a bit more time than that to choose a university, but the process seems to have been speeded up since the late Jurassic.

"Spend five minutes on the Internet and you'll see millions of dollars of online advertisements enticing prospective students to enroll in some online educational program," says David Wengel, general manager, TARGUSinfo. "We're right in the middle of this recruitment battle by helping leading schools like GCU verify, score and prioritize tens of millions of prospective students each year."

The ElementOne Analytics Platform from TARGUSinfo is designed to incorporate "a multitude of data that's custom to each clients' business," company officials say.

Hyderabad, India's Callippus has released a hotel online booking product it calls CHOBS -- Callippus Hotel Online Booking System. Company officials say it comes with such features as Online Inventory availability "within minutes."

CHOBS is intended to be used by customers around the world to "see a hotel's room inventory and book instantly," as well as to provide agents, affiliates and corporate clients with an instant reservation facility "at different contractual rates." The CRM module is pitched as allowing hotels to "closely interact with," i.e. upsell and cross-sell, "its customers, and for providing them with loyalty or reward points."

Using the software's control panel, company officials say, a hotel can add and amend rates and sales criteria "at any time -- instantly -- thus maximizing Internet sales effectiveness." Here's hoping hotels are careful with that "amend rates at any time" feature, otherwise it might get called something other than "sales effectiveness."

The product lets hotels create customized offerings and packages based on room booking availability and post them online: "Using flexible tariff models in CHOBS, a hotel can virtually configure a different rate for each day." Company officials add that the system can be added onto an existing hotel Web site, and that the hotel can use its integrated Content Management System "to help create and manage new content and offerings on an ongoing basis without intervention from a third party, such as your Web designer."

A cost is charged per booking, and Callippus says the fees "includes all e-mail and fax notifications of booking confirmations, cancellations or amendments." In addition, hotels signing up for the online booking engine get a free listing on their aggregation portal.

From the growing high tech hub of Grand Forks, North Dakota comes news from Ntractive, as they have unveiled what company officials characterize as "a major release to its Customer Relationship Management Software -- Elements SBM will now be known as Elements CRM," and have in addition to a new name "a new look and new features."

Justin Bartak, Co-Founder, CTO and Chief Designer, says the overall interface has been improved with a new look and feel for "easier navigation, improved workflow and an enhanced user experience" for "a major leap forward in the evolution of the product... Ntractive continues to prove that a CRM product can be as easy to use and as visually appealing as iTunes."

The 2.0 version has such features as analytic charts, a set-up wizard, PayPal integration, increased international support, asset management and a panoramic sales overview since "we've listened to our customer's suggestions," according to Dale Jensen, Co-Founder and CEO.

In addition to its integration with AccountEdge, Elements CRM 2.0 now supports Acclivity's FirstEdge financial software as well. Elements CRM 2.0 is now available for the suggested retail price of $69.95 per user per month. Elements CRM requires Mac OS X version 10.4.11, 10.5, or the upcoming 10.6 (code named "Snow Leopard," First Coffee's favorite animal so it has to be good). Internet access is required.


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