R&D Up, Property App, Chinook and BroadSoft, OneBill Telecom, ClickFox, VeriSign and iPhone, SAS

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

R&D Up, Property App, Chinook and BroadSoft, OneBill Telecom, ClickFox, VeriSign and iPhone, SAS

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is the sounds of of the Yankees getting started against the Phillies, particularly the Yankee Stadium fans riding Pedro hard here in the bottom of the first. Gotta love New York fans. Promise that won't affect the column, though:

Okay, you wanted some good news, we have some good news for you: Global management consulting firm Booz & Company's fifth annual analysis of global innovation spending finds that the world's 1,000 largest publicly traded corporate research and development spenders increased spending on R&D in 2008.
Yes, this is in the face of a global economic downturn. If you're really looking to read the tea leaves you can see this as an affirming the importance of innovation to corporate strategy. Plus Matsui just got a hit, the first against Pedro so far, so that's a good sign.
R&D outlays for these companies rose by 5.7 percent to $532 billion, a sizable sum almost equaling Alex Rodriguez's contract with the Yankees, even as sales were up only 6.5 percent. While the increase in 2008 R&D spend was less dramatic than 2007's gain of 10 percent, Booz analysts found, "it was just slightly less than the 7.1 percent global five-year compound annual growth rate for R&D."

It's not just deep spending, it's wide as well: "Overall, more than two thirds of companies maintained or increased their R&D spending in 2008, despite more than a third (34 percent) reporting that net income plummeted last year," according to the study.
More than a quarter of companies decreased their R&D allocation in 2008, but we won't talk about them.

In a particularly striking metaphor Barry Jaruzelski, Partner at Booz & Company, who's obviously been reading a bit of Sun Tzu on the side, said "Reducing efforts on innovation would be similar to unilateral disarmament in wartime. Now is an opportune time to build advantage over competitors, especially weaker ones that may have to skimp on R&D for financial reasons."

In another bit of news that bodes well, the study also found that according to senior managers and R&D directors seven in 10 companies are now adjusting their strategies to better capture changing customer requirements.

And this'll shock you: No industry felt the pain more than auto, with nine out of the top 10 R&D spenders in the category cutting their innovation outlays in 2008.

A new Web-based iPhone app to locate property for sale or rent around certain physical locations was launched in the United Kingdom today.

Propertynearme.comUnited Kingdom first then in Germany, Italy and Spain over the next couple days. Plans are in place to launch an Australian version in the very near future. And you don't even need to download an app, since its Web-based. It's developed by mobile developers Internetics.

Internetics Director Clive France, showing that necessity is, in fact, the mother of invention, calls the app "a dream come true for property hunters. I was driving through an area a few months ago, liked it and thought wouldn't it be useful if I could simply click a button on my iPhone and see what property was for sale around me."

And hey -- it's free of charge to use. Stand next to Buckingham Palace and see if Her Majesty's looking to find a new crib.

Chinook Hosting, a white label hosting company, has gotten together with VoIP app vendor BroadSoft to demonstrate a new enterprise-class customer relationship management app for SMBs.

The product itself is built by implement.com and uses Microsoft's business productivity apps integrated with BroadSoft BroadWorks VoIP application platform. Chinook officials say the idea is to show how BroadSoft Xtended, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2, Microsoft Exchange, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 "work collaboratively to retrieve customer contact information based on the caller ID or other call parameters."

UC integrates the components of VoIP, mobile voice, IM, presence and video. Steve Schwartz, president and CEO of Chinook Hosting, maintains that approach helps the product "interact seamlessly with hosted business applications to enable collaboration across the whole organization. This type of integration clearly validates the business value of UC."

Leslie Ferry, vice president of marketing at BroadSoft, pitches the partnership with Chinook Hosting as demonstrating how hosted UC "can be integrated with business applications," to let service providers deliver this offering to the SMB market "without a massive investment." is designed to show what properties are available around your current geographical position. Just stand in a neighborhood and dial up the options. This is one of the first Web-based property apps to use the "geo location" awareness feature of the iPhone.

The site launches in the

OneBill Telecom, a British business telecoms service provider, has announced the expansion of its online services for customers.

As part of the expansion customers get better "My Account" features, intended to allow for "easier and more efficient management of their accounts online."

The way it works now, logging in to the "My Account" section of the OneBill Telecom site lets OneBill customers access a new account overview page, giving them "a snapshot of important information, including a rundown of past invoices, a summary of their most recent bill and their account history."

From there, customers can make payments online, download and print past invoices and customize their account features, company officials say, "opting, for example, to single out calls made to certain destinations and monitor calls according to price."
James Wilson, Marketing Manager of OneBill Telecom, said they think customers prefer to manage their communication costs online, "rather than rely on paper-based invoices. Indeed, the recent postal disruptions have only accelerated the interest in -- and usage of -- our online customer service facilities."

Through the My Account service, customers "can instantly know what their communication costs for the month have been," Wilson added.

OneBill was founded in 1999 and now has over 25,000 customers, the majority of them small businesses.

ClickFox, which sells customer experience analytics products, has announced what company officials call "the expansion of their deployment" with a telecommunications organization to include "all customer interactions across all of their interaction channels."

The coyly-unnamed wireless provider will use both existing and new interaction analysis to "further improve operational efficiency, customer retention, revenue generation and customer satisfaction."

Marco Pacelli, chief executive officer of ClickFox, notes correctly that the telecommunications industry has "steep competition, high customer churn and highly publicized customer satisfaction issues." Amen, that last one goes double.
Fascinating question, isn't it? Which came first -- the lousy customer service, high churn or stiff competition? If customer service were better would churn decrease? Is such a thing possible? What would it look like -- increasing the quality of customer service to the point where it actually reduces churn? Interesting question, somebody get Paul Greenberg on it right away... well, when the Yankees game's over.
These issues need to be constantly monitored and analyzed, company officials say, adding that limited analysis doesn't always cut it when it comes to getting insight.

ClickFox officials are trying to position CEA as a counterpoint to what they call "traditional business intelligence and data warehousing approaches," touting their ability to deliver "enterprise-wide investigative insight into customer experience and behavior." If you're looking for a one-sentence differentiation, well, First Coffee supposes that's as good as any.

VeriSign, which sells Internet infrastructure services, says German multichannel bank Postbank, is "bringing trust and reassurance" to its iPhone-equipped mobile banking clients through VeriSign's Extended Validation Secure Sockets Layer Certificates.

Postbank has used VeriSign EV SSL since October of 2007 on its Web site. Evidently it's a happy customer, as it's now extended the service to its iBanking offering. Evidently it works for iPhone users who access its iBanking service via Safari mobile browsers, according to company officials.

The reason for putting the VeriSign EV SSL brand name on an iBanking site, according to Postbank officials, is that it offers a "recognizable visual cue" that tells customers "they have reached a site whose authenticity has been verified by VeriSign."

When Postbank customers reach the authentic iBanking site, their Safari browser's address bar turns green. Evidently this is the signal that aforesaid customers can "conduct their transactions with confidence and that all data transmitted to the site will be encrypted."

Why a green address bar? VeriSign officials say it's because identity thieves use phishing schemes to lure banking customers to look-alike Web pages, designed to steal account numbers, passwords and other sensitive information: "Even the most convincing fraudulent pages, however, cannot replicate the color of the browser's address bar."

"Yet," First Coffee can't help but think.

"Postbank has offered mobile banking services to its iPhone-equipped clients since Apple launched the iPhone in 2007," according to Michael Heinen, business unit manager of Direct Banking at Postbank.

Consumer debt is at an all-time high. As a result, according to officials of CRM and other business technology vendor SAS, financial institutions are being pressured to reclaim unpaid debt to rebuild cash reserves in a tightening market.
Now collecting this debt requires resources to execute the collection process. And it's not as easy as sending Vito and Guido around to inquire about the health of someone's knees and use the opportunity to show off their nice new Louisville Slugger. Things are much nicer these days. And probably as effective.
"Financial services institutions must re-gear their analytic techniques to adapt to a new playing field," says Brian Riley, Research Director of Bank Cards at TowerGroup. "Rising unemployment, coupled with a protracted recession and increased credit costs make existing tools obsolete. Successful lenders that apply advanced analytics to optimize their strategies experience particularly strong results." 

Debt collection, according to SAS officials, is "delicate. Customers are sensitive to how, when and why they are contacted." In their view, most debt collection approaches fail to identify who best to contact or which channels to use.

First Coffee knows what you're thinking: "Call centers." Yes, that is often the most effective communication method - are also the most expensive. SAS says using predictive analytics helps companies make effective use of their call centers and alternative methods of communication (SMS, IVR, e-mail) that may also achieve successful results at low costs. 

SAS officials say that using their approach, collection managers can plan and prioritize outbound communications, "balancing the organization's capacity with the likelihood that customers will respond."

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