IBM's SPSS, Convergys, Black Box and Cisco, eGain and Customer Service

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IBM's SPSS, Convergys, Black Box and Cisco, eGain and Customer Service

The news as of the second cup of coffee this morning, and the music is Frank Sinatra's wonderful album Night And Day. As the AllMusic Guide's review says, "Records don't get any better than this:"
IBM has announced that Digital +, UPC Broadband and Tesco Mobile are improving their customers' experience by using IBM SPSS predictive analytics software to "gain deeper insights into subscriber behaviors and preferences."
This, so the theory goes, will be used to "improve customer retention, call center interactions and marketing campaigns." You know, reduce churn.
As mobile broadband expands in developed markets, devices like the smartphones and tablets are proliferating rapidly -- challenging the traditional Communication Service Provider's core business capabilities, IBM officials say, adding that in order to succeed, "CSPs need to respond to competitive pressures, reduce customer churn, optimize product portfolios and become more relevant and personalized."
IBM's business analytic products for CSPs use data to "predict business outcomes, spot trends as they emerge, improve customer service, drive customer value and reduce churn by building a better understanding of the customer," said Scott Stainken, general manager for IBM's telecommunication industry.
Big Blue officials point to Digital +, part of Sogecable in Spain, using IBM SPSS predictive analytics to optimize its call center by "predicting individual customer behaviors and directing call center agents to provide real-time recommendations while engaged with customers."
Digital + "improved its customer satisfaction with customized offers, reduced churn by 20 percent and increased cross-sell campaigns by 5 to 10 percent over outbound campaigns," said Omar Rois, customer analysis manager at Digital +.
Convergys Corporation, a vendor of relationship management products, has announced that a U.S. wireless operator with millions of subscribers has signed a contract for Convergys Intelligent Credits Solution, part of Convergys' Intelligent Automation portfolio.
By using Intelligent Credits to improve the process of issuing customer credits, the client can save on cost while increasing the satisfaction of its most valued customers, Convergys officials say, adding that the software contract, valued at approximately $6.5 million, "includes a license for Convergys Dynamic Decisioning Solution as well as annual maintenance and implementation services."
The implementation will be completed in the second quarter of this year.
The trick for companies looking to reduce costs is to do it while not negatively impacting customer satisfaction. Sure you can cut costs if that's all you want to do, eliminate your call center and hire a few guys in India to get around to answering the e-mails sooner or later, but your customer satisfaction's going to drop just a tad.
With this in mind, some companies choose to provide credits to their good customers when warranted due to an interruption in service or other unforeseen circumstance. Unfortunately, they often lack the automated controls needed to actively manage these credits.
This is what happened to this particular wireless operator, with spending on customer credits exceeding the industry average as a result of inconsistent policy adherence.
Then after finding Convergys Intelligent Credits the company had the capability to centralize policy creation and management as well as automated, real-time, and proactive policy enforcement across all customer contact channels.
The product will enable real-time evaluation of customer requests for credits based upon the wireless operator's business policies and the customer's history with the provider, Convergys officials say: "It will immediately provide customer service and retail associates with the appropriate credit offer they should make to subscribers in real-time."
It's expected to save this operator as much as $100 million per year by eliminating erroneously issued credits and reducing call handle times. That's a heck of a savings in any economy, let alone this one.
Black Box Corporation, which sells voice and data products, has announced that it has achieved a Customer Satisfaction Excellence Gold Star from Cisco, which recognizes Black Box for delivering "outstanding customer service to customers in the United States," according to Black Box officials.
"Black Box is pleased to be recognized for our efforts to deliver exceptional customer experiences for our Cisco clients," said Peter Marquis, senior vice president for Black Box Network Services.
Edison Peres, senior vice president of the worldwide channels go-to-market group at Cisco, said "customer service is a cornerstone of the Cisco Resale Channel Program. We are pleased to recognize and congratulate Black Box Network Services for achieving outstanding customer satisfaction."
Cisco measures the customer satisfaction levels achieved by its Gold, Silver, and Premier Certified partners based on regional target goals, providing a weighted average of a partner's pre- and post-sales support over a rolling 12-month period.
Then partners who achieve outstanding customer satisfaction are awarded the Customer Satisfaction Excellence Gold Star, and get to be placed on the advanced search menu in the Cisco Partner Locator. Black Box maintains a Gold-level partnership with Cisco, the highest Cisco partner designation available.
The Cisco Resale Channel Program, according to company officials, is intended to provide a framework for "partners to build the sales, technical, and Cisco Lifecycle Services skills required to deliver Cisco solutions to end customers."
The program's specializations and certifications are set up so Cisco recognizes a partner's expertise in deploying solutions based on Cisco advanced technologies and services. Using a third-party audit process, the program validates partner qualifications such as technology skills, business best practices, customer satisfaction, and presales and postsales support capabilities - critical factors in choosing a trusted partner.
EGain Communications, which sells multichannel customer service and knowledge management software, reports that according to a study it recently conducted, over 70 percent of selected North American enterprise businesses were rated "below average" or "poor" in multichannel customer service experience.
EGain has been tracking and reporting on the state of customer service in North America and Europe over the last several years through a mystery-shopping multichannel research study, providing research intended to assess "the state of multichannel customer experience" within and across phone and eService channels.
Johan Jacobs, Research Director at Gartner, writes that "The customer experience, at every interaction, affects future revenue and profit. Customer experience optimization, therefore, ensures that such customer experiences across channels reinforce the organization's basic brand value proposition, and differentiate its business," in his research note "Ten Imperatives for Optimizing the Multichannel Management Customer Experience," released last October.
Conducted and compiled in late 2009 and early 2010, eGain's "2010 State of Multichannel Customer Service" research evaluates multiple aspects of web self-service and contact center customer service of what company officials say are "175 enterprises in the U.S. and Canada, many Fortune 1000 companies among them. All of them had an annual revenue of more than $250 million," and are equally distributed across the financial services, retail, communications, consumer goods, insurance, healthcare and pharmaceuticals sectors.
Analysts used a "mystery shopping" approach to measure customer service performance in six dimensions: choice of communication channels, e-mail response, web self-service, cross-channel consistency, single-channel cross-agent consistency, and phone customer service*. Scores for these metrics were then abstracted to an overall Service Quotient (SQ), on a scale of 0.0 to 4.0, for each company, as well as for each industry sector and the overall market.
The numeric scores map to the following ratings:
-- Poor ( < 1.0)

-- Below average ( > =1.0 and < 2.0)

-- Above average ( > =2.0 and < 3.0)

-- Exceptional (3.0 to 4.0)
Key findings
-- The retail sector ranked first in overall customer service, with an
 "above average" SQ of 2.3, followed by the communications sector
 (telecom, cable, satellite and Internet services) with a score of 2.2.
 Although the overall market remained flat in SQ, these two sectors
 improved their SQ scores over last year.

-- SQ for the overall market was "below average" at 1.9 out of 4.0, with
 half of the companies in the "poor" or "below average" categories. There
 was only marginal improvement over last year's score of 1.8.

-- All areas except web self-service declined in performance, with web
 self-service posting a slight increase for the overall market from 1.7
 in 2009 to 1.9 in 2010, still "below average."

-- A shocking 71 percent of the companies received a "poor" or "below average"
 score in cross-channel customer experience and 42 percent received a "poor" or
 "below average" rating in the cross-agent experience, measured on the
 phone channel. The percentage of companies that received a poor cross-
 channel score went up significantly -- from 60 percent in 2009 to 71 percent in 2010.
 The overall market bordered on "poor" in this metric with a score of

-- Top performing sectors in specific aspects of customer service are:
-- E-mail customer service: Retail
-- Web self-service: Retail
-- Interaction choices: Communications
-- Phone: Communications
-- Cross-channel experience: Retail
-- Cross-agent experience: Consumer goods
"Our research shows that customer experience suffered as businesses hunkered down in a tough market," said Ashu Roy, Chairman and CEO of eGain. "Even so, smart businesses are adopting a Customer Interaction Hub (CIH) strategy as a cost-effective way to deliver superior customer experience today, while investing in a platform for innovation."

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