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Adding geographic and location context to business information enables organizations to develop fuller understanding and optimize the activities of people that use the information. We call this location intelligence, and to achieve it requires location analytics, which focus on that context where the processing and presentation of geography and spatial aspects of data are utilized. Analysis of geographic information can provide business insights that help organizations make better business decisions. I have written about this new generation of location analytics previously and noted that it can provide fresh analytic perspectives on information collected and integrated from in-house applications and across the Internet.

In our latest benchmark research on location analytics two VentanaResearch_LocationAnalyticsout of five (41%) organizations said it is very important to have information about location to improve processes and performance. Participants in business roles (51%) insisted more on its importance than did those in IT (30%); this difference indicates the importance of location to business professional to improve activities and processes they are responsible for improving. However, the research also shows that most businesses aren’t taking advantage of this enhanced perspective. Our Performance Index analysis found the largest percentage (29%) of participants at the lowest Tactical level of location-related performance. Almost all organizations have room for improvement: Only 12 percent said they are very satisfied with the available location information and analytics. Similarly only 15 percent are very confident in the quality of their location information.

vr_LA_location_analytics_requires_experiencesBringing a new perspective, location analytics requires familiarity to deliver benefits. Users that are very experienced in location analytics most often said it has significantly improved the results of their activities and processes (62%), compared to 23 percent of those who described themselves as experienced. To achieve this value organizations must invest in skills and knowledge of this domain for their analysts and tools that can help them derive value from this type of information.

As with other new areas of technology and analysis, to improve effectiveness using location intelligence will require a business case for investment. Our research found several barriers to building the case: lack of resources and lack of awareness (each cited by 41%), no budget (33%) and the business case not being strong enough (30%). While training and understanding of the potential of location intelligence are essential, some decision-makers need better examples of its use in terms of business results to make it an investment priority. In this regard organizations said the most important factors are to increase speed of response to customers, improve the quality of business analysis and decisions, and increase the accuracy of information. Nearly all that have adopted location intelligence said this focus has improved the organization’s processes significantly (40%) or slightly (56%).

The research found several key business areas in which value can be found. Improving customer relations is a significant driver for change: Two-thirds (68%) of organizations using location analytics and a customer focus will be changing the way they use it in the next 12 to 18 months. A focus on customers is a natural use of location analytics; our research shows that for more than one-third (37%) of organizations it is the type of information for which location is most important. The benefit most often ranked first by those analyzing customer data is to improve the customer experience and customer satisfaction (20%). But customer facing areas are not the only place to apply location analytics that can be especially useful in areas: optimizing sales efforts for territory management, identifying fraud for risk mitigation, optimizing routes and customer interactions across field service, routing optimization for distribution and warehouse management for supply chain management or identify best markets for advertising effectiveness.

The emphasis on location analytics by the lines of business vr_LA_location_analytics_improves_resultsappears again in funding for initiatives. It comes not just from the general IT budget (40%) but also from the business technology budget (31%) and the business budget (28%). And the investments pay off. Those that have invested in location analytics have improved the results of their activities and processes significantly (34%) or slightly (51%). Business people, who are better-positioned to see the benefits, indicated significant improvement three times as often (48%) as did IT staff (16%).

Analysts in the lines of business should assess their existing efforts and determine how the use of location analytics could improve the results they provide to decision-makers. One key tool for this is visualization through maps, which can provide more intuitive presentation of information than more general visualization. Simplifying the presentation of location information and making it easier to identify insights are essential for business professionals, who should not have to be trained to see the insights. Location Analytics is more than just a map and pretty picture, but a method to process data to get information for delivering geographic insights that are actionable and impactful to business. Organizations not yet taking advantage of this valuable supplement to their business information should evaluate it.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Pitney Bowes (PB) opened its annual technology summit (Twitter: #TechSummit12) with a review of its organizational assets and its rich history of engineering hardware and systems for physical and now digital delivery of communications. The multibillion-dollar technology giant is transforming itself to address the digital needs of business for interaction with consumers. It also is working to transform how business communications and interactions work across all channels. Handling new media interactions using Facebook, Twitter, e-commerce and mobile technologies are critical to managing communications in a consistent manner and improving the customer experience.

Over the last several years Pitney Bowes has advanced its business through acquisitions and the integration of its own software into its traditional areas of business. It also has further integrated its software efforts to emphasize that it is not primarily a mail-related hardware company. The company reports that its software revenue is $407 million and that it invests 15 percent of overall corporate revenue into software. It also is investing in growth initiatives to expand its presence into markets where it does not currently operate.

Pitney Bowes CEO Murray Martin discussed the company’s philosophy of helping its clients develop value in lifetime relationships with their own customers through communications management. It does this by providing profiling and segmentation, data preparation, multichannel response management and analytics. Martin explained that the days of businesses telling customers how to communicate with them are over. I agree that customers and consumers will take control of communication, and this means businesses must adapt, as the channels will not be predetermined but will change with customer preferences.

To help companies move ahead on this path, Pitney Bowes introduced Volly, which provides secure communications for digital billing and payment for customers and providers. It also takes advantage of mobile computing, with native applications for smartphones and tablets and the ability to get quick access to applications and information using customized QR codes. PB currently has more than 50 billers using the service.

Pitney Bowes has been improving its applications for helping organizations understand and act on customer communications more intelligently. It now has one of the most sophisticated sets of applications for increasing the value velocity of customer relationships. To accomplish this, PB has organized its software offerings into four areas. First, the data area includes a collection of data integration, quality and master data management capabilities to address the two top barriers to  information management according to our benchmark research: having data spread across systems and having multiple versions of the truth. In this area, location intelligence improves the quality of the information through geocoding, use of its Spectrum technology platform and partnerships with Experian to help enrich the data. The company has announced a new master data management (MDM) solution that does not take a traditional data-centric IT approach but is built for businesses that need to establish a consistent definition of customers and the social networks they operate within, and thus is more of a customer information management application. While MDM is an engaging topic and focus for IT, its time to value for businesses has not been short, as it requires a degree of data transformation.

The second area of its focus is insight, where the company can help with building strategies to better identify the direction of communications and interactions with customers through the use of customer analytics and location intelligence software.

The third area is strategy, where software can help define customer segments and direction to show where to focus to get the most value. This area is powered through business unit Portrait Software’s analytics and segmentation. PB recently released a new version of Portrait Explorer with a new user experience for assessing customers and segments. The new release simplifies ways to assess and understand customers and allows for enrichment of the data through its partnership with Experian. It uses predictive analytics, which our benchmark found is helping businesses take advantage of new revenue opportunities and increase profitability, among other benefits.

The fourth area is communications. Pitney Bowes helps users design and deploy communications across channels to improve customer dialogue. It offers multiple products in this area, including Portrait Interaction Optimizer and a new version of Pitney Bowes EngageOne that was announced in April. The EngageOne product provides a robust way to design templates for personalized interactions with customers and can manage interactions in a secure document vault.

Pitney Bowes is evolving the focus of customer communications management from transactions to marketing and customer service, and turning itself into a more strategic and analytics-driven software provider for this. By stratifying the message, method and relevancy of its efforts, it can articulate the value of its offerings. The company has a large potential market to tap; our benchmark research into customer relationship maturity found that marketing, customer service, sales and contact center are the most popular channels in more than half of organizations but are not necessarily where personalized interactions are occurring across multiple channels.

Pitney Bowes’ biggest challenge is not the market or its technology advancement but  communicating the value of its products through its website and social media channels. It will need to dramatically improve its marketing efforts to gain recognition for what is has developed and made available today.

If you are interested in an analytical, interactive approach to developing effective customer communications and interactions for improving the customer experience, consider the depth of the software Pitney Bowes provides. It is advancing the efficiency and outcomes of communications with customers, which is an area in which just about every organization has room for improvement.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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