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Thoughts from Chordiant’s Customer Advisory Board

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Last week I was invited to attend Chordiant‘s European Customer Advisory Board. This session was held in lovely Munich in the middle of Oktoberfest and was both informative and a lot of fun. While I can’t share everything – some of it was for customers only – I thought you would appreciate what I could share.

Chordiant, for those of you who might not know, provides customer experience management products for global consumer-facing, multi-product companies operating across multiple channels. Some customers are focused on marketing, some on sales, some on customer service and most are trying to bring all these things together for a richer, more personalized customer experience. Chordiant’s products have become increasingly decision-centric and this trend is set to continue with customer decisioning at the core of their customers’ successes and their own product plans.

There was an interesting session on the Customer Experience Maturity Model. This is something Chordiant has been developing with the Henley School of Business and Cranfield University. An independent survey of how ten principles are being applied by companies is being analyzed to develop a maturity model that moves from the beginnings of what you would call “baseline” CRM and up to very personalized, very managed customer experiences. You can find the details of the model and the results on Chordiant’s site but a couple of interesting factoids for you. No one enterprise was at “level 5” with about 25% at 1/2 half at 3 and another 25% at 4. Mostly this meant that companies were delivering on basic CRM principles but not going much beyond that. Higher levels mapped to more profitable and faster growing companies, although with one data set and no trend data it is hard to tell if this is correlation or causation. Chordiant plans to keep paying for independent surveys and working with the colleges to do more analysis. Although this is limited to European companies and “owned” by Chordiant I still think it is worth checking out if you are interested in customer experience. Personally I hope they add a US academic partner and do the survey in the US also and that they open source or otherwise give up control of the survey so it can evolve into something of an industry standard.

Several of the customers who presented pointed out that, while cross-sell and up-sell are traditionally the first use of decisioning in marketing, retention is actually a better place to start. Large companies spend a fortune on retention – one large bank was mentioned who have publicly said they spend $1Bn a year on retention for instance – so small improvements show a direct return. Similarly, unlike cross-sell and up-sell, the impact of the decisioning is clear as one can compare those who say they are going to leave but who then get treated differently with those who say they are going to leave and get treated the original way. Any difference is directly attrributable to the decisioning whereas improvements in cross-sell or up-sell might have come from better TV ads or good PR of some kind. The customers were also consistent in emphasizing data quality. If the data you need for a decision is not good then the decision will not be either. So, while improving overall data quality is important, it is critical to understand what data will impact the decisions on which you are working and to ensure it is of good quality. The customers all got impressive results though it was clear that getting these results took some fairly extensive organizational change – adding decisioning to marketing or sales or customer service only really works if you can adapt the organizational structure, rewards etc to make sure everyone benefits from it. For instance, Channel or Product P&L owners often have to give up some independence to allow consistent cross-channel treatments while agents’ incentive plans must be changed. The customers who presented varied but all had thousands of call center agents and millions of decisions – one had one next best action decision a second for instance. Finally they all emphasized building some internal expertise that can be shared across projects – all of them have multiple country/product line roll outs underway – and measurability. You must be able to measure the thing you are trying to improve or you will get neither the funding nor the organizational change you need.

Chordiant’s product presentations were also interesting. Clearly the focus of their ongoing product improvement is becoming increasingly decision-centric, taking more advantage of their decision product , and more integrated. They have a strong focus on making marketing, sales, customer service come together in a true next best action environment while still providing the components individual departments need. They are, like most software companies, moving to make their products and platform service-oriented and componentized. Some of the next generation stuff – especially the Visual Business Director which will get its own blog post when it comes out – is very impressive. It makes it clear why companies should (must) externalize and manage the decisions that affect their customers. More as the products get announced.

I presented on the need for business executives to have a true “cockpit” and the presentation is here on slideshare for your enjoyment.

I look forward to continuing to track Chordiant and its customers as they have some great products and a compelling vision for applying decisioning to customer experience.

– posted from a train in the Netherlands courtesy of Verizon Witreless and Vodafone –

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