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First Look – Market Helm


Helm Interaction Management is a new company, founded in 2009, and focused on solutions related to inbound marketing and customer interaction management.  Helm has developed a suite of inbound marketing products designed specifically for the cloud. With Market Helm™ business users can quickly create and deploy very targeted messages into any customer- or agent-facing application.

Helm is a salesforce.com AppExchange partner and is focusing on selling their solutions there. The Market Helm infrastructure is hosted at Amazon Web Services and can be leveraged by non-salesforce clients via web services.

Customer interaction management, of course, is about leveraging inbound customer interactions in real-time to deliver the best message to the customer for sales, retention, service etc. It is challenging due to competing business objectives among various corporate stakeholders.  Corporate management might want to manage the overall customer experience or manage risk and profitability; the marketing department might want to focus on revenue or retention; and call center management who might want to improve call resolution or reduce the cost of service.

Besides these competing objectives, each group has its own concerns. Outbound marketing is becoming more expensive and less effective so the focus of marketing departments is turning to inbound marketing. But inbound channels are more complex with offer management, leveraging the context of the inbound call, and channel ownership all become issues. Meanwhile customer interaction management means that the call center must add a bunch of new messages to an already complex environment (retention issues, corporate compliance issues, quality issues, time to serve etc) while web channel managers struggle with content management, social media issues and using the context of the current web session to deliver a targeted experience.

Market Helm manages customer messages in a central repository, delivers them on-demand to customer touch point applications and, as a customer interacts with a company, determines the best one to display. Business users configure Market Helm in the cloud and define how to deliver this content to websites, channel-specific applications and salesforce.com. Four solution areas available today are:

  • Cross-sell and Up-sell
  • Customer Retention
  • Offer Management
  • Partner Marketing

Business users have an interface that lets them configure, manage and report on the results of their implementation. The configurator allows the users to describe their environment by configuring the definitions of customer, channel, message as well as predictive analytics and message classes.  Two key managers are the message manager and the strategy manager.  The reporting functionality provides the real-time results of the interactions within a standard row and columns interface.

The business user logs on to a cloud-based environment that displays the manage/configure/report functionality. Different users can have different authorization and the system allows development, QA and production versions with promotion from one to the other.  At the core of this environment is the management of messages.

Different groups can “own” the messages (corporate, web, marketing etc). Each message has a basic definition and this can be extended using client-specific data like margin, fulfillment method, product codes etc. Messages belong to different classes and can be flagged as appropriate for different channels. The core of a message is a business ruleset for the message. The various data elements (some pre-defined, others identified by the user as being available in a specific channel or system) are available in a tree-like view. A set of conditions can be defined based on these elements and ANDed or ORed together in various combinations using a point and click interface. The message history and current interaction can be used to build rules that understand things like “displayed in the last 10 days in any channel”. Client-specific attributes can be defined with allowed values and this too drives the UI to display the allowed value in the context of a condition. This end result is a rule that defines eligibility for each message and prioritization of these messages is defined within the strategy manager.

A central Market Helm concept is that of a message strategy.  Message strategies describe how messages are selected and prioritized.  With the strategy manager, the user can select from various business objectives defined in the system and give them a relative weight. Messages are associated with the objectives and an arbitration metric to specify how messages would be prioritized. For example, the arbitration metric might be Expected Revenue which is the product of the likelihood to accept the message and the message revenue. Once defined, the user can identify where within the customer interaction to use the message strategy.

Analytics are important in Customer Interaction Management. The user could pass in scores that are then treated just like other attributes, assuming these have been calculated using analytic models defined elsewhere, but Market Helm also develops some predictions on messages. Two self learning models are built automatically – the likelihood of a customer accepting (by channel) and the likely impact of the message on interaction length (longer or shorter). Each shows how different attributes contribute and can be used to prioritize the messages displayed.  These are just some of the analytics that can be used to determine the best message as users can create their own self-learning models. For example, if a customer accepts a contract renewal offer, an attribute might be the number of months that the customer agrees to remain a customer.  Hence the self-learning model could predict something like “Expected Number of Months to Renew”.  Another might be the customer satisfaction impact of extending an offer. This is a great feature as it lets users take advantage of analytics without the need to extract data into a modeling tool.

Market Helm is pre-integrated with salesforce.com and the customer data is passed automatically to get a set of offers or messages. The list is dynamic and varies as customer data changes. As the content of the message is HTML it can include links to additional pages and so on. The interface is all based on web services call for channels outside Salesforce.com.

Reporting is available for the messages, how they work in different channels showing counts, amounts, and response rates. Market Helm provides a basic drag and drop report building environment that builds reports that run against the live production data in real-time. Data is kept online for 60 days and users can archive the data for later analysis or use salesforce.com to log results themselves.

The ROI of inbound marketing solutions has always been significant, but so has the cost.  By leveraging a cloud-based solution that eliminates the need to procure hardware or learn a new programming language, even more companies should be deploying these solutions.

The GA version of Market Helm™ has just been released in January of 2011 and Helm is working on its first customers.  For more information visit www.markethelm.com. To schedule a demo, send an email to sales_jt@markethelm.com. You can also join them for a Feb. 3 webinar on Best Practices: Cross-selling in the Contact Center.  Register at https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/602540238


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