SAS is a presence in analytics of virtually every kind and my colleague the broader value of SAS earlier this year. Only a couple of months back I wrote briefly about one of its newest offerings, Social Media Analytics. Since then I have had a chance to see this product in action. While the current version isn’t what I would describe as on the leading edge, it provides capabilities companies need right now. In simple terms it lets companies farm data from multiple social media sites (using extensions of its well-proven data extractors), processes these through a version of its core BI applications and then presents what consumers are saying about a company in ways that are easy to use and understand. Users can see customer sentiments about various topics such as company brand, products or services and get a view of trends and likely causes of changes of sentiment. Now that many consumers and customers are expressing their views through social media, this kind of information becomes vital to plotting future activities and helping to make smart decisions.
When I was invited to a briefing about Customer Intelligence, I naturally expected to hear about another form of analytics – customer analytics. Yet while Customer Intelligence does include a large element of customer analytics, its focus is supporting enterprise marketing. It contains all the sorts of modules needed to support marketing – campaign management, e-mail and mobile marketing, event-triggered marketing, and a mix of analysis, operations management, optimization, performance management and resource management. It also includes several analytics modules – customer experience, social media and Web analytics. Combining these two sets of capabilities enables intelligence-driven marketing so that companies can both optimize their marketing processes and also ensure customers receive the most relevant offers.
While all of these are of obvious benefit to companies, to me the most valuable module is Real-Time Decision Manager. I believe that today it is most important for companies to manage the customer experience while the customer is interacting with the company, no matter the channel. SAS Real-Time Decision Manager helps companies do that. It combines the company’s own customer interaction management strategies with SAS’s analytics and real-time business logic to deliver personalized decisions and recommendations to online interaction points such as self-service on the Web, agents handling customer calls and point-of-sales terminals. For example, it can advise contact center agents what to say next based on the customer’s profile, the business strategy for the customer segment and the nature of the call; this help can lead to optimal customer experiences and business outcomes.
This perspective leads me to question the messages SAS is using to position Customer Intelligence. In the vendor’s words, the product is about “plugging the Enterprise into Marketing” while “plugging Marketing into the Enterprise” and finally “plugging Marketing into the Customer.” In other words, it enables the enterprise to become more customer-centric by using customer analytics to provide the information to improve multichannel marketing. True enough, but I think this unnecessarily limits what Customer Intelligence can do, which is to use all available customer information to make better decisions during every interaction. Companies do need to break down the barriers between marketing, sales, customer service, the contact center and Web-based self-service and ensure they deliver consistent, personalized information to customers that will increase customer loyalty and thus better business outcomes. SAS Customer Intelligence has the potential to help them do these things.
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Richard Snow – VP & Research Director