Ventana Research defines Information Applications as the technology that unifies accessibility to all information including content and data in a range of channels including mobile, voice, web that can be easily accessed by consumers to employees through self-service and simple methods to search and retrieve information. My colleague recently discussed this need quite elegantly in Information Applications: New Focus on Information Availability. There are a couple of reasons why these are so important when it comes to improving customer management.
First of all in a benchmark research into customer information management I discovered a major disparity between how many systems business users believe contain customer data and the number that IT actually knows contain customer data. Business users largely believe customer data sits on average in 3 systems, which are typically their financial and CRM systems, and a large number of spreadsheets. On the other hand IT on average believe the number is more like 21 systems, which not only includes the ones business expect but systems such as network management, call routing software, knowledge bases, call recordings, survey data, data warehouses, e-mails etc. etc. It is therefore not surprising that business cannot understand why they can’t have a single or 360-degree view of the customer whereas IT knows it to be almost impossible to produce one that would contain all customer data.
In another benchmark research into customer experience management I found that the vast majority – just over 80 percent - of companies have identified that in these trying economic circumstances they need to improve the way they handle customer interactions i.e. phone calls, visits to the web site, IVR self-service, IM sessions, text messages, responses to e-mails and other written documents, and in doing so improve customer satisfaction levels. As well as getting these interactions to the right point to be handled, companies face the challenge that to improve their responses they need to know their customers better – this absolutely requires the 360-degree view so that either the person or technology handling the interaction can make more informed decisions on how to handle the interaction and achieve the best outcome.
The traditional way of overcoming customer data and interaction issues is both time consuming and expensive. In one way or another it typically involves lots of software development that uses published application interfaces – if they exist – to develop extractors that pull the required data from a file, place it in a data mart or warehouse and then build reporting and analytics applications that can extract information from the data. In the contact center space this often manifests itself as a unified agent desktop that replaces multiple application interfaces with a single interface that hides data access behind closed doors. Information applications have the potential to replace both of these traditional techniques. Based around technologies such as search, display, share and collaboration they offer the chance to access all customer data and display it in much more user friendly ways. They can do this with both structured and unstructured data such as call recordings and text-based files. And they can do it with a lot less software development, making them cheaper and faster to deploy.
Information applications are in their infancy, both within the enterprise generally but even more so in the contact center. But I recommend you follow new technology developments, as I expect them to have an increasing impact both in terms of producing the 360-degree customer view and improving the customer experience during the handling of interactions with them.
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Richard Snow - VP & Research Director