Getting personal on multiple CRM channels

By Jennifer Jones, InfoWorld |  Software

MANY ENTERPRISES have longed to use multiple channels to offer more personalized customer service. In particular, companies would love to offer the level of individualized service currently available to customers through simple Web applications such as e-mail marketing and customized content.

But so far the needed personalization technology -- mostly built around collaborative filtering and rules-based matching capabilities -- has been limited to the Web and perfected largely by the dot-coms.

Now CRM (customer relationship management) companies are looking to spread that capability across the enterprise.

"Vendors have started pushing toward the idea of taking personalization out of the online channel and doing things like hooking it up to the call center to determine the right content to deliver to customers," says Kathleen Khirallah, an analyst at Needham, Mass.-based Tower Group.

Khirallah, who watches CRM trends in the financial services market, has seen a decided push in this direction, she says.

In part, the movement is the result of the dot-com downturn. But it is also due to enterprises' growing demand for broader personalization capabilities. "Online personalization technology has been used to drive e-mail advertisement and content. In banking and in most enterprises, that is just not enough channel coverage," she says.

To that end, companies such as Xchange, an analytics-focused CRM vendor in Boston, have scrambled to create more comprehensive solutions. To do this, the company has built personalization functionality into its Real Time application.

Now customer service representatives at some of Xchange's larger corporate customer sites can use customer interaction history across all channels and data from CRM systems, transaction systems, and third parties to recommend marketing offers and service treatment, says Jim Goldfinger, senior vice president and general manager of Xchange's Customer Value Management business unit.

Goldfinger cites an example of an Xchange banking client: A financial institution was looking to identify high-value customers immediately and target them for heightened services, he says.

"Once the customer is identified on the teller's system, Real Time generates a real-time message to everyone in that branch office to make sure someone goes and says 'hello' to this customer," Goldfinger says.

Even Internet companies are now looking to push the boundaries of what personalization can do. Bill Bernahl, CTO of iExplore, a Web site specializing in "extreme" adventure travel, says his Chicago-based company built an entire business around personalization before realizing the functionality could work internally as well.

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