The Why of Customers

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Intelligence 360 has some good ideas baked in, though some of the messaging I heard wasn't up to the level of the product or at least its intention. I suspect that will come, and it's an easy fix.

The product set is divided into two major components, Discover and Engage. As you might intuit from the names, Discover is oriented to data capture from customer interactions, and Engage is about gleaning insights from the captured data.

What I like about the technology is that it supports some ideas I focus on in my new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, but You Can Earn It, specifically the idea of proactive personalization and contextual innovation using automation.

Briefly, by capturing customer data and analyzing it, vendors are better able to understand not simply that customers are nearby but why they are and what they're looking for. That's always been a tall order, not because we didn't understand what needed to be done, but because we didn't have adequate computing horsepower.

Those days are over, and if you need a proof point for what differentiates today from 10 years ago, this is a good place to start.

Like other analytics packages, this one can do a much better job of identifying buy signals (or presumably other signals, such as a problem) so that a vendor can be ready with a logical solution at an appropriate time. That's part of the automation angle -- automation is essential if you're dealing with thousands of customers.

The appropriateness of outreach is vitally important since so much of it happens by way of automation today -- a trend that will only increase. Customers may be forgiving of a human making an offer that's off base but less so when a machine does it.

360 Engage helps marketers craft precisely targeted messages and offers -- a critical requirement. Certainly there's a lot left out of this description, such as the availability of a content library for fulfilling those customer needs, and I refer you to the company for the nitty gritty.

The other part of my analysis, contextual innovation, is nicely handled too. Again, like other packages, SAS provides marketers with the ability to set up unique segments of their customers to better target offers. The power of the package and analytics in general is that, freed from a paper-based environment, marketers can innovate as needed to find and satisfy need wherever it can be found.

What I found lacking was mostly the company's messaging. I want to be fair -- the messaging was good, just not enough.

One principal area that I'd like to see more vendors address -- not just SAS -- is the concept of customer loyalty. You might think I'm banging my own drum a little too hard here, but the fact is that markets are very competitive these days, and customers have very easy ability to churn. Tools that keep customers happily engaged earn their keep by hanging on to revenue; therefore, the sales team has less work to do replacing it.

So loyalty is a big deal these days, and I wish we'd all pay more attention to it.

Interestingly, perhaps SAS' customers don't need to be hit upside the head with an old tire tool on this point because many of the customers that I spoke with came from retailers and other businesses that live and die on repeat business. I think they get it, but it's different for, say, a bank that hangs on to customers more through inertia than through personalization and innovation. Therefore, it's a message that's worth giving support to.

The last part of my analysis of customer loyalty involves customer journey innovation, and I don't know anyone who is using journey building effectively yet. Some vendors see journey mapping as a turbocharger for sales programs, but it can do more than that. For example, smart use of journey building helps everyone model the customer life cycle rather than the cycle of a marketing campaign.

I didn't see a solution for journey building from SAS, but that doesn't mean one isn't in the works.

SAS has brought to market a competent application that will help its customers to be present in their customers' moments of truth by analyzing their activity and formulating best next actions. I hope the application of this technology expands beyond selling and marketing, because there's a lot of knowledge to be gleaned from it that will help any vendor to be more present in customer moments of truth.

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, writer and speaker. His new book, Solve for the Customer, is now available on Amazon. He can be reached at denis.pombriant@beagleresearch.com. You can also connect with him on Google+.

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