Sundeep Kapur doesn’t care where the data comes from, just what his customers will do with it.
As director of strategic marketing with NCR Corp.’s eCommerce group, Kapur works with banks, telcos, retailers and other firms to make better use of multiple channels and sources
of customer information to fine-tune their messaging. NCR recently released version 5.0 of its e-marketing software suite, Customer Power, which promises to take data from teller machines, retail checkouts, Web sites, customer call centres, bank branches and kiosks and apply advanced analytics to fine-tune marketing messages.
Pipeline recently spoke with Kapur about how Customer Power 5.0 is changing the personalization of marketing.
Pipeline: How did Customer Power evolve into its current iteration?
Sundeep Kapur: It originally started off as an e-mail marketing solution, getting basic e-mail messages across to their customers. As we worked with the cataloguers to put out, for example, regulatory notifications for banks, we also had to put out an alert or a notification that said, “Hey, your cheque’s going to bounce,” or things like that. So we started putting in more and more into the solution to the current stage where you’re using the electronic messaging media, but you’re able to render this message to the e-mail channel, to a banner ad that might be on a kiosk or the user’s PC. It could be to a call centre desk clerk so they know what type of offer to make out to the client. It could even be sent out to a point of sale machine. This way, you’re taking the data and transacting something out to them. And then the reverse would be true too, which is that you walk up and use an ATM, and based on a specific transaction at your ATM, you’re now contacted at your home, either through a banner or an e-mail, and the cycle kind of continues from there.
Pipeline: Is this really an opt-in scenario?
SK: It’s opt-in, but typically if you’re looking at an Internet banking site where you have transactional information on the customers, or if you have an account with a particular online banker, the online banker communicates with you with educational stuff about bill payments, alerts, notifications, things about your account. But what they’re doing is bundling in offers with that to you. So rather than sending you statement and stuff, they’re saying, “I track this customer, I know he doesn’t have offer A, but not C and E, so why don’t I bundle those in,” so the next communiqué you might get, you won’t get A, you’ll get C. The whole idea is that we’re rendering this now not just from the e-mail channel – though that’s where it originally started – but we’re using this to try and figure out who else do we send this to, and where? As far as paper is concerned, a couple of the customers we work with, including a major telecommunications provider actually does printed material as a last resort to its clients.
Pipeline: A lot of firms struggle with customer relationship management as it is. What kind of processes should they have in place to make this kind of marketing work?
SK: What might happen is you start with data that you’ve taken from multiple sources, and then you have this concept of a messaging broker that looks and sees that they have four messages for one client, and which one do they target that person with? A rules offer manager basically decides that, based on previously-defined rules by product marketing or business marketing people, it chooses that. We’ve got two approaches to this kind of solution. People can either do it in an outsourced manner where we take some of that transactional data with us, or they do it within their own environment where Customer Power allows for metadata feeds from multiple sources. We also allow for, say, a third party feed from an Equifax and bundling that in the decision-making process of how you’re going to send out and target a customer.
Pipeline: What do most customers do?
SK: We have had a lot of success with people who are using the Teradata eCRM product. I will give you a real-world example, and this one has been publicized before, but Verizon Wireless has taken data, it comes into a eCRM warehouse and they decide what kind of offer to make to what kind of customer, and the offer execution is done with the Customer Power engine. If a customer did not have that eCRM environment, we have a rules engine and a message broker that works with the offer manager to decide what offer to make out of it, but it takes a little longer than it would in a Teradata environment. But if you know how the Teradata system works, you run a query and it’s fast. In the outsourced version that we have, we give them the option of storing in a Teradata warehouse for them, or in an Oracle or SQL environment. And that’s usually based on what they feel comfortable with, and what kind of system they have on their side.
Pipeline: How does this technology change the speed at which marketers should be prepared to adapt or change their messaging to customers, given that they’re dealing with real-time data?
SK: There is a company in Atlanta called AllConnnect. And AllConnect allows you switch your power and water and utilities when you move. If I was to move from my home, I would be picking up the phone and calling my provider asking to switch my electricity. Well, they will transfer me to AllConnect, and AllConnect will identify themselves as a company that will take care of my move for me, but while they are doing that they will look at phone, television, banking, and essentially come up with myriad offers they can change for me. Every confirmation message that goes out to the client on behalf of AllConnect goes out using Customer Power and what we’re doing is we’re usually polling their systems every minute to see what data is out there. If I was moving from one apartment to another, I might get a free lamp coupon from a hardware store in my neighbourhood. But if I was moving from an apartment to a home, they might give me a $50 coupon to help me move from one home to another, or a credit card offer where the payments will be frozen for one year. So essentially they’re making different offers.
Now that’s on the phone, and AllConnect did a study of all the calls that come into their call centre, and one of the things they found is most people to do the first switch, but the second reason people call is to find out the status of their order. You can actually go online, put in your name and phone number and find out where your order is. If you do that, that’s a Customer Power portal that essentially serves up a Starbucks, or a Winn-Dixie (a U.S. grocery store) offer. They’re taking that data, trying to customize it and making it personal for them. We have collapsible data fields that we’re presenting electronically. If I determine that you’re worth marketing 12 different things to, you might get 12, someone else might get 15, and someone else’s attention span is really short, they might get two.
Pipeline: As marketing gets more personalized, how will it change the way customers expect to be contacted?
SK: We see this with some of the major retailers we work with. It used to be that it cost $2 to do a postcard to a person, and less than dime to do it electronically. And so retailers would say, “Oh, what the hell, I’m going to send out as much as possible electronically.” But some of the major ones are beginning to step back and see that by sending something out every week across multiple channels, I’m putting off the guy that would have purchased if I had contacted them within a two-week period. We work with a department store that will actually ensure that they are not contacting a household more than twice a month electronically, and applies the same rule with paper. It’s like if you were to use a Yahoo! or an MSN portal: you can customize it to what you want to see. As users you expect the company to have the technology and the knowledge to send to you something you are interested in. I personally see more segmented, more targeted, and fewer communiqués, and literally where the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.