Guest Post: 3 Ways CRM Predictive Analytics Can Give You a Competitive Edge

Customer relationship management software has emerged as one of the most crucial tools for doing business successfully today, and the power of big data predictive analytics is making CRM more powerful than ever. The CRM predictive analytics market, valued at $4.18 billion in 2014, is expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 12.83 percent, on track to be worth $7.65 billion by 2019, Markets and Markets projects. CRM analytics tools are in demand because they help companies predict market behavior, understand their buyers and make more sales.

Companies that know how to use CRM predictive analytics effectively have a major marketing and sales advantage over rivals who aren’t taking advantage of this revolutionary technology. Here’s a look at three ways CRM predictive analytics can help you gain an edge over your competition and take the lead in your market.

Predicting Customer Demand Surges

CRM lets you make predictions about future marketing and sales trends based on historic data. One important application of this is predicting what your customers will want and when they will want it. This can help you ensure that the products and services you’re selling are what your customer base wants and that you’ll have your inventory and staff prepared to meet peak demand times.

One of the most valuable uses of this approach is predicting holiday sales trends. For instance, most retailers center their annual sales around certain key sales days such as Black Friday, but a review of the actual data shows that seasonal sales peaks over the Christmas shopping season can last anywhere from 38 to 88 days depending on the market sector, explains Marketing Week writer Mindi Chahal. Knowing when your holiday sales peak begins and when it ends can make you better prepared to have sufficient staff on hand and sufficient items in stock to meet the surge in demand.

Understanding Your Target Market

Another valuable application of predictive CRM analytics is helping you narrow your target market. Traditional market research methods are effective as far as they go, but the amount of data they can manage is limited. Big data analytics can provide a more complete analysis of your market by integrating data from many sources, including customer purchase history, social media profiles and emails. This enables you to spot characteristics of your target market that you might otherwise overlook.

A good illustration of how this can be applied effectively is the type of recommendation engine used by companies such as Amazon and Netflix. By analyzing buyer behavior and demographic characteristics, these companies generate repeat business by making recommendations designed to appeal to customers’ buyer profiles.

Helping Your Staff to Make Data-based Sales Decisions

Just as recommendation engines can help your website optimize automated sales efforts to online buyers, CRM predictive analytics can also help your sales team make data-driven sales decisions when interacting with prospective buyers. Your sales managers can see who your hottest prospects are, as well as which of your top sales representatives are available for deployment. Your sales representatives can see data about customers’ purchase history, demographic characteristics and buying preferences, enabling them to make more effective sales presentations.

In order to use CRM tools effectively for these types of applications, your staff will need specialized training. Customer FX provides Infor CRM training to help companies make the most of CRM tools. Scheduling this type of training can empower your marketing and sales teams to put CRM predictive analytics tools to optimal use in order to boost your sales performance, grow your profits and gain an edge on your competition.

 

About the Author

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

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Avoiding the Failure Chasm: Gaining The Most Value Possible From Digital Transformation

Whether you are a CEO, a CIO, a CTO, a CMO or the head of Customer Experience, Customer Service or Digital Transformation, you know software can be an amazing invention. It can be part of the key to digitally transforming your businesses in so many ways. In fact, here’s just a few of the ways digital transformations can take shape…

Digital Transformation and Software can help in the area of human capital by:

  • Increasing employee engagement, creating a passionate culture, increasing productivity and motivation
  • Attracting the top talent, making your organization the sought after place to work and an awesome culture to be envied
  • Reducing attrition of talent you want to keep to make sure you are able to produce the best possible business results.

Digital Transformation and software can help business generate revenue by:

  • Developing incremental innovation of products or services from receiving feedback from employees and customers
  • Co-creating new products with input from customers and employees
  • Developing new business models by creating new products and services that didn’t exist in the company’s line of business
  • Generating new applications and uses for existing technology, products & services, i.e., moving them from the core business and finding adjacent/new markets
  • Increasing the customer lifetime value, i.e., increasing the amount and frequency of purchases per customer over the lifetime of a customer
  • Increasing customer acquisition by increasing market awareness of the company, it’s products and services by engaging customers and brand ambassadors through delivering content at the top, the middle and the end of the funnel through two-way texting, email, digital ads, banners, digital and social media… and
  • Increasing the brand’s equity, reputation and preventing a PR crisis and brand intervention projects and so much more…

Digital Transformation and software can help business reduce costs by:

  • Creating new products and services with more agile processes (vs. waterfall processes)
  • Improving an exiting process or eliminating redundant processes / steps
  • Reducing the cost of products or services that fail in the marketplace because now they have feedback from customers and employees way before the product hits the market
  • Reducing the cost of bugs or flaws in the product or service because of using more agile processes and outcome-based thinking
  • Reduction in contact center costs by increasing first contact resolution (FCR) by using the most innovative ways to engage customers and
  • Reduce customer churn by increasing customer satisfaction by better customer experiences and hence increasing customer retention….

Why Do Company’s Fail At Digital Transformation?

So just from that short list it’s clear there are so many ways software can enable a business to function at it’s very best. However, there is something that can get in the way of the effectiveness and efficiency of the actual software’s ability to deliver on the promise. What might that be? If the software is good, then it’s not the software. So what is it? How can you realize your company’s vision through digital transformation when over 80% of digital transformations fail. Nobody wants to spend the time, the money and the effort getting a project approved, implementing it only to find a year or five later that it didn’t produce the results it was supposed to. But surprisingly, this still does happen. Some of those reasons include:

  • The absence of a clear plan to achieve digital transformation
  • Lack of alignment between business and IT
  • Legacy systems
  • Siloed data
  • Gaps in talent and skills
  • Cultural resistance to change and
  • Group think (seeing the problem from the same perspective.)

How Smart Companies Are Avoiding the Digital Transformation Failure Chasm

Smart leaders need all the efforts of all their employees, as well as, feedback from their customers so they don’t fall into the digital transformation failure chasm. However, often times they are so busy doing what they have always done, they they might not see a new way of looking at things. That’s where another pair of eyes or hands or even a team can help. You’ve experienced this probably yourself. You are trying to solve something. You feel you’ve looked at it hundred different ways and nothing really new comes about. You might even show a friend or a team mate and they are stuck, too. Why does this happen? You are not alone. In fact, it’s quite common.

1962, Abraham Kaplan, then a Professor of Philosophy, was giving a speech to scientists in which he urged scientists to carefully consider their methods for their research. He emphasized that – just because certain methods happen to be handy, or one has been trained to use a specific method or trained to look at a problem from a certain perspective -it doesn’t mean that that method will produce the best outcomes. Sometimes people formulate problems that reach solutions by using those techniques they are especially skilled in. In other words, we tend to formulate our problems in ways that make it seem the solutions to those problems demand precisely what we already happen to have at hand. In Abraham Maslow’s The Psychology of Science, published in 1966,  stated, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The issue is the reliance or over-reliance on the familiar or the habit of using the same perspective.

Taking this concept into software development and implementation, José M. Gilgado, wrote a law  that is still relevant and highly applicable in 21st century. He observed, often times software developers and implementors, “tend to use the same known tools to do a completely new and different project with new constraints.” Why? They blamed it on what he calls the comfort zone, a state where we don’t want to change anything to avoid risk. What’s the problem with using the same tools every time? We get good at those tools and we like using what we are good at, right? The issue can become that you don’t have enough diversity when discussing the problem (because you are using the same perspective you’ve always used) so the exchange of diverging or opposite views is limited and the choices to look at the problem from different points of view are limited because there’s nothing new to compare it to. What would be better if is… to look for the best possible choice with varying perspectives, even if we aren’t very familiar with them. But we rarely do that. Rather, we fall into group-think.

There’s some very interesting research by a professor at the University of Michigan, Scott E. Page who studies complexity theory. In his book, The Difference, he shows how the power of diversity creates better groups, firms and business outcomes. We all differ in how we see and interpret the world. How we code things is our “perspective.”  Scholars from a variety of disciplines have studied how people and groups make breakthroughs. The bottom-line? Encouraging and working with diverse perspectives. For example, do you know how pins came to be manufactured? Adam Smith ran one of the first brush factories. Someone saw that the bristles could be cut off and made into pins. That’s what I mean about seeing things differently. Most people would have looked at a brush factory and saw a brush factory. But the first pin factory was imagined by seeing that diverse perspective – seeing the world differently – seeing the world as a forest of pins – provided the seeds of innovation.

What does your team need? You’ll want to engage and partner with a new set of diverse senior advisors and specialists who are dedicated to your success, who use unrivaled expertise, processes and methods to make your business more agile. You’ll want to make sure they are the kind of people who thrive on guiding your team so your team learns the key principles to create and sustain change. And you’ll want to choose the most powerful technology platform to be the basis to fuel your transformation for today and far into the future. With all of that, and a collaborative team culture you can:

  • Align key leaders around a digital transformation strategy
  • Implement the right framework to move forward
  • Create the agility needed in today’s digital environment and
  • Adopt new technologies faster to keep pace with change.

Often it is –outside, diverse points of view– that are just what is required to steer you clear of the failure chasm, and instead have an immersive engagement based on a proven approach that combines people, expertise, culture, and technology. You want to be working with people who are uniquely able to help a business realize their visions and co-create the future by:

  • Exploring the art of the possible by
    • Leading with out-comes based thinking (OBT begins with defining a desired outcome, no matter how bold or provocative. It’s fundamentally different from problem solving, which looks at the current state and attempts to improve it)
    • Inspiring design-led thinking (instead of solving a problem, your team becomes solution-focused and action-oriented towards creating a preferred future)
    • Testing new strategies (vs. setting a plan and sticking to it for a year and then realizing they’ve wasted a year or more on something that isn’t going to work; maybe even trying a little experimentation to see if something could even work)
    • Sparking agility throughout the organization, igniting the whole culture’s motivation in whole new ways, giving them a renewed sense of purpose and outlook on the future and feeling they have the dream job and a reason for showing up other than a paycheck!
  • Building your digital capabilities by
    • Improving your operating model (and maybe even shifting the revenue model to something you’ve never considered, but it was the innovation that was needed to grow the company exponentially)
    • Growing the competitive advantage; as the Blue Ocean Author’s would say, you’ll want to create new, uncontested market spaces making the competition irrelevant
    • Stimulating breakthrough ideas that transform business as usual and
  • Creating sustainable transformation by
    • Creating a customer-first culture
    • Managing complex changes and
    • Continuing the processes required to innovate, iterate, pivot and grow.

How do you find such a group? Look at their DNA. Is it digital? Are they a natively global, mobile, social, cloud, community-oriented company? Are they trusted advisors who put the customer first and teach them to fish? Do they experiment, try new things, iterate and pivot quickly when it doesn’t work and tweak things till they hum? Do other companies desire to be like them and wonder what technology they use to be so innovative and wonder how is it, they do what they do? Are they super customer focused? As my friend and colleague, Peter Coffee would say, “Do they create a sense of urgency, hope and glory? Or conviction, belief and desire in your team? Are they all about (and seriously about this, it’s not just some words on a website or a brochure) connection, collaboration and innovation?” If you want to learn more about how one group guides business through digital transformation, here’s more info on that!

Until next time, here’s to realizing your vision and the best possible future for your company, your employees, your stakeholders and the planet. It’s all of our jobs to make the world a better place. And what better place to do that than starting with businesses? That’s where people spend a great deal of their time! So make it a fabulous experience for employees and the customers will feel the love. You will be their go to source for all your customer’s products and services. Don’t give them reasons to leave you, Give them reasons they can’t possibly give you up. Because… at the end of the day, that is what drives customer lifetime value. No customers, no business. It’s really that simple.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff

VP, Program Executive, Innovation and Transformation Center, Salesforce.com

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Guest Post: 10 Of The Best Best Marketing Tips From Apple

If you’re in the business of developing new and improved ways to market your company, we have 10 tried & tested strategies for you, that worked wonders for Apple.

Everything from customer service to brand message and pricing, Apple incorporated have built their empire with the following marketing techniques that are not only simple but also very effective.

Speaking of simple – how intricate are your current marketing campaigns? Complex enough that your target audience quickly switches off?

Learn to speak the language of your buyers and keep your campaign message direct and straight to the point.

A great product speaks for itself, and in saying that, the best marketing campaign will highlight all the features and benefits whilst omitting price details. The very reason Apple never engage in a price war is because they focus heavily on the quality of their product. And people are willing to pay the price for a product they believe is of high calibre.

So if you´re ready to launch your product to the next level with the same tactics used by the leaders in technology, read on this infographic by The Website Group to discover just exactly how Apple became so successful through marketing.

About the Author:

Ashley Phillips is Managing Director of The Website Group, a UK based Digital Agency specializing in pay monthly business web design, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Social Media Marketing.

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Guest Post: 4 Ways Technology Can Boost Your Customer Service Experience

In a mobile-oriented society where consumers thrive on social media and have come to expect instant communication, technology has become an increasingly important key to delivering effective customer service. Companies are using technology to meet customer demands for omnichannel support and access to online knowledge bases with a goal of differentiating their brands through customer service. Eighty-eight percent of companies feel they’ve made good or excellent progress toward delivering modern customer experience. Telephone support, online service and mobile service are some areas where companies are increasing their technology investments. Here’s a look at some technology tools you can use to improve your customer service experience and boost customer satisfaction.

Cloud Contact Centers

Today’s foundation for delivering effective omnichannel support is the cloud contact center. Cloud contact center solutions such as 8×8, Altitude and Aspect provide a single platform companies can use to centralize online, chat, phone and email support. This type of central platform enables your support team to deliver a seamlessly-integrated experience to customers even when a ticket moves from one channel or agent to another. Cloud centers also make it easier to deploy remote representatives, giving you more agility and cutting your expenses for on-premise support.

Self-service Tools

The most important customer service option you can provide to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction are tools for self-service like online knowledge bases answering frequently-asked questions. Seventy-five percent of consumers see self-service as an effective way to address customer service issues, and 67 percent prefer self-service to speaking to a company representative, a Nuance survey found. Only 40 percent of consumers contact customer support to resolve their issue after consulting an online knowledge database, meaning you can reduce your service volume by more than half by providing self-service options.

Live Chat

For service issues that don’t lend themselves to self-service, live chat is one of the best contact channels you can offer. Live chat delivers the highest satisfaction rate of all service channels, with 73 percent of customers coming away satisfied from live chat experience, compared to 61 percent for email and 44 percent for phone. Chatbot tools such as Pandorabots can also help you streamline your customer service workload by automatically handling many of your support tickets and improving the efficiency of ticker routing to human representatives. 1-800-FLOWERS found that deploying a chatbot to place orders on Facebook and direct other inquires to human representatives, used in conjunction with voice-command tools such as Alexa and Watson, boosted revenue in addition to increasing efficiency.

Phone Tools

While automated tools such as knowledge bases and chatbots can help you reduce your service workload, it’s also important to have live phone support for tickets that require a human response. Being unable to reach a live person is one of the most frustrating customer service experiences, and failing to provide this option will greatly reduce your customer satisfaction levels. To optimize the efficiency of your phone support, you can use an 800 number in conjunction with a menu system that automatically routes calls to the appropriate department. Structuring your menu options based on your customers’ most frequently-asked questions can greatly improve the efficiency of your phone service. To identify your customers’ most common concerns, monitor your site search bar and online knowledge database’s most frequent search terms and design menu options that correspond to these topics.

About the Author

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

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B2B Customer-Centric Strategies

Customer-centric strategies have been the mainstay of B2C companies like Amazon and Google. But today B2B the landscape of business-to-business relationships is changing. Industry-leading B2B companies increasingly respond to intensifying global competition by putting customer-centricity and experience at the heart of the strategy. For a very many B2B companies, across many sectors, the growing influence of customer-experience strategies and the bold moves of customer-centric leaders pose a critical challenge.

Traditionally, being successful in the B2B arena has been largely a matter of being in the right markets, offering superior products and services, or being the lowest-cost producer. These advantages have come under threat from increasing global competition and many players have invested in functional excellence. But while these benefits are great, they are dissipating quickly as competitors tap the increased mobility of labor markets and expanded access to knowledge.

This is why the emerging battle in B2B will be fought on the smart combining of digital and non-digital transformation to improve customer experience. A holistic, cross-functional transformation of a company’s core, including its culture, enabled by digitization offers a significant opportunity for differentiation and competitive advantage, especially as new competitors fluent in digital tools move into the B2B space. The trick is striking the right balance between digital and human interaction in B2B’s more complex customer relationships.

Investing in improved customer experience pays dividends. We have seen companies substantially raise customer-satisfaction scores through significant improvements in operational performance. These improvements can lower customer churn by 10 to 15 %, increase the win rate of offers by 20 to 40 percent, and lower costs to serve by up to 50 percent. In parallel, as customer experience improves, employee satisfaction tends to increase as well, because a more direct connection with customers adds meaning to employees’ work and helps them witness customer satisfaction.

Business-to-business customers are already demanding a better experience. In a recent McKinsey survey of 1,000 B2B decision makers, lack of speed in interactions with their suppliers emerged as the number-one “pain point,” mentioned twice as often as price. And digital solutions loom large in executives’ thinking as a way to make routine tasks more efficient. Some 86 percent of respondents said they prefer using self-service tools for reordering, rather than talking to a sales representative.2

Yet the reality at most B2B companies is far from this vision. Many companies often need days to provide a quote, require customers to fill in complicated order forms (often on paper), and frequently leave customers in the dark about the status of their order.

 

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What’s the Number One Number Thing Today’s CEO’s Must Do? Do the OODA Loop Faster and More Innovatively

What’s the Newest Requirement for a CEO? Do the OODA Loop Faster and Better!

You would think it would to generate revenue, profits and reduce costs. Think again. It’s all about iterating and pivoting like a start-up. And who better than a former fighter pilot to teach CEO’s a thing or two about making quick. So I want you to meet John Boyd, who was among many things, a military strategist, colonel and fighter pilot whose theories are highly influential in the military, sports and business.

So why bring up Colonel Boyd in the context of CEO’s and their need to be nimble? Because investors and boards have transitioned from desiring quarterly profits (something that has driven Wall Street and corporations for many years) to searching for leaders to those who have the ability to disrupt their industry or die. What did the fighter pilot, Colonel Boyd used to make those decisions to do something out of the ordinary? He created a framework known as the OODA Loop:

  • Observe (M—ake the best use of the information and other intelligence resources available right now)
  • Orient (Quickly put the new observations into a context with the old)
  • Decide (Make quick decisions and take the “next actions” based on a combination of observations, current knowledge and intuition), and then
  • Act on those decisions to carry out the selected action(s), ideally— while the competitor is still observing your last action so you beat them to the punch!

OODA Loop

                                         Photo Source: Larry Paul

Above is a video from Ralph Mroz on the OODA Loop as applied to business if you want more information!

Observe, Orient, Decide and Act Is Known as John Boyd’s OODA Loop

As a fighter pilot, John had to make decisions in nano-seconds. With this framework of observe, orient, decide and act he way able to describe a way to iterate and pivot, very quickly, and decide if the object in front of them is friend or foe. Not doing so could mean life or death. It could also mean the end to a critical mission.  What does the OODA Loop mean to a CEO? Iterating and pivoting is also mission critical. Just ask the CEO of Ford Motor Company, Chief Executive Mark Fields. He was a 28 year old veteran of the business and was replaced by someone the business thought would be able to disrupt the automotive industry very quickly!

The Message is Simple: Do the OODA Loop Faster or Die

While Mr. Field’s did what most board’s used to expect of a CEO’s, i.e., he returned consistent profits, he did’t make enough changes fast enough. His OODA loop was too slow. But he didn’t know what he didn’t know. He, as many other CEO’s don’t realize that the winds of change are changing all around us. Like in most any industry, the car market has entered into the era of transportation.

It’s no longer just about building and selling a car. It’s about car-as-a-service. Think: ride-sharing (think Lyft, Tesla and ReachNow (by BMW.) It’s also about taking the traditional gasoline engine and transforming it’s power source to be an electric vehicle. And it doesn’t stop there. Some companies are disrupting the industry by experimenting with self-driving technology, making investments in connected cities (think BMW and Santa Monica, CA.) And at the same time Ford’s stock sank. 

How Fast Does Your CEO do The OODA Loop?

How fast do decisions get made? How fast can the ship be turned? Today, with the need to act quickly, the message is simple. We are in an age of rapid disruption by the software and tech industries. A leader of any company has to pick up the tempo and make riskier bets sooner… or die. While it was Mr. Field’s intention to set Ford on a path to be part of the new, emerging auto industry, he just didn’t do it fast enough.

Since Mr. Field’s took over three years ago, the share price of Ford is down 40%. As a CEO, as yourself, “Are you disrupting yourself, your company and your products fast enough? Are you really changing anything or are you just doing the old stuff just faster?” These are not easy questions, but ones that we all need to contend with. Consider you are one company and your are disrupting yourself faster than your competitor. What happens to the competitor?

ooda loop faster to drive innovation @drnatalie

                                                             Photo Source: Larry Paul

As a CEO, Are You On Track?

In military operations, OODA loops takes place in nano-seconds. In corporations, its decisions are often slower. In the old days, strategy was rigidly followed till next years’ planning cycle. But today, that’s no longer an acceptable mindset. And it’s critical to validate we’re on track and if not, correct it. Using a model like the OODA Loop, along with design-thinking which requires to you go and talk to your customers, your employees, customer’s of your competitors, to industries that are similar to your and industries that have nothing to do with yours.

It’s where the kernel of the seeds of innovation are hatched, born and grown into a full idea. The results of your actions become the observations to re-orient you to make your next decision. Quickly repeating the OODA loop equals success. And as you are doing this, you want to make sure you are making real-time changes that are just changes to make changes, but change to create a “Blue Ocean Strategy.” As defined by the author’s of the book, Blue Ocean Strategy, CEO’s need to quickly create an uncontested marketplace, where the competition is irrelevant.

Who’s Slow to the OODA Loop?

According to the article by Christopher Mims of the Wall Street JournalRonald Boire of Barnes & Noble, GNC Holdings’ Mike Archbold and top executives at three of the six major Hollywood studios making changes faster is very important. Where to look for inspiration? According to Mr. Mims, unlike large corporations, startups don’t need decades to make the changes the businesses need to succeed in the new world. They are nimble, they are always iterating, pivoting, changing, trying new things, not being afraid of conflict…

What does this mean for established companies? They will need to take drastic measures to do the OODA loop faster. What kind of drastic measures? According to the article, these CEO’s must be willing to tell their stakeholders they may have to lose money and cannibalize existing products and services, while scaling up new technologies and methods. Not the same old dog chow most CEO’s having been dishing out.

How Can a CEO Get On Track?

It used to be that you could acquire the start-up that was trying to put you out of business. But in today’s market it takes more than that. Companies that are disrupting the marketplace are growing so quickly, capturing so much market share, they don’t want or need to be acquired. And they can become too valuable to buy or are unwilling to sell. So the questions for you, as a CEO, “Is do you have systems to monitor/measure what employees know, think & feel about what is going on in the business?”

They are often the ones on the front line that really know what is going on and what needs to be done, or at least what isn’t working. “Do you really know what your customers know, think & feel? Or do you have a cordial relationship where the “real deal” is not really discussed?” Honest, conscious conversation is where it all starts. Many people have made careers by learning how to manage-up well. That’s not a bad thing, except when you aren’t telling the CEO the truth about what the troops think, feel and know. But there has to be a cultural environment that always you to be able to safely say the things. That’s not always the case.

And, as a CEO, “Do you take that information that you have gathered from your employees, your customers, all kinds of sources and integrate it into your company?” One of the best ways to stay on top of the game is to monitor social and digital media. If you have a digital / social media command center, where all the top news and information is brought into one central place, you can begin to digest a new picture of the quickly changing landscape very easily. You’ll also want to keep your ear closely attuned to what is happening in the start-up world, regardless of whether it is Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach or Silicon Edge or…

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

To me, all of this sounds like something very familiar to those of us who came from the voice of the customer or quality. Remember Deming, the father of Quality who was pushed out of the American Auto Industry? And then only to be invited to Japan and make their automative industry soar? What was his secret sauce? To listen to their customers and the employees. To make really changes to their products and services based on that feedback!

Start Incubating Innovation

Today, companies must incubate disruptive ideas within their own corporate cultures. And this is not easy, because often it means supporting them as they grow into something truly disruptive. The company might have to absorb their losses. For example, for its first 20 years Amazon made almost no profit. But iterating, pivoting and incubating is not enough. A CEO must maintain the existing business at the same time as they innovate. This is a new and rare skill.

So where best to learn how to think like an OODA Loop CEO? Find a group that help take you through thinking differently, through a design-thinking process where you never know what will come out of it, but it always spurs innovation. You have to cross the chasm, from how you normally do things, to how things have never been done before. That’s a lot of change, so it’s also important to develop those ideas and new innovations in the culture where change and honestly is accepted and appreciated.

@drnatalie

VP, Program Executive, in the Innovation and Transformation Center 
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Guest Post: How Cloud-Based Predictive Analytics Gives Companies a Competitive Marketing Advantage

Monitoring and fine-tuning analytics are becoming essential to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. Case in point: Business intelligence analytics software sales will reach $18.3 billion in 2017, a 7.3 percent increase from last year, Gartner projects.

By 2020, the market will be worth $22.8 billion and analytics will be mainstream, Gartner forecasts. This means your competitors will be using analytics. Here’s how getting on board with cloud-based predictive analytics now can help you gain a lead on the competition and increase your bottom line.

Optimize Your Marketing

A great advantage of analytics software is that it gives you the ability to objectively measure the effectiveness of your marketing by tracking key performance indicators, explains Silvon Software director Pat Hennel. Some KPIs you can easily track include:

  • Sales revenue
  • Cost per lead acquisition
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Online marketing ROI

Tracking KPIs enables you to see which of your marketing campaigns are generating the best return on investment so that you can reallocate resources to those efforts rather than non-performing ones.

Similarly, you can identify which marketing channels are yielding the best results so you can focus on those media. You can also see which demographics represent your best customers to emphasize those target markets and gear your sales themes toward benefits that will appeal to them.

Refocus Your Sales Efforts

Another benefit of cloud-based analytics tools is the ability to combine them with customer relationship software to better leverage your sales efforts. By analyzing your organization’s lead database, you can better identify which prospects are qualified leads in order to deploy your sales reps accordingly. From there, you can identify which prospects are furthest along in the sales cycle and more likely to convert into a sale.

You can also analyze customer sales history to identify which customers represent your biggest revenue sources and best repeat buyers. You can then prioritize these customers and develop sales strategies specifically geared toward them.

Personalize Your Sales Presentations

Combining cloud-based predictive analytics with CRM tools can also help you personalize your sales presentations to make them more persuasive to individual customers. In fact, you can review a customer’s history of past purchases to see what types of products and services they prefer.

For example, Amazon displays offers based on what the customer has previously browsed or purchased and what types of products have been purchased by other people who browsed or purchased the same items.

You can also study individual purchase patterns to identify their shopping style and what types of factors influenced their previous buying decisions. For instance, one customer might be more likely to respond to a certain type of added-value benefit, while another might be more likely to respond to a lower price. You can then supply this information to your sales representatives so they have a better idea how to appeal to that particular customer.

Increase Customer Satisfaction with Superior Service

Cloud-based analytics can also enhance your sales and marketing efforts by allowing you to track the performance of your customer service teams, which is key in achieving repeat business and referrals. Cloud-based contact center platforms, including Aspect Zipwire, let you track your customer service performance across multiple channels (e.g., phone, email, online chat and more), giving you a comprehensive perspective so you can make any necessary adjustments and improvements.

To track your customer service performance, you can then set up KPIs. Customer performance KPIs you can track include overall satisfaction, the number of resolved issues, average resolution time and complaint escalation rate.

 

About the Author

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

 

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Want to Know More About Machine Learning and AI?

Wondering whether you should invest in AI and Machine Learning? That’s a question that the most innovative companies are considering. Why consider it? One good reason is because your competitors have already started. If that doesn’t give you some reason to get motivated, I hope you get started before you are put out of business. To make sure that doesn’t happen, there are  a few things to consider to help you start to explore an investment in machine learning.

It’s the Data, Stupid

Of course, as with any business initiative, you’ll want to create value. And this can be done using machine learning systems. But for those systems to provide value, companies will need to begin by evaluating their organization’s data maturity, but more importantly their readiness to accomplish its data-driven goals. Company’s need to start with an audit of their data warehousing, data scientific research capabilities, data governance and data hygiene. In addition, it’s important to look at the sources, uses, volume, and veracity of all your date, meaning your first-, second-, and third-party data.

Garbage in, Garbage Out

Why is making sure your data so clean? Machine learning is basically taking a computer and making it smart enough to learn from the data it’s fed. We are essentially programming machines to learn. The goal is that after a certain point of time, the computer is able to predict further data. How so? Let’s pretend you want to make your computer predict the weather. So to begin, you might feed the computer weather reports of every hour of every over the past year. What you might end up with is– because the temperature (z) depends on day of the year (x) as well as the time of the day (y), more than two-dimensional curve. In fact, weather is random, so the equation generated by the computer won’t just have 3 variables (x, y, z), it may also have higher powers. So depending on the number of factors in a prediction and the randomness of the outcome, the complexity of the curve can increasingly get more complicated.

So back to the data… And I know you know the story about data: garbage in, garbage out. So hopefully, now you see can why good, clean data is so important to prediction. As the computer is taking the data you feed it to make future predictions, those predictions dependent on the data you are feeding it. So you want the very best data possible. And it takes super computers which are capable of handling large volumes of data, as well as the ability to learn fast and to make fast decisions based on the learning it under goes.

AI and ML Are Not The Same

Often times Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are used interchangeably. But they are actually different. Artificial Intelligence is the broader concept of machines being able to carry out tasks in a way that we would consider “smart.” Machine Learning is the application of AI based on the idea that we should be able to give machines access to data and let them learn for themselves. Artificial Intelligence devices (devices designed to act intelligently), are often classified into one of two groups: 1) applied and 2) general.

Applied AI is far more common. Applied AI is about systems designed to intelligently trade stocks and shares or drive an autonomous vehicle. Generalized AI is may up of systems or devices that, in theory, can handle any task. And are less common. However, this is where some of the most exciting advancements are happening today.

Deep Learning is A New Area of Machine Learning Research

It was introduced with the objective of moving Machine Learning closer to one of its original goals: that of being Artificial Intelligence. So essentially Deep Learning is a subfield of machine learning concerned with the algorithms inspired by the structure and function of the brain called artificial neural networks. Deep learning has worked it’s way into business language via Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data and analytics. Deep learning is an approach to AI which shows great promise when it comes to developing the autonomous, self-teaching systems which are revolutionizing many industries.

The Two Big Ideas: It May Be Possible To Teach Computers to Learn and The Internet is a Source of a Ton of Data

Arthur Samuel, in 1959 is credited as the one who came up with the big idea that it might be possible to teach computers to learn for themselves. That would be in contrast to teaching computers everything they need to know about the world and how to carry out tasks. The second big idea was that the Internet, with huge increase in the amount of digital information being generated, stored and could be used for analysis. So the scientists and engineers realized it would be far more efficient to code computers to think like human beings, and then plug them into the internet to give them access to all of the information in the world.

Neural Networks Are Algorithms

Neural networks are a set of algorithms, modeled loosely after the human brain and designed to recognize patterns. The development of neural networks has been key to teaching computers to think and understand the world in the way we do, in addition to the innate advantages they hold over people such as speed, accuracy and lack of bias. So a Neural Network is a computer system that classifies information in the same way a human brain does. It can be taught to recognize, for example, images, and classify them according to elements they contain. It works on a system of probability – which means that based on data it’s fed, it is able to make statements, decisions or predictions with a degree of certainty. The addition of a feedback loop enables “learning” – by sensing or being told whether its decisions are right or wrong and then can modify the approach it takes in the future.

What Can Machine Learning Applications Do?

Machine Learning applications can read text and work out whether the person who wrote it is making a complaint or offering congratulations. They can also listen to a piece of music, decide whether it is likely to make someone happy or sad, and find other pieces of music to match the mood. They can even compose their own music expressing the same themes, or which they know is likely to be appreciated by the admirers of the original piece.

These are all possibilities offered by systems based around ML and neural networks. The idea is that we should be able to communicate and interact with electronic devices and digital information, as naturally as we would with another human being. And another field of AI – Natural Language Processing (NLP) – has become an exciting area of innovation in recent years, and one which is heavily reliant on machine learning. (And yes, my initials just happen to be NLP, but that doesn’t really mean anything… just a happy coincidence…)

Where is Used?

Take Google for instance. Google is using it in its voice and image recognition algorithms. It is also used by Netflix and Amazon to decide what you want to watch or buy next. And it is also being by researchers at MIT to predict the future.  While Machine Learning is often described as a sub-discipline of AI, we might look at Machine Learning as the state-of-the-art of AI. Why? Perhaps because it is showing the greatest promise to provide tools that industry and society can use to drive change.

More on the practical uses of AI and ML in the future. For now, noodle on that!

@drnatalie

VP, Program Executive, Innovation and Transformation Center

 

 

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Guest Post: 5 Loyalty Languages to Boost Brand Loyalty

In the age of instant gratification, brand loyalty is not what it used to be: Today, you can get your groceries delivered straight to your home, request a ride across town via Uber or Lyft, and turn to a service like Amazon Prime to bring nearly anything else you want to your doorstep.

Indeed, our culture has grow so accustomed to relying on technology for just about anything that many people are quick to jump ship and move on to the next trendy app or service if it promises better convenience and service. While customers stand to benefit due to strategies developed by such forward-thinking companies, this proverbial arms race is causing brands to completely reconsider how to craft messaging and marketing initiatives.

Business strategy experts at Accenture recently conducted a study on this very subject in order to identify the latest strategies to reach customers in our digital age. Here are the five loyalty languages that Accenture experts found to be the most effective at establishing brand loyalty.

Tailor Your Approach

Customers value companies that can custom-tailor the shopping experience for them. Whether it’s deciding between a pair of custom-designed Vans or Nike sneakers or a monogrammed handbag from Madewell or Longchamp, customers appreciate the option to make a product their own — and this appreciation tends to yield brand loyalty.

Customers also value brands that communicate with them through their preferred social media channels. This is why it’s so crucial to use a broad range of social media and marketing initiatives to get your message to your customers in a manner that establishes convenience and loyalty.

If your company struggles to manage effective customer service, consider using a cloud contact center that offers workforce management software. This can help your company to stay in contact with customers 24/7 — from virtually any location — to better track their wants and needs.

Offer Rewards

Accenture’s research noted that nearly 60 percent of consumers feel loyal to brands as a result of being offered rewards for their patronage. Receiving free gift cards and promotional discounts with a purchase are strategies that have proven effective for creating brand loyalty.

While you may view these rewards as an expensive undertaking, it’s actually a short-sighted way of looking at the issue. Instead of focusing on the cost of offering rewards, think of how much more business you’ll enjoy over time by sending small tokens of appreciation to customers when they least expect it.

Provide an Experience

Millennials in particular value new experiences over “things.” To effectively reach this market, you can invite customers to co-create with your brand as well as assist and inspire the design of your products and services. By eliciting customer feedback and putting it into action, you can build loyalty by showing customers that their opinions matter to you.

Partner with Influencers

Today’s consumers also appreciate companies that aim to model the same behavior and charisma made popular in pop culture. One highly effective way to build brand loyalty is to partner with social media influencers and celebrities who your audience idolizes. An estimated 23 percent of survey respondents in Accenture’s research noted that they tend to remain loyal to brands that partner with celebrities and social media influencers.

Share Your Connections

Finally, trying to operate in a silo — and not always thinking outside the box — could be a detriment to your business. Partnering with other non-competing brands that attract a similar customer base is a great way to reach new consumers. It’s also a show of good faith to your current customers to connect them with other useful products and services that can make their lives a little easier.

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Innovation & Disruption In Delivery: Could Your Next Amazon Delivery Be By a Drone?

Ever Had a Package Delivered Late, Not at All Or To the Wrong Address?

One of the most irritating issues with ordering online is whether the package gets delivered and to the right address and on time. I know I’ve experienced this a number of times and what’s interesting is that, as customer’s we don’t always think about the delivery service as the issue, but rather it reflects poorly on the company we by the product from. How to fix this customer experience issue? One option is to deliver packages to consumers’ homes using drones. Could this allow companies to bypass the challenges with that last step of the delivery? It might be for delivery to people’s homes. It might not work at apartments, though, because the drone can’t get into the apartment building. Or can it?

What customers may not know is that the last leg of the delivery is the most expensive and inefficient part of parcel delivery. Customers don’t often think about that the product has to go from a store or warehouse, to the shipper’s delivery center and then from there, be deployed to the customer’s address. It is often not the place you bought the product from that is having the issue. It maybe who their delivery service or services are. It could be the individual who works for the delivery service. I know I personally had package delivered to an address that was similar to mine, but not mine. The individual was new to the delivery route and got mixed up. I had to run after the delivery truck, stop them and tell them they delivered to the wrong building. (I had gotten a text my package was delivered, but it was not on my doorstep or at the post office boxes for my building.) And since this happened more than once, I knew what had happened.

What’s the Solution To Better Customer Experience Delivery?

E-commerce companies, like Amazon, are using drones to speed up the this last part of the delivery process, while cutting costs. The result? Improving the customer experience, customer satisfaction and loyalty. And what’s interesting is even legacy retailers could take advantage of a similar process to grow online sales.

So What’s the Hold Up?

While there are many obstacles to overcome for instance, drone regulations, the development of autonomous flight and traffic control systems for drones, as well as consumer acceptance, there are companies actively trying to figure this all out. For instance, Amazon is working on drone delivery, depending on when and where they have the regulatory support needed to safely delivery packages. They want to use drones to deliver packages to customers around the world in 30 minutes or less. In fact, they have Prime Air development centers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria, France and Israel.

Amazon Prime @drnatalie

Photo Source: Amazon

They believe the airspace is safest when small drones are separated from most manned aircraft traffic, and where airspace access is determined by capabilities. To learn more, you can look at Amazon’s airspace proposals here: Best-Served Model for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Revising the Airspace Model for the Safe Integration of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Disruption to Delivery Logistic Firms

As e-commerce providers like Amazon look for solutions within their own company, many logistics providers are experimenting with drone delivery. These firms also seek to cut costs as well as ward off competition, whether it’s from startups, technology companies or e-commerce companies. In fact, FedEx is betting on automation to Fend off contenders like Uber and Amazon. The shipping giant is investing in autonomous trucks and is interested in delivery robots, drones and an Alexa app. And while there are attempts to get this right, those of us in the innovation space know that #failfast – iterating and pivoting is the key. In my book, it’s ok to fail. You can’t learn what you don’t know, you don’t know unless you try. Trying means you learn something each time. Though the concept of failfast is very popular today, if we look back at Edison, it took him 9,999 times to get the filament for the lightbulb to work on the 10,000th time. What if he gave up? We’d all be in the dark!

How Is Amazon’s Prime Air Trial Drone Deliver Program Progressing?

Amazon have started with a private customer trial, to gather data to continue improve the safety and reliability of their systems and operations. As they gather data, this will bring them closer to realizing this how to use this innovation for all their customers. Does weather affect the delivery? Currently, Amazon is permitted to operate during daylight hours when there are low winds and good visibility. However, they are not using it when it rains, snows or in icy conditions. They feel they need to gather more data to improve the safety and reliability of their systems and operations to expand the offering. They are working with regulators and policymakers in various countries in order to make Prime Air a reality for customers around the world.

Video Source: Amazon

Where Can you Find more Information On the Disruption and Innovation Drone Delivery Can Provide?

In a new report, BI Intelligence examines the benefits drone delivery can provide as an e-commerce fulfillment method. In the report, they look at the different approaches companies are taking to experiment with the new technology and processes involved in this new delivery process. In addition, they look at the key players working in the drone delivery space. And have researched the challenges drone delivery faces in reaching mainstream adoption.

Will Your Industry Be Disrupted? Every Industry Should Be Thinking It Will Be Disrupted!

As I was giving a talk on disruption and innovation, I had many questions from what would be considered very standard legacy firms. What they need to be careful of is being aware of the fact that somewhere, in someone’s basement or garage, someone is probably working on a project that will disruption their industry. It’s customary to do the ostrich: stick you head in the sand. But doing so will only make you a dinosaur, (extinct) if you are not careful.

Disruption and innovation are all around us. Just look at what happened to the taxi industry. Not only did Lyft and Uber transform how customers’ order, receive and pay for rides, but they disrupted an age old industry that had not changed for years. And take GM for instance. They make cars. But they decided to look at cars as a service and invest $500M in Lyft to be part of the cars-as-a-service industry.

Disrupt Yourself or Die

Instead of being one of those industries or companies that waits until an upstart disrupts their revenue model and takes marketshare, why not start innovating within your own company. Too many companies are complacent or don’t have the skills to think outside the box. If you don’t, it may want to seek out a firm that can you help you think through this new and confusing new frontier of design-thinking, innovation and disrupting yourself — as a company and as a person. No one wants to be the company that had the leg up on IBM and caused it’s own demise: i.e, nobody wants their story to go down like Digital Equipment Corporation: DEC.

“Digital Equipment Corporation achieved sales of over $14 billion, reached the Fortune 50, and was second only to IBM as a computer manufacturer. Though responsible for the invention of speech recognition, the minicomputer, and local area networking, DEC ultimately failed as a business and was sold to Compaq Corporation in 1998. The  fascinating modern Greek tragedy in book form by Ed Schein, a high-level consultant to DEC for 40 years, shows how DEC’s unique corporate culture contributed both to its early successes and later to an organizational rigidity that caused its ultimate downfall.” Don’t do a DEC.

@drnatalie

Natalie Petouhoff

VP, Program Executive, Innovation and Transformation Center | Salesforce.com

 

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