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Zalicon Valley or bust

Is proactive customer experience management the next frontier for CRM - or just pie in the sky?

Read time 6min 10sec
Trent Rossini (left) and Mike Renzon (right), inQuba, say the company is taking the art of customer experience and turning it into a science.
Trent Rossini (left) and Mike Renzon (right), inQuba, say the company is taking the art of customer experience and turning it into a science.

Building a South African company with globally competitive IP requires big hairy audacious goals, something that inQuba's Mike Renzon and Trent Rossini aren't short of. Brainstorm first met Renzon and Rossini in April 2011, when inQuba was in the early stages of its development. Now, three years down the line, the company has evolved substantially.

Says Renzon: "Most South African start-ups in the technology field focus on building a value proposition around other people's products or solutions, which they then take to market. The whole inspiration behind in-Quba was to build a local company with IP of a global standard that we could successfully export."

Some four-and-a-half years ago, Renzon, Rossini and co-founder Jon Salters identified the world of customer experience as an emerging space. "In the '80s and '90s, advertising was all about the brand," says Renzon. "In the 21st century, this has shifted and the customer experience became the next layer that people would look for."

Renzon uses the Nike story to illustrate his point: "When we were kids, if we needed running shoes, we bought takkies. Then Nike took that humble takkie, put a stripe on it, and poured a huge amount of money into above-the-line marketing. It used sports stars and celebrities to turn its products into mega-aspirational items. The next phase in that journey was to introduce the experience of Nike into local and sporting communities by arranging events such as night runs that bring people together."

A game-changer

Its shoes have also become about technology, which is embedded in Nike's products. Renzon elaborates: "If you can monitor and manage the data that forms part of the customer's experience, you can use that data to create a community that collaborates around that data set."

Nike does this very well by encouraging people to share online, use mobile apps and compete against each other in a virtual space.

Renzon's inQuba has distilled this strategy into the three Cs: communication, customer experience, and campaign.

Communication with customers can take place on social media, directly to people's mobile apps, by SMS, or even via USSD. The ability to communicate effectively across digital channels is a key requirement for being able to engage communities. Each of those messages must be orchestrated across the customer's call centre, mobile app, Web site, etc. The focus is on getting communication out to customers and orchestrating the coherence of that message.

Customer experience is about how customers navigate through a journey that's been designed by a business. That experience can be as simple as the credit application process at your local bank. "The ability to reduce the turnaround time from days to hours for a home loan application is a massive game-changer in terms of the customer journey," says Renzon.

The ability to reduce the turnaround time from days to hours for a home loan application is a massive game-changer in terms of the customer journey.

Mike Renzon, inQuba

inQuba's approach is to get more insight into the current customer journey, and then find out what customers would want if that journey could be redesigned.

"We use the notion of design thinking, so we look at the customer journey from the outside in, as opposed to from the inside out," clarifies Rossini.

"We design based on the context of the customer, understanding the customer's emotional reaction to the journey. It's essential to identify what you need to do to engage the customer on an emotional level."

"We're seeing a big transformation in the way companies are campaigning - or selling - to customers," adds Renzon. "The traditional way of campaigning is by using above-the-line methods such as TV ads, or even sending out bulk e-mail or SMSes.

"However, this is an antiquated way of doing things when you consider the amount of data and insights companies should and could have about their customers."

Three Cs

Renzon's inQuba has distilled this strategy into the three Cs:
* communication
* customer experience
* campaign

He refers to the Apple iBeacon, an indoor proximity system that tracks Apple users instore, can send notifications of items nearby that are on sale, and can see what they buy. "This is where the concept of big data comes into play - you use diverse data sets to make very good campaigning decisions based on information about what the customer responds to, what they've seen, what they think of your organisation. By bringing together presence, perception and transaction data, you can determine what would be the best decision in terms of selling to that customer in an intelligent way at that particular point in time," says Renzon.

"inQuba has built all of that capability into a single platform that covers the three Cs and brings them together within the fourth C - context. And that's where the magic of customer experience happens," adds Rossini. It's all about going back to the days when you went to the local bakery, they knew your name, your preferences and even which rugby team you supported. "People want to be known and they want to have a conversation," says Rossini. "A lot of CRM solutions take data and send information off to customers, but never know how they respond to it. We continually collect context in a variety of different ways about how they interacted, the channels they used, the transactions they did, and what their sentiment is. This enables us to understand them emotionally."

The numbers speak

"Our market share of advanced solutions in this space sits at about 75% of the South African market," says Renzon.

He cites two local examples of where inQuba's approach to customer experience management has benefitted leading organisations:

* In the financial services sector, one implementation increased the client's outbound call centre conversion rate from 7.5% to over 30%.
* An implementation in the telecommunications sector increased the call centre's first call resolution rate from 50% to 83%.

Renzon and Rossini are piloting their approach to customer experience management at some respected customers in the financial and telecommunications sectors in both the UK and Australia. Having carefully researched and identified partners in both countries, inQuba is making good traction in both markets. The hope is that in the next six to 12 months, the company's South African success story will be replicated in those countries.

The next step in the journey, says Rossini, is proactive customer experience management, where instead of just tracking the experience, the company proactively pursues engagement with the customer. Renzon elaborates: "The end objective is to be able to market a 21st-century customer experience for our clients as a competitive advantage for them, the art of customer experience turned into a science."

This article was first published in Brainstorm magazine. Click here to read the complete article on the Brainstorm Web site.

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