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Continuing Context Conversations at Enterprise Connect 2014

Prior to Enterprise Connect 2014 you may remember the prediction that "context" would be one of the buzzwords coming out of the conference. Having spent the week in Orlando at the conference, I will say that the topic was more of a low hum rather than a buzz. That isn't to say that customer context was a missing element of the conference. The topic permeated a number of notable conversations--especially when the customer experience was discussed.

An example was during the main stage event Disrupter Conversation: Transforming the Customer Experience with Next-Gen Communications. Moderator Fred Knight used the contact center as a metaphor for the enterprise. He asked the panel about big data, data analytics and marketing automation. Fred said, "I think the contact center is going to be really where a lot of this shows up."

From both the standpoint of the enterprise and the standpoint of the customer, Knight asked, "If bringing those things together is the answer, what is the question?" Knight queried, "What is the motivation and what are the enterprises trying to achieve?"

Barry O'Sullivan, CEO of the newly launched Altocloud, answered with the example, "From the customer point of view, you are in the mobile app and you want to get something done. You decide you want to talk to a real person. What you don't want is to start all over."

O'Sullivan said Altocloud is a software company with a mission of improving customer engagement and contact center experiences. "You want the contact center agent to know who you are, what you want and how best to help you." O'Sullivan continued. "Don't send the customer back 20 years to deal with the call center of the past. Take that context and give it to the agent."

The other member of the Disrupter panel, Matt Fulk, Senior Manager of Database Marketing, SAS commented, "When you think internally how to make the customer experience better, there's a couple of steps you need to take with your data." As marketers, he said, there's more data and more channels with which to understand and interact with customers than ever before. He said companies need to find a way to surface the information in a way that allows you to, "prioritize information, make decisions about it and act on it."

Fred Knight countered, "If I go back in the time machine, I've heard that promise for a long, long time." He asked, "What's different in 2014?"

"What's fundamentally changed is Web and mobile. Most journeys start in Web and mobile," answered Altocloud's O'Sullivan. Organizations capture all that data today. The problem with computer-telephony integration in the past is that it was keying on a very unreliable piece of data, the calling party number. That key linked into an incomplete database that had some of your customers, but none of your prospects, he continued. "The Web has changed everything," stated O'Sullivan.

The cloud is also a major factor, O'Sullivan explained. The cloud gives the customer the choice to either put all their data in the cloud or send metadata. As the customer traverses the organization's resources, O'Sullivan said, "What we do with predictive analytics and machine learning is learn over time what are the best journeys."

"The best journeys," for the customer, O'Sullivan continued, "are the ones that allow you to get what you want done." For the business, the best journeys are the ones that have good outcomes. "You give a good customer satisfaction score, you have a good Net Promoter Score for the company," said O'Sullivan.

Matt Fulk shared his experience that, "80 to 90% of your work is to look across your enterprise, understand where all the data is coming from and where customers interact with you." He said sources of this information include sales automation tools, contact center data, email systems, Web analytics packages and anything else you can think of that collects information that is relevant in your enterprise communications with customers. The next stage is marketing automation. "You need a good decision management tool on top of that data so you can effectively deliver a relevant communication to your customer," Fulk said.

Fulk explained that the benefits are not limited to improving the customer experience. He talked about the operational benefits derived by his organization. Prior to focusing on integrating data across the enterprise, Fulk said,"We would have to create all this ad hoc code, go to all these disparate systems to pull all this data together that is completely not standard," he commented. "When you go from that to integrating your data, having a marketing automation solution, the focus changes from deadline driven, ad hoc programming to now the customer is at the forefront," said Fulk. The end game is clearly the customer experience, but a goal to help you get there is big data analytics to help the organization, he said.

Reinforcing the point, the panel pointed to the big data and analytics companies participating at Enterprise Connect 2014, including Dun and Bradstreet and Oracle, among others, as examples of how the conversation about the application of customer context is increasing in volume.

In an upcoming post, I will give additional examples of how context was part of the background noise at Enterprise Connect 2014 and make predictions on how the topic will increase in volume and clarity in the ongoing era of the customer experience. To view the complete Disrupter Conversation: Transforming the Customer Experience with Next-Gen Communications, click here.