CRM vendor KANA, which held its North American KANAConnect User Group meeting last week in New Orleans, has added 1 million seats in the last year. They are riding the trend of companies which see customer experience as a key differentiator. Some 40% of KANA’s customers are deploying in the cloud. This has driven adoption for KANAExpress, the SaaS-based solution that Layered Tech, one of the sponsors of KANAConnect, runs on a CA AppLogic® cloud. The reason for this strong demand is clear: cloud characteristics are fundamental to meeting customer expectations for CRM. Here are 5 examples:
Channel Choice: Multi-channel support is hallmark of companies with excellent customer service, but multiple channels can lead to multiple silos without an integrated approach. Continuity across phone, email, web, text, chat, and social media leads to a seamless customer experience, which drives up both customer satisfaction and service agent productivity. Similarly, your cloud platform must break down the barriers between the silos of infrastructure that support your customer service applications. Servers, network and storage gear should be virtualized and managed in an integrated way. A cloud management approach that moves beyond using APIs and scripting can provide better response to customer demand and improve IT staff productivity.
Consistency: Customers expect consistent, service-specific information as they interact with support teams through various channels. The answer to a problem they receive via on-line chat should be the same one they’d receive via phone or web-based FAQ. In a dynamic market in which your knowledge base evolves regularly, you must efficiently distribute “gold standard” content across channels. Similarly your cloud platform must enable you to distribute content quickly and consistently, whether it is replicating a standard service from one customer to another, or rolling out a complex service across geographically distributed data centers. As you make upgrades to your service, a cloud platform that maintains the system of record centrally, and allows you to replicate it with a minimum of manual intervention helps you get your services to market fast.
Convenience: The dominance of the call center as the primary means of customer support is being challenged by social media and mobile applications because of the convenience of any-time, any-where access, and the demand for real-time interaction. By now, many people are undoubtedly familiar with this month’s story of the British Airways customer who spent $1,000 on a promoted tweet to complain about lost luggage. The exponential growth in calls, content, and collaboration strains the underlying IT infrastructure. Predicting the IT infrastructure capacity required for CRM is difficult since demand ebbs and flows as new products are released or recalled, or as promotions are offered. The ability of a cloud service to scale up and down as needed in order to support changing IT requirements is ideal for meeting this challenge. When volumes are high, capacity is provisioned. When it recedes, capacity, and the corresponding expenditure, is lowered.
Core Competence and Compliance: The above-mentioned factors clearly show the benefits of a cloud based CRM system. But most companies don’t have the core competence in building and operating a cloud platform. And most shouldn’t spend resources developing it. Focus on your core competence and find a trusted service provider who does have those skills. And because compliance is an issue when it comes to sensitive customer data, make sure your provider has the proper FISMA, HIPPA, or PCI certifications.
What do you think? How does cloud factor in to your CRM needs? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.