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I recently wrote that Infor aims to reinvent business applications and its new developments make it a vendor to watch. I was therefore intrigued to have a demonstration of its latest marketing products, Infor Epiphany and Infor Orbis Marketing Resource Management. These are grouped on its website under customer relationship management, and I don’t usually spend much time on this category of products since for my research it is too inwardly focused and doesn’t impact the customer experience a great deal. However this briefing showed that for Infor it is not that simple.

On the surface both products seem rather conventional. Epiphany is an outbound marketing product that supports customer segmentation, list management, campaign execution, real-time triggers and events, reporting and analytics and predictive models. Orbis is a marketing resource management product that supports activity planning, capacity management, digital asset management, dynamic art creation (which helps create digital content), production workflow, creative approvals and marketing and financial analytics. In combination they enable companies to manage and assess the end-to-end process from setting up marketing campaigns to identifying the outcomes. But there is more. To meet the challenges of more complex marketing in today’s digital world, Infor’s Digital Multi-channel Marketing Suite combines these products with its Sales, Service and Interaction Advisor products. This package addresses customer experience management in an effort to create an omni-channel customer experience.

My latest research into the next-generation customer experience confirmsvr_NGCE_Research_12_all_current_channels_for_customer_engagement that companies have to support multiple channels of communication to keep up with consumers’ changing communication habits; this trend has accelerated in the last few years. These changes make it essential for companies to reassess their marketing, sales and customer service strategies. For example, digital customers don’t see ads on TV or in newspapers (having both downloaded to their smart devices, they can skip ads), and email or postal mail from unfamiliar sources goes straight to the junk folder or the trash.  Marketers therefore have to use alternative channels and fill them with eye-catching, personalized content to stand a chance of reaching their targeted audience. But the omni-experience requires more than supporting multiple channels. It also requires:

  • consistency of response across business units
  • content presented in the context of the customer journey (for example, a specific campaign aimed at the segment the customer fits into), of the channels used and across interactions (for example, personalized content in an email should be carried forward to a personalized web page and into a chat or conversation with a contact center agent)
  • personalized content that is directly relevant and timely.

To achieve all three objectives requires blending various technologies: multichannel communications, marketing, sales and customer service applications, analytics to produce of complete view of the customer and the outcome of interactions, a desktop application that makes it easy for agents to find the information and access the systems required to resolve interactions, and collaborative software that allows agents to collaborate with an “expert” if they are not able to resolve the interaction themselves. Infor’s response to this challenge is Customer Interaction Hub. While it doesn’t directly manage communication channels, through the Infor integration platform ION it is able to capture interactions and create a single repository from which interactions can be put into context. It is also used to create a single view of the customer containing records of interactions and application transaction data from marketing, sales, customer service and other business applications. This can be input for Interaction Advisor, which uses the information and a rules-based engine to optimize responses to interactions. And all systems and information can be accessed through a single desktop application that has been designed to support all types of users. Additionally the Infor collaboration application Ming.le enables approved users to collaborate on resolving interactions. Thus the company offers a comprehensive suite of applications that support proactive customer experience management.

My research into next-generation customer engagement finds that most companies struggle to engage with “old fashioned” customers as well as new digital customers, and at the heart of the issue is integration – of people, processes, information and systems. The Infor digital marketing suite goes beyond CRM as its Customer Interaction Hub blends marketing, sales, customer service and other applications into a package that enables proactive engagement across all touch points; its analytics can assess the performance of it all. There is no doubt that more needs to be done, but organizations should look at Infor and its comprehensive customer experience management offering.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director – Customer

I have written lately about how digital customers change customer engagement. vr_NGCE_Research_05_who_handles_customer_interactionsIt’s no surprise that at the heart of this change, as well as many others that impact business, is the Internet. Along with smart mobile devices, the Internet has changed the ways consumers engage with each other and businesses. In buying products and services, digital customers prefer to research them on the Internet, then buy online or at a store. They expect all activities to happen fast, perhaps in real time. Online commerce has helped support this business model for many companies but has not been as nimble to meet the subscription and billing demands needed today. If not, the Internet provides ways of helping customers express their opinions and feelings often and immediately. To adapt to this business will have to be able to support new methods of selling products and services to the market and support the rapid subscription and billing needs to capture revenue potential at any time of the day.

For example, software companies have moved from licenses and annual support fees to subscription-based services. Innovative companies have moved whole transactions online, such as streaming video to the home instead of renting videos from a store. More companies are adopting the telecommunications model of introducing packaged services that include multiple products and services, use-based invoicing, bundled pricing and volume discounts; cloud-based backup services are one example. These new business models impact the  customer relationship and require companies to connect marketing, sales, customer service and finance because as my customer engagement research finds, these and other business units all interact with customers but through different channels and at different times in the customer life cycle. The upside is that managed properly with the support of software, such services create opportunity to generate more recurring revenue, which over time will increase customer and financial value.

Aria Systems is helping company adapt to this change, providing cloud computing based software to support subscription billing for recurring revenue. It has achieved success supporting customers in multiple markets with capabilities to create a portfolio of services; these include capabilities to calculate use-based charges, produce and render customer bills through multiple channels or by linking with the company’s existing billing system, perform account reconciliation, analytics and support customer engagement through multiple channels. Central to the company’s product is the ability to recognize events (such as a new account created, a bill coming due, a billing issue or usage reaching a threshold) and initiate action based on predefined rules. In the latest version of the product, Aria takes this a step further, creating a platform or hub that brings together technical capabilities to support a more robust cloud-based offering. It has technical capabilities to improve data management and event management, functional capabilities to support recurring revenue business, and access capabilities to enhance both user and administrator experiences and promote customer engagement though assisted and self-service channels.

During a recent briefing I was able to asses the depth in the foundation layer that supports enhanced security and reliability, improved capabilities to support an ever growing number of compliance requirements, and options that support more deployment options such as hybrid on-premises and in the cloud. Earlier this year they announced support for business process automation that provides the orchestration levels to handle event management and include capabilities to define events, assign rules that determine what should occur when an event triggers, and advanced scheduling of actions and workflow to ensure actions are completed. The core functions layer supports capabilities to support recurring revenue requirements such as marketing, billing (including calculation of usage fees, discounts and bundle pricing), financials (either in-product account management or integration with existing ERP systems) and analytics. The access layer allows developers to configure the product, administrators to set up and operate the service, and customers to access information through a contact center or through self-service channels such as a customer portal or an e-commerce site. Aria also helps organizations streamline billing across indirect channels unifying the methods across an entire business and announced what they call Aria Unified Channel Billing.

New business demands and new consumer expectations are forcing organizations to change how they work. Companies have to optimize the customer experience and maximize customer value, and one way to do this is to provide more services that deliver recurring revenues. Aria has taken the bold step to provide products to support companies that focus on subscription billing and recurring revenue. I recommend that organizations evaluate its new offering as they look for new ways of conducting business and find products that support the transition to how business will sell products and services to the market.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director – Customer

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