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Linking e-business, CRM to the top and bottom line

NEW YORK -- In the technology industry, companies have to stay close to the customer's experience, needs and wants,...

according to Mary Whelan, vice president of e-business at Lucent Technologies, speaking at The Conference Board's CRM conference. She described Lucent's transformation into the "new world of electronic," which was all about customers, Whelan said.

"Every customer, no matter how large the corporation (that the customer works for), is always a person first," Whelan said. Many of Lucent's customers are large telecommunications companies, but Whelan noted that each customer has a person -- or persons -- that contact the company, and they are individuals that must be treated with respect.

Lucent tried to understand what the customers wanted from Lucent, which was a single view of the business, Whelan said. "Lucent has lots of business units that don't talk to each other," she said. Customers also wanted the ability to contact the company in any way it was convenient to them, according to Whelan.

But in order to sell the idea of e-CRM to the "powers that be" to get a budget to allow customers to access real-time information on their accounts, something that is a competitive advantage, the company needs to look at what is in it for the business, Whelan said.

The business would have the ability to bond with customers through one-to-one marketing, which in turn would lead to repeat purchases, opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell, a single view of the customer and a competitive advantage for the business by being able to meet the challenges of the rapidly changing markets, she said.

Lucent took the time to write a definition of CRM "to get clarity in what we were trying to accomplish," Whelan said. Lucent defines e-CRM as "a discipline which focuses on automating and improving the business processes associated with managing customer interactions in the areas of sales, marketing, customer service and support through a set of discrete software and technologies," she said.

Every area of the business shared the problem, according to Whelan. Customer technical support wanted a central list where knowledge of the customer was stored; the e-business side felt their biggest obstacle was the inability to report and act on customer transactions in one place; and the CIO felt that the company needed to create and maintain a corporate memory of individuals, she said.

Lucent then came up with eight steps to implement their e-CRM efforts, Whelan said. The first was to integrate customer knowledge. "The hardest part was that support is done in different parts of the world with not-compatible technologies," she said. "A data warehouse was the key to having translation capability."

Second in the Lucent formula was to focus on data intensive interactions, while third was to give customers media independence in their communications, she said. Step four was to personalize communications; five involved continuously updating knowledge repositories, she said. Sixth, Lucent built dynamic views of the customer; seventh, the company closed the loop on leads; and lastly, Lucent focused on protecting the customer's privacy, Whelan said.

"It is critical that customers trust us with data or they will not open up to (us)," Whelan said.

Lucent is planning to launch Lucent.com, their e-CRM provider for their customers, on April 6, 2001, which will feature a customer center and will require a log-in for customers to access personalized data, according to Whelan. Customers will receive a co-branded experience, for example, an AT&T technical support center, she said.

The page is built on eSight technology. Whelan estimates that more than 3,400 technical support calls are avoided per month, based on online tickets opened and closed, and it has a 35% growth rate per month in which calls are being saved.

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