Tracking customers Featured

4:38pm EDT August 30, 2006
Information technology and the many advances surfacing in this field are transforming the way companies do business. Much of this new technology is strengthening the relationships between businesses and their customers. Product and service suppliers are able to track not only their customers’ information, but they can also monitor market trends in terms of what customers are buying and when.

Smart Business spoke to Kevin Teeters, vice president of marketing with Mpower Communications, to detail this new world of information technology and the connection between IT and other services.

What customer preferences can businesses track using information technology?
Product Life Cycle — By incorporating advanced data-mining techniques, businesses are able to determine what customer segments are most likely to purchase new services based on industry, horizontal application, seasonality or any combination of those various factors.

Customer Migration — Comparing customer models to standard deviation metrics that have been established, an accurate forecast can be provided to determine revenue threshold levels that quickly lead to up-ticks in product migration. These models can be looked at from several perspectives, including applications, industry and employee size. These models provide the relevant information to help determine which customers may fall into ‘danger’ zones where their growth momentum is quickly outpacing their current telecommunications services. Special attention is paid to this group to provide the support necessary to keep them in line with their growth.

Customer Needs — Using the metrics from care centers, models are built to realize better customer need assessment. Now companies know what the highest priority request is from a specific demographic, and know how to quickly provide the appropriate response that manages the customer’s situation.

How can that technology help improve customer relations?
When a customer comes aboard, an extraordinary amount of attention is paid to capturing as much of the customer’s specific details as possible. This is consistent, from simple contact management to providing schematics of the customer’s network in one or multiple locations. This way, there are several layers of contacts for multiple situations that may arise and a full data file to help manage any expectations in regard to potential problems that could arise. The higher the quality of the data a company begins with, the better the customer’s experience will be over the long term.

Give me an example of how IT can track a customer from initial sale to the end of the relationship.
When an account executive begins a conversation with any potential customer, that customer’s details are kept in a data file that ties directly into the main customer management system. If the business decides to partner with Mpower, the information carries through our entire provisioning process, as well as any changes the customer may make to his or her account in the future.

How does IT factor into the emerging VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) market?
With VoIP, we’re finally starting to see a true convergence of telephony and IT services. Owners of businesses of all sizes realize several advantages from the implementation of VoIP services onto their IP network.

Highest among them would be control over costs, flexibility in terms of managing their calls, reporting capability in user management from a desktop, and the ability to have one common platform and a common dialing plan regardless of location. For instance, a company with a phone center in India, headquarters in Anaheim and locations throughout California can have one inter-company dialing plan for all of them. That is hard to do without the incorporation of telephony and IP networks.

Another advantage is the ability to combine voice and data on the same IT network. VoIP provides a very fluid ‘pip’, which is more efficient than the traditional circuit-switched network used commonly today. Data applications are easily layered on an all-IP network. Voice is packetized and becomes one of the data applications.

Who should business owners consult when considering incorporating IT tracking technology?
Most Integrated Communications Providers (ICPs) that provide hosted IP Telephony and IP services would be able to provide solutions in this regard. When a business is first starting to move in this direction, we generally look to one of our VoIP or IP trunking services as the framework to build upon. Small companies naturally want to avoid large capital expenditure typically needed for more advanced systems such as legacy PBX and IP PBX telephone systems. Still, they desire the next-generation services that VoIP and IP trunking can provide in regard to tracking and such. Providers that are going after the smaller business market are taking what larger enterprises enjoy typically and pushing their services downstream to smaller and smaller businesses.

KEVIN TEETERS is vice president of marketing for Mpower Communications in Pittsford, N.Y. Reach him at (714) 453-6705.