In today’s economy, each customer is worth his weight in gold, quite literally. Retaining that gold is businesses’ highest order of the day. Perhaps it is not that remarkable, then, that customer experience is now a top focus of IT.
A recently released Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) study names quality of experience (QoE) measurement and monitoring among the top six trends in next-generation IT network management. But this is not just another piece of technology to buy or a mere Wiki to wedge in place. Instead, it is a process designed to view everything about the enterprise through the customers’ eyes. The end goal is to keep the customer happy so you don’t loose them to ever-increasing competition.
“If you are a techie, it’s like standing on your head,” said Dennis Drogseth, VP of EMA and co-leader of the study. “It’s all about how to capture the customer’s visceral experience and there’s no perfect way to do this.”
Drogseth says technology helps but you need dialog with customers as well in order to get the full picture. Metrics alone cannot deliver profit-busting consequences. “Fifteen percent of the people we surveyed use QoE to validate complaints. That’s a terrible idea because it leads to you to look at the data and say, ‘According to this, you must be happy, so go away’.”
Thus the dialog end of QoE is usually best handled through multi-channel communications and social media applications combined with other programs such is as found in the newly emerging CRM 2.0.
“The business process of CRM 2.0, forget the technology for one minute, is a continuation of the CRM mantra of building stronger relationships with customers,” explained Mark Rastovac, VP of Sales and Marketing at Technology Advisors, a CRM consulting firm in Chicago. “Whereas traditional CRM still feels like an attempt by a vendor to control an interaction, CRM 2.0 will instead strike out to build a true relationship between the customer and the vendor.”
In a CRM 2.0 world, he says, companies will have to share more information and provide the consumer with more power. In time, the theory goes, that relationship will earn trust and lead to more productive and profitable relationships. For now, though, the how-to remains a bit of a mystery.
“CRM 2.0 is still a relatively new concept with many far-reaching technology components. In this case, we feel the technology is actually able to outpace the practice,” said Rastovac. “For example, Wikis, blogs, and other social networking technologies are readily available today. But very few companies have figured out how to effectively use them to build those stronger relationships with customers that they seek.”
From the IT operations perspective, the dominant indicator of QoE is response time. “Intermittent service availability is less alienating than a bad response time. If service is down, the customer assumes a technical problem that will be resolved soon whereas bad response time is interrupted that the company simply doesn’t care,” said Drogseth. It is these subtle perspective differences that can make you or break you in customer retention and upselling. “Seventy-nine percent of the business and technology professionals we polled say it is increasingly important to use QoE for this very reason.”
Essentially, there are two approaches to QoE: synthetic and observed/passive. Drogseth explains that in the synthetic approach you run an app intermittently whereas in the observed/passive approach you continuously watch interactions within the applications. The first renders more granular information but can miss important indicators due to the intermittent checks. The second approach renders more information but lots of it to review. “Ideally, you need to calculate if not actually capture end experience,” said Drogseth.
No doubt the vendor list will continue to grow as companies aggressively seek to hold on to old customers and attract new ones in this increasingly tightening market. Since QoE is applied to so many areas of business, EMA categorizes QoE vendors this way:
Network centric (including VoIP, media, etc.) –
- Oracle/ Empirix
- Apparent Networks
- Fluke Networks
- Alcatel – Lucent Vital Suite
- Integrated Research / PROGNOSIS
- Mazu (security/ network)
- Lancope (security/ network)
- Blue Coat/ Packeteer (WAN optimization)
- Riverbed (WAN optimization)
- Expand (WAN optimization)
- Ipanema (WAN optimization plus)
- Clarus (maybe) VoIP
- Solar Winds
Application centric –
- Eg Innovations
- Zeus Technology
SLM/BSM centric –