SaskTel soups up CRM efforts

In a move to improve the way it bundles services to its customers, Saskatchewan-based telecommunications firm SaskTel announced last month that it has selected a marketing automation tool from analytics software vendor SAS Institute Inc. to improve its customer contact and retention initiatives.

Specifically, the firm has acquired SAS Marketing Automation 4, which will enable the telco to more quickly and effectively create marketing campaign strategies, SaskTel said.

According to SaskTel, the solution will first be rolled out to support marketing campaigns for its high-speed Internet, SaskTel Max interactive services (broadcast over DSL) and digital TV service bundles.

The concept of bundling services is huge, according to Michael Woolley, manager, marketing intelligence for SaskTel. The telco is looking at customer acquisition in some markets and customer retention in others, Woolley said. For example, the high-speed Internet market has an established customer base and it’s more an issue of customer retention.

“We need to do that predictive modeling to build some good bundles that we’ll get some uptake on,” said Woolley.

Specifically, Woolley said the tool will be used as part the firm’s strategy to grow its broadcast-over-DSL product services. The SAS marketing automation tool, SaskTel said, can be used to generate daily campaign contact lists to make sure that SaskTel’s large volume data extractions are timely and accurate.

“It’s one of the first times where we’ve gone into the market as a new player and not the incumbent. We’re going against of the cable companies and looking for new customers,” Woolley said. Using the SAS tool “improves the ability to write marketing campaigns more quickly…(and) turns things around much faster in terms of how campaigns are delivered,” he said.

The project is currently in the pre-installation phase, Woolley said. Impact to the IT staff has been minimal, he added. “IT supports the actual database that it is querying against, but the actual tool is a stand-alone and there’s no training involved.”

The measure of success is in better managing the customer life cycles, Woolley said, adding that creating and maintaining working databases of customer behaviour allows SaskTel to better customize its marketing campaigns. The rollout will eventually be extended to SaskTel’s cellular and wireline divisions. “But that’s down the road,” Woolley said.

An offshoot of customer relationship management (CRM) software, marketing automation software provide tools for automating a wide array of marketing processes, including campaign execution, brand management, Web advertising and customer contact and retention, says IDC.

According to a recent IDC report, the marketing automation market is projected to increase significantly. The study, Worldwide CRM Applications 2004-2008 Forecast Update and 2003 Vendor Shares: July 2004, reported that the total market size for marketing automation software applications was pegged at US$1.49 billion in 2004.

Michael Turney, CRM program manager, SAS (Canada) in Toronto, said marketing automation tools such as the SAS software allow organizations to get a 360-degree view of customers and quickly employ analytical models to improve the effectiveness of customer interactions and marketing campaigns. The ability to quickly create marketing strategies that span multiple channels (including direct mail, e-mail and Internet) is a competitive advantage, Turney offered.

SaskTel was using a similar marketing automation tool that was reaching the end of its shelf life, Woolley said. The telco needed a tool with more flexibility and better integration with data mining tools.

Woolley said the software would also be a part of the firm’s compliance strategy. He said SaskTel would use the solution’s data management capabilities to help comply with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) regulations regarding customer contact.

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