When companies start to fret about customer service and marketing budgets as their bottom lines redden, Markham, Ont.’s Delano Technology Corp. hopes they will look to its new e-marketing and services suite for relief.
While following up on past sales, Delano noticed that many customers were using the company’s existing e-business software platform to build to build their own outbound marketing campaigns, create surveys and newsletters, and manage inbound responses, said Elizabeth Caley, the company’s senior director of product management.
In response, Delano released Customer Velocity in late April 2001 as a flexible, scalable, shrink-wrapped tool to speed up and automate these customer service issues and exploit marketing opportunities, she explained.
“Situations that are a good fit for Delano are ones where flexibility and velocity are the key drivers – where marketing is yelling at the IT group: ‘we need to be able to do this in the next two weeks because there’s an event coming up.’ That’s where Delano’s out-of-the box solution thrives,” Caley said.
Shrink wrap aside, Velocity’s do-it-yourself customization – at a business-rules level, rather than at code-level – was a key point for Nouman Mufti, CIO of CNC Global, a Toronto-based IT staffing firm that has been running Velocity for about three months.
“We have 1,000-plus active consultants throughout different organizations, a huge database of 250,000 active candidates, hundreds of clients, and every week we were getting 1000s of new candidates and resumes, and we needed a tool to effectively communicate with all four of these groups,” Mufti said.
So far, CNC has found that Velocity’s e-marketing analytics (the underlying engine runs the marketing campaigns), and its e-mail routing and response features, for both internal and external communications, have worked quite well. Although CNC hasn’t yet run the Delano system hard enough for any weak spots to show up, Mufti said that integration into their existing 20-server Windows NT environment has gone smoothly.
According to Caley, Velocity is designed to slot into an enterprise’s existing IT infrastructure, and work on any run-of-the-mill mail server, Web server and SQL database.
“Essentially it (requires) one additional server that you would put into either a Java or a C++ environment, but for very large implementations there is also a solution where we can cluster several machines together,” she said.
Although Delano is a mid-size vendor playing in a very competitive e-service market, Mitchell Nitzan, a Stamford, Conn.-based senior researcher with analyst group Gartner Inc., likes its basic platform. He particularly likes that Delano has included its own analytics with the e-service component.
“Unlike some of the other vendors in this space, like Cana and eGain, who started from the e-mail management side and added additional technology through acquisitions and mergers, with Delano all of the functionality comes from the product they started with,” he said.
Nitzan also explained that the predominant consumers of this type of technology are players in the business to consumer field.
“We’re really seeing a big push for advanced technology Internet-based customer service in financial services and telecommunications. They are (focused on) offering any channel possible for their customers to interact with, and they’re the ones who are cutting the least amounts from their budgets for CRM and e-service activities,” Nitzan said.
Even though the complexities of connecting to its proprietary back-end system meant that CNC paid more for Velocity than its starting price of $250,000, Mufti still expects to see a return on investment in 12 to 18 months.
By offering a solid methodology for Web self-service, and following a philosophy of “call- and e-mail-avoidance,” Nitzan believes that many organizations employing e-service packages with the richness and functionality of natural language processing and an AI can realize an ROI even sooner.
“When you look at the cost structure (of customer service), phone is the most expensive, followed by e-mail, followed by chat, and the least expensive is one where the customer is serving themselves. The worst scenario for everyone is when the customer sends an e-mail and gets no response, or an incorrect response, because then they pick up the phone and call, and [the company] has just tripled its expense for this particular interaction,” he said.
Although CNC Global initially approached Velocity more from the marketing side than from a CRM perspective, Mufti’s ultimate goal is to use the software, to “complete the circle” and fully automate interactions between job seekers, employers and consultants.
When the job database finds a match “the managers will get an e-mail, and they just have to click a button to tell the candidate, and the email says ‘here’s a job for you – if you’re interested just click here,’ and the application is made. In these (economic) times, when there are a lot more candidates coming in we can’t [employ] 2000 people sitting on the phone constantly,” Mufti said.