RIM, SaskTel focus on customers with analytics

LAS VEGAS — Global competitiveness, even during the recession, didn’t take a break. Everyone has had to do a better job of running their company, thanks to the intersection of globalization and the economic downturn, said Bill Green, chairman and CEO of Accenture PLC, during the SAS Premier Business Leadership Series being held here this week.

So how are companies competing and differentiating themselves? “We have the answers, but they’re trapped in the data,” said Green. “The competitive margin is so narrow [yet] the ability to differentiate on the margin is so important.”

It’s not necessarily about getting more data, but bringing together the data you already have in-house and “freeing” it. “If you have talented people with a set of facts and the right information you have the opportunity to win,” he said.
This has been a challenge for many Canadian companies, including one of its tech innovators. “RIM has a lot of data, so it’s a fantastic place to be in analytics,” said Sarah Tatsis, senior manager of quality assurance with Research in Motion Ltd. And for company’s analytics team, the goal is quality — not so much from a manufacturing standpoint, but from the perspective of customer satisfaction.
“RIM is in a tough spot,” said Tatsis. “We have an eight- to 12-month design cycle, but only sell those products for eight months and then we’re on to the next product launch. It’s not easy.”
But there doesn’t have to be tradeoff between innovation and quality, she said. RIM is looking to integrate analytics within the design process, so it doesn’t slow down innovation, since dealing with problems post-launch is reactive.
“When it’s reactive, it’s not necessarily addressing the root cause,” said Tatsis. It takes the accountability for quality out of the design phases, and it doesn’t address the root causes of the problem when, ultimately, it’s cheaper to do so. And it doesn’t take advantage of all the data a company has throughout the concept and design stages, she said. “That’s where we want to move toward.”
While they can predict how many devices are returned because, for example, an LCD screen is not working, they can’t correlate that data with why the LCD screen is not working  — whether it’s a new supplier, a manufacturing process or something else.
“You don’t know what you need to change,” said Tatsis. “It is less effective and costs more to fix a quality problem the further you are along the product lifecycle.”
RIM is using analytics from SAS to drive action pre-launch, post-launch and at the end of life. For example, if they wait another week to ship a new product, what impact would this have, and what are the tradeoffs between cost, schedule, sales and quality? RIM is moving toward continuously updating predictive models, embedding metrics in the design process at the point in time where decisions are being made. The company also wants to combine unstructured and process management data.
“We want to move to customer satisfaction, but this is a tough metric to create,” said Tatsis. “Getting the technology into the company was tough, having to go through legal and red tape. But we’re much better off than we were a couple of years ago.
SaskTel is another Canadian organization focused on improving customer service, and using analytics to get there. Owned by the provincial government, the telco has been around for 100 years, expanding into TV over broadband and wireless services to become the province’s incumbent provider. But Rogers has penetrated the wireless market in Saskatchewan. And in Regina and Saskatoon, Shaw has dominated the cable market. That means SaskTel needed to step it up a notch on the competition front.
SaskTel is using SAS’s Marketing Automation suite to manage its marketing campaigns, automate credit service management and send out customer surveys so they’re not inundating customers with too many offers (or the wrong ones).
However, SaskTel has a legacy system in its wireless business, which doesn’t talk to its other systems, so the telco is going through the process of data standardization using SAS DataFlux to create a “golden record,” said Mike Woolley, manager of marketing analytics with SaskTel.
“Right now, we’re cobbling together links,” he said, and that’s been a challenge as SakTel moves toward standardization and automation of customer data. However, the company has already come a long way, and he believes it’s on target 80 to 85 per cent of the time. But, as they continue on this path, that will increase to 100 per cent. The company is also looking to do sentiment analysis on call centre data, as well as analyzing unstructured data to measure customer loyalty. “I’m dying to get at that data,” he said, He also wants to deploy text mining.
So far, Rogers has only managed to capture 18 to 20 per cent of the wireless market in Saskatchewan, said Woolley, which he believes is much lower than in other provinces. And on the cable side, SaskTel has become a significant competitor to Shaw in Saskatoon — so much so that Shaw is stepping up its marketing efforts because it now sees SaskTel as a real competitor. And that, for Woolley, shows that analytics is working.
“There’s so much opportunity on the table in terms of getting to know customers better,” said Tom Davenport, author of Analytics at Work and professor at Babson College. “I go to Expedia and look at fares and then go directly to the airline. When is Expedia going to send me an email saying, ‘Why are you abandoning us?’ There are lots of opportunities for the dog that doesn’t bark.”


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