Wednesday, June 19, 2019

AI Case Study, Gaining Traction in Auto Sales


One can't go anywhere today without hearing about AI, but I would say that half of it is around projecting how AI will be affecting our future and the other half is about data focused approaches. While there is nothing wrong about these discussions and articles, most of us are more interested in the results of AI which represents a family of approaches and algorithms in action to apply to business and everyday problems. Even though there are three major approaches to AI with data-driven, algorithm-driven, and process-driven (click here to read more), this case study is all about the algorithms in action in the highly competitive field of vehicle sales.



The Challenge:

Most dealerships rely on a variety of different internal tools, outdated systems and virtually no predictive technologies to mine their customer profiles leading to limited insights and frustrating sales initiatives. There are both algorithm and data issues implied in this challenge, but the predictive nature of this case study stood out.

This Solution:

There was a two-pronged approach employed to uncover hot prospects and close deals that were not intuitively obvious. First, a dashboard was installed to suggest specific talk tracks to personalize the potential buyer's situation when a prospect was being engaged. This is a sensitive approach that made the prospect feel cared for when discussions happened by design in an outbound manner or in response to incoming calls. For outbound prospecting customers were sorted according to their Behavior Prediction Score (BPS) which armed sales folks with the right marketing approach at the right time to elicit action. Dealer employees were aided and more prepared for calls or visits building confidence in the sales process.

The Result:

The obvious result is a better relationship with clients, but on the whole, sales were up for several dealerships. The typical numbers are a 15% increase in retention sales, a 3% increase in service-to-sold related sales and a 3% increase in new customers, varying on brand and dealer size. The hidden benefits were around cost savings during these efforts to deliver these impressive increases. The ROI was 15 times better and the costs of campaigns were 20% of previous efforts. 

Net; Net:

While there was a dynamic interaction of algorithms and data, the prediction characteristics were the secret sauce here. As organizations compete on algorithms and AI in the future we will see more algorithm driven success. Data is important, but it will be the co-pilot of success.

This Case Study was implemented using automotive Mastermind 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Is Automation the Tip of the AI Spear?

AI has a lot of opportunities to flourish, but what will be the major thrust to put AI into action?  Will it be the study of data to find interesting and essential patterns for organizations to act on?  WIll it be to assist organizations to make better decisions? Will it be the demand to make processes smart enough to adapt to customer expectation? My assertion is that automation will be the thrust that many will get behind. It's the one thrust that executives can get behind because they can get benefits early thus obviating risk. Let's look at the two sides of this assertion.



Automation Will Be the Key Driver of AI:

If you look at the traditional use of technology, it has always been about automating manual tasks or making resources more productive. Why would it be any different now? Organizations are always looking for cost advantages. Right now the economies are clicking despite all of the rumors of wars (trade or otherwise). This means that AI can contribute to many channels of benefit without any significant impact on the bottom line. In fact, more attention can be given to things like better customer experiences and more effective decisions. Just watch what happens when the economy cools off.  Automation will take a strong march across the organization. The MBAs and CPAs will unite to drive costs into a corner. Executive management might give a nod to other efforts with a wink, but you can count on automation under all scenarios.

Automation is Just One of Many Drivers for AI:

Sure automation is a no brainer for investment, but narrowly focused executives will be blind-sided by the customer excellence movement. This time the movement will also be active during any economic down coming our way. The notion that business can dictate a clunky experience and expect a positive response is sorely wrong. There will be those organizations that will stand in the breach of balancing customer wants and goals with organizational goals. These organizations will also value adding AI to customer journeys that even span beyond their four walls. The key touchpoints and moments of truth will need AI to stay adaptable in real time. These savvy organizations will be looking for patterns of success, even in down economic times.

Net; Net:

While I believe that a balanced approach is the better approach, cost-saving automation will always go ahead of everything else initially. The key is to make sure automation does not dominate to the point of stealing the future of good customer relationships sowing the seeds of the ultimate destruction of some organizations. Convenience and customer excellence will win the war over time. Let's not inflict pain to our customers, but let's combine smart journeys with the power of process automation.  Let's keep organizational and customer goals in balance folks and remember that smarts are necessary everywhere!



Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Top 5 Helpful Improvements for Sales Engagement Software

While most front line sales professionals would say that they are getting much less out of Sales Engagement Software than they put in terms of time and effort. See my previous post on the problems that sales professionals have with Sales Engagement Sofware by clicking here  The good news is that there are some efforts that can improve the experience for front line Sales Folks. Here are my "Top 5" improvements that I have researched to date. These ideas will require some skin in the game from executive management, but the investments will pay off large.




Key Personnel Information:

Every prospect or customer that salespeople have to deal will have specific needs, likes, dislikes, and attitudes. Why not share this information if known. Some organizations build a contact database with key pertinent information and places to write comments like "This contact is totally cost focused" or "This person is a strategic operation focused person" or "This person hates to be smoozed". The corporate knowledge about your prospects or customers needs to be captured and shared. Sales professionals need to be armed with contact information even if it is unstructured information and they appreciate insightful tips.

Market Segmentation Information:

Every organization that exists lives within a context. How does the target organization compete within its market?  What are the management philosophies, culture, and corporate charter? Who are the likely competitors that might be circling to sell to competitive products and services? What's the history with this account over the last ten years? What are their planning and budget cycle seasons? Is this a learning institution and who do they feed trained people to? Information about the targets competition would also add value to sales efforts.

Product/Service Utilization Information:

For existing customers that you want to sell more to has used your organization's products or services. How often do they reorder? Is there a way to view the inventory to suggest that they might be getting low. What are the consumption and spin down rates of inventory? What are the organizations planning horizon for readiness? What are the real satisfaction scores (not just answers on rigged surveys)? What products are a real hit and where are the hotspots around lagging results with your products or services?

Integrated Sales Playbooks:

Your organization has some proven methods or playbooks that are representative of best practice for selling. If playbooks are even available, are they available through the sales engagement system? If not, can they be linked to in a convenient way? Are there patterns to these plays and how they might apply to the prospect or client? Are there success stories documented in the playbooks to encourage the sales staff, particularly when their managers are pegged for time and they are unavailable to coach in a timely manner.

Next Best Action Suggestions: 

Having smart software (AI / algorithms) to assist sales folks is a great help particularly if there are large amounts of data/information or the data is changing in near real-time from multiple sources. Can a sales professional decision assistant be built to take in the data and information to suggest some alternative next steps? These can be large scoped or spot advisors taking into account recent prospect/customer activity or emerging product/service offerings/features. These kind of decision advisors are starting to emerge out of the digital assistant movement.

Net; Net: 

Powering salespeople with Sales Enablement Software takes much more than buying software and demanding that sales just fill in data for management control. Sales folks want something back and assists to help them close new deals or expand existing footprints in customer organizations. I'm sure there are more ideas that would make sales professionals feel like they are getting something back from sales engagement software.













Monday, June 10, 2019

Sales Enablement Software Doesn't Help Sales Much

I hear it from all the sales representatives I know. They hate their organization's sales enablement (aka sales engagement) software. All they do is put lots of data into the software and they only get micromanagement from their sales managers in return. It's a real burden. Why should companies keep investing in building data stores instead of real customer relationships?  Why are sales and upper management so detached from reality? What's wrong with this picture?  There are at least three things really wrong here.



The Illusion of Control:

The Sales Department is one of the most expensive organizations in an organization and it drives bean counters and top management crazy. "This needs to be controlled," they say. By making the sales professional more responsible, they will get better and management will have a better handle on the real situation in the field. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your sales folks are more interested in the relationship with the customer and how their own organization is going to help them close sales. Sales folks will reluctantly fill in your data, but you will not have more control because they put in just enough to appease management. Sales enablement software doesn't help sell, but it can help train green sales folks.

The Illusion of  More Data:

There is a falsehood around collecting as much data as possible so that the big picture folks can make better decisions and direct sales. While some subtle data hints and senior experience can help in certain situations, most sales managers use the data against the sales representatives. You're most successful sales representatives do not need to be over-managed with data. Collecting data that would help the sales professionals would be better than collecting data for data's sake. Sales folks put in a lot of data and virtually get nothing back. When will the data be used to help the salesperson close?  It's pretty much a one-way street right now.

The Illusion of Understanding Customers:

Managers, equipped with masses of data, think they understand the customer. They like to insert themselves into getting results when the data collected rarely tells the relationship story. Managers would rather listen to the data entered rather than trusting their seasoned sales folks. I hear my sales buddies tell me that they keep telling management what the customer wants and make resonable requests for deaf ears to ignore or reject. When the account is lost, the sale person is rotated elsewhere, at best, and the mangers then come up with the very ideas the sales person was trying to communicate.

Net; Net:

Let's leverage the data in sales enablement software to give the front line sales folks an advantage instead of feeding the insecurities of management. The worm has to turn with the advent of smarter sales enablement software that builds trust with sale folks and management. Le'ts stop the illusions, sub-optimizing, and micromanagement and turn the sales data into a useful sales tool for the people that are on our sides and represent our customers to create customer excellence.






Wednesday, June 5, 2019

PegaWorld 2019, Day 2: Pega Demonstrates Empathetic AI Solutions

This is big news! Organizations have been viewed, rightly so, as cold-hearted and only after their own goals. Now organizations can dial in empathy as needed with the addition of Empathetic AI. There was an actual demonstration by Dr. Rob Walker from the stage of variable warmth of customer service actions and offers considering the past history of individual clients. This is groundbreaking, but won't be released until 4Q 2019. If I ran a company that wanted to balance customer and organizational goals in a dynamic fashion, I'd be standing in line to get a chance to see if my organization could benefit from Empathetic AI. While organizations will have to learn how to tune the empathy switches over time, just having this feature should be a boon to organizations trying to balance great customer journeys with hardcore processes.


While there were presentations on leveraging innovation to become really digital and more digital heroes, Empathetic AI stole the show. Click here for Day 1 highlights of  Pegaworld Day 1. Lost in the shuffle was some proof points that organizations need to look themselves in the mirror when it comes to the reality of their customer service. Pega commissioned a survey of companies and clients to find out that 89% of executives think the customer is great while only 50% of their customer think so. This is a huge gap that can be closed by Empathetic AI embedded in a customer-focused solution like Pega has done. Get in line for a solution focused and embedded dial a heart. 


FROM COLD TO WARM by EMBEDDING EMPATHETIC AI




To watch this highly recommended session, click here

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Pegaworld 2019: To Infinity and Beyond with Digital Super Heroes

PegaWorld, here in Vegas, has great numbers again with over 5000 attendees from over 700 brands. So what's new this year? Actually quite a bit. The biggest announcement was around Pega Infinity. Alan Treflor excitedly described their new name for and the functionality of their digital platform. The strong claim was that Infinity could equally apply intelligence to the Customer Engagement and Digital Automation sides of any business. The secret to winning on both sides of the equation, that typically are at odds with each other, was to balance goals and suggest next best actions leveraging tunable and reusable micro journeys. These micro journeys can be used to overlay and differentiate both organizational and individual customers goals leveraging omnichannel capabilities.



Alan then went on to explain that Infinity was going to add empathy and highly contribute to true design thinking. I'm not quite sure I was able to grok how that was going to happen, but I think there are more announcements coming on the second day around how the customer is feeling at moments of truth or touchpoints.


As always Pega is always demonstrating it's potential through case studies on stage and at breakout sessions. Pega is now calling the outstanding organizations Digital Super Heroes. This is an effective way of getting clients to share a little of their digital success on stage. Don Schuerman announced the DX Heros and introduced Nicole Verburg of VodafoneZiggo who explained how they were using better customer experiences and intelligence to cross-sell products.



Next on stage was the ever-entertaining Karim Akgonul who introduced Moshe Pridan from Sirius XM who went on to explain how they were leveraging omnichannel and customer service to increase revenue. I still don't understand, as a former customer, how Sirius only knows my car and my billing address and not my household and how many cars I have for potential package deals. Anyways Karim went on to further explain Pegas new low code with guardrails approach for citizen developers and summarized the technical pieces that were being advanced or improved.




Lost in the shuffle was a small announcement of the recent "In Chat" acquisition which adds significant Digital Messaging (DM) capabilities. What was obvious was Pegas support for "Girls in Tech" with a fundraising effort of over 400K. The first day was a big hit for me with some compelling breakout sessions with more DX heroes. I am expecting big things on day 2.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Gaining Advantage by Combining Journeys and Processes

Processes have been a key contributor to operational excellence for decades and continue to progress with the addition of more automation, but the real secret to business success is to employ customer journey practices. This yields a balanced set of outcomes between the customer and organizational outcomes. Let's look at the advantages of aiming for customer excellence as a means of organizational progress in the digital age and beyond.  If you want to register for one of the first 300 copies of a new book on customer excellence click here.



The Progress of Processes for Operational Excellence: 

The use of processes for operational excellence is well known, documented and continues to progress with the addition of additional automation leveraging technologies like RPA, Process Mining, and AI. This allows organizations to visualize results and continually optimize for cost savings or efficiency purposes. The complaint of this approach has been that these processes are not friendly and are quite often too complex. To that end, organizations have been trying to make processes friendlier and less onerous. All of this is good but will be limited over time as your competition heats up with even more enticing approaches that appeal to customers.

The Progress of Customer Journeys for Satisfaction and Loyalty:

The use of customer journeys has been emerging for the past several years because of new models in industries that have tried to put the customer first. The assumption here is that a great customer journey that takes penalization into account and puts the pressure on the business and business systems will deliver better loyalty and new customers. This desire for customer excellence first will make the customer outcomes as important or more important than the business goals at critical points in the journey. In fact, the journey disciplines are even reaching to employee and partner journeys in the most enlightened organizations.


The Power of Combining Both:

While most organizations are not willing to change their business models to be completely customer driven, the gap between ugly system processes and personalized a pleasing customer journey is starting to narrow. Many organizations are starting to measure existing journeys and model target journeys figure out a way to bridge a great journey with existing processes. Adding chatbots and digital assistants in one approach for customer ease, but if your organizational silos still have to be managed by your customers, there is little gain. Taking your journey customer beyond the walls of your specific organization is the real way to come up with appealing journeys.               

Net; Net: 

There are real-world examples of combining process and journeys. There the pragmatic front ending efforts like you see with "Rocket Mortgage" and Amazon. There are examples of a complete rethinking of the journeys as exhibited by Uber and Lyft.  We even see big banks rethinking their experiences for attracting new customers. When many companies are able to personalize experiences while still keeping operational excellence goals intact, we know we have arrived. When new and innovative journeys that span multiple organizations become the norm, we will finally relax.

If you want to register for one of the first 300 copies of a new book on customer excellence click here.

Co-authored by Jim Sinur, Gero Decker & Mark McGregor