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Head Games

Businesses are deploying analytical software to get a better fix on customer behavior.

For CFOs, the lesson is clear. Analytics tools are just that — tools, not cure-alls. “[Things] don’t change simply because you open a box and pull software out,” says Sunstar Butler’s McMahon. “You’re still the same company.”

John Goff is technology editor of CFO.

Getting to Know You

Managers at Brother International, the U.S. subsidiary of Nagoya, Japan-based Brother Industries Ltd., are taking a fairly simple approach to analytics. Three years ago, the company, which sells its lines of multifunction centers, fax machines, printers, labeling systems, and sewing machines through office superstores and value-added resellers, decided it needed to do a better job of connecting with end customers. The plan: make better use of the 1.8 million telephone inquiries Brother receives at its customer call centers each year. In years past, much of that information simply scattered in the wind. “We didn’t have the right tools,” recalls Dennis Upton, Brother’s chief information officer. “If a customer called us with a malfunction on a fax machine, we didn’t know them from Adam.”

In mid-2001, the electronics manufacturer began funneling call-center information into a business warehouse from SAP. By analyzing the data stored there, Brother management has gotten to know its customers a whole lot better. The analysis has also enabled the company to cobble together a list of customer FAQs, along with the proper responses to those questions. The scripting helps call-center representatives offer a consistent response to the same question.

The company line for the company line has paid off. Upton says Brother has lowered the percentage of product returns and reduced the average talk time per customer call by 10 percent. All told, that works out to $1.2 million in savings, or a 120 percent ROI in just a year and a half. Management is also using analytics software to help sharpen direct marketing and affinity campaigns. “We’re not just selling a product here,” insists Upton. “We’re selling a relationship.” —J.G.

The Vendor Landscape
Customer analytics vendors
Phase Vendors
Reporting Actuate, Business Objects (Crystal Decisions), Cognos, Hyperion, Informatica, Silvon Stratum
Analyzing Amdocs (Clarify), Business Objects (Crystal Decisions), Cognos, Hyperion, Informatica, NICE System’s Performance Portal, Oracle CRM Marketing, PeopleSoft CRM, PeopleSoft CRM Marketing, SAP mySAP CRM, SAS Marketing Automation, Siebel Analytics, Silvon DataTracker, Silvon Stratum, Teradata CRM, Unica Affinium
Predicting Amdocs (Clarify), PeopleSoft CRM, SAS Marketing Optimization, Teradata CRM, Unica Affinium
Executing E.piphany, SAS Interaction Management, Unica
Source: AMR Research, 2004


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