IRCTC (www.irctc.co.in) and Customer (Citizen) Experience

It is written several times by several people on pathetic performance of Indian Railways online ticket booking site www.irctc.co.in. Still nothing stops me in writing this blog post as I believe there is lot more can be done by Government to make the basic facility of online ticket booking experience better.

IRCTC and Customer (Citizen) Experience
IRCTC and Customer (Citizen) Experience

The fundamental issue to the problem is capacity (number of seats available in the trains) not able to meet the demand (millions of reservations). Unless the fundamental issue is solved by effective planning and execution by Indian Railways over long time, the frustration with online reservation portal www.irctc.co.in can never be resolved. But knowing the fact that in long term, we are all dead, what is it government can do in short term to alleviate the citizen’s concerns?

I have penned down few of those things here….

Facilitate offline booking in peak load without forcing people to stand in virtual queue

The site so far to my knowledge is not PCI complaint and this stops the website from storing customer credit card information. Making the site PCI complaint can facilitate customers to store their credit cards to do offline booking without users waiting for response in the virtual queue from payment gateway / booking engine in the web browser. The continues retries only make the situation worse.

All www.irctc.co.in has to do is to facilitate storing the customer ticket booking request (from date, to date, train selection, passenger details etc), do the booking offline with stored Credit Card info and send a confirmation mail after booking. This will improve the Customer Experience of people who are today subjected to hassle during peak loads (Tatkal, Festival Seasons, Vacations etc)

For TATKAL booking too people should be able to schedule an offline booking request and IRCTC can execute this in an efficient manner as per the sequence of registration of these requests in the back-end than spoiling the performance of the whole site and bringing down the UX.

Go for Elastic Cloud using Industry leading Platform As A Service (PaaS) vendors like Amazon

IRCTC should go for elastic cloud similar to one offered by AWS than trying to manage the whole IT infrastructure by itself. Here we are taking about Indian Railways train tickets where the demand is subjected to serious fluctuations due to multiple factors. There is no meaning in investing in hardware for peak load capacity (couple of hours) and pay for it 24 X 7. It makes sense to go with elastic cloud backed-up by vendor like Amazon who can scale to IRCTC’s needs on-demand basis and facilitate Pay-Per use model rather than a CAPEX / OPEX intensive model of maintain all hardware / software infrastructure by themselves.

Hook the web reservation system directly to PRS

Scrap the one more additional layer of database at IRCTC and hook the web-channel directly to PRS (Passenger Reservation System – The backbone of Railways ticket booking). By hooking directly to PRS the unnecessary overheads / bottlenecks on IRCTC can be avoided as the PRS is proven to scale for millions of transactions. I know this means a lot in terms of modifying the existing PRS but that is what Government have to do if you intend to create a true Citizen Experience.

Government to scrap the monopoly of http://www.irctc.co.in

Scrap the monopoly of IRCTC and facilitate vendors like makemytrip / flipkart / Cleartrip etc to invest and hook directly to PRS than going via the intermediary IRCTC. I believe the monopoly is one of the root causes if all these issues and this will put an end to it.

IRCTC, Please focus only on train ticket booking

IRCTC has to keep the focus on one and only in train ticket booking as there is lot more to do. Just be in the business of web booking for train tickets and not to waste their investments and engineering resources in trying to become an ecommerce vendor / web marketing channel. There are 100s of people there does that. Invest your precious resources in train ticket booking only…….

For all those the above makes sense spread the news :)

Venkatesan Sundaram
Senior Director, CRMIT

Originally Published on Venky’s Blog

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Stop Typing and Start Speaking to your CRM

Does it sound interesting? Yes, it is  fact that Oracle is working on a new app “Oracle Voice” that works with Oracle Sales Cloud facilitating data entry / update in CRM by Sales team over voice than typing it out …

 

As you see over there some of the most common tasks like contact creation, task creation, opportunity update, meeting notes etc can all be entered by speaking over to your phone than typing it.  The added advantage over here as you see in the right side of the image is an interactive step by step Wizard where the system speaks to you to gather info in a logical manner to update it in CRM ….

The application is expected to be available soon, stay tuned …

Venkatesan Sundaram
Senior Director, CRMIT

Originally Published on Venky’s Blog

Client On-boarding and Customer Experience

Anyone who has gone through the process of setting up a B2B (Business to Business) Account with a Bank would swear by the poor experience they are met with due to highly inefficient and ineffective client On-boarding process that they are subjected to. Banks these days have to realize this to ensure they make the first best impressions to their clients to avoid losing them to competitors.

Enabling Customer ExperienceThough part of the problem is compounded by ever growing regulatory compliance requirements like Anti Money Laundering, Terrorist Funding, Foreign Tax Account Compliance Act etc that the Banks have to adhere to, they just cover only one side of Poor Client On-Boarding experience.

The primary reason for poor on-boarding experience is attributed to few other reasons too.

  • Lack of Customer Centric Systems – Most the banks traditionally inherit systems that are Typically Product Centric than customer / relationship centric
  • Viewing the process of Client on-boarding as a back office operation than as an engaging front office with collaborative back-office framework to seamlessly work with numerous back office groups who play a facilitator role in the on-boarding process
  • Lack of metric / Key Performance Indicator (KPI) driven approach in place to plan, measure, correct and reward performing groups / Individuals who make significant difference to the client on-boarding experience

Though putting in place a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is not a magic wand that wipe-out all the issues listed above in one go without fundamental change in the way Organizations operate, an effectively designed / implemented CRM that mitigates the above challenges can be a sure differentiator for Banks to improve not only the customer experience but also the Net Customer Life Cycle Value.

Here I have articulated few suggestions and tips on how a CRM system can help Organizations to effectively improve the client on-boarding process.

On lack of customer centric system…

It is never going to be an easy task to just like that replace your product centric legacy back-end systems in one go into a customer centric system. The next viable best alternative available over here is to put an overarching CRM system that wraps your entire product centric core banking systems and make the CRM as a Centralized front office Application for your Relationship managers, Product Specialists and other Sales / marketing teams. The key design attributes of this CRM to facilitate On-Boarding should be below.

  • For new customers to be on-boarded, enrich the basic prospect data that you have collected in CRM with rich info that is available by integrating with Trusted Data Service Providers like D&B, Hovers etc. These systems provide very rich info about your clients like Client Organization Structure, Business diversity, Geographic Diversity, Key Client Contacts & their profile, financial data etc. This ensures a lot of info is already built in your system to do your KYC (Know Your Customer) as well as Risk Rating / Assessment in an effective manner by asking minimal info from your customers.
  • For existing customers, ensure your customer profile details (demographic, relationship, financials etc) spread across multiple internal products centric systems are cleaned and de-duplicated in the new CRM system. This would make it easier to facilitate on-boarding of existing customers to some your new products & services lot easier eliminating duplicity in asking info from customers that you have already with you.

On collaboration…

It is a common phenomenon observed in many Banking Organizations that Customer On-Boarding is considered either as a complete Back End (risk, legal, finance etc) responsibility or in few cases as sold Front end responsibility forgetting the underlying need of effective collaboration of front-end and back-end teams to make it easier for the customers.

The CRM one deploys should have all ways and means to make this collaboration between back-end, front-end teams and customers possible without any compromise on data security.  The collaboration could be facilitated by in-built email management solutions in CRM, a self-service portal that is integrated with CRM where customers can log-in and have visibility on his on-boarding process as well as share / submit additional info & documents needed, an internal discussion thread / business social features that can make interaction between back-end and front-end teams lot seamless and easier etc. In reality today many of these happen in an adhoc & in-efficient manual manner making it a time consuming as well as frustrating experience for the end customers.

On KPI Measurements…

None of the above systems and processes would work unless people on the ground are mandated to adhere to stringent KPI (Key Performance Indicator)/ SLA (Service Level Agreement). Assuming there is a commitment at the top to make it possible in having them in place, the CRM should provide support to have in place interactive dashboards and reports to report on these KPIs to identify the bottlenecks in the process and streamline it. The reports / metrics can be as simple as one that provides info on on-boarding throughput, performance of adherence to SLAs by various departments managing the on-boarding process, overall lead time, ageing analysis to identify critical bottlenecks etc. The KPIs should serve as a key input to your performance management team to see continuous improvement over a period of time.

So in net, going back to my original point, would like to share that Customer On-Boarding is an important process in establishing a new relationship with your client and making it effective / efficient with a well designed CRM system can make a big difference to Banks as well to Customer Experience.

Venkatesan Sundaram
Senior Director, CRMIT

Originally Published on Venky’s Blog

Fusion CRM (Oracle Sales Cloud) and User Experience (UX)

No wonder CRM selection committees consider User Experience (UX) as the most important parameter in selecting right CRM solution as it is proved repeatedly that a good user experience (UX) is the driving factor behind User Acceptance. User Acceptance is a key driver that differentiates a successful versus doomed CRM implementation.

Oracle Fusion CRM is built from scratch with User Experience (UX) as the core central theme. For beginners on UX it is important to note that the UX extends beyond the look & feel and application performance. It touches multiple aspects of an application and few of the important ones are below

  • Supporting the natural user workflows in the system
  • Built in tools that help the users to perform their day to activities
  • Embedded reports / dashboards that provide insights on customers / territories / markets and
  • Access to right information at right time to CRM users

Here in this blog I would present some of the interesting UX features in Oracle Fusion CRM.

The key UX challenge in designing the application for a “Sales Manager” is to organize all relevant information that is required for “Sales Manager” in one central location. Fusion CRM “Territory Management” module is one single location where a Sales Manager can effectively perform all his day to day operations.

Sales territory management – In one centralized place, a sales manager can define the set of products / customers / geography that every sales person reporting to him is mandated to sell along with his Sales Quota. As this is a crucial activity for a sales manager to perform, the system provides certain interesting tools to make the sales manager’s life easier.

To start with rather than hard-coding the sales territories, system provides a dynamic way to assign territories by one of the eight standard dimensions that are predefined in the product (Geography, Product, Organization Type, Business Size, Sales Channel, Account and Account Type). The territory can be a combination of one or more dimensions

If you are sales manager managing dozen of sales team members, the system provides flexibility to quickly check whether there are any Overlaps / Gaps on click of a button. Overlap basically helps to find out whether the same territory is added to someone else and Gaps would let you know the territories for which you still haven’t assigned the owner.

territory2

You can also select a territory and on click of a button understand the Potential Accounts / Revenue lines that are assigned to the territory on basis of territory dimension. This gives a quick short-cut to check how well balanced the territory assignments are and if required re-balance it in an iterative manner

From a day to day operation stand-point the system provides flexibility to define multiple metrics on territories like Number of Accounts, Closed Revenue, Market Potential, and Forecasted Revenue etc by “Time Period” dimension. On click of button “Show Analytics” you would get a detailed view of these metric figures along with interactive reports for each of the territory on the metrics that you have defined. The reports are good to cover various time periods as well as compare and contrast performance of one territory against another and multiple child territories under one parent.

territory1

Now coming back to the role of Sales representative, the customer center is a single place to get the complete 360 degree view of the customer right from basic customer profile information to contacts, organization chart, interactions, tasks appointments, leads, opportunities, revenue lines etc. In addition to the above it provides an interactive assessment tool to assess the quality of leads using a well structured predefined questionnaire.

customer_center

On Collaboration front, the system has an embedded “Discussion Thread” to collaborate on the account with Account Team members and Oracle Social Network for Social Styled Conversation on an opportunity or account.

osn

Similarly with sales representative’s limited bandwidth, the optimal outcome would come out only by working on most promising opportunities. Fusion CRM Predictive Analysis Engine helps the sales representative to get answers for some fundamental questions like product that he should consider offering for a prospect / customer, kinds of customers buying certain type of products, potential revenue impact of the deal and the sales cycle time to close the deal etc. It does all the above by comparing Sales transaction history against the customer / account history.

predictor

On Mobility / Multi-channel access front Fusion CRM provides multiple ways to access your CRM information including critical reports / dashboards via Tablets, Mobile Phones as well as in your Outlook. The applications are designed in such a way that common tasks handled by people on the field can be captured using these devices when they don’t have an online access to Fusion CRM over the web. The information that you capture in your local device can be synchronized back to the server whenever you get the internet connectivity

tap iphone outlook

In addition to the above the release 7 of fusion CRM provides a Sleek Clutter Free interface as an optional interface via web to the users to perform the most common sales tasks without getting hindered with too many details. It is a so sleek that it can provide a consistent interface across multiple devices you can potentially use to access the application.

fuse_ui

For Tele-Marketing / Call Center users the application provides a Robust Telephony Interface framework that you can use to plug your back-end telephony systems to Fusion CRM. Once you are done with it, the system provides Click-To-Dial (Dial on click of a phone field) as well as Incoming Call Pop-Up on basis of caller information wherever application.

In net if you look into the aspect of User Experience in a holistic manner beyond look & feel and application performance, I would say Fusion CRM is an application that is really designed for UX….

Venkatesan Sundaram
Senior Director, CRMIT

Originally Published on Venky’s Blog

How Call Centers Use Technology to Improve Customer Service

Whether we receive a call from a telemarketer, or have a problem with a product or service, chances are we will all have an encounter with a call center. How the call center representative responds to us helps determine our loyalty to the brand they represent. One negative experience can taint our opinion and even affect future purchases and decisions.

Call Center solutions
Call Center solutions

I have a friend who was very loyal to one of the most popular brands today. She not only purchased several products under this brand, but was saving money to purchase a new tablet and computer manufactured by this same company. She ran into an issue with one of her current products, which was still under warranty.  To make a long story short, the “call center” representative provided misinformation on how to return the product and receive a replacement. Thus, a two-day process took over two weeks. She has since decided not to make any future purchases from this company. And, she made sure to discuss this experience in online reviews and across Social Media outlets. This bad experience cost the company future business and a loyal customer. What went wrong? Most likely, there was a break down in communication and training at the call center.

Consumers expect quick solutions and exceptional customer service. Whether a company has their own in-house call center or chooses to outsource these services, it is imperative for call center representatives to be provided with the latest technology and armed with correct information to accurately and effectively represent the brand. A call center with outdated technology is like trying to make an antiquated computer operating MS-DOS run like Windows 8!

Below are some ways call centers are using technology to boost performance and improve customer service:

Cloud

Even call centers are catching on to the cloud! Not only can cloud services improve functionality, they can drastically cut costs. Most cloud platforms can be easily integrated and updated, eliminating the need for costly hardware and software upgrades. Cloud systems tend to perform faster and are often more reliable than physical networks. New components can be added easily at any time, and maintenance costs are virtually eliminated. There are plenty of cloud providers to choose from; research which one offers the services which best fit your needs.

Online Training

Keeping call center representatives up to date with the latest policies, offerings, technical support tools and procedures is imperative. Giving outdated or incorrect information reflects badly on the brand and may cause a significant decrease in customer loyalty. Call centers can keep agents up-to-date using online training modules. This convenient and effective form of training does not require participants to sit in a class and can be completed at any time from anywhere.

Multiple Contact Methods

A call center should run more like a contact center. Provide customers with multiple ways to make contact. This can include a traditional phone call, online chat, contact through Social Media or intelligent call back, where a customer can enter their telephone number and a representative will call back at a certain time. Some companies are even offering support via video. Offering a customer a variety of contact methods allows them to choose the option which makes them most comfortable.

Smart Agent Plug-Ins

Offering the wrong product at the wrong time can frustrate a customer. A number of companies offer Smart Agent desktop plug-ins to help agents determine when and if any product offerings are appropriate. They gather information from current and previous calls and make recommendations to agents. I recently called my cable/internet/telephone provider for technical support. Upon the end of the conversation they asked me if I was interested in their home monitoring package.  Their “Smart Agent” desktop knew from previous contact with me this would be a service that would perhaps interest me.

Customer Service Management

CRM++ is an example of a Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) product which

Computer Telephony Integration Framework

streamlines resources and helps maximize the customer experience. Its seamless integration with Oracle® Fusion CRM makes it easy to learn and use.  Inbound agents are provided with relevant information about each caller, adding to the ease of interaction. Over 3000 sales, marketing and service & support organizations are using this product to help generate an increased return-on-investment (ROI) and improve their bottom lines.

These are just a few of the many technologies available to call centers. Today, being in the game means staying ahead of the game. Quick, fast, efficient, reliable, and accurate information can make or break your brand!

Gina Smith writes freelance articles for magazines, online outlets and publications including Global Response. Smith covers the latest topics in the business, golf, tourism, technology and entertainment industries.

Customer Experience and Application Security – Requires a fine balancing act

There are people who are annoyed about poorly secured applications and equally good number of people annoyed about too many security measures in the applications leading to poor user experience. It is a common sense that neither security / nor experience has absolute limits and it is going to be a challenging job to achieve perfection on these measures and balance them too.

My experience with State Bank of India – Mobile banking application is a perfect example to discuss how unbalanced it is.

State Bank of India – Mobile banking application
State Bank of India – Mobile banking application

I am sure there are hardly few who know about State Bank of India mobile banking application and even if you are one among few, I am not sure how many of you are successful in installing and using the application. The primary issue over here is too many security measures at the expense of great user experience

Application Awareness …

First and foremost I am not sure why SBI doesn’t advertise / promote their mobile application in par with many of the private sector banks like ICICI Bank, HDFC etc. as mobile is seen as the way forward as a leading customer touch point and it no more seen as an optional service. May be they are not quiet sure about how well the application performs?

Knowing the general conservative perception about the bank, it could only be few technically savvy people who would have made attempts on their own (without any awareness) to search for SBI mobile application in Apple / Android market place and install the application.

First banks and organizations should not have second doubts about the acceptance of mobile applications and they should be aggressive in developing, deploying and promoting these applications to delight their customers

Activating the application ….

Assuming you are such a lucky person to do it (the application definitely offers great features at the tip of your fingers), your real issue starts in activating your mobile banking. There are three steps you have to do as a user to do this application

Step 1 – In first step of your activation after installing it from your application store, you get a cryptic alpha numeric username for your mobile banking application.

Step 2 – As step 2 you have to send another cryptic SMS containing the above username to a given phone number. This also returns you a 6 digit numeric password for application username your received in step 2.

Step 3 – Even after step 2 with a username and PIN, you can’t use the application as what you got is only a temporary PIN and to change the temporary PIN you have to visit one of the ATMs of SBI or Branch. In the ATM you have reconfirm your mobile number (It never worked for me)/ in the branch you have to let them know that this your current mobile number (I went three times in three consecutive weeks to remind the bank person to do it and meanwhile in three weeks time interval the username got expired and I have to go through the same process again….terrible experience)

If anyone after going through this thinks that it is reasonably acceptable to do all the above to ensure security, I believe he / she should be an outlier J

Can’t it be made lot more user friendly?

Why there is a need for a new user name? Why don’t it use by registered web banking user ID as the application User ID and Web banking password as the password to provide access to the application?

Knowing the bank already knows my mobile number (I have given at the time of account creation) if I key in my ATM PIN correctly in my mobile application, shouldn’t map the mobile number / PIN to my account and provide direct access to the application?

Assuming there is a catch here as there is a probability of you not having updated your mobile number and worst case the mobile number is recycled by your telephone operator to someone else, I understand there is a security issue, but still I believe it is ok as there is near zero probability of that person knowing by ATM PIN number. Worst case if required you can ask for your debit card number as well as ATM PIN number  as an additional security measure as that is exactly you do in the ATM except that you are not inserting your physical card in the ATM machine…which is ok…

Just thinking one step beyond wouldn’t be great if these mobile service providers provide a web-service that the mobile banking application can use to match and check whether it is the current mobile number for the user and provide seamless access to the application as the mobile service provides can provide by Name / Address to cross check and revalidate without any user intervention?

Application Usage Experience ….

Assuming you are all set and you are now ready to use the application, the second set of issue starts in application usage.

Every time it asks for the cryptic username it provided me. I don’t have an option to change it. Considering the fact that it is difficult to remember you don’t have an option that storing somewhere in your mobile.

Second it asks for the PIN for every transaction even if you haven’t switched to other applications. This is real nuisance. I am ok to re-key the PIN if I have switched to some other application or mobile went to idle state for some-time before I use it again but I believe it is too much if you have to key-in the PIN every-time for every request right from balance enquiry to funds transfer.

Customer Experience B/w Application Security
Customer Experience B/w Application Security

And the list doesn’t stop there. There are other issues like, it not able to fetch by linked accounts, payees etc by default. The synchronization doesn’t work and you may end up setting the duplicates again in your mobile though personally I expect everything I have already set up in my web banking made accessible in my mobile without any further steps / actions.

The funny thing on security side is it sends an SMS on every action I do and this SMS contains confidential details that are right in my SMS folder which can be accessed by others without any protection measures. I believe this is a flip-side on the security front and I am not sure why they do so.

Finally …

I believe as I stated in the opening balancing security and user experience is a fine act and unless you leverage technology / put your thoughts in have a secured but user friendly customer centric process, you might end developing a secured robust application but there may not be anyone to use it ….

Venkatesan Sundaram
Senior Director, CRMIT

Originally Published on Venky’s Blog