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Real-time feedback key to new analytical CRM alliance

CRM analytics provider SAS Institute has turned to market research company MarketTools to enhance its ability to measure key customer data.

Enterprises need to understand their customers more than ever, and analyzing customer transactions with the latest CRM technologies helps them do that. However, typical CRM analytics tools can't measure some important information such as customer preferences, satisfaction or reasons for defecting to a competitor.

Recently, a new alliance between CRM analytics provider SAS Institute Inc. and market research company MarketTools Inc. was formed to fill this need.

The alliance will enable SAS users to augment their customer data with MarketTools' zTelligence survey data. "We saw an opportunity in the market to take attitudinal data -- the sort of data that's collected traditionally by market researchers -- and leverage it across companies," said Margaret Coles, vice president of the CRM business unit at Mill Valley, Calif.-based MarketTools. "The goal is to take the power of understanding people's attitudes and intentions, and how that affects their purchasing, and make it available on virtually every desktop in the organization."

Combining the transactional data from a CRM system with the new attitudinal data from the survey tool provides a truly comprehensive view of the customer. "You can start understanding the correlation between a customer's satisfaction and the behavior and transactions that they're actually making within the company," said Nelle Schantz, a global CRM strategist at SAS, which is based in Cary, N.C.

ZTelligence's six-step process allows users to design a questionnaire, select the audience, deploy the survey via e-mail or by posting to a Web site, view the results in real time, analyze the data and report it. The results can then be downloaded to SAS' analytical CRM software for more in-depth analysis and further reporting.

"What you're getting is a more complete solution," said Dan Vesset, senior analyst at IDC. "You don't have to go out and try to find a traditional CRM package from one source and find something like a MarketTools from somewhere else. You get it all from one source."

While the main focus is on the consumer packaged goods market, other industries such as retail, pharmaceutical and financial services can all benefit from this type of technology, according to its backers.

According to Schantz, there are a couple of similar combined packages from other companies, but none has the ability to combine such varied survey information with all of a company's transactional data. And while there are dozens of Web survey tools on the market, SAS chose MarketTools above the rest. "CustomerSat and Satmetrix are two companies that offer these types of surveys, but MarketTools is the one that allows you to see the real-time results and trace the surveys immediately," said Schantz.

"And I think the one key thing that other competitors don't have is that they cannot extend the survey enterprise-wide," said Donna Callahan, a CRM strategist at SAS. "MarketTools pulls surveys from all functions of the organization, whether it's the supplier, the customer or employee surveys."

Coles said what companies are after is not difficult to find.

"If you want to know something about your customers, you should just ask them. It's so simple -- just ask your customers," she said. "You can go and dive into a mound of other data and hope that you can find the answer to a question that you wish you could ask your customers, or you could just go ask your customers. It really is that simple."

Of course, one limitation of the survey approach is the possibility that few customers may actually respond.

"Nowadays, people are inundated with so many surveys, whether it's a quick one-question thing or a lengthy one -- response rates have come down for online surveys," Vesset said. However, it's not the software product, but the design of the survey that's the issue, he said. Creating surveys that are short and to the point, and providing some incentive for people to take them will help in gathering the most complete information.

That speed-and-simplicity approach works as well for the companies seeking the information as it does for the customers whose information is solicited, said Coles.

"If you have a system that allows you to very quickly ask a very large number of people questions and to bring these responses back into an organized digital format like zTelligence does, you're way ahead of the game," Coles said. "You can collect your very high quality data very quickly, make your business decision and move on."

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