My colleague David Menninger recently wrote about the SAS Analyst Summit, concluding that “the SAS analytics juggernaut keeps on truckin’.” He observed, as I have done in the past, that SAS has a vast array of products that it regularly updates to keep up with market demand, ensuring it remains one of the premier vendors of data management and analytics systems. Dave’s perspectives provide in-depth insights into what these products do, while I focus on how they help with business outcomes around customer experience. I was therefore intrigued to hear at SAS’s European analyst event that its products support four types of user – data scientist, business analyst, intelligence analyst and IT analyst. The presenter used simple quotes to illustrate the differing priorities of these groups: For the data scientist, the one that caught my eye was “I need the latest algorithms to solve the latest problems”; for the business analyst I picked “I need to get my report done quickly and easily”; the information analyst is about “identifying patterns of interest that can prompt active decision-making”; and the IT analyst is about “issue resolution and redemption” (mainly operational analysis). In short each type of user needs different products and capabilities, hence the array of products. Nearest to my research practice is the business analyst, who wants easy access to reports and analysis to resolve business issues, and this is where the company’s Customer Intelligence product plays a part.
As I previously wrote this system has evolved into what SAS calls its Customer Decision Hub. It brings together a number of products so organizations can capture and synchronize all forms of customer data to “deliver the best customer experience.” The Decision Hub can gather customer data from a variety of sources and synchronize it for a customer. It provides rules to govern what happens to the data and how it is used, and reports, analysis and prompts so that employees can deliver information to users and customers in the most appropriate manner. It also includes an array of other capabilities such as information to drive marketing campaigns, data to support event-based interactions, customer journey maps and a 360-degree view of the customer. The latest version of the Decision Hub improves support and capabilities to better manage Web-based interactions, email, mobile and social media channels of interaction.
The next step in its development is SAS Customer Intelligence 360. It is an enhanced version that has a single HTML5 user interface, additional public and RESTful APIs so that data can be collected from third parties, a single data and decision hub for all things related to customer experience and support for both inbound and outbound interactions across all channels. It is available as a multitenant cloud-based service, but data can reside on the user’s premises. Customer Intelligence 360 includes four components. Master Audience Profile supports collection and synchronization of all sources of customer data, both internal and third-party, to build customer profiles. Workflow and Collaboration support creation and development of marketing content across multiple groups. Intelligent Orchestration manages engagement across channels to ensure that customers receive consistent information and to harmonize marketing programs. Unified Measurement and Optimization helps analyze the outcomes of engagement and marketing programs to optimize them in the future. Together these components enable organizations to build complete pictures of their customers, ensure that business groups coordinate how they engage with customers regardless of purpose or channel, and analyze the outcomes to improve them.
Some of these messages obscure what for me is an important feature – the single customer data hub. Our benchmark research consistently shows that organizations have a diverse set of customer-related data source: business applications such as billing, CRM, and ERP; communications systems such as voice, email, text, Web and chat scripts and social media; and operational systems such as network control that provide event-based data such as calls made, films downloaded or energy used. Managing all this data creates issues for organizations. Indeed, nearly two-thirds of organizations participating in our research into next-generation customer analytics said that the data they need as input into customer-related analytics is not readily available. The research also finds that users spend more of their time preparing and reviewing data than they do analyzing the outputs, which undermines productivity and impedes getting actionable information to decision-makers.
SAS offers a combination of data management and analytics to overcome these issues. Buried inside the data management tools is another key capability – identity management. Our research into next-generation customer engagement shows that companies support an average of nearly seven communication channels, and each of these is likely supported by different systems. In such cases, each interaction record has its own unique customer identifier or combination of identifiers, which are difficult to standardize and use as one. To get close to producing a 360-degree view of a customer or a journey map of channels used, organizations need systems that link all these identifiers so the data can be associated with a single customer. The tools in SAS Customer Intelligence are among the few I have come across that do this; I recommend that companies looking for such analysis should carefully evaluate this product.
I support Dave’s view that the SAS juggernaut is rolling on, and systems such as Customer Intelligence can help companies improve customer engagement. However, as organizations evaluate such products, I caution them not to get bogged down in all the components but to look at the overall system and how it can ingest and manage all the organization’s data and any from third-party sources; scrutinize how easy it is to use for all the different potential users. It is also worth remembering that the early focus for Customer Intelligence was to support marketing, and many of its messages are still colored by such thinking. Everything I have seen and heard in recent briefings shows it is applicable across all customer-facing business groups, including the contact center, so I recommend organizations looking to improve enterprise-wide customer engagement evaluate how SAS can help.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director, Customer