Siebel Systems Inc. — a provider of business software to Fortune 500 companies that boasts $2.2 billion in annual revenues — is on a mission.
Looking to seize an opportunity in the media space, Siebel wants to help cable operators handle the increasingly complex customer-relationship management functions inherent in selling video, voice and data services.
"CRM is managing, coordinating and synchronizing customer interaction with your brand across all channels," said Siebel media segment leader Margaret Molloy.
Throughout most of the cable industry's history, customer-relationship management (CRM) was driven by the billing system — the end-all customer-information database. Siebel is trying to turn that scenario around by pitching operators on a solution that makes the billing system work for the CRM system.
Under the present scheme, technology silos for video and data services are matched by separate silos for billing and customer relations, according to Molloy. That won't work.
"There is no unified view of the customer," Molloy said. "Operators are hamstrung by legacy-oriented billing systems that are predominantly inflexible. Operators need to be agile, but their systems are holding them back."
Siebel's eMedia platform allows customer-service representatives to handle subscriptions, inquires, order management, trouble calls or billing questions from a single screen, across any service an operator has deployed — be it video, voice or data.
"Every customer touch point can be handled through the same Siebel interface," Molloy said.
Cox Business Services uses Siebel technology for both sales-force automation and CRM service.
"We're trying to insure we're provisioning the sales force with a rich, robust leads-management tool," said Cox Business vice president of marketing and sales support Paul Golden. This allows salespeople "to focus time on the highest priority customers. It's a very important piece."
Golden said the software allows Cox to prioritize lead information and track which businesses receive promotion mailings.
Siebel's software is creating a database that tracks which businesses are existing subscribers, which products they take and their propensity to buy additional services. It also helps 150 sales representatives in 22 Cox markets to create sales quotes and contracts.
The software also lets Cox watch various behavioral and attitudinal benchmarks as part of its market-segmentation analysis, to determine which businesses are hot prospects.
Golden expects use of the software to yield sales productivity gains. That will be the ultimate test of the product's worth, he said.
Cox will begin testing Siebel's CRM software in Hampton Roads, Va., next month, with an eye toward rolling it out company-wide by year's end, said interim vice president of customer business services Bob Hattori.
"Siebel will be the main interface," Hattori said. "Siebel will touch other systems: MetaSolve for network inventory provisioning, Remedy for trouble ticketing or ICOMS for billing systems.
"The main benefit is that this creates a one-stop shop," Hattori added. "CSRs don't have to look at four or five different systems. The process flow will be much simpler," which should boost productivity.
For instance, if a subscriber wants two telephone lines, the system will tell CSRs whether that location is linked via fiber or hybrid fiber coaxial cable. "Serviceability will be at your fingertips," Hattori said.
Operators are looking at bundling, reducing churn, controlling expenses, limiting truck rolls and reducing CSR turnover rates, Molloy said. "And they are asking for better tools to accomplish these objectives."
Siebel's software platform consists of 250 separate modules, which allows MSOs to pick and choose from what fits their needs. "Some are inclined to take a piece of it," Molloy said.
Operators pay a fee based on the number of call-center agents that access the Siebel software, Molloy said. They also pay a maintenance fee.
The Siebel software also allows operators to mix demographic data into the software systems to determine what subscribers may be most interested in, such as a second line Internet-protocol phone service for subscribers with teenage children at home, or subscription video-on-demand services for premium subscribers.