Snippets From Sapphire

SAP held its massive annual conference, Sapphire, last week and made the usual flurry of announcements and presentations to its 15,000-some attendees. Still, as is typical of most conferences, the best information filtered out between the official scheduled events.

CRM guru Paul Greenberg reports on some of these in two blog posts: Random Gems from SAPPHIRE (Get it?) and Its 2008. SAP FINALLY Gets It. They Really, Really Do…..

Over the course of the conference, Greenberg made the following observations:

  • SAP said it was “living the Web 2.0” — which is the harbinger of its cultural change. “Now, I treated that as a marketing claim until I had the ability to speak with some of the senior management at the conference (from CEO Henning Kagermann — a really nice guy — to SVPS of varying title to VPs to some of the less senior) and I had the ability to listen in on some ‘ordinary’ organic conversations — and I think they are being authentic. “Keep in mind, I’m a skeptic not by nature but by profession to some degree. But the level of interest and activity among a decidedly younger management and staff than I expected (given that I’d talked with several of them in the past) around Web 2.0 tools and the freedom to innovate which seems to have seized control over the last year or so or some more recent time period is amazing.”
  • SAP evidently has a deeper commitment to communities than he realized. The company has a community called “BPx” that has 350,000 members consisting of business analysts and application consultants, IT project managers, and process developers on the techie side and BPM guys, UI (user interface) experts, and change management gurus on the functional side. Run by the forward-thinking Marco ten Vaanholt.
  • SAP is making a major effort to de-emphasize not just Business by Design but also the By Design platform. “In reference to Business by Design they kept saying they had ‘Business All in One’ which, of course, is their on premise small business applications.” SAP may be having some development problems that contributed to delayed delivery.
  • Mike de la Cruz, SVP of mobility and analytics, is really well known in the industry. “When I mentioned his name on Twitter, I heard from several of the Tweet-producers that they knew him or had gone to school with him.”
  • Eric Clapton is a god. (Ok, Greenberg freely admits he already knew that.) Clapton left the SAP crowd at the end roaring.

Chatting (if You Can Call It That) With eBay Customer Service

The following post is not a rant about eBay.

Well, technically, the post is a rant about eBay — but part of the rant is about its live chat customer service. Want to know how not to alienate your customers, whom you’ve successfully migrated to the Internet and gotten to use your self-service technology? Read on.

Timothy wrote in to the Consumerist, detailing how he tried to sell a laptop on the auction site.

“It appeared that my item was not listing correctly, so I contacted the eBay on-line ‘Live Chat’ (which, incidentally, seemed to be one of only two venues for their customers to reach them — the other being a ‘contact us’ form on their website [there do exist a couple of 800/888 corporate numbers, but they provide no means of reaching a human being unless you know their name ahead of time]). The Live Chat representative (pronounced “c-h-a-t-b-o-t”) informed me that unless my item was listed as a ‘Featured Item’ (pronounced “e-x-t-r-a-T-w-e-n-t-y-D-o-l-l-a-r-s”) my item would only appear after all of the items which had been listed as featured items.”

Finally, Timothy received a nibble — from a buyer who requested the laptop be shipped to Nigeria. The response he received to his detailed note to customer service about the unfolding scam would have been very helpful — that is, if he had actually contacted them about resetting his password.

“At this point in writing this article, my emotions regarding this response from eBay are emphatically urging me to pound out several paragraphs worth of rant about how hilariously irrelevant this response is to the message I originally sent — an urge which shall be eternally frustrated, since there is nothing more to say than to simply stare at it aghast and say, ‘that has absolutely nothing to do with what I sent to them. Nothing which I mentioned in the original message is even mentioned here.'”

All in all, Timothy’s saga is a long tale, but it’s worth reading — if only to see how it ends (Spoiler Alert!): he tried to list it three times, found it sold three times to a Nigerian buyer, and three times got an offer from eBay to reset the password.

Sellers have been growing increasingly discontented with eBay and its — as they see it — shabby treatment of them.

However, the automated Live Chat described in Timothy’s post is not unique to eBay. A small but growing minority of companies are taking the older bot technology and putting it on the front end of a knowledge base system and search technology to create a patched together Live Chat application, Sheryl Kingstone, an analyst with the Yankee Group, told CRM Buyer.

“If they are not careful, they will take what can be a very good and inexpensive self-service application and ruin its perception in the general marketplace,” she said.

Short Takes

People in the real estate industryexpect too much from their CRM content systems, writes Gary David Hall, founder of RE-ACT.

“On a fairly regular basis, I hear people comment that this person’s or that program’s form letters or fliers are bad/not for their market/hokey, you-fill-in-the-blank. The value in ‘canned’ content is not necessarily in that you can take them as they are, and start using them. The value is in the fact that the content, the concept, is already there for you, and pretty much done. …

T-Mobile has banned pen and paper in one of its call centers. “Apart from the abject ridiculousness of such a ban I find it quite audacious,” writes Philip Richardson, a Microsoft CRM lead program manager. “Are their business systems so good that reps don’t need to use paper to make ad-hoc notes whilst on calls? The elimination of pen and paper within a call center is a great goal — but actually banning them?”

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