Whenever Software AG Vice President William Ruh looks at a credit card or utility bill, he sees a golden opportunity for businesses to leverage integration to empower their customers and boost their bottom lines. How? By creating interactive documents.

“Customer and integration are two words not usually put together… but I think it’s the right time because of enabling technologies coming around,” Ruh said in the expoQ webinar, Customer Integration -- The Future Of Real-Time Customer Management, part of the Integrating Customer Touch-Points for Improved CRM series, sponsored by Software AG. “If you’re going to only be investing in things that are tied to business, the question is whether integration is tied to the customer,” Ruh noted.

Customers actually interacting with their statements can provide immediately addressable feedback that can lead to significant efficiencies. Ruh cited the example of a utility company that integrated customized bills with a trouble-ticketing system and mobile alerts to its field staff. As a result, customer satisfaction rose, and the number of calls to the call center dropped significantly. In another case, a government agency saved “an enormous amount of money” each month by e-mailing 680,000 XML payroll statements in lieu of paper stubs. “When I get such a statement from bank, I own that statement -- but I may want some converters so I can put it in my Quicken application,” Ruh said.

Such customer-focused integration yields “the ability to drill down into the document; in many cases, it’s a personalized Web site that’s being sent to them,” Ruh said, adding that video and audio elements could be added. “Integrating from the customer to the business is important … and provides a real-time exchange of information that’s an important part of the customer experience,” he said.

“We saw from the Web that when we gave consumers a little interactivity, they demanded more,” Ruh asserted.

So, “You have to look at integration. It’s not a panacea, it’s not free and it does require work. The time is now because the protocols are here today and those companies that organize themselves to take better care of their customers are the ones that are going to have the loyalty and the retention.”

“The whole Web services arena, initially discussed as a way to put services on the Internet, is becoming the technology that allows me to tie together my internal systems as well,” he said. Using the SOAP protocol to move traffic around and XML to define data are “going to do for integration what Ethernet and TCP/IP did for connectivity,” he observed.


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