Arvato Group | Gütersloh/Münster, 03/16/2017

CRM Innovations from the Lab

Karsten Kraume (2nd from right) with the ERCIS professors: Gottfried Vossen, Heike Trautmann and Jörg Becker (from left)

Subject: Society
Country: Germany
Category: Project

When science meets practice, it can be a fruitful encounter for both sides. Arvato CRM Solutions banked on this when the company started cooperating with the globally networked European Research Center for Information Systems (ERCIS) at Münster University a bit more than a year ago. The basic idea: students and professors expand their practical knowledge through insights into the everyday work and the software used at CRM Solutions with the goal to develop innovative IT solutions for Arvato.

The jointly founded Omnichannel Lab  stands at the center of the partnership. As an interface between theory and practice, it unites the analytics and IT specialists of Arvato CRM Solutions with the Münster information systems department. The practical challenges of Arvato are closely interconnected with the content of the academic curriculum. In project seminars, the students deal with new concepts and algorithms for the CRM sector and make concise application scenarios at Arvato the subject of their research. In addition, they get to know the company as a potential future employer. Three professors and three doctoral candidates of ERCIS are active in the Omnichannel Lab.

Strategic cornerstone

The cooperation supports digital transformation as a cornerstone of CRM Solutions’ strategy. Karsten Kraume, Chief Strategy Officer, Arvato CRM Solutions, says: "Omnichannel solutions that connect classic communication channels with innovative channels such as web chat or social media are the focal points in modern customer service. For us, the integrated approach through which ERCIS considers the interactions between customer information, communication channels, technology and the operative processes is especially decisive. For us, this is the key to achieving our goal – guaranteeing the customers of our clients worldwide the best possible brand experience."

The short distance between Gütersloh and Münster is a big advantage for the precise exchange, Kraume adds. Although the Omnichannel Lab is not a physical space (yet) but a virtual working environment, the initial results are even more tangible. "In the cooperation with ERCIS we focus on the three subject areas processes, data and analytics, and we currently have joint projects in all areas," says Klaus Voormanns, Vice President Global Portfolio Management, Arvato CRM Solutions.

360-degree view of customers

As part of an omnichannel project seminar, five students are developing an application that aims to enable a 360-degree view of customers. This means that all actions a customer does in the various digital channels – writing an assessment in an online shop, uploading a photo to Instagram, posting a comment on Facebook – are gathered and analyzed to draw conclusions about the customer’s current needs and moods. This helps the service agents to better prepare for contact with the customers and to approach them in a more targeted way. Arvato gives the team access to its own CRM platforms such as Novomind and Salesforce to enable them to develop their solution to perfectly match the existing IT infrastructure.

Another example is the master thesis of a student which deals with processes at Arvato CRM Solutions. It pursues the goal to analyze the current work processes and distribution of work and, on that basis, to describe reference processes that will serve as a blueprint for internal planning. Management responsibilities, operative tasks, services for the clients and end customers as well as supporting functions such as IT, PSD, analytics or HR work are represented in a "process house" in which all gears interlock as perfectly as possible. Voormanns: "We can use the results for our transformation process and also take a more detailed look at individual processes in subsequent projects."

Analytical tool for social networks

Social media is increasingly important for customer service, not only for communication but also for analytical purposes. Based on publicly available data, Arvato wants to gain insights into how companies communicate with their customers on social networks. How many posts do they publish? How quickly do they react to inquiries? How intensive is the dialog with the fan community? The employees at the Lab conceived and programmed an analytical tool to automatically collect and analyze this data and to make it available. "The application is still in a test phase, but we are certain that we will be able to support existing and potential clients even better with their social media communications based on these insights," explains Voormanns.

Projects like these are only the beginning. Both sides believe the partnership has enormous potential. Professor Jörg Becker, Academic Director of ERCIS, says: "Arvato CRM processes up to 1.7 million customer interactions per day. Thanks to the cooperation, our research teams get direct access to wide-ranging expertise and great omnichannel knowledge. The result is that ERCIS is uniquely positioned to make reliable studies, models and analyses that could reveal an entirely new way for the sector to approach omnichannel CRM in the future. ERCIS can also add its methodological knowledge with regard to automation and machine learning."

New opportunities thanks to Ramyam

The acquisition of the Indian IT and analytics company Ramyam by Arvato at the beginning of the year opens up even more opportunities. "Ramyam is a top provider for omnichannel technologies and will also refer to ERCIS. Ramyam has long been cooperating with academic institutions," says Karsten Kraume. Currently, more detailed modalities are being examined with Ankush Bhandari, CEO Arvato CRM India, and Ramyam CEO MV Balasubrahmanyam. His interim conclusion: "I am confident that the insights generated by the cooperation will provide new impulses for both sides."