The obvious interaction between business process management (BPM) and customer relationship management (CRM) in the business realm has not been that natively embraced by software providers in their offerings (for more analysis, read TEC’s blog post). Some exceptions are Pegasystems (including Chordiant, read here), Consona CRM (including former Onyx, SupportSoft, and KNOVA, read here), and KANA Software (read here). To be fair, Microsoft Dynamics CRM (see recent TEC article) and salesforce.com (see recent TEC blog post) have lately included (well, retrofitted, rather) some BPM elements within their respective offerings.
Another vendor that has embraced process-centric CRM from the beginning is Sword Ciboodle Ltd, which was founded in 1986 as Graham Technology plc and remains based in Glasgow, United Kingdom (UK). The company has been delivering process-based customer interaction solutions to contact centers since 1994. Since then, the vendor has developed a strong presence in Europe and a notable presence in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. In the mid-2000s, the company released its Ciboodle product set/platform for contact centers—this spelling stems from the word "caboodle," which has come into popular usage in culture and commerce, often with the idiom “the whole kit and caboodle,” which can be loosely interpreted to mean “everything and more.”
The company changed its name to Sword Ciboodle in mid-2008, right after being acquired by the Sword Group, a financially sound company with more than 200 sterling pound million in revenues and 2,000 employees worldwide (although Sword Ciboodle represents a small fraction of those total figures). The vendor’s mantra is that it is “large enough to deliver, but small enough to care.” Sword Ciboodle began offering its CRM software products and services in the United States (US) in 2007 and has since acquired several marquee customers in the North American market.
What Customers Want from a Modern Service?
Since its inception, Sword Ciboodle has helped large organizations make radical improvements to their customer service and sales operations. Although technologies, processes, and the overall customer service industry have undergone many changes since the company’s inception, the company has consistently offered an impressive blend of innovative technology, process engineering expertise, and project delivery (flexible delivery models including direct, partner, and blend) that has allowed it to expand globally and attract a truly worldwide customer base. The company has successfully retained many of its customers for more than 10 years.
Sword Ciboodle focuses on improving the customer experience (CX) by improving customer-facing processes so that customers get exactly what they need and expect from their suppliers. Needless to say, today’s customers are quite demanding, as they expect an integrated and seamless experience across multiple channels. Yet most contact center agents, who represent the majority of costs for the provider and who define the customer experience, are constrained. This situation does not allow for visibility of multi-channel interactions.
Surely, as TEC’s recent blog post indicates, software is of little use for companies that do not have a true commitment to customer service and thus no proper processes and logistics put in place (read here). As a corollary, astute software can be an enabler for companies with the true customer experience commitment and the willingness to put the right processes and logistics in place.
Customer Engagement Continuum
Service companies should be armed with the tools for attaining customer loyalty. These tools should also provide a consolidated 360-degree view of the customer, so that companies know how to best service their customers. For the majority of companies, regardless of the industry, every customer interaction lifecycle will have the following three phases (this progression is part of the 360-degree customer view):
- The past—means providing a meaningful and readily comprehensible view of the customer’s history. This includes product or policy activity, and interaction history across all channels, including community, recent product views, campaign activity, and process history.
- The present view—relies on not only capturing and presenting key customer information (who the customer is and how it relates to the service organization), but also placing that contact in context. For example, is the customer unhappy with a particular order?
- The future—relates to the actions that can be taken to nurture the future relationship with the customer. For example, is the customer likely to churn, and are there up-sell or cross-sell opportunities or targeted messages to bring in at this time?
Delivering on the 360-degree view is not simply about having a unified database of all activity, but rather about being able to pull together the information relevant to a specific customer and specific interaction into an intuitive workspace for the agent or the customer. However, the famed “360-degree view of the customer” is not consistently possible from an analytical perspective.
From an operational perspective, an enterprise does not necessarily need all of the “360 degrees,” but it rather needs the “45 degrees” slice that is relevant at that point in time and in context (i.e., getting the right information to the right person at the right time). If the contact center does not know that, say, the customer sent an e-mail, posted on Facebook, and tweeted his/her concerns prior to becoming frustrated enough to pick up the phone—there is going to be a problem.
Sword Ciboodle provides CRM software across the Web, interactive voice response (IVR), short message service (SMS), and instant messaging (IM) channels, thereby mitigating customer frustration. The company's model is particularly well suited for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies with a high volume of transactions and multi-channel interactions. As the customer engagement wheel on Figure 1 shows, the customer can be served directly, allowed to self-serve, or can participate in social forums.
From a Local Scottish to a Global Company
Sword Ciboodle has offices around the globe. In Europe, its corporate headquarters are in Scotland, with offices in Ireland. In North America, its offices are in Chicago, New York, and Houston (US), and in Vancouver (Canada). Other offices are in South Africa, Australia (multiple), New Zealand, and Indonesia. All in all, the company currently has 70 large customers in 12 countries on 5 continents, with regional headquarters in Chicago (US), Glasgow (EMEA), Sydney (PAC), and Jakarta (Asia).
In terms of spoken languages, Sword Ciboodle is fully localizable out of the box with Language Packs available in French, Italian, Dutch, German, and Spanish. Language Packs are separate from the processes and user interface (UI) elements, allowing for the language used in the interface to be changed depending on user preference or location. In addition to Language Packs, Sword Ciboodle can customize the system to other languages as specified by the customer. For example, its deployment at Telkomsel, Indonesia’s largest cellular operator, was localized in the Indonesian language.
The vendor offers industry experience in a multitude of sectors, including financial services, retail, travel & leisure, utilities, and telecommunications. Sword Ciboodle has no “sweet spot” customer in terms of industry, size, geography, or user base. Its ideal customer is one that will work with the vendor to fully understand the goals of the CRM platform, including immediate pain points and success metrics. Those companies that let the Sword Ciboodle team become part of their teams have reportedly given the company some of its greatest work satisfaction and accolades.
Sword Ciboodle prefers companies that share the belief that a contact center should be the creator of a great customer experience, from the simplest e-mail request to an urgent phone call. This type of company knows that an excellent customer experience, delivered consistently across multiple channels, will enhance satisfaction, resulting in brand advocates, as well as retained and loyal customers. Examples of customers using Sword Ciboodle and their success stories are listed here:
- Standard Bank of South Africa saved $32 million (USD) in just 24 months from operational savings realized by deploying the Sword Ciboodle Platform.
- Sears uses Sword Ciboodle to power 6,000 customer service representatives across 14 lines of business and servicing more than 77 million contacts each year.
- The Scottish Power solution integrates to 26 back-end systems across the enterprise to provide their customer service representatives with a single view of the customer.
- Eskom, a South African electricity public utility, increased first contact resolution from 30 percent to 90 percent, saving $24 million (USD) by reducing the time required to service customers.
Sword Ciboodle has an impressive roster of retail telecom customers, such as British Telecom (BT), Vodafone Libertel B.V. (one of the largest mobile telecom companies in The Netherlands), Smart Telecom (Ireland), AAPT (Australia), Eircom (Ireland), KPN (The Netherlands), and Telecom (New Zealand). Its customers in other sectors (e.g., insurance, retail energy, retail banking, and retail consumer goods) consist of some renowned brands and leading companies (e.g., Sears, Sony, Eskom, Bally Total Fitness, Standard Bank, CAPITA). In the case of the aforementioned Sears deployment, the product’s capabilities include Service Desktop, Case Handling, Campaign Execution, Dashboards, Customer Profile, Cross Sell, Inquiry Management, Unified Interaction History, and Customer Profile. The implementation also includes integration with Avaya, Mosaix dialer, mainframe applications, and FedEx and/or UPS parcel tracking.
The Ciboodle Platform
The Ciboodle Platform (a.k.a., Ciboodle) links and extends CRM to business processes that can be modeled in a way that is in tune with the business drivers and customer interactions for each organization. The platform comprises several modules, plus the integration framework called Ciboodle Development Kit, with advanced capabilities within each module, such as e-mail, knowledge management (KM), sophisticated business rules, and business logic.
Ciboodle Platform contains a unified intelligent agent desktop module called Ciboodle One. This module drives resolution with the first contact, allowing contact center agents to interact with customers and giving back-office experts a window into the customer. Figures 2-6 illustrate how Ciboodle One provides customer service representatives with a seamless single view of the customer history, metrics, and processes. They also illustrate the inquiry handling process, which identifies the type of contact and routes it to the best source for resolution.
Another module is Ciboodle Flow for comprehensive case management. This module makes it easy for business and customers to initiate and track all customer service requests, whether the case is an incident, a complaint, a quote, an order, or a dispute. Figures 7-9 illustrate how the module manages customer service requests across multiple channels, including phone, e-mail, in-person, SMS, and via the Web. The product can be configured for multiple user roles, which speeds the average handling time for a task and streamlines or shortens the training period—making it for easier introduction of new processes.
Customers Going “Solo” and “Social” (if Preferred)
Ciboodle Live is an integrated Web self-service content portal that arms customers with the tools to do it themselves. While gratifying customers, these capabilities reduce demand on other high-cost communication channels, while allowing agents to focus on high-value interactions. Figures 10 and 11 show how Ciboodle Live manages the requests from customer service through the back-office processes needed for fulfillment.
Last but not least, Ciboodle Crowd is a collaborative, community-based social CRM software that enables organizations to create social communities, including forums, blogs, discussion boards, and question and answer (Q&A) threads. Companies are hereby able to join forces with their customers, and empower them to collaborate and interact with each other, and even work on the service provider’s behalf. Figures 12 and 13 illustrate how Ciboodle Crowd can enable a service company to not only monitor mentions across social media channels, but also get involved in discussions with relevant contacts and attach particular contacts to the central customer profile.
Some Underlying Technology Details
The Ciboodle Platform and the aforementioned supporting modules offer a secure and scalable solution, which can be deployed in on-premise and hosted models. The Ciboodle Platform delivers a modern open service-oriented architecture (SOA) framework leveraging Web services, extensible markup language (XML), and other prevalent standards. It is a Java-based stack, supporting both open-source platforms, such as JBoss and Apache, as well as proprietary vendor-supported stacks by Oracle and IBM. The Java-based development stack has been in place for more than 10 years.
In addition to software, Sword Ciboodle offers creative and diagnostic consultancy (professional services) in regard to industry domain intelligence, enterprise architecture, business analysis, process engineering, project management, Ciboodle product suite deployment, systems integration (SI), usability and human-computer interaction (HCI), graphical design, statistical analysis, and application and technical support services. Needless to say, Ciboodle is frequently integrated with heterogeneous, complex information technology (IT) legacy systems and environments (e.g., back-office systems, telephone systems, etc.).
The development kit can accommodate those clients that require an enterprise search and a sophisticated KM engine, which is typically more common in support environments where there is a need for the user to search through large amounts of unstructured information. To that end, where the customer has a complex product range or technical product set, or a requirement to index, search, and retrieve from large amounts of documentation, Sword Ciboodle provides the capability to develop KM internally or integrate with best-of-breed KM engines in order to maintain a common look and feel for the user.
Sword Ciboodle has an established and growing partnership program. Its SI partners are CSC, IBM, Accenture, Capita, Dimension Data, eLoyalty, HiSoft, Revelant Technologies, and Solvis Consulting. The company’s telephony partners are Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys, and the product independent software vendor (ISV) partners are Radian6 (part of salesforce.com) for social monitoring, text analytics, and sentiment analysis, and SAS, whose Real Time Decision Manager has been integrated with Ciboodle One to provide a higher level of personalization to the customer.
International delivery partners include CSC, HiSoft, Relevant Technologies, and eLoyalty. Specifically, CSC combines the full Sword Ciboodle suite with its High Performance Contact Center (HCC) methodologies, tools, and solutions. This is a marked progress toward management of next-generation contact centers, i.e., changing contact centers from cost centers to profit centers. Sword Ciboodle delivers its private cloud–based application through a number of partners such as IBM, Fujitsu, CSC, and eLoyalty. The majority of its customers (more than 75 percent) are on premises.
Some Words of Caution
Needless to say, Sword Ciboodle’s competition comes from the following software powerhouses that offer much broader offerings other than contact center solutions: Oracle (with InQuira, RightNow, and Siebel), salesforce.com, Amdocs, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. On the BPM or CRM side, its larger competitors are Pegasystems, KANA Software, and Consona CRM, with broader suites and better name recognitions. The vendor would benefit from pursuing deeper strategic CRM application partnerships to round out product offerings in terms of sales force automation (SFA), marketing automation, mobile CRM, and social CRM. Some partnering alleys could be Infor Epiphany CRM, SugarCRM, and Sage CRM.
While Sword Ciboodle provides multi-channel support, the solution seems to be a much better fit for call centers where the primary mode of communication remains the telephone. Namely, the solution does not have the best-in-class offering for e-mail response management systems (ERMSs), and integrated chat and/or co-browsing for Web customer service, which are the requirements of multi-channel contact centers. It can best manage customers calling into call centers and then subsequently conduct case management. But even for that, Sword Ciboodle does not have a strong KM offering, compared with, say, Oracle/InQuira, Consona CRM, or eGain.
While the vendor’s geographic presence is wide, its customer references seem to be coming primarily from English-speaking regions. Non-English speaking prospective customers might want to perform the standard due diligence before selecting the product. Last but not least, the product is not architected and deployed as a multitenant software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. This is not a major issue yet, but if and when it becomes, it will require a major effort by the vendor to rewrite its suite.
Sword Ciboodle Marketer Speaks Out
To discuss some of the aforementioned issues, we recently spoke with Mitch Lieberman, vice president (VP) of product and market strategy for Sword Ciboodle. In this role, Mitch is responsible for maintaining and expanding upon Sword Ciboodle’s future product and marketing vision, specifically, CRM in the age of the social Web and CRM in the context of a modern, multi-channel contact center. Mitch is a passionate technology executive with expertise in software architecture, implementation services, and product positioning. Mitch has held several successful leadership positions and enjoys the challenge of delivering mission-critical business applications to Fortune 500 companies.
Mitch has a unique and focused perspective on both current technological practices as well as emerging technologies, including cloud computing, CRM, customer service, and the combination of social media with CRM, called social CRM. Mitch is based out of his home office in Williston, Vermont, but you will often find him hanging out in both the Chicago, Illinois, and Glasgow, Scotland, offices.
Mitch Lieberman, VP of Product and
Market Strategy, Sword Ciboodle
Our questions and Mitch Lieberman’s answers are as follows:
TEC: What is the breadwinning product and door-opener for Sword Ciboodle? Are there any other modules that have been selling well?
ML: The Ciboodle Platform is the basis of all of the Sword Ciboodle product sales, and it is the “breadwinning” product for Sword Ciboodle, because each Ciboodle implementation is customized to the specific needs of the client. Sword Ciboodle can’t quantify one product module over another. This configuration model provides process-driven best business practices across all clients. Each customer interaction, regardless of the communication channel, uses advanced rules that the business has developed within Ciboodle to route the request to the right contact at the right time.
For organizations of all sizes, from those with thousands to those with millions of customers, the Platform ensures the establishment of customer service practices that are of high quality—providing continuity and ensuring good customer relationships. The Platform reduces complexity, allowing people to engage with others in a faster, more productive manner. The advanced rules, KM, and campaign capability allow for proactive problem handling, changes in products or services, or suggestions of additional products or services.
TEC: How do you view your competitive landscape, and why do you win or lose to these competitors?
ML: Sword Ciboodle differs from its competitors in its ability to customize its technology to meet the customer’s business needs. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach ever taken by the company, and because of this commitment to working closely with customers, Sword Ciboodle has been able to establish a large, diverse base of passionate and happy customers.
Sword Ciboodle also differs from most competitors in the quickness of the deployments and the time it takes a customer to see a return on investment (ROI). The average delivery time of a Sword Ciboodle Platform is less than 9 months, which is considered among the third fastest time for all CRM implementations according to the analyst firm Gartner. Similarly, the average payback period for a Sword Ciboodle implementation is 29 months, and Sword Ciboodle reduces the average handling time by an average of 23 percent, to within 3 months. Finally, Sword Ciboodle differs from other companies in that the flexibility and customizability of the implementations allows the company to easily integrate new channels, such as social media, into the customers’ offerings.
TEC: Has your competitive landscape changed of late (and how), and what trends have you noticed in the market lately?
ML: Over the past few years, technological advances have extended the ways in which a customer can connect with a company. From voice to e-mail, SMS, and live chat, businesses are tasked with adding channels to their customer service model. What Sword Ciboodle (the people and product) helps these businesses do is establish a system and series of process-driven methods to ensure that the customer is quickly routed to a representative channel, and, once there, that the customer is provided with an excellent level of service.
For example, while many customers are becoming increasingly social and prefer peer forums, many still want the “voice” on the other end of the phone. Still other customers prefer to help themselves via online self-service. For the majority of businesses, the customer base will contain all of these communication types—as well as the “hybrids,” who prefer different types of communication at different times. The key is to give each customer the choice to interact by whichever channel they prefer at that time, and regardless of the channel, provide each customer with great service quickly, seamlessly, and cost-effectively.
With that said, the customer-led adoption of social media, such as social networks, blogs, YouTube, and the many review sites, have made it necessary for businesses to design, implement, and adopt a customer service experience for the always-on, mobile customer. For most traditional customer service applications, these changes to social media channels have evolved quickly, and the requisite adoptions are proving difficult. Sword Ciboodle has differentiated itself by fitting into the gap between the old customer service technologies, models of service, and means of communicating with customers and the new, always-connected, savvy customer.
Specifically, The Ciboodle Platform is the only one to combine a single customer view (Ciboodle One) and a business process engine (Ciboodle Flow) with a community platform (Ciboodle Crowd). This mix lets a business use social media to allow a customer community to form, provide a means for customers to communicate with each other, give a way for service reps to interact with customers in an open and public manner, and gather customer insight from a newly emerging customer-to-business touch point.
TEC: Would you please elaborate on your strategy toward social tools and roles-based user experience, and their deployment for your target customers?
ML: All of Sword Ciboodle’s customers have the ability to integrate community, discussion boards, social networking, and features such as chat or blogging into their CRM solution. In terms of social strategy, Sword Ciboodle sees social channels as being more prominent across contact centers in almost all industries. Sword Ciboodle has developed Ciboodle Crowd, a.k.a., the community platform, with these needs in mind. Ciboodle Crowd alerts a customer service representative if certain phrases or query types are detected, and if a customer’s query has not been solved by the community within a certain timeframe.
From there, the solution could involve a simple, direct-to-customer answer, or a forum post or phone call, depending upon the context of the customer’s needs. Ciboodle Crowd also lets the business track what customers are saying and the ways in which they are interacting, so that an organization can identify customer pains and issues before they become critical. The peer-to-peer (P2P) interactions as well as the customer service representative to forum answers are captured and cataloged in each customer’s profile. Ciboodle Crowd empowers companies to develop relationships with their customers—and provides a customer forum that encourages P2P discussion to solve problems and address queries, leading to happier customers and increased brand advocacy.
TEC: What is your mobility strategy (technology and platforms supported)?
ML: Our mobile strategy has two parts: what customers can do and what agents or employees can do. Sword Ciboodle has a defined strategy for both in the following manner:
- Consumers are able to initiate interactions using a mobile Web capability or on the Android and iPhone platforms using rich HTML5 applications that are rendered with native app look and feel. These include customer identification, login, details management, initiating and tracking cases, as well as proactive notification management. The capability is provided through the Ciboodle Live Framework.
- For the agent side, the Ciboodle Platform now supports HTML5 and iOS5 as core capabilities. Ciboodle is also planning to focus on Microsoft Windows 8 for mobile support when the OS is available. The capabilities are to support in-person interactions with customers and prospective customers using a tablet device, such as an iPad.
TEC: What were the major highlights in 2011, and what do you expect in 2012, regarding demand for your solutions across different territories and product lines or modules?
ML: 2011 was a year of expansion and industry recognition for Sword Ciboodle. The company announced new customers Bally Total Fitness, Nicor National, Smart Service Queensland (Australia), and Marie Curie Cancer Center (UK). Sword Ciboodle announced strategic partnerships with CSC and SAS. We hired former Oracle and PWC executive Richard DeFrancisco as chief executive officer (CEO) of the Americas. In 2011, we received the following praise: inclusion on Paul Greenberg’s annual CRM Watchlist (again), named Rising Star by CIO Magazine New Zealand in its annual MIS Strategic 100 awards, and a citation from Forrester Research for the dynamic case management.
TEC: What issues or challenges are still keeping you up at night?
ML: The core issue is that customers make purchasing decisions based on risk (personal and company) as well as publicity and name recognition. Sword Ciboodle knows that Ciboodle is the best, most robust platform available, but the company simply does not spend the same amount of money on sales and marketing as any of its competitors.
TEC: What is your message to customers where agent experience and call centers are not the top pain? In other words, how do you compete with the broader service suite providers, who have best-of-breed KM, predictive analytics, field service scheduling, and other bundled capabilities?
ML: If agents are not complaining about an application, it is unlikely that the company is looking to replace the system currently in place. In a time where budgets are tight and companies look very carefully at what they spend, there must be a compelling reason to enhance or replace a current system. Usability and the ability to service customers top that wish list.
TEC: Your direct competitors are bolstering their social analytics and predictive analytics capabilities. What are you doing about all these capabilities, i.e., are they important for your target customers?
ML: First, as you well know, there is a huge difference between predictive and in-the-moment analytics. While one of the Sword Ciboodle partnership (SAS) offerings addresses the predictive analytics question, it really has what I refer to as a next-generation capability in driving the real-time customer experience. In terms of social analytics, Sword Ciboodle has the following advantages:
- In our core product portfolio, we have Ciboodle Crowd for more of the social CRM aspect of the solution (which while not analytics, does give a social mix to the offering). We do have reporting, but that is more in the operational handling, as well as general performance, etc. (via Jasper Reports).
- In our SAS partnership product portfolio, we address the analytics issue that currently surpasses the acquired Chordiant enhancements to Pegasystems, for example, with 'in-the-moment' real-time insights to drive each decision. We also have SAS' Social Media Analytics tool built on the company’s core analytics engine—which would expand well outside of the contact center.
- We also address social analytics with the Social Media Intelligence offering, which involves surfacing and processing conversational data from across the social Web to provide a richer view of customers and create relevant proactive outreach and reactive customer care.
Recommended Further Reading
CRM and BPM: “We Goes Together Like Peas and Carrots”. February 10, 2010.
PegaWorld 2011 Revisited. August 2, 2011.
(Forgotten) CRM and ERP Kingdoms in the Making? February 5, 2010.
Has KANA Gotten Its Mojo Back? – Part 2. July 11, 2011.
The Lesser-Known (Social) Facts about Microsoft Dynamics CRM. October 31, 2011.
Inside the Age of Social Enterprise with Salesforce.com. October 5, 2011.
Independent Sword Ciboodle Software Review.
Sword Ciboodle - Yes, That's Their Real Name. March 19, 2009.
Bad Customer Support Is Not a Software Problem. February 29, 2012.