2000 Nov 01
Revenio Revenio Dialog
David M. Raab
DM News
November, 2000

In their quest for complete control over customer interactions, today’s marketers face two tasks. The first is to manage outbound communications such as advertising, direct mail and telemarketing. These are traditional marketing responsibilities, managed with standard tools like campaign managers and marketing automation systems. The second task is to control inbound interactions such as information requests, order processing, and customer service. These are the responsibility of operational managers and systems. To have an impact in these areas, marketers must either convince operational managers to modify rules in the operational systems, or deploy interaction managers that accept operational input and return decisions for the operational systems to execute.

Although outbound and inbound communications seem distinct, they actually overlap considerably. Outbound campaigns depend on customers to initiate their replies; inbound contacts present an opportunity to deliver company-selected messages. So customer management systems must eventually accommodate both.

Revenio Dialog (Revenio Inc., 781-852-2600, www.revenio.com) primarily delivers outbound campaigns. Revenio calls these dialogs, because they can begin immediately after a customer action and can include many branches for messages and replies. This is interesting but not unique: most marketing automation systems can do something similar. But Revenio also can take a customer- rather than campaign-oriented approach. In particular, it can ensure customers receive the most important messages from multiple dialogs while still limiting the total number of contacts with each customer. Implemented properly, this provides a foundation for sophisticated customer contact strategies.

Revenio dialogs are built in a graphical interface that lets users drag shapes to form a flow chart. The shapes can represent external events that start a dialog; selections based on logical decision rules, random samples or the number of records already processed; waiting for a specified time period, date, or additional event; or outputs including email, fax, pager, direct mail or telemarketing messages. The system stores email, fax and pager messages internally, so it can generate them itself. Direct mail and telemarketing messages go to external systems with a package or script ID to indicate the appropriate content.

Shapes can also call for externally-generated model scores, enforce contact limits, screen out customers who have already received a given dialog, issue alerts based on the number of records processed, and direct the flow to another dialog. This last capability is particularly important, since it lets the system automatically route customers through a network of interrelated dialogs in response to their behavior. This ensures consistency and simplifies customer management. Revenio ships with a dozen or so shapes, and gives technical users an Application Program Interface (API) to build their own.

External systems notify Revenio that something has occurred by writing to an Event API. Each event is created by a technical user and can pass Revenio up to four pieces of information. Once the event is registered, non-technical users can use it within dialogs. Technical users can make external data available to dialogs through a Data API.

While detailed data is read from external systems, Revenio does maintain an internal database with a limited amount of customer information and a record of the customer’s position in each active dialog. This database lists all events each customer is waiting for, so the system can react quickly when one occurs.

Revenio can also gather information directly from email surveys. Survey forms are created outside of the system but carry special HTML tags to identify questions and replies. This approach lets Revenio read the answers immediately when a response is received, rather than waiting for the answers to be posted to an external database. This makes it easier to use response information within a dialog. Survey responses can be stored permanently or not. Revenio tags are available through plug-ins for the Front Page and Dream Weaver Web page creation programs, or can be inserted manually. The system can store both HTML and text versions of its surveys, and will deliver whichever is appropriate based on a customer’s system.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of Revenio is its “Traffic Cop”, which lets users limit the number of messages received by a customer during a period of time. When a dialog is ready to send a message, the Traffic Cop checks whether the customer has already reached the limit set for the current period; if so, the message is placed in a queue for future delivery. Each message is assigned a number of days it can remain in the queue and priority of high, medium or low, which are both specified when the dialog is set up. When the current traffic period expires, the system checks all messages in the queue and decides which to send based on priority and expiration date. Marketers can exempt selected messages from the Traffic Cop to ensure they are delivered immediately. Traffic Cop can also ensure customers receive a minimum number of messages per time period.

The current version of Traffic Cop applies only to email messages, but a release due in December will allow separate limits for different media and message types. The new release will also let customers specify for themselves how many messages of each type and channel they are willing to accept. However, the system will still apply the same traffic limits and priority ranks to all customers, allow just three priority levels, and not be able to reserve capacity for future messages. All these features could be refined to allow more precise customer management.

Revenio Dialog was released in September 2000. The current version reflects this newness: it has limited file segmentation, simple decision logic, no integrated statistical modeling, no start and stop dates for dialogs or shapes, no cost calculations or revenue budgets, limited result reporting, and no differentiation in security among different classes of users. Many of these functions are already scheduled for improvement.

The system runs on Windows NT/2000 servers, Oracle or SQL Server databases, and the Microsoft Explorer browser. Price is set at $250,000, although $40,000 buys a two or three month hosted pilot. There are a half-dozen current installations.

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David M. Raab is a Principal at Raab Associates Inc., a consultancy specializing in marketing technology and analytics. He can be reached at draab@raabassociates.com.

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