Bolstering the customer experience
ACN sits down with Aldar Properties’ Sreedhar K Reddy to discuss the Aldar Customer Experience Transformation journey
Boasting over $10 billion in assets and over 75 million square metres of land bank, Aldar Properties is one the largest and most reputable real-estate developers in the Middle East. Since its inception back in 2005, the Abu Dhabi-based company has had its hand in a number of iconic developments in the UAE, which include Al Raha Beach, Al Gurm Resort, Ferrari World and the Al Jimi Shopping Centre, to name a few.
With a number of high-profile developments, such as Ansam and Mayan, reaching their completion this year, and recently announced projects like Yas Acres on the horizon, opportunities are plentiful for any would-be property owners and leasers.
But for the team at Aldar, building new properties alone is simply not enough to engage its diverse client base and potential customers. In order to increase its market share and revenues across a portfolio of assets, the company aims to identify novel ways in extending and exploiting its prospective consumer base. The answer lay with the integration of both the sales and marketing channels, as well as the implementation of certain modules from Oracle, a global computer technology firm specialised in enterprise technologies.
“We’ve always been adopters of leading-edge technologies … we have continuously looked for opportunities to enhance the business solution footprint and as IT evolves, we look at technologies that would benefit our business,” explains Sreedhar K Reddy, director of IT at Aldar Properties.
Following the deployment of Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 in 2007, Aldar has introduced over 30 Oracle modules to its IT infrastructure. Initially implementing modules for finance, human resources, sales, and procurement, the real-estate developer has now shifted its focus towards what Reddy describes as the “customer experience journey”.
Culminating into the Aldar Customer Experience (Aldar CX), the publicly-listed company has over an eight month period, introduced and integrated three new platforms with the existing Oracle ERP, centred on enhancing interactions with customers. This comprised of the digital marketing, lead management and customer service platforms.
The first to launch back in January 2016 was digital marketing, which focused on devising and managing sales campaigns for newly launched properties. At its heart is Eloqua, an automated Oracle product for campaign management utilising email and SMS.
In addition to monitoring the progress of active campaigns and automatically following up on emails sent to prospective clients, Eloqua provides a comprehensive view of customers and visitors, analysing data on clients and segmenting interests. This was accomplished through integration of all the various digital assets, which includes its website, Aldar.com, Microsites, as well as retail assets, such as Yas Mall.
“Eloqua allows you to do segmentation and interface with the digital channels, as well as automatic initiation of all outgoing communication, particularly if there hasn’t been a response,” explains Reddy.
As part of its campaign management, the real-estate developer has also introduced a new SMS module. Integrating directly with Eloqua, the SMS module tackles an ongoing brand issue experienced by Aldar when targeting potential customers outside of the UAE.
It is typically the case with local telecom providers that SMS messages received from abroad display the phone number alone, while the new module enables the message sender ID to display the company’s name.
Unveiled back in March 2016, the lead management platform takes on all leads generated through the various campaigns, converting them into opportunities for sales of lease. Based upon Oracle Sales Cloud, the platform gives Aldar’s various sales teams, which include the call centre, sales and leasing staff, and customer management team, a near holistic view of leads and customers.
With the integration with Oracle ERP and digital marketing, as well as the various sales channels, the lead management platform can access a shared and detailed profile of prospective clients. Compiled from multiple sources, the profile includes anything from previous purchases or defaulted payments, to contact details exchanged at a kiosk at the mall, or a simply phone query to Aldar’s call centre.
“We also know what service request that you have previously requested and whether or not you are a happy customer … all that visibility is available to the sales person who is making the call. We are empowering our sales people with information about the prospects, not just with the sales history, but the service history as well,” explains Aldar’s IT director.
As an added benefit of the integration, data duplication has become less of an issue then it had been previously. In the past data cleaning of duplicate record entries were common, as the separate channels maintained their own databases.
With everything now integrated and unified, the profiles of both active and prospective clients are identified by their email address.
Coming full circle, the final part of Aldar CX comprises of the customer service platform. Expected to go live by the close of 2016, the service component includes a number of tools for tackling customer complaints, raising service requests, and even managing post-sales services, including handover.
Furthermore, the platform also comprises of a self-service, web-based tenant portal, for both retail and commercial customers.
“If you want to raise service request or complaints there is a facility to do so. If you are a tenant or customer who bought properties from us, you can log in, in a similar way that you do your internet banking. You’ve access to the portfolio of assets you have bought from us, the payment reminders, any previous communication, as well as the ability to raise service requests,” explains Reddy.
“All customer and prospect facing are cloud-based solutions that are available not only with customers in a web environment, but is also available for our own agents and staff, who have access on their mobiles through an app,” he adds.
Understanding the value of social media, Aldar’s service management platform has also incorporated social media tools capable of both monitoring and reacting to ongoing exchanges in real-time.
Monitoring posts across numerous social media channel, which includes the likes of YouTube and Instagram, the real-estate developer utilises sentiment analysis to gauge client feedback and interests.
The automated process goes even further by upgrading potential complaints into service requests for someone to follow up on. Supporting over 24 languages including English, Arabic, Russian and Urdu, the module does however have its limitations, particularly with sarcastic comments that often gives a false negative.
Looking ahead, the team at Aldar have already begun to consider additional modules to incorporate into its IT infrastructure. The real-estate developer is looking at the potential impact of portfolio management, as well as social relationship management, the latter an addition it hopes will enable access to other mediums outside of its standard channels, such as blogs and media.
While it already operates with a solid business intelligence and analytics platform, Reddy shares that the company is also exploring the option of incorporating Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE).
“There is a continuous activity internally to improve our workflows in our environment with the view that we would want to eliminate all paper-based forms,” explains Reddy.
“We are making incremental progress on that. Our objective is that we want to get the no paper approval across the business. The more automation that we do in terms of processes, less would be the use of paper.”
Other improvements that may come to fruition in the coming year include introducing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) capabilities to the workforce, as well as exploring the potential impact of automating parts of the procurement process.
The director of IT shares that the business is also delving into business information modelling (BIM), the creation of a loyalty platform, and various opportunities with smart technologies.
In terms of the GCC’s IT market, Reddy expects the trend of digital transformation will continue unabated in 2017, along with truly novel Internet-of-Things (IoT) implementations. Furthermore, he predicts that the popularity of virtual desktop infrastructure will take off, and cloud adoption will see more wide-spread use with more mature workloads, such as Office and Skype for business.