After 37 seven years in consulting, the last 20 dedicated to CRM, I have seen so many solutions, methods, tools come and go, but the last five years have been more amazing than the 15 before them. Just to be clear, when I talk about CRM, I am not just talking about that software we implement, but rather the full spectrum of customer relationship management where we interact with customers, employees, alliances, and everyone in our ecosystem, both known and yet to be known. While there have been many advances in CRM, here are the top four I see as major game changers.
User Centric Approach – We used to do Package Enabled Re-engineering (PER) – demo the CRM software and ask why you cannot do it that way. The shift now is away from PER to focus on the user experience the customers have with your company, all your company! Placing the customer in the middle rather than the company changes the lens by which we define success. User centric approaches transform interactions and engagement models between internal and external stakeholders (customers, clients, employees, alliances, and regulators) through digital services and channels to strengthen relationships. Leveraging intelligent devices (IoT) and interactive technologies such as voice and gesture recognition systems to not only collect real time relevant data but drastically change the human interface. Value is created by exploiting points of inefficiencies, and finding point of disruption, but the key is focusing on the user and all the elements of the company that surround them.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) – We used to write reports on the data in our CRM and ERP systems, and hope to find trends or insight we could use. Now, AI is driving a big change in using predictive analytics, structured and unstructured data to understand what the user is looking for, what information is top of mind, what is critical to the decision making process, and how to render that information in a format that users can easily consume and customized. As Data Lakes (large unstructured data storage) are becoming more common, the ability for AI to take this data at the time an inquiry is made, gives new and better insight to what customers want, how they feel about your company, how your impressions are influencing their communications, and a wide array of topics previously unattainable is changing the face of CRM along with its value.
"Data is forcing the biggest changes in CRM, where to create, find, and use it to the advantage of your company"
Social Collaboration – We have gone from one way communications and control of the message to anyone can have a message and go viral. With the increase of a very socially active population, everything from crowd sourcing, sharing and funding, along with social listening and learning bring a whole new understanding of what consumers think, what influence they have in the buying decision and how to better serve them. Tweet, your Freezer broke and your food is melting, and get a reply back from the manufacturer, “Don’t worry, it’s under warrantee, when would you like our service tech out to fix it?” Now that’s customer service! Find a consumer who has a large number of followers and positively influence their position on your product or service and good things happen. CRM has now tapped into these social networks to give companies better insight into the influence customers hold and how to leverage that influence to their advantage.
Digital Marketing – Marketing is perhaps one of the most rapidly changing way in which customer relationships are changing. While e-mail, white mail, and search engine optimization are still going on, it’s the data we are gaining to power new and better targeted messages that is exciting. Our ability to understand consumer preferences by merging marketing data, sales data, social data, consumer data (where we live, how much we make, what we buy, what we talk about) along with 100’s of other sources, and use this data to programmatically provide real time impressions to those target customers that have a profile most likely to buy our products and services, is both amazing and scary! No longer is a company satisfied with placing an ad on a website for all the world to see. They only want that space if they know the person seeing it fits their target profile. Could they be interested in my product, have they looked at it or products like mine before, do they have the money to buy it, could they influence others in their social network if they buy my product, have they posted something, somewhere about their preferences? These and other questions are now driving what message as companies want to know what I’m sending, who I’m sending it to and what I’m getting back.
In the end, Data is forcing the biggest changes in CRM, where to create, find, and use it to the advantage of your company. The shift in the last five years has been dramatic, understanding how the customer interacts with your company with so many advanced tools and method that did not exist when I started my CRM career. And it will only get better, just wait.