Where Do You Go From Here, CRM Technology?

MyCustomer.com recently asked me what my thoughts were about CRM — why initial CRM projects failed, what has changed to make deployments successful, and what the future holds for CRM. Here is the third and last part of my answers, as well as a link to the published article.

Question: It has long been suggested that ‘CRM’ is becoming increasingly opaque, with some ‘CRM vendors’ sharing few common features. Lithium, for instance, is categorized by Gartner as a ‘Social CRM’ player yet has no sales or marketing functionality at all. Has CRM become too much of a ‘catch-all’ category in your opinion, and what are the dangers of this?

Answer: I think back to the situation that happened a decade ago when the new “e” (electronic) channels became available as customer service channels. There was now customer service, and eService. Fast-forward 10 years. Electronic channels are now just another way of servicing our customers. What matters more is for a company to provide a consistency of experience across the communication channels in order to reinforce and preserve the brand.

I see this happening with social CRM. Social is just another way of selling, marketing, and servicing your customers. The vendors in the CRM landscape will change, with a tremendous amount of consolidation in the vendors landscape. The communication channels will change, but the fundamental value proposition of a CRM system will remain intact.

Question: How do you envisage CRM will continue to evolve as a technology and category?

Answer: CRM is becoming increasingly important, and I don’t see an end to the importance of this technology or this category. Today, we live in a world of undifferentiated products and services. Many companies are now focused on the “customer experience” as a differentiator, and as a way to satisfy customers and entice long-term loyalty. A healthy CRM system is the foundation for providing a personalized, targeted customer experience. The trends that Forrester sees in the CRM space are:

  • Focus on offering a targeted, personalized experience. CRM systems are evolving to provide proactive service such as alerts and notifications. Business intelligence solutions are being used to analyze customer information to provide targeted service.
  • Focus on the end-to-end experience. Companies are moving away from front-office silos and back-office silos. They are now looking at implementing end-to-end business processes that cut across functional domains. This means that there is a greater focus on integrate-ability of CRM systems.
  • Focus on the needs of your customers. This means embracing real-time communication methods like chat and virtual agents, as well as offering CRM solutions that run on mobile smartphones so that CRM professionals can be productive wherever they are.

Question: What remain the biggest challenges for companies implementing and running CRM?

Answer: Here is another flip answer, which is “Same as it always has been”. This statement is true — many companies today do not dedicate the time and resources needed for the ongoing maintenance (what I call "care and feeding") of the system once it has been implemented. Companies need to make a long-term investment in the CRM technology that they are using, the business processes supported by the CRM tool, and the people using the tool, as well as those that are maintaining it. Specifically:

 For technology:

  • Learn about your CRM system. Many companies have CRM systems with capabilities that are not being leveraged.
  • Upgrade your technology to take advantage of the newer capabilities.
  • Leverage integrations with the rest of the IT ecosystem to make your tool more productive.

 For processes:

  • Align your CRM system with best practice processes.
  • Measure your success. Gather feedback from CRM users. Use feedback to evolve your systems to realize a greater ROI.

 For people:

  • Dedicate the right headcount for the proper care and feeding of your application.
  • Train your users to understand and use your CRM system

Read the full article at: http://www.mycustomer.com/topic/technology/changing-challenges-crm-problems-we-had-issues-we-face/116494