Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Future of CRM

Long before the hype of big data and personalized marketing came along, CRM utilized customer data to drive results.   Stereotyped as a function that largely provides data & infrastructure, today’s CRM is shedding the shackles of its technology platform roots to become the standard, common sense approach to driving company-wide Customer Experience (CX) improvements.

does CRM equal CX v2What is CRM?  Even the acronym is up for debate:  is it Customer Relationship Marketing?  or Customer Relationship Management?  In a desire to symbolize the evolution of CRM, some – like Disney – have boldly swapped letters in the acronym – to CMR – or Customer Managed Relationships.

CRM was born from the early days of direct marketing and grew with an insatiable desire to integrate any data about a customer from across an organization’s multitude of touchpoints.  As the internet and data warehousing have evolved, so too have the ways an organization can interact with a customer:  new marketing channels (late 90’s: email marketing & online commerce; 2004: Facebook); multiple customer service interaction points (call centers, online chat, Twitter).  The concept of a “360 degree view of the customer”- whereby all of an organization’s data about a customer resides in one accessible place – has fueled CRM technology sales for the last two decades.  But CRM hasn’t always been popular.

Back in the late ’90’s, marketers quickly realized that storing email addresses and blasting out weekly marketing emails was a relatively inexpensive and effective way to drive traffic to their newly built ecommerce sites.  When the internet bubble burst in 2000, budgets to drive eyeballs & impressions evaporated, making the email lists even more valuable.  While CRM isn’t singularly focused on email marketing, the revenue that email could drive resulted in many CRM platforms having a heavy emphasis on the first digital marketing channel.

Personal mobile devices (I recall the Blackberry being the most popular mobile device prior to the first iPhone arriving in 2007) and social networks quickly became the shiny objects that shifted executive attention away from CRM and first party data.  Why invest in a CRM ecosystem when Facebook will do it for you?  The shift of ad budgets to “digital” began in earnest – largely to drive Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers.

The social networks provided a window into the profiles and lives of actual consumers (are they buyers?  this remains a difficult question).  The portrait of real, live consumers previously produced through internal data analytics and outside primary research investments paled in comparison.  Whether “likes” equal engagement mattered little to the marketer who could, at any moment, pull up the company’s Facebook page and show actual consumer profile photos and an ever increasing Like count.  So it’s not at all surprising that just yesterday, Facebook enjoyed an enormous earnings announcement: $18 Billon (with a B) 2015 revenue (see “Facebook Reports Soaring Revenue, Buoyed by Mobile” Jan. 27, 2016, The New York Times)

Those who have invested in building millions of Facebook fans are now paying Facebook a ton of money to be able to talk to them.  On a separate path are companies who continue to pursue channel integration, whether a retailer trying to align their bricks & mortar experience with the mobile/online shopping experience, or a banks that must now consider how their online banking experience aligns with that of the local branch.  When you begin to think about multi-channel scenarios, even if within the context of what would be considered traditional CRM, the lines between CRM and CX begin to blur.  Utter the words “customer journey” and you’ve taken a big step into the land of CX.

CRM and CX holding CJ 3

So what’s the difference? (and who cares?)

As both CRM and CX are increasingly participating in a similar customer centered dialog, an opportunity exists to pursue customer experience improvements from both the top-down (CX), as well as the bottom-up (CRM).  A unified vision of the future customer journey becomes the guiding beacon to align both perspectives.

In the majority of cases, a CRM team will be significantly challenged to persuade their organization to become more “customer centric”.  However, a frustrated CEO looking to transform her company’s culture (and results) is likely to be open to a CX approach that delves into topics like an “outside-in” perspective, CX maturity and employee engagement.  Any highly qualified CX team licks their chops at the chance to facilitate an organizational transformation dialog.

On the other hand, CRM people, by nature, are cross-functional ninjas.  They’ve had to be, else they wouldn’t get good data, new analytic views or a critical customer communication mode programmed into the new app or website.   CRM jobs can also become painstakingly tactical – down deep into the weeds of program execution.  The opportunity exists to pull these folks into journey mapping discussions and provide them with a much needed view of the broader picture.  The same journey mapping discussions are key to aligning cross-functional partners and their initiatives and budget priorities.  Forget getting everyone on the same page, this is your chance to “get everyone on the same journey”.

If you work in CRM and haven’t started extending contact strategies into more holistic customer journeys – there’s no better time than the present. By talking in terms of customer scenarios and the potential impact on the customer’s experience…you can build a common vision from the ground up – one that anyone in the organization can understand and support.

There’s never been a better time to be in CRM/CX.