It’s nice to have good friends in high places, especially friends who spend their time talking to smart people from great businesses about their strategies, execution and plans, specifically related to customer experience. To begin the New Year, we spoke with a couple of our esteemed friends about the current state of CRM—in its full meaning, not just the system, but spelled out: Customer Relationship Management. In this first installment we look at the question, “What was the biggest development in the CRM space in 2012?” Here are a few standout assessments:
Paul Greenberg, president at The 56 Group, and well known as the Father of Social CRM:
There were a few developments this year that were notable but two really stood out – and surprise, surprise, they had to ultimately deal with how customers are treated. The two were the re-emergence of customer experience, now called CXM, as a core approach in dealing with customers and the rise of Big Data (and solutions for it).
What made these both significant is that they indicated a shift by business to seriously attempt to understand customer behaviors rather than just to extract value from the customer via transactions, e.g. purchases.
On the customer experience side:
Much of the discussion has been driven because of the maturation of social channels and the fact that unstructured data is more often emotional than not. What that meant is that companies had to figure out how to anticipate customer behaviors – at the granular individual level – and then decide how to treat those individual customers. How to treat the individual customers was how customer experience re-jiggered and re-entered the business world. Companies were realizing that they had to get closer to more and more demanding customers who were communicating with and about them in channels they didn’t own and couldn’t structure. In fact, in the IBM Institute for Business Value CEO report issued a couple of years ago, 88% of the responding CEOs said that getting closer to customers and understanding them better was their PRIMARY initiative for the next five years. Earlier this year we began to see various software vendors align themselves around customer experience. There was a wide variety ranging from Oracle to Lithium. But even more than that the practitioners began to focus around it with more jobs for customer experience professionals being made available all the time. The re-emergence of customer experience as a core of customer facing programs was one of the two big things in 2012.
On the Big Data side:
Big Data is usually defined as the amount and velocity of data so big that it can’t be handled by contemporary technologies. In 2012, we began to see the technologies to handle Big Data emerge, which changed the nature of what we did with it. In 2012 we were able to start using Big Data to identify customer behaviors, even though customers were creating data at light- speed. We began to see the tools that could handle Big Data – ranging from Hadoop to Coveo to Infor Epiphany – appear and thus were able to interpret the data in ways that gave us insights into customers at the most personal of levels. That led of course to customer experience programs and a lot of talk on both topics.
As you can see, 2012 was the year that social matured and began to truly affect customer experience. We also began to gain some mastery over Big Data and thus get the actionable insights that lead us to forecasting behavior and sculpting programs accordingly.”
Esteban Kolsky, consultant and analyst at thinkJar, formerly with Gartner:
“As I wrote recently in CRM Magazine, 2012 was a year of lessons learned. For one, businesses slowly understand that Social CRM represents little more than new channels to add to CRM. This was coupled with additional lessons learned on co-creation and collaboration, and the ability to revisit CRM as a strategy once more. Most of the people that I talk to about this on the end user side are saying that this gave them the opportunity to revisit CRM and look for the areas where investment could be ramped up, improved or altered from the status quo. They were able to see customers in a better light, and plan to deliver closer to customers’ expectations. That was the big advancement for 2012: we saw that customer centricity plays a key role in CRM.”
As Esteban and Paul noted, 2012 was a year of great change and recognition for the social and data-driven aspects of CRM, and ways in which Big Data can be tamed to provide actionable insight. It’s an opportune time to be in the customer centricity arena, and we’re all excited about what’s to come this year.
Special thanks to both our friends Esteban and Paul for their thoughts and reflections. Stay tuned for next week’s installment where we will examine how and why customer relationship management (read customer experience) will change in 2013!