Steve Fearon, Oracle: "The evolution of CRM to customer experience management is happening"

19th Jan 2012

Oracle's Steve Fearon explains how organisations can build a customer-centric brand through effective customer experience management.

2011 was a big year for customer experience management (CEM). As highlighted in our recent article, CRM lessons from 2011, customer experience was everywhere - it was on our TV screens as Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas produced ‘Secret Shopper’; it was in our bookshops with the likes of Shaun Smith (with his book ‘Bold’) and the SAP team of Reza Soudagar, Vinay Iyer , Volker Hildebrand (with ‘The Customer Experience Edge’); and it was on the minds of the CRM vendors, notably with Adobe announcing its entrance into the CEM space, and Oracle's headline-grabbing acquisition of RightNow.

“The customer experience has always been the core of customer relationship management (CRM), but what has happened is that it’s finally being realised that it is actually not only a theoretical core, but it also needs to be the focus of what companies do when it comes to CRM,” Paul Greenberg, author of the seminal CRM at the Speed of Light and president of The 56 Group, told recently.

Steve Fearon, vice president, applications sales development, alliances & CRM On Demand EMEA, shares his take on it.

"Customer relationship management is the corner stone of a customer-centric approach, but the brand needs to be able to address the customer expectations during cross channel processes, we are seeing the evolution of CRM to customer experience management," he explains.

And according to Fearon, this encompasses some of the hottest topics in the business arena, such as social CRM.

"CEM incorporates many channels, for example social CRM, which offers the means to understand where, what and which conversations are happening, and how to engage in conversation. Social CRM can be used for engaging internally within a sales team, as well as externally with the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment.
He continues: "A successful social CRM strategy for sales requires much more than access to social information about prospects. It requires a fundamentally different selling process. B2B companies need to leverage the vast volume of customer data and insights, but how the data is aggregated, transformed into intelligence and integrated into the sales process are the primary factors in determining the success of a sales organisation 'going social'."
The call to customer-centricity
So what does customer-centricity actually mean to Oracle - and most importantly, how can it be achieved?
"By using social media, B2B companies have realised that this channel is very effective to work across departments and functions. Companies can then evolve their B2B marketing and B2B selling, underpinned with internal collaborative teams, armed with insight gained through analysis of the market and segments within the customer base to execute efficient campaigns, or proposing the right offer," Fearon explains.
Unsurprisingly, Fearon believes that Oracle's Fusion CRM is perfectly placed to enable social applications for sales and marketing.
"By integrating social media and CRM applications, Oracle brings the complete solution for effective selling for B2B sales force. Sales team will be able to collaborate tightly, sharing documents and information instantly, participate to conversations with the rest of the organisation to make the sales cycle progressing rapidly. All members of the sales team will follow the activity streams and be able provide his own added value, with no delay."
He continues: "This internal social collaboration operates across every type of media, across your internal sales and marketing ecosystem, whether mobile or office-based, to ensure your team are always doing the right thing at the right time to address the customer expectations, offering a competitive advantage."
But the path to customer-centricity isn't a simple one - irrespective of the tools that are deployed. And to this end, Fearon has some advice.
"B2B brands traditionally address their customers through direct sales organisations, with direct customer relationships, so could already be achieving customer-centricity. Or are they? Are they really engaging to learn what their customers need, across all channels and all departments? To do this you need to be able to measure the effectiveness of this engagement and follow the right KPIs. Add in a more complex B2B set of intermediaries, distributors, wholesalers, etc….and the customer engagement challenge increases."
He continues: "To effectively measure their customer experience during every interaction B2B companies need the data captured across sales, service, marketing, billing, social, etc and across the multiplicity of intermediaries. This leads to a large volume of information which used well offers companies new insights, new opportunities and find different, more effective business models.
"The key issue for many organisations, who are already listening and engaging through social media tools however, is how they integrate and link the resulting media into their core CRM systems. By not evolving their CRM systems in line with their social media activity, organisations are missing the opportunity to evolve their business model, re-define their strategy and ultimately their service offering to up-sell and increase revenue."

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