Attendees of this week's Gartner’s London CRM Summit heard how a combination of supply side and demand side trends are dramatically changing the CRM playing field.
Businesses who have built success on the strength of their customer relationship management strategies over the past 10 years could be in for a rude awakening.
Attendees of this week’s Gartner CRM Summit in London heard how an unprecedented number of new challenges – both on the supply side and the demand side – are conspiring to significantly alter the playing field. And the result is that even those organisations reaping the benefits of a robust CRM strategy cannot be guaranteed CRM success in the future.
“Most of us have been on the CRM race for the last 10 years or so and some of us think we’re doing excellent job at it. But actually things are changing,” said Gartner research director Jim Davies in the opening address on day one. “There are some tough decisions we need to make. There are some new trends and changes we need to face.”
On the supply side the most significant issues are:
- Social – “As the world goes social CRM has to get more personal,” said Davies. “We can no longer keep our customers at arm’s length. For years we have focused too much on the management of our customer relationships, and we now need to focus much more on the relationship part, we need to collaborate, we need to inject a sense of mutual benefit into everything we do with our customers.”
- Mobile – “As the world goes mobile, CRM must follow. Everything we do at home we can now do outside of home. We have to think about it from our customer’s point of view – what processes across sales, marketing and customer service are suitable for execution on a mobile device.”
- Analytics – “We have got vast volumes of data, some of it structured, some of it unstructured. How do we get that single view of the customer? What about data quality? How do we analyse these vast quantities of data?”
- Cloud computing.
But Gartner VP Mark Raskino warned against the dangers of focusing solely on demand-side issues as businesses can fall foul of trying to embrace every emerging technology. Indeed, Raskino recommended that organisations start to cull ‘zombie’ channels that no longer offer sufficient value.
“Today there is a galaxy of opportunities. A million stars are out there. Different micro segments and electronic channels – it has been completely fragmented,” he explained.
“We keep adding stuff and adding stuff and adding stuff – and we just don’t take it away quick enough. You often hear people talk about architecting their new channels, building things and designing things and executing them. But we should be thinking more in terms of being farmers and we have to kill weeds. We have to remove rubbish in order to build. We cannot leave all the old stuff in place. Too often half-baked under-used channels are left in place for far too many years. So you have to kill something because these older channels are not just creating ongoing cost of operation, there is also equipment, fixed overheads.”
Raskino proposed that a lot of CRM and electronic marketing thinking has been driven too much by the supply side and that organisations need to look at it from two sides. “People keep inventing stuff, flinging it at you, telling you that you are going to be differentiated if you use it,” he said. “We need to look at what is going on on the demand side as well. We may be creating more electronic channels and opportunities, but we are pouring them into a world that is changing.”
There are a number of demand side issues that need to be considered, he suggested.
In the ‘new normal’, for instance, attitudes are changing and organisations must innovate their services to adapt. Excess is scrutinised, consumption is questioned, and trust in institutions is plummeting. As a result, businesses must innovate to compete for service-value-seeking customers. Raskino highlighted how Lloyds TSB was achieving this with the launch of its free money manager application to help customers better deal with their outgoings.
“I will applaud the bravery of any company recognising the societal shifts and then gain the timing point of the use of technology channels to meet these customer needs or attempt to do so,” he said. Meanwhile, with pricing responsibility being crucial in an increasingly volatile world, Gartner forecasts that the number of organisations employing pricing consultants and deploying pricing management software will soar, to the extent that it will have the biggest impact on margins of any technology and the highest payback of any CRM technology that is implemented.
Context has also become increasingly significant, said Raskino, and permission will go to those who master it. “We can identify context and target that ‘gorgeous’ moment in a customer’s life when we would like to get to them, understand how they are thinking and feeling at that particular moment and then target them at that particular moment, because the technologies are beginning to understand all of these factors,” he explained. “And if we can compose these signals we can start to understand that particular context.”
However, many elements combine to form a context impression – including sentiment, device orientation, heart rate, social network tie strength, voice tone, location, etc.
Meanwhile, trust is getting rarer, and customers value companies that value values. Raskino urged organisations to give up data, be more open and transparent, and demonstrated that companies that are following this path are finding that it can help to solve some of their problems via initiatives such as crowdsourcing.
Other significant demand side issues include the increasing need for design – “Thinking hard about usage and content and design is not exclusive to Steve Jobs,” added Raskino. “Anybody should do it, everybody must do it.”
Attendees were warned that the combination of these trends has to be acknowledged by businesses with those that turn a blind eye standing to lose out – no matter how robust their existing CRM strategies.
“Just because we have been doing a great job with CRM in the past does not mean we’re going to be successful in the future,” warned Davies. “We need to take these new trends into account in our next generation customer strategies.”