future of crm

What’s the Future of CRM? Here’s a Hint: It has Everything to Do with the Customer

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The future of CRM is bright. CRM will continue to report key data and give insight for future action, however, leading experts see CRM evolving to measure and inform sales enablement and customer engagement while playing a tremendous role in the success of future business.

At this session of Dreamforce, led by John Taschek Senior Vice President of Market Strategy at Salesforce, panelists Paul Greenberg, Denis Pombriant, and Ray Wang weigh in on important considerations for the future of sales, marketing, and customer engagement. These leading CRM experts recommend the following measures for future-proofing your company’s sales:

Unify Sales, Marketing, and Operations Around Common Goals and Definitions

The evolution of CRM will facilitate the aligning of sales and marketing even more closely, says Paul Greenberg, author of CRM at the Speed of Light. Gone are the days when sales and marketing can expend effort on internal conflicts. In order to thrive in the future landscape of sales, organizations must seek to unify sales, marketing, and operations around common goals and definitions.

Sales enablement, the fusion of sales, marketing, and operations, will share goals and have common messaging and materials to the point where marketing may even have revenue targets. Marketing, sales, and customer service will need to more closely align, says Greenberg. Marketing will primarily be responsible for getting the customers’ attention and providing extensive content. Sales will need to become subject matter experts. Customer service will provide communities that capture information and bring people together.

Focus on Customer Retention Through Customer-Oriented Processes

Denis Pombriant, author of Solve for the Customer, asks two important questions:

“What are the things that I can do to keep my customers in the fold?” and
“How do we see vendor-customer relationship through the customer’s eyes?”

The evolution of CRM will help us answer Pombriant’s questions in a 360-degree view. With all the data available today, organizations have an unprecedented opportunity see customers in more detail than ever. The mindset of keeping the customer in the fold will be more important as the cost of changing from one provider to another becomes very low. Traditional forced loyalty programs such as frequent flier may not be enough to keep the customer in the fold, says Pombriant.

What will keep customers, says Pombriant, is to develop customer-oriented processes. When customers know the business is all about them, they have the potential to be evangelists for your brand. Developing engaging experiences and being a guide to help customers meet their goals will aid in customer retention.

Use Mass Personalization Through Relevant Data

John Taschek of Salesforce asks if mass personalization is an oxymoron. Ray Wang, author of Disrupting Digital Business, explains that mass personalization is another key objective for the future of CRM. The ability to have each customer interaction defined by the customer themselves will make mass personalization possible. Mass personalization, says Wang, will be a possibility through extensive ambient data mining of the collection of relevant data by sales enablement. We are somewhat limited today by the technology but in the near future it could very well be possible to enter a grocery store and have an app that auto generates a shopping list based on past buying habits and consumption rates. The same app might also guide customers through the store in the most efficient manner to get those items making your shopping experience personal quick and efficient. There may also be no need to checkout as the cart may scan everything you put it in and charge your account accordingly. While the technology might not be quite there for everything we would like to do today, mass personalization has the ability to significantly impact the way things are done in the future. Not least is what data we gather and how we gather it to improve customer engagement. Trust, says Wang, will become one of the bigger barriers to mass personalization.

Constantly Survey the Business Environment and Your Business Model for Disruptive Technology

In a business environment where disruptive technologies are allowing nontraditional competitors to get a foothold in many markets, it becomes a priority to review and perhaps redefine your business model. A good example of a disruptive technology is Uber. They have been completely disruptive to the taxi industry which has been forced to review their business model. The impact of the disruption on the taxi industry has been devastating.

Companies need to be better at surveying the landscape, understanding what is important, and placing KPIs around them to make sure we remain focused on those things. A regular review cycle to make sure that the current business model is still the right business model will lead to continued success. Building customer oriented processes and establishing CRM KPIs around those processes will help the business focus on what is important.

Set KPIs Around Important Customer-Oriented Processes to Achieve Consistent Results

In the future, it will be essential for CRM KPIs to measure customer-oriented processes and the efficacy of the business model. Ray Wang says, “We are basically trying to deliver campaign-to-commerce around the customer.” In other words, businesses need to understand that the customer cares about what’s important to them. The campaign is the start of customer engagement while commerce is the sale.

Wang says two CRM KPIs will stand above the rest as the evolution of CRM continues: Conversion rate optimization and click-through rates. Conversion rate optimization or the rate at which passive viewers become active users measures how effectively an organization has delivered the message. Conversion rate is a CRM KPI that will depend largely on sales enablement measures. Another CRM KPI, click-through rates, can be used to measure how successful online campaigns are, measures the effectiveness of the message.

Manage by Exception to Refine Processes and Ensure Better Results.

Denis Pombriant warns against committing “random acts of CRM.” Organizations need to become more methodical as they take in data, says Pombriant. In the future of CRM, companies need to become better at management by exception, says Pombriant. The KPIs matter, but more important are the outliers. Careful scrutiny of the exceptions and outliers in the data will give companies predictors of possible changes in the business landscape and customer traits.

Understand Profitable Customers and Customer Referral Value

Dr. V. Kumar, author of Profitable Customer Engagement, broadens the discussion of CRM’s future and how to understand customer lifetime value. In a study of 15,000 people, Kumar asked customers if they would recommend a brand to someone they knew (67 percent said they would). He also asked if they did recommend the brand to someone they knew (34 percent said they did). What came out of this study is the concept of customer referral value, which is the indirect financial impact that a customer has on the company.

According to Greenberg, Dr. Kumar’s study has broadened the conversation about indirect customer value (which includes loyalty program referral, brand value, customer influence value, and knowledge value) into a discussion of direct customer value. Profitable customers and customer referral value will become increasingly important. Businesses need to give customers reasons to become customer-evangelists for the brand. Customers will become a company’s best sales reps through superior products and services as well as customer-oriented messaging.

The future of CRM is more than just the future of Customer Relationship Management software. It is really the future of business. Organizations that unify sales and marketing, constantly assess the business landscape, focus on and measure customer-oriented processes, and understand the value of customer referrals will thrive in the future business environment. Greenberg assesses the future of CRM: “It is becoming the operational core of a much larger market around customer engagement.”

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