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CRM expert predictions for 2011 experts forecast what's in store for 2011 and the evolution of social CRM, mobile and the customer experience is something they can agree on.

With 2010 drawing to a close, asked some industry experts what they saw in store for 2011. It's clear that CRM practitioners can look forward to a heavy dose of social CRM, mobile requirements and a continued emphasis on the customer experience.

Paul GreenbergPresident of the 56 Group LLC

Paul Greenberg Paul Greenberg

Small business will begin to embrace social CRM -- Small businesses’ adoption of social channels to reach their customers began to gain velocity in 2010 and that will only increase in 2011. Small business is recognizing that for a small cost (though not free) they can generate leads and engage their customers on the external social networks that already exist. Michael Stelzner, in his 2009 Social Media Industry Report, found that between 51% to 68% of B2C [business-to-consumer] companies were able to generate customers from the use of and participation in Facebook, Twitter and via a company blog. This is a lesson not lost on small business. In fact, we are seeing a number of CRM software vendors who recognize this trend, refocusing on the small business market such as -- putting the SMB [small and medium-sized business] market back on their target list. We are seeing another group of SMB-targeted CRM vendors -- like Sage adding social functionality to ACT! and Saleslogix -- to meet what is a growing demand from their SMB customer base. We are also seeing the emergence of social CRM vendors who are natively focusing on the small business side -- like Nimble -- building their social CRM (both channel and operational) directly to small business customer specifications. 2011 only promises far more of this.

Customer experience will once again become the core focus of CRM -- There is no doubt that the peer-to-peer trust that predominates this era of the social customer has also personalized how individual customers want to engage with both their peers and institutions. That means that it's no longer good enough for companies to provide just products and services. Like-versions of those products and services are available from multiple vendors of multiple size in multiple ways (via online or brick and mortar) and pretty much for the same price. Consequently, because the social customer is aware of that, the companies now must provide products, services, tools and consumable experiences that give the customer the right to sculpt the kind of experience that they want. Companies like Procter & Gamble are so aware of this that they create vast communities that range from innovators who want to collaborate on product development with P&G to moms (Vocalpoint) who have social networks of other moms, who provide both product feedback and marketing reach. In fact, Vocalpoint has been so successful in that effort that P&G spun it off as a profit center with its own CEO. This is all based on the level of engagement the customer has with the company and thus, the experience that the engagement provides.

This is the core of CRM in 2011. The vendors that we all know and love recognize this, and their messaging is aimed at it -- from the RightNow CX platform to the SAP CRM 7.0 products, which are focused on improving a company's ability to provide a better experience for the customer. This is something you will see more and more.

Finally, mobile CRM is going to be the way to go -- This is something predicted by everyone every year, but there was no iPad before 2010. The reality is that the tablet market driven by the iPad and its clear business value, in combination with robust (1.2.GHZ) processors on smartphones and the growing popularity, not just of the iPhone, but of the Android and the promise of Windows 7 Mobile, plus the continued strength of the Symbian platform in Europe (51.8% of the mobile OS devices in use) makes for a robust mobile application development market that makes jobs easier to do and certainly more portable. Don't forget cooler, too.  Consequently we have seen a rush to market for mobile CRM both operationally and from the consumer side (marketing apps that sell products, provide social reviews, etc.) for smartphones and tablets,  from all the major vendors including SAP, Oracle,, Microsoft and a myriad of others -- and from the social vendors. This is not going away. It will only grow dramatically in 2011. 

Bill Band,Principal analyst Forrester Research Inc.

Forrester analyst Bill Band provided a sampling of his 12 predictions for customer management in 2011. You can find the other 2011 CRM trends at his blog. Band is publishing a report on the subject in January.

Bill BandBill Band

Business Process Management extends to the front office -- By extending business process management (BPM) to the front office functions, customer service organizations will improve the consistency of service delivered, elevate agent efficiency, personalize service and meet compliance goals -- at a cost that makes sense to the business.

The business value of social customer engagement becomes more evident -- Winners of Forrester’s annual Groundswell Award spotlight how organizations are using Social Computing to innovate, such as community-based marketing research techniques; engaging with customers through social media; energizing brand advocates; empowering communities to support customer self-service; and collaborating with customers during the product ideation and development process.

Demand generation evolves into the lead-to-revenue-management process -- More enterprises will redefine the concept of demand generation and embrace the idea of “lead-to-revenue management” (L2RM) as the model for an expanded mandate for marketing in “complex-sale” industries. The L2RM model has three principles: 1) the end goal is revenue, not leads; 2) nurturing and qualification processes fill the gap that typically exists between lead generation and the sales process; and 3) marketing is an integral part of the entire revenue management process -- its role does not end.

Voice of the customer programs rises in importance -- More organizations will adopt the best practices exhibited by the winners of Forrester’s 2010 Voice of the Customer (VoC) Award. Companies with advanced VoC initiatives are: tapping unstructured and unsolicited feedback; integrating social media monitoring; harnessing the voice of the employee; and closing the feedback loop with customers.

CRM cost of ownership models evolve toward better transparency -- Packaged application vendors will yield to the demand for more cost transparency by their customers, cloud-based offerings from traditional (i.e., not pure SaaS [Software as a Service]) vendors will evolve to a managed bundle, similar to SaaS, consisting of software usage by subscription or lease; software maintenance (e.g., compliance updates, fixes, and troubleshooting); software enhancements and upgrades; and application managed services (e.g., patching and performance tuning).

SaaS buyers turn to advanced questions about governance -- Organizations will recognize that SaaS is more than just an alternative deployment model; SaaS has unique characteristics that require new ways of thinking about vendor selection, contracting, risk tolerance and organizational skill set requirements.

Denis Pombriant, Managing principal Beagle Research Group LLC

Denis PombriantDenis Pombriant

There are four major points to consider about next year, assuming we get continued growth and the recession is permanently in the rearview mirror. Each affects the front office in different ways, and all are on the way to achieving a permanent place of greater importance in our lives.  In no particular order, they are:

Social media -- I know we think this is almost passé given all the attention we’ve lavished on it in the last few years, but the people who write checks have something else to say. According to a Harvard Business School report, a bit over half the companies surveyed (n=2,100) said they were in some stage of deployment or use of social media.  That’s good and represents very fast adoption, but still, it’s only half, and how valuable is half a network? Yet, the study doesn’t tell us what media -- and that’s important. Also, the study says far fewer of those surveyed know much about where their customers are talking about them on the Internet. Translation: We have a long way to go before social is effective, and that brings us to the second point.

Analytics -- That Harvard study said we’re just getting started with social analytics. But if you don’t have anything to analyze all the data churned up by social media, do you really have a social plan? Watch for analytics to come out of nowhere to become very important because analytics is social’s killer app.

While we’re at it,

Our primary computing device is becoming the handheld -- which gives us great ability to stay connected while moving around.  It also gives us a big need for the same application types we use on our desktops -- including social and analytic applications.  Mobile devices make our investments in social and analytics more important.

If you take all three together, I think we have critical mass for a new productivity paradigm, which could be a big spark for the recovery and beyond.

Finally there’s video -- B2B video marketing and video communication is sneaking up on us. Nobody is talking about using it, but all of the majors have more than dipped a toe in the water. Salesforce has over 1,400 up on YouTube. They’re not long, but when done well, video delivers a ton of information and video is incredibly persistent and sticky -- i.e., they hang around forever and people pass them on to others.

Take all of this together and you have the makings for a significant reworking of the CRM we have known for 15 years, and the transition has already started. Other issues like SaaS, clouds, elementary social media -- they’re so last year.

Kate Leggett, Principal analyst, Forrester Research Inc.

Cross-channel consistency -- In 2011, customer service organizations will focus on delivering a reproducible service experience to their customers. This means that there will be renewed efforts to standardize agent actions by using a layer of business process management to guide the resolution process. Organizations will seek to give agents visibility into all customer interactions across traditional (i.e., phone, email, chat) and social (i.e., Facebook, Twitter) channels, and to deliver contextual, personalized knowledge during the service resolution process. In addition, customer service organizations will make it easier for customers to use multiple communication channels during the course of a multistep interaction and not to have to repeat prior interactions.

Mobile service, personalized service -- We will also see a real focus on better servicing the customer by providing customer service applications that run on mobile devices. Using real-time decisioning to recommend a next-best actions or to better match an agent with a customer based on their profile and issue at hand will come to the fore as companies seek to provide better personalized service. We will see a greater use of the “voice of the customer” to better align products and services with customer needs. For example, we’ll see more success stories with ideation communities for product recommendations and with customer service communities measured by contact deflection, incident closure rates and increased satisfaction scores. Companies will also double-down on their efforts to put end-to-end feedback processes in place across all communication channels.

Vendors marry technology to best practices -- In 2011, customer service vendors will continue to make it easier for companies to offer a differentiated service experience via their mature technology offerings paired with best-practice knowledge. End-to-end suite solutions will continue to be more popular than single-focus area, best-of-breed solutions who will struggle to demonstrate differentiated value. SaaS deployment methods will become attractive for all sizes of deployments in order to realize fast time-to-value. Organizations will embark on more and larger projects than they did in 2010, however, having a rock-solid business case for any change will remain critical. Companies will need to pinpoint the opportunities for quick wins, define a set of small projects to be executed in a stepwise fashion and execute flawlessly in order to be successful.

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