When it comes to CRM in 2012, the spotlight really will be on the customer. Analysts predict that mobile CRM, CRM analytics, customer experience management (CEM) and the integration of social media data will be key trends in the upcoming year.
Businesses that want to succeed will have to focus on improving and managing the ways they engage with customers. Gone are the days of merely thinking about CRM as a technology-enabled business technology, according to Suresh Vittal, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc.
“We’re going to start to see more of reduced focus on technology or business and a focus on how to get these solutions in place because there’s social, there’s mobile and there’s the digitization of broader business that’s creating a lot of disruption,” he said.
Jim Berkowitz, founder and CEO of CRM Mastery Inc., also noted how social CRM and mobile CRM are changing the CRM landscape. “More CRM vendors are offering analytics through mobile devices so companies have access to various kinds of analytics that were pretty much limited to being on a computer in your office, he said.”
The problem is that few CRM solutions can actually handle those disruptions, so much of the responsibility rests in the hands of the business and technologists who have to work together to get smarter in improving, managing and empowering customer relations, Vittal said.
“In this coming year we’ll see a far more aggressive push toward breaking down the silos between the functional and the technical areas,” he said.
‘Extended customer experience’
The new year should also bring about a greater emphasis on analytics and using customer data to make better decisions to improve business performance, according to Vittal.
“That stuff has traditionally not been a strength of CRM companies,” Vittal said. “You’re going to start to see more and more brands focus on how to take this customer data that resides across the organization and make it available across the organization and share that into these customer engagement systems.”
Forrester analyst Zach Hofer-Shall agrees that the customer will be in control in 2012.
“Because of social and mobile technologies, the customer has a pretty large demand over how companies treat them,” he said. “It’s up to companies to create this customer experience that can scale to their needs and can meet them wherever they want to be, wherever they are, to differentiate between all the other companies and to create an extended customer experience.”
To enable this experience, companies have to collect the information that comes in from mobile applications, telephone, email and online and centralize it in one place -- something that they currently aren’t doing, Hofer-Shall said.
“We need all this information from where customers voluntarily share their opinions in one place,” he said. “Right now we are missing all that information in databases.”
Integration of social media data for CEM
Also in 2012, the CRM world and the social world are going to collide, because organizations are beginning to see the value of connecting online customers and their online conversations to actual customers in their databases, according to Hofer-Shall.
“Initially, this push was coming from the PR or marketing side of the organization -- the part that really didn’t use much CRM technology,” Hofer-Shall said. “What’s really changing now is that the customer service, sales and IT sides of the organization are also [seeing the value in doing this]. This is important because the IT world often owns the CRM system and the technology strategy.”
To meet customers in all the channels where they interact with a business requires a marketing style of strategy, but an IT level of implementation that simply can’t happen without the support of IT, he said.
“While marketing may have needed this for a while, they weren’t having the conversations about actually doing it,” Hofer-Shall said. “They were going to their own social media startups or using their own marketing tools to do it without a real connection to the database, so they were doubling efforts. Now we can streamline this by connecting the two worlds so that it actually works.”
Monitoring social monitoring in 2012
Social is definitely a word that companies should pay attention to in 2012, Berkowitz said.
“That means [focusing on] tighter integration, social networking and adding social monitoring to a company’s solutions,” he said. “All of these social things are going to continue to evolve. Unlike traditional operational CRM, where someone would add a feature such as customer service, social is more process-orientated.”
For CRM vendors, that means creating systems that interact more with the customer, rather than systems that revolve around an organization, he said.
“That will be a huge trend,” Berkowitz said.