Feature Story

CRM: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  August 03, 2012

This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

As discussed in this issue’s cover story, TMC got its start covering the call center space in June 1982 with the launch of Telemarketing magazine. And, after a couple of iterations of the publication, TMCin January of 2000 officially broadened its coverage and title to Call Center CRM Solutions.

This is just one indicator of how long and strong the impact of CRM has been – and continues to be – in the contact center and beyond.

Early PC software like Salemaker and TeleMagic enabled telemarketers and other salespeople to track their customers and prospects. These solutions were precursors of what is now known as customer relationship management or sales force automation software. Tom Siebel and his company of the same name popularized CRM software in the mid 1990s. Oracle (News - Alert) later purchased Siebel, among others, in this space.

Marchai Bruchey, chief customer officer and chief marketing officer at Thunderhead.com, a global provider of enterprise solutions for customer experience management solutions, says that when CRM came of age in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the focus was on improving internal processes to better support customers, reduce costs and increase satisfaction.

“It was an inside-out view of how to manage a relationship with customers,” Bruchey says. “Many CRM strategies were designed to give you a single view of the customer across the sales, marketing and service function – although I think many companies would admit that after many years of project and millions of dollars spent, they never achieved this goal. I think in large part it wasn't that the technology didn't exist, it was the internal siloed approach where no one single operational executive had the responsibility for the customer.”

Mariann McDonagh, chief marketing officer at inContact, says that while CRM systems used to basically be Rolodexes that automated reminders to contact leads, CRMs now offer more sophisticated opportunity tracking, historical records, and in some cases built-in knowledgebase and social capabilities.

“While CRM continues to evolve, and the expectations of customers change, there is more demand for integrating the various systems in the contact center with the CRM and automatically documenting the record of the call,” she says.

For example, McDonagh explains, customers expect that if they are known to a company, when they call in, their record will automatically pop to the agent with an accompanying record of their last several calls, their issues and outcomes. That means it’s important for businesses to integrate CRM and call handling systems, and, where applicable, add other systems like billing, fulfillment and inventory into the mix.

CRM is also colliding with social media and mobile communications, leading to important new possibilities in customer experience, adds Michael Peachey, director of solutions marketing at salesforce.com, a CRM pioneer that has more than 100,000 customers, including Burberry, Electronic Arts, and NBCUniversal.

“CRM tools that are built for the social enterprise enable brands to meet customers where they are – on social media and mobile devices,” Peachey says. “These social and mobile CRM technologies are helping companies transform into social enterprises that put customers at the heart of their business. Social enterprises realize huge benefits, from increased sales, to increased brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.

The shift to the social enterprise is transformational for CRM, he adds.

“Social enterprises leverage social, mobile and open cloud technologies to revolutionize how they interact with their customers and employees,” Peachey continues. “In fact, a 2010 McKinsey study stated that social enterprises have greater market share, increased revenue, and improved productivity.”

By connecting to social channels like Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter, he adds, “companies can delight customers by listening, analyzing and engaging with them. Customer social networks allow companies to collaborate on marketing, selling, and servicing their customers, making every interaction more strategic than ever before.”

So bullish is Salesforce.com on the intersection of CRM and social media that the company has purchased two social media businesses ­– Buddy Media (News - Alert), a deal announced in June, and Radian6, which it bought last year. The Buddy Media platform – which has nearly 1,000 customers including major global brands like Hewlett Packard, Ford, L’Oreal, Mattel and the world’s largest marketing agency groups like IPG (Interpublic Group), Omnicom (News - Alert), Publicis and WPP – allows customers to publish content, place and optimize social advertising and analyze the effectiveness of social marketing programs. That way, marketers can determine which content is driving the most engagement and understand which campaigns are delivering the greatest return on investment.

Meanwhile, Oracle bought Buddy Media competitor Vitrue in May. That followed its acquisition of Collective Intellect which, like Radian6, provides a tool to monitor social commentary.

In a June 4 blog discussing social CRM strategy at Salesforce.com, Marcel LeBrun, senior vice president and general manager of Salesforce Radian6, wrote: “We believe that marketing is undergoing the biggest transformation in 60 years. Marketing is evolving from traditional media campaigns focused on one-way messaging and brand impressions to social marketing, focused on building customer connections, two-way conversations and customer relationships. Advertising is expanding from traditional media to social media, with campaigns that engage customers and build connections. Social media has moved from a specialized team in marketing to the foundation of marketing.”

Bruchey of Thunderhead.comnotes that the world changed forever when customers went digital. Companies used to determine how to manage the relationship with their customers, but now customers define how they want to be managed.

“The new customer no longer wants to wait for you to respond; they will be more than happy to take their business elsewhere,” she says. “If you don't start managing your business from an outside-in view, that is from the customer’s perspective, that hard-won customer may become a defector.

“Customer retention is a business imperative for many companies, which is why you are seeing the rise in customer experience officers, customer loyalty officers, chief customer officers,” she says. “No matter what the title is, businesses are recognizing that customers need a seat at the executive table, and they need someone to work across the silos in the business to make customer experience a reality.”

Expanding on the subject of silos, Kim Martin, director of marketing at Voxeo, says that “CRM is becoming much broader, leaving its siloed arena of phone and e-mail and leaping into more input channels, such as mobile web, text messaging, social media and video. New technologies are making it possible to bring all those input channels together, giving contact centers a single view of their customers to provide better, more efficient communications. Having one single platform enables companies to gather and maintain a wealth of information about customers that can be used to personalize each experience and proactively engage customers.”

She adds that CRM is also no longer simply about inbound communications.

“Contact centers now have the ability to reach out to the customer and anticipate his or her needs,” she says. “This level of insight and personalization has become key to building loyalty and satisfaction, as well as reducing the number of inbound calls to the contact center.

“Self-service is also continuing to change CRM,” she adds. “The ubiquity and power of the smartphone has created an expectation of immediacy from the consumer that has made contact centers expand their focus from live agents to one of giving the customer the choice of when and how to communicate with companies. Statistics have shown that in many cases, consumers prefer to get information they’re seeking without speaking to a human, whether it be through mobile web, text, Twitter or voice applications. A new generation has emerged that is often more comfortable interacting with technology over a human, and companies of all sizes need to understand this and provide customer experiences that are aligned with this changing paradigm.” 

Indeed, Scott Kolman, senior vice president of marketing at SpeechCycline in the April issue of CIS wrote about the death of the traditional contact center as mobile communications take its place.

Armin Gebauer, CEO of MobileAware (News - Alert), which offers mobile operators tools to market and offer customer support to end users, agrees with this assessment.

“Operators are starting to understand how to successfully use technology to increase customer satisfaction and simultaneously decrease customer care costs,” he says. “Once operators figure out that customers want to be empowered to manage their own accounts, they will be on the path toward a truly efficient approach to CRM. Within 5 years, we believe that the majority of customer care interactions will take place via mobile device.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi