The combination of an increase in the use of technological and social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Wayne etc. coupled with the proliferation of data these systems generate – all of which is becoming more easily accessible – may well see the death of Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) as we know it. What’s more, as sales embraces the technology and drives toward the increasingly more important aspect of buyer relationships – i.e. management of the customer total experience – the demise of CRMs may be precipitated.
The shift could see the historically important Customer Relationship Management concept (and along with it, the technology of CRM) now being replaced with a new focus – Customer Experience Management (CEM) – as more and more buyers begin to demand being treated as individuals and as sales organisations commence harnessing a combination of intelligent buyer data and clearly defined roles for their sales, service and marketing teams to fulfill that expectation. And the shift is not all that subtle! Seen by management as a boon and the ability to get a single view of customers; used by administration and accounting to track customer purchasing and payments, and viewed by the majority of salespeople as an organisational policing tool that is little more than over-inflated list / prospect manager, that takes too much time and delivers too little value, CRMs have seen their fair share of ups and downs. But all of that is coming to an end. The increasingly sophisticated demands of customers is forcing discerning sales leaders to re-think their customer relationship management protocols. Originally technology lead, CRMs have never really been user friendly. Millions of dollars have been invested and re-invested in trying to make the protocol deliver on its promise – i.e. that single view that not only helps organisations develop effective strategies, but also improves sales performance. But if that were true why would companies like IBM move their 67 000 seat CRM (as they announced less than a week ago)? What is forcing the change? The seismic changes taking place in the sales arena – i.e. the continued fragmentation of buyer segments; the demands of increasingly sophisticated and better informed buyers, with less to spend and greater needs; and the fact that buyers now have ample choice – has made understanding the expectations of buyers and their total experiences with their present supply chain an imperative. Add to this the complexity that today sales has to be driven by its own unique strategy, rather than a panel beaten marketing plan, and understanding the total experience of buyers s self-evident. In the era of Customer Experience Management, sales leaders and their sales people will now be looking for a new kind of ROI – Return on Input If systems and protocols can’t correlate customer data and provide predictive trends and intelligent ways to reduce the cost of sale, drive sales strategy and improve sales effectiveness, no system or protocol will survive. The demands don’t end with sales leadership. With increasing pressure on them to perform, sales people too are making a shift and demanding that CRM provides different support. Savvy sales people realise that in order to sell effectively – whether their sale is product or solutions based, they have to have a better grasp of industry, market and customer knowledge. They expect to access – as easily as possible, and now days usually from a mobile device – the important information that will help them identify opportunities to discuss solutions with their customers.
With an increase in the need for channel and key account management, as another driving force, coupled with the more strategic approach to selling that is seeing a ground swell in Australia – particularly as we compete so heavily with the Asian bloc – knowledge exchange has become one of the all important differentiators, along with ease and speed of access. With the advent of Customer Experience Knowledge we are likely to see business intelligence systems (BI) drive Customer Expectation Management, not data collection. Sales leaders will shift from looking for data to demanding a contiguous streaming of information and IT people will have to change their focus to data interpretation and application. Apply the knowledge that sales leaders can derive from understanding their customers’ total experience to sales strategies is going to help organisations regain some control of their future. Failure to harness this powerful concept and tool may well result in companies seeing margins eroded, unnecessarily! Remember everybody lives by selling something. Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au