In (Dim) Sum - Customer Relationship Management

So what does all this prognostication mean? Well, since I’m not doing a fifth edition, you can’t catch me if I’m wrong. Oh, wait, I can be found on blogs, Twitter, as a participant in Facebook, LinkedIn, and a dozen other social networks, and aggregation sites. Oops. So I’d better be right.

What can be gleaned from all the specific details above is that, as I just spent several hundred pages outlining, CRM has changed. It has a new kind of customer to contend with, a business ecosystem no longer controlled by the very businesses that it represents, a new direction when it comes to its strategy, and a much more direct engagement between the company and customer necessary to extract any real value for either party.

That means that all of those forecasts above, right or wrong, are indicative of one thing (queue up the Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line, ”one more time, please).

Wait, I don’t mean it signals the end of the line for CRM. But it is the end of the line for this book. I hope you do think of me sometimes, but I actually have someone to love—if you read the dedication and acknowledgment you know that—and I think my life has worked out really well for that matter, but regardless, there is no need for a fifth edition. However, I will continue to love the Traveling Wilburys.

But while it’s not the end of the line for CRM, it has changed. In the first edition’s final chapter, I quoted Mike Hernandez from Microstrategy, who said, “Compre na Internet, e devolve para a loja. . . . Eu sou o mesmo cliente. Por que vocês não são a mesma loja? O system precisa se fechar nessa lacuna.”

Of course, that was in the Portuguese edition. What it means in English is “Buy it on the Web and return it to the store is actually a very important concept. I am the same customer. Why aren’t you the same store? The loop has to be closed here.”

And since that was written in 2000–2001, that loop has been closed. Just take a look at, buy something online, and then go to any Nordstrom’s in the country and return it. Or vice versa. The loop is closed.

In the second edition finale, of 2002, I wrote about the customercentric convergence that was coming where I said I would “rename” the corporate ecosystem (presumptuous of me, wasn’t it?) a customer ecosystem because the business ecosystem now revolved around the customer. How did CRM play a role in this as a technology? The systems were maturing and the ability of those systems to aggregate and organize data about transactions was leading to what Mike Hernandez said in 2000: buy on the Web, return to the store. A consistent experience for the customer across channels and locations was in transit, coming into the station. I put it this way, “If you’ve adopted CRM now or are thinking of it, chances are that you’ll have been on the very exciting ride to the effectively ordinary. That’s the way I like it. No trouble, just happy customers.”

Effectiveness (not efficiency) was the purpose of CRM back in 2002 and even subsequently as we came out of the burst bubble and began more prosperous years. But of course, as I think has been made abundantly obvious, the stirrings of the social communications revolution changed the game and the customer’s natural desires, demands, and expectations.

The third edition had an inkling of that when it came out in 2004. I closed the book with a discussion of why it had become necessary to not only have the 360-degree view of the customer and all the data associated with that, but a business model that was based on mutually derived value between the company and the customer. There needed to be a collaborative value chain among the corporation, its suppliers, and its channel—an extended corporate ecosystem—to meet the requirements of that customer. I even defined the business model as a “collaborative network, ”which sounds prescient if I want to lie about it. But what I meant was collaboration in that enterprise value chain, not between the company and the customer per se. I even said what has been consistent throughout this book too: customer strategy is corporate strategy.

But where this all comes home is here and now as we enter the second decade of the new millennium. CRM is no longer what it was in the first three editions of this book. The evolution of traditional CRM, the subject of the first three editions of CRM at the Speed of Light, has come to what has been called a manifold leap. It is changing its character because, since 2004, the customer has changed his or her character. The customer changed because of a revolution in communications driven by the easy and inexpensive accessibility of the Internet and the even easier accessibility of cellphones and smart devices. They live untethered, they live 24/7, and they require real-time response.

What I didn’t anticipate fully is how much the customer wanted to participate in the institutions they were interested in. And that their peers would be their most trusted source of both information and conversation. Intimacy has a whole new meaning with the rise of online communities and social networks. Transparency is now a business requirement, not something you draw a slide on.

But what an amazing opportunity! Even though invisible technologies have made the communications among peers and companies and other institutions much easier, the emphasis is not on the technology. It’s still on what has been consistent through all four editions of CRM at the Speed of Light. It’s geared around the experience of the customer. Now the customer can craft their own experience and your business can provide the tools. That’s a change in how experiences have been delivered. But what hasn’t changed is that it still has to do with how to craft the most delightful or exhilarating customer experience at one level, and how to avoid bad interactions between your company and your customers at another.

When push comes to shove, despite the fact that there are millions of Google search results on CRM, CRM 2.0, and Social CRM, despite the fact that I’ve written nearly 2, 000 pages on CRM just with these books and there are millions of other pages written by me and other industry folks, CRM still boils down to one premise:

If customers like you, they’ll stay with you. If they don’t, they won’t.Simple, isn’t it? And that’s no lie.

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