We regret to inform you that we will no longer be publishing Information Management. It has been an honor to provide you with the insights and connections to move your career forward. We wish you continued success on your professional journey and welcome you to explore our other titles at www.arizent.com/brands.

A New Definition for Enterprise Customer Management

One of the big challenges for businesses in today's economy is to continue to grow and remain perpetually relevant to customers in a sea of changing desires and preferences. Companies of all sizes in all industries face fierce competition as they fight diminishing brand loyalty, global distribution, "me- too" products, price parity and an explosion in the number of sales/communications channels. Achieving dynamic growth is a formidable challenge – a fact that is underscored by even a cursory scan of recent headlines.

To achieve their growth targets, companies have begun capturing and using customer insight to create more loyal customers and drive more sales. Recognizing that they need as much business as possible from existing customers to realize substantial growth, these companies have developed insight into customer preferences and buying habits. However, they largely have failed to push this knowledge organization-wide, which has limited their success.

To accomplish their goals, companies also must empower their internal organizations to benefit from customer insights. In other words, companies must redefine enterprise customer management as a function providing the insight that drives the entire organization – from new product development to corporate marketing to sales to service.

Shedding an Outmoded Definition

Traditionally, enterprise customer management has meant using systems to manage customer interactions in an integrated fashion across each company touchpoint and communications channel. For example, organizations have spent a great deal to find out what a customer bought online, returned in a store or called technical support to complain about. After spending millions of dollars to gather this information, organizations have typically used it to cross- and up-sell customers.

While this is valuable (and, when done well, extremely profitable), an emerging re-definition of enterprise customer management can help these companies achieve even greater bottom line benefits with the same data. In this redefinition, enterprise customer management centers around marketing. Within the past decade, companies have increasingly called on their marketing organizations to help them better understand their customers. Unfortunately, marketers have operated at a disadvantage in gathering and analyzing customer insight. They have been forced to rely on disparate databases and systems owned by other departments such as sales. These disconnected systems have inherent limitations for marketers.

However, a new breed of marketing analytics is breaking down the walls of those information silos. Marketing organizations can now take hold of customer information to spearhead vital efforts such as the shaping of messaging, development of more targeted and strategic marketing programs, management of corporate and product branding, and contribution of new product ideas. This new enterprise customer management expands the incomplete approach of using customer insight for cross- and up-selling, allowing companies to benefit from the data on a much greater scale.

The Rise of Enterprise Marketing Management

Looking at it from this perspective, it seems more appropriate to refer to these new solutions as enterprise marketing management. These Web-based tools facilitate strategic decision making, empower integrated campaign and program management, and enable fact-based performance analysis. Powered by customer insights drawn from the classic application of enterprise customer management, they define marketing above the campaign level by reaching into the planning, development and execution of all of an organization's marketing investments.

These new solutions succeed where enterprise customer management solutions didn't by enabling marketing professionals to collect data from various sources to track and measure every marketing investment. For example, these marketing management platforms can integrate customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions so marketing organizations have one-stop access to critical customer information. This approach augments systems already in place to give marketers the systems they need to keep their companies dynamic.

A comprehensive knowledge base combines information from the organization's front and back office systems and serves as a central repository for all marketing data. In doing so, it standardizes prospect and customer information within a marketing context. This customer information clarifies marketing strategy and becomes more valuable as marketing programs progress. The additional information enables companies to better profile and target customers and their needs and to better understand how those needs are changing over time.

For example, consider the marketing department for a telecommunications company. It might be strongly motivated to ensure that every customer who calls for help is offered additional relevant services such as a second telephone line, cell phone or pager. But wouldn't it be more interesting to track and then act on new service inquiries such as high speed data or wireless data services? The information could be turned into appropriate marketing strategies and tactics to deliver products that meet customer demand as it emerges.

Including marketing in an enterprise customer management or CRM process will raise some eyebrows. CRM has long been the domain of the customer service department and sales force. However, empowered by insights delivered by an enterprise marketing management platform, marketers now have the ability to keep their companies perpetually relevant. Marketers can understand their customers better and work with product development to turn these insights into innovative products and fresh programs that drive demand.

By adopting a new outlook on what defines enterprise customer management, businesses can turn their valuable customer data into an arsenal of insight that drives the entire company. They can quickly execute important programs that their customers want, enhance customer relationships, boost product acceptance, and increase organizational profitability and return on investment. The key is to provide an efficient vehicle for translating customer insights into organizational insights that drive improved performance and dynamic growth in today's marketplace.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.