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Crystal Ball

Published
  • December 01 2000, 1:00am EST
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As the responses role in from the survey in my November column, I’ll put my two cents in on what I would like to see from my articles in 2001. Last year, I did the "year in review for CRM," so, this time around, I’ll switch gears and try to make some guesses as to what we’ll see during the next year.

Culture Shock

Much has been written and talked about the fact that CRM is more than just technology, it is a business strategy that touches all parts of the organization. Beyond marketing and IT, CRM embeds itself in all of the functions, roles and responsibilities within the organization. CRM involves change. People are typically not very good with change. Sometimes it’s simply resistance and, sometimes, it just looks hard.

Braun Consulting participates in many of these types of customer transformations, and though the technology implementation is no easy task, actually changing processes, assumptions, job roles or mindsets seem to be even more difficult and, in some cases, slower than a response (especially in large organizations) from technical support.

Because of this, many organizations decide to embark on the technology that will enable a CRM-focused company. Many people are aware of the hurdles involved with organizational change and commitment, but simply take the path of least resistance. Surprisingly, sometimes this approach can be very successful. If the project sponsors are passionate (and depending on the functions chosen), sheer will power alone can help start the organizational change that the technology demands to reap some of the benefits of CRM.

However, even in these cases, there seems to be a well-publicized fact that a more thorough overhaul of the thinking and processes at a company will need to further evolve to capture the true ROI. I expect next year that many companies that have finished a portion of the CRM initiative will embark on a more thorough change management process to achieve customer centricity. This will entail changing the ways decisions are made, new training programs, new organizational structures, alignment between sales and marketing, alignment between marketing, sales and customer service, and a whole host of other issues that really rock the core foundations of the company.

Operational Data Store

The data warehousing landscape has, for the most part, been conquered. Many companies who rely on information to make day-to-day or strategic decisions have a version of a data warehouse that delivers the needed information. Four years ago, closed-loop data warehousing was a great slogan. Take analysis, for example – it cleansed or integrated information derived from the data warehouse and feed it back to the source systems to enhance the interaction with the customer. This task was bulky and error prone because of the delays with the batch processing within the data warehouse.

In walks the operational data store (ODS). It looks more like a transaction system but, low and behold, it has cleansed, integrated information like a data warehouse. Consequently, it becomes very suitable -- not to mention valuable -- for use by operational systems. Basically, the ODS has the integrated, cleansed information that gives us that single, 360-degree view of the customer similar to the data warehouse, but with the database design of an operational system so it can be used for real-time access. We expect the following uses of the operational database to become commonplace in 2001:

  • Support for personalization. Many personalization engines and technologies need to have the complete view of the customer to make their recommendation. Because these interactions take place at the point of interaction, the retrieval of information needs to be very fast.
  • Ensure clean, complete customer information is delivered at all points of contact. As touchpoints increase, just simply having the right information at each touchpoint for use by the system (Web, ATM, voice response) or an employee (customer service rep, sales) will be crucial. This information would include historical promotional offers, responses to offers, or analytical information like lifetime value.
  • Real-time data collection. In conjunction with EAI tools, the ODS should be able to integrate information across channels or systems in near real time.

Everyone is a CSR

Along the lines of culture shock, one fact that many of our organizations are realizing is the multitude of employees who are now in customer service or sales positions. Whereas, in the old days, customers were transferred or given the line that "this is not my department," employees today are empowered to help customers solve problems and, in some cases, to market and sell new products.

Field service employees are now given cross-selling advice by Marketing and access to customer information to perform customer service activities. Customer service representatives (CSRs) now have cross-selling and promotional information to help sell during a customer service interaction. As more sales move to the Internet, sales forces find themselves being asked to perform service duties.

In the end, the questions are, "What employee is not a customer service representative?" and "Who is not a part of the sales force?" These questions will cause organizations to invest in new training programs, organizational alignment projects and technology such as ODSs and enterprise application integration (EAI) to guarantee multichannel information delivery and seamless handoffs.

Marketing without Wires

Wireless technology has made many people excited this year. But, when I search my office for someone with WAP phone, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Innovative organizations, however, will take advantage of the new wireless channel. For some organizations, just the ability for their customers to be in data contact with them while on the run will add value to the relationship. Will there be actual direct marketing across wireless? Will phones detect that you are currently walking by a store and send you a promotion? We’ll see.

It is very clear that mobile field forces will definitely derive value from real-time wireless communication to CRM databases. These devices will help them service a customer as well as advise them about certain promotional opportunities at the point of contact.

CRM ROI

CRM has been such a religious fervor the last few years, many CEO’s and marketing executives have not really pushed their constituents to prove its value. Who can argue with decreased churn and improved customer satisfaction? However, as time moves on, we are seeing a stronger emphasis on answering questions such as, "How will customer satisfaction specifically raise revenue?" or "Does multichannel integration really have an impact?" I think there will be a need next year to finally generate the metrics on how to evaluate the effect of CRM projects.

What About E?

As much fun as it is to pick on the rise and fall of the dot-coms, there is still sufficient evidence that the Internet channel is here to stay – and will grow even stronger. As pure-play Internet organizations start to have serious issues, old economy companies are fighting back with innovative approaches to combining online and off-line assets. The following illustrates some of the advances we hope to see in the online world next year:

  • Clear understanding of clickstream data. This year, implementations of clickstream capture tools were very successful in just that – capturing clickstream. Next year, organizations will fine-tune their analysis to get a better handle on behavior, understand how to integrate the information with non-click data and be able to really understand the effectiveness of the site.
  • Targeted advertising will become commonplace. Advertisers continue to pressure for pay-for-performance paradigms. These models will only be profitable when they can perform some type of personalized or, at least targeted, ad.
  • Customer identification will take center stage for many sophisticated Web sites. The householding, merge/purge, "who are you?" issue that has plagued the off-line world is now rearing its head in the online world. People with several e-mail addresses, several registrations, multiple cookies – all with different permissions – have made e-mail and online direct marketing problematic. It will be very interesting to see if Acxiom and their Abilitec product can help solve this problem.
  • I expect campaign management vendors to further close the loop. In 2001, I would expect them to close the loop between offer delivery, personalization engines and tracking responses past clickthroughs all the way to action.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. May all of your gifts be delivered on time.

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