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CRM - just another piece...

Samantha Perry
By Samantha Perry, co-founder of WomeninTechZA
Johannesburg, 10 Feb 2015
Businesses must understand the 'customer journey', says Wipro's Jaco Barnard.
Businesses must understand the 'customer journey', says Wipro's Jaco Barnard.

The revolution will not be televised, goes the line to Gil Scott Heron's famous song. The customer relationship management (CRM) revolution will not be televised either, but if organisations are smart, the revolution will certainly be seen on social media. It's there where many a customer can be found, frustratedly commenting on their efforts to engage with old-style companies that can't see past their own processes and procedures.

CRM has long promised to give companies a single view of their customers. However, many years later, it still doesn't do this. It does provide companies with a view of how they see their customers. And it does provide a repository of customer-relevant information. Does it actually improve customer relations? Does it contain information that is important to the customer? Does the company take cognisance of what is important to the customer?

Says Scott Cundill, founder of communications platform "Let's face it, CRM is now a buzzword and the space has become cluttered and somewhat over-traded. For CRM to make it to the plateau of productivity, it needs to be properly integrated into customer communication. If CRM processes and systems can find their way to deliver intelligent communication, then there's unprecedented potential for businesses to hit the customer growth curve."

It's about more than just communication, though, as important as communication is.

"Is CRM used to adding value for customers and the company?" asks professional customer service consultant Aki Kalliatakis, founder of The Leadership LaunchPad. "At a basic level, can an employee greet customers by name, and use the information to give them a personal and memorable experience? Do they know how to respond to the specific needs and quirks of customers? Can they save the customers money, time and effort? Are they able to analyse buying patterns and use these as opportunities for cross- and up-sales? Do they even wish a customer a happy birthday? In just about all large companies, the answer is no."

"In an increasingly competitive environment where companies are struggling to differentiate themselves, delivering a superior customer experience is fast being recognised as a means to retaining existing clients and attracting new ones," comments Jaco Barnard, Wipro head of retail and consumer goods. "CRM is not the 'silver bullet' and businesses need to adapt to become a consumer-oriented enterprise."

Is CRM used to adding value for customers and the company?

Aki Kalliatakis, founder, The Leadership LaunchPad

M4JAM CEO and co-founder Andre Hugo agrees. "Businesses need to turn the old way of doing CRM on its head, by not only placing the customer at the heart of every operation, but also by giving the consumers the choice to engage on their terms. Through the advent of social media and legislation like CPA, KYC, TFC and POPI, companies that truly value and understand their end-consumer will need to take the leap of faith and provide channels for their current and future consumers to engage with them on their terms. The only way they can do this is to let the customer lead, build products with the consumer and join the crowdsourcing and maker economy. This requires a completely different thought process, and brands need to understand this new way of thinking."

The experience

Turning things around and viewing them from the customer's perspective is step one on the road that Barnard and Hugo refer to - becoming a customer-focused organisation.

CRM goes SaaS

According to IT research and advisory company Gartner, 50% of CRM systems deployed this year will be deployed on a software as a service (SaaS) platform. It predicts this will increase to 80%-85% by 2025.

"The CRM software market is projected to grow at a 14.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2017, with cloud revenue growing at more than 22.6% CAGR," Gartner said in its 2014 'Gartner CRM Guide'.

SaaS represented more than 41% of CRM total software revenue in 2013, Gartner says, "driven from organisations of all sizes seeking easier-to-deploy alternatives to replace legacy systems, implement net-new applications or provide alternative complementary functionality".

The worldwide CRM software market totalled $20.4 billion in 2013, up 13.7% from $18 billion in 2012, according to Gartner.

CRM is being incorporated in CEM, says Smoke Customer Care Solutions CEO Andrew Cook, "which is a much bigger picture that involves understanding and tracking the customer's entire experience and identifying the various touch points with the company. By doing this, a company can have far more meaningful and useful information about a customer's needs and wants, moments of truth that highlight what really happens in the customer's journey with the company. This can help them understand how they should be interacting with the specific person from a customer-centric point of view."

"Key influencers of this shift include the move to a digital environment and, as a result, a new generation of consumers that demand convenience and instant communication, through multiple channels," adds Barnard.

"These include social media, instant messaging and even video, to mention a few, delivering a 'connected experience' across these touch points. Businesses must understand the 'customer journey' in order to align their business functions around ever-increasing customer expectations, enhancing their customer experience."

"Certain businesses are getting it right," says Hugo. "Amazon, Uber and M4JAM have embraced a system of engagement that gives the consumer the control as opposed to business processes driving operational engagement. Truly driving meaningful human interaction in a corporate environment is what defines a network of record. This is the customer's, as well as the seller's, continuously changing expectations of what CRM should be. Businesses that embrace this style in a contextually relevant manner are sure to establish a meaningful relationship with customers."

Those that don't, stand to lose out.