NEW YORK -- CRM is about people, process, and technology -- that was the refrain shared by Barton Goldenberg, destinationCRM chairman and president of CRM consultancy ISM, during the closing keynote of the 2008 destinationCRM conference here today. Goldenberg’s philosophy rings true, but it’s getting the mix of the three that keeps attendees coming back to CRM conferences and enlisting advice from CRM consultants such as Goldenberg, Lior Arussy, and Tim Bajarin. Add the notion of the customer experience to the mixture and it gets more complicated. Today’s keynote panelists discussed the CRM industry and its role within the evolving technological landscape and among changing consumers.
With the rise of mobile devices, the entire face of computing is changing. “Smart phones will represent 70 percent of all phones sold in the US by 2012,” said Tim Bajarin, keynote presenter and president of consultancy Creative Strategies. Goldenberg pointed out that 1.2 billion cell phones are sold annually, with generation Y leading the buying pack. Despite the tremendous growth, still some analysts say that mobile CRM is not where it needs to be.
“I am less optimistic about the mobile space resolving its fundamental eco-space challenge,” offered Patrick Bultema, chief operating officer of CodeBaby, a software company that creates digital characters for use on the Web. Joining the keynote panel for a brief moment, Bultema shared a view of the challenges facing the industry. “I think that the tension is more problematic and severe," he said. "The [CRM] issue is in the mobile space. We are abandoning the mobile space and putting it on the back burner.” The slowing of mobile CRM growth is partly due to a clash among cell phone manufacturers, carriers, and platform providers, according to Bajarin. He agreed that the mobile industry is frustrating right now, but he also said that it’s an exciting and innovative time, too.
“The next generation [of computing] takes us into this wave of thinking,” Bajarin said. “To be competitive, they will have to get beyond a subset of a browser to a full [personal computer] system. This is where Apple has rewritten the rules of mobile when it comes to computing.” Bajarin added that he sees other providers making changes on the horizon that will greatly shift the mobile landscape in the next two years. “This whole issue of mobile is huge,” he said. “Not only is it an important tool to gain and access, but also as a medium for advertising.”
When addressing Web 2.0 technology and the innovating CRM processes, a bit of a debate surfaced among the panel. A central question arose -- What comes first, the consumer or the technology? “We have to stop talking like we are doing something to the customer and start talking about what we are doing with the customer,” Lior Arussy, president of CRM consultancy Strativity Group affirmed. “What’s the customer advantage now and what’s the competitive advantage for yourself?” Arussy argued in favor of the customer experience. Learn the customer first, then see what CRM technology is best to implement in light of the customer, he suggests. Bajarin, who comes from different background than Arussy held true on the technology front, saying, “Part of the issue has to do with having the right technology in place to do the customer experience. I’ve gone through multiple experiences where [companies] bet on the wrong technology and spend millions on the wrong thing and it blew up in their faces.” However, Bajarin conceded some ground: “Ultimately, he’s right. You still have to have a step in determining what technology delivers the best customer experience.”
Despite differing views of how or when technology will change, the keynote speakers seemed to agree on one thing -- the need to engage customers will not fade. “What we are talking about here is especially true in CRM. Technology in general is the vehicle…to deliver experiences. There is a weight and shift towards the way people will communicate, work, and learn and it’s all based on digital architecture,” Bajarin said. “It’s all focused around, not only the delivery but the interaction.”
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