A Message From On High: Be Different

Companies must stop hiding behind technology if they want to create a customer strategy that will set them apart. That's the word from David Schmaier, Siebel executive vice president, in his keynote at this week's High-Tech CRM Summit 2005. The theme of the two-day event is "Differentiate Or Die--How Improved Customer Interactions Create a Competitive Advantage."' Schmaier spoke about the Internet boom, when companies were all about growth; things took a plunge and became stagnant. Now, "Growth is definitely back on the CEO agenda." To succeed, companies must invest in customer-facing technology and a customer strategy. "This is about transforming a company," he said. "We see the driver of products going forward is the front office. When we're done with this customer-tailored journey...this is all going to business processes." Customer data integration is a hot area in the customer front-end market, according to Schmaier, who works directly with customers around the world to help them define their CRM vision and strategy. Businesses must create a strategy to have a single view of the customer, reduce reduplication of data, and make sure the information is entered correctly into the system from the start. "Data quality is a fuzzy problem by nature, so you need multiple lines of defense to solve it," he said. Schmaier took the idea of one view of the customer across multiple channels a step further, explaining the concept of "one company." Essentially, he said, "I should have one relationship, one front door, one company. But how do I do it? "It's more than technology," he said. "It's the relationship of people, process, and technology to give you those customer-driven business results. Without a customer strategy, it's hard to get those results." First, realize that all customers are not created equal. Make segmentation focus on how customers really buy. Next, create a channel strategy to get that 360-degree view. More difficult is achieving a business process design that creates a united vision throughout all departments of the company and then getting the right skill sets and mindsets to back up that vision. Once all that's in place, the technology comes into play. Yes, he admitted, "technology is thirty to forty-five percent of the deal, [but] it's changing." Schmaier outlined the three Cs of what front-office technology needs to do: provide capability, change (or adaptability), and choice. It must satisfy cross-industry needs as well as industry specific solutions. Schmaier refers to this process as Customer Centricity 101--figuring out Who's the Customer. If companies don't know the answer, they are going to fail. Choice allows companies to tailor a system to their needs. He cited an emerging trend of hosted systems and component models, and noted that 85 percent of the market is people building the system themselves. "Change goes beyond classic CRM to BI, customer data integration, and business process management," he said. There's a "new generation of BI [focused on] self-service Web analytics. This is about giving actionable insight to the head of sales, marketing, [and] services. But it's not just for executives, it's for everybody." Related articles:
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