CRM Evolution 2015 Day Two: With New Technologies, Organizations Must Do Their Homework

NEW YORK — Jason Young, president of Leadsmart Inc. and the author of Culturetopia: The Ultimate High-Performance Workplace, set the tone for day two of this year's CRM Evolution conference by highlighting in his keynote the ingredients that helped his former employer, Southwest Airlines, differentiate itself as a longtime leader in customer experience. For Southwest, it boiled down to a people-first approach, one that creates a corporate culture that projects a sense of fulfilment and productivity. "Do you believe in what you're doing so much that when you enter a room, customers can feel it?" he asked.

Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, echoed some of Young's messages. "Cheaper is not better when it comes to people, and that's true across customer service, marketing, and sales," he said. "Technology and software [can only do] so much. It doesn't replace human interaction at the end of the day. No technology can replace that."

It follows, then, that those companies that are considering investments in CRM tools "need to [first] figure out [their processes]," he said. In Stutz's experience, too many companies jump the gun and make hefty investments before they've even figured out the basics of their flow charts.

Once a company has figured out what it requires from a business perspective, it can begin investing in technology.

Leslie Ament, senior vice president of research and principal analyst of Hypatia Research Group, said that when selecting tools, firms should align their various departments—including IT and marketing—to piece together the solutions and take advantage of Big Data. And they must do the necessary groundwork. "[All vendors say that] their solution is the best for next-best action or real-time decisioning," she said, but "there are a lot of moving parts [in the equation]. You really want to do your due diligence." A company like IBM, for instance, provides excellent services, but they might not be the right fit for certain companies due to budget constraints.

Stutz said that one of the biggest mistakes companies make in choosing solutions is to consider only short-term benefits. To be successful, he argued, companies need to think years down the road and invest in a platform that lets them evolve, scale, and tweak.

Danny Estrada, CRM practice director at Net@work, who delivered a presentation on day one about the inevitable shift of the American workforce toward mobile tools, offered tips to marketers—particularly email marketers—on rolling out effective campaigns. It's not enough to choose a marketing automation system such as Marketo, Eloqua, or Pardot. "You want an approach that stands the test of time," Estrada said.

By 2017, 80 percent of the population will access the Internet via their mobile devices, Estrada said. In his view, marketers cannot afford to ignore this shift's ramifications. To use the mobile channel effectively, they should craft messages that scale in innovative ways rather than mimicking those composed for the desktop. Marketers should strongly consider giving email content a mobile makeover, which calls for snappier and shorter headlines, effective calls to action, and compelling visual and textual combinations. But this requires patience, as companies must first get a firm grasp on how to read data before trying to make sense of it. "Don’t expect miracles on day one," he said.

Jeff Tanner, dean of the Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University, also spoke to doing groundwork before beginning to construct systems, starting with the idea that companies should define terms such as "loyalty" and "engagement" in ways that make sense to them. This is crucial, in Tanner's view, since a loyal customer in one industry might behave differently from a loyal customer in another.

Since each company's customers have a particular relationship with—and expectations from—a company, they call for particular treatment. Someone might be a loyal customer of a toothpaste brand, for instance, but it's unlikely that person would spend time on its Web site or become a vocal advocate of the brand. "When would you ever recommend toothpaste to someone?" Tanner asked. "When they're blowing coffee breath on you?"

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