• October 1, 2015
  • By Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal, The 56 Group

Reimagining CRM, Part One

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CRM has been around for about three decades. We can argue over when it debuted, and to some extent, it's a nebulous "when." But for the most part, it got its street cred when Siebel released its technology to the market successfully. Say what you will about the company—the software was notably successful in its day. Even now, many companies are using Siebel Contact Center 15 years after they first bought it.

Over the years, CRM has undergone a significant number of changes—some incremental, some wholesale. Let’s look at a significantly compressed, non-visual timeline that is also missing some dates (some timeline this is!):

1. CRM meets business—though it's called CRM, it is really only sales force automation (late 1980s, maybe?).

2. CRM begins to find its foundation as a suite of customer-facing applications—sales, service, and marketing automation—with a primarily operational focus (mid-1990s), though that is not explicitly discussed at the time.

3. The CRM technology market grows every year of its existence as a market—from the '90s through a projected (so far) 2017. Even in the recession, CRM grows 1 percent. By 2014, the global CRM market (including technology and associated services and ancillary technologies) reaches roughly $25 billion, and is projected to reach nearly $37 billion by 2017—all according to Gartner Group’s research.

4. Social CRM becomes a "thing" in 2008 as the term becomes popular (thanks to Brent Leary), distinguishing it from traditional CRM. Social CRM incorporates social channel communication into sales, marketing, and customer service applications. The first to market with a pure social CRM application called, duh, "Social CRM," is Pivotal in 2008. Others from either the social and community side or the CRM side begin technology integrations with each other.

5. By 2011, there is no longer a reason to call "social CRM" "social" because all CRM is "social"—having the integrations or native features to coordinate communications with varying social networks or communities, or to use so-called social or, more broadly, unstructured data in combination with the structured transactional data that CRM has always stored. The "S" in "SCRM" is dropped, and the market and the technology name is the all-encompassing "CRM" once again.

6. By 2012 Gartner drops its Social CRM Magic Quadrant, realizing there's no need for it anymore.

7. By 2014, there are new frameworks and parameters, new customer demands in place that require more than just contemporary CRM to fulfill those customers' requirements.

Now that the timeline has been covered, we can go to the discussion.

Starting in the earlier part of this millennium, while much of this was going on, there was a communications revolution. That revolution did two big, nay, huge things. First, it changed how we communicate—the way we communicate, the tools we use, our expectations around a communication, the time clock (i.e., 24x7 nearly instant response in some channels or via some devices). The second huge thing it did was transform how we create, distribute, and consume information—and changed the weight we give that information's source, with brand trust declining and peer trust ascending. For example, the percentage of people who trust brand info from a brand ranges from 53 down to 10, depending on the study. But 72 percent to 94 percent of respondents, depending on the study, deem information provided by "people like me" (peers) as highly trustworthy. Ultimately, regardless of the percentages, two things are certain: People often don't trust information from a brand, but they do trust information from their peers.

So now the stage was set for a new level of demand from customers, who wanted to be able to access and consume information on whatever device they used and wanted to be able to communicate with you in whatever channel and on whatever device they used. That created two big issues for companies. First, information had to be available and optimized for any kind of device, and second, customers had to be able to communicate with them in the manner and on the channels (note the plural) of their choosing.

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