Technology and the Digital Client

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A heated exchange—about the role of technology in a Digital Client/Web 2.0 world—took place during the closing session of the recent destinationCRM 2008 conference in New York. One side took the position that a quality customer experience requires the appropriate technology. This results from the always-on, always-connected Digital Clients’ dependence on technology—increasingly, mobile devices—to connect to the Internet and to one another. Moreover, the Digital Client expects technology to support her multichannel requirements. The other side took the position that Digital Clients really don’t care about what technology is in place; technology doesn’t drive the customer experience, they said.

I’ve been saying for decades that CRM initiatives require 50 percent focus on people, 30 percent on process, and 20 percent on technology. You need to start by optimizing customer-facing business processes; then secure commitment to these processes from your employees and customers (the people side); and, finally, utilize technologies that support the optimized processes that employees and customers have bought into.
Has the role of technology in the Digital Client’s world changed this 50-30-20 mix? I don’t think so—and I’d like to turn to Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to explain why.

At Disney, CRM stands for creating relationship magic, and during a recent presentation Tom Boyles, the senior vice president for global customer managed relations, explained that the company defines CRM as “know me + be relevant to me.” For the Digital Client, though, this has evolved to “know me well enough at any place or point in time + be relevant everywhere in every transaction with every guest.” Executing against this definition allows Disney to drive a unique and customized experience at each customer touch point. How does the company pull it off?

Disney starts out with enormous knowledge—demographic, transactional, and lifestyle—of each existing and potential customer. It’s amazing the effort that the company expends to know, for example, that December 6–13, 2008, is the best week to promote a vacation to the Goldenberg family in Bethesda, Md. Next, Disney triggers its comprehensive Guest Engagement process (aggregate, coordinate, influence, manage, own) aimed at securing the Goldenberg family’s December business. This begins with a customized email that highlights our past trips to Disney, our preferences, and the new Disney attractions that the company feels are relevant to us. (This level of detail is why each email costs the company 60 cents.)

Once my family has shown an interest in the email by going onto the Disney Web site to learn more, the company begins a series of increasingly relevant communications, initially to help secure the sale and then to prepare us for and deliver us to Disney World. Once we’re there, Disney knows to welcome us back. Upon completion of our vacation, Disney stores all our recent transactions and stated preferences, and thanks us for our business.

To sum up: Disney has put into place an impressive process to manage each customer experience with excellence, but success is achieved only if employees—and the Digital Clients they connect with—buy into this process. Disney also utilizes multichannel technologies to address the needs of its always-on, always-connected Digital Clients and their business-in-an-instant expectations.

So what is technology’s new role? Has the 50-30-20 mix changed? I’d argue that technology’s role is the same as it’s always been—namely providing the tools that allow Disney to “be relevant everywhere in every interaction with every guest”—but with a twist. Heightened relevance requires a new level of technological sophistication, incorporating Web 2.0 tools (e.g., wikis, social networks, blogs, podcasts, etc.) and a multitude of mobility options. The challenge is in selecting and applying these tools in a meaningful way to evolving day-to-day Digital Client businesses. [See this month's Connect, for more on those tools.]

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president and founder of ISM Inc., a Bethesda, Md.–based strategic consulting organization that since 1985 has specialized in CRM, contact centers, and the Digital Client. He is the publisher of The Guide to CRM Automation and author of the new CRM in Real Time: Empowering Customer Relationships (Information Today, Inc.).

Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.

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