The Future of CRM: Real Time

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I summarized the impressive accomplishments of CRM over the past 25 years in last month's column (CRM magazine, January 2006, Reality Check), including the latest challenge: navigating the two emerging options for integrating CRM into a company's legacy systems and related technical infrastructure. Let's look forward 10 years to explore what it will be like to work with real-time CRM, when always on, always connected has become the prevalent way to conduct business. In 2015 the consumers who grew up after the advent of the Net will be ages 10--34. This PlayStation generation, according to my colleague, tech analyst and futurist Tim Bajarin, is the first age group to only know digital technology: They are accustomed to 3D images; to them, email is old fashioned--they've probably never seen a typewriter. Most important, though, this group of customers will expect you to conduct business with them in an always on, always connected, real-time way. Always on, always connected is a result of the move from an analog to a digital world, which will be completed around 2030. In the digital world broadband rules, every mobile device has a wireless connection to the Internet, all computing devices are connected to each other, and all computing devices are synchronized and always up to date. In other words, real time becomes the norm for conducting business. From the hardware perspective computing devices in 2015 become small enough to put in one's pocket. For a sneak preview of this behavior take a look at the emerging cell phone market. Ten years ago cell phones were mainly a luxury item used by doctors, lawyers, and real-estate agents and they did one thing--mobile phone calls. Today's cell phones already are multifunctional, housing applications like GPS devices, videophone services, cameras, email, real-time news updates, and Internet browsing. Ten years from now lighter, smaller cell phones will always connect to your office, your customers, or your family from anywhere in the world. These small, portable devices become the lifeblood for business people who live in the always on, always connected, real-time world. On the software side, by 2015, turnkey, best-in-class business-functional modules that build in successful business processes finally replace the idea of an all-in-one CRM application, and vertical solutions that fit industry-specific business models replace all remaining horizontal CRM applications. These hardware and software technology advancements already have had a significant impact on CRM, and continue to do so as they finally allow companies and customers to easily work in real time, all the time. In sales it will mean real-time inventories and collaborative selling where the buyer plays a more active role in the sales process. In service it will mean both the pervasive use of self-service that builds off extensive real-time knowledge bases, and vendors that instantly alert customers to anything important (e.g., RFID tags attached to products and navigation systems that alert companies and customers to product movements in real time). In marketing it will mean automatic resegmentation of markets based on real-time information, auction-based pricing, and collaborative customers that actively participate in real-time product testing and feedback. In business analytics it will mean real-time reporting with intelligence-based recommendations coming directly from applications--always on, always connected, with every piece of information being digital and capable of being instantly shared. For many years I've said that CRM is a business approach that integrates best-in-class business processes that internal and external customers buy into and that real-time technologies support. Remember: At the end of the day we're all people who make buying decisions based on a good customer experience. Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM Inc., a CRM real-time enterprise consulting firm in Bethesda, MD. He is the author of CRM Automation and the publisher of
The Guide to CRM Automation. Contact him at bgoldenberg@ismguide.com
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