• January 1, 2015
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Where Does CRM Go from Here?

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creative," Ragsdale says. "You can fire up a remote control session and walk...customer[s] through the process. You can take them to an online learning site and show them how to access product training. You can browse your video portal and show all the how-to videos you have created. You can point them to the community and show them conversations on the topic."

Self-service is one of the last remaining places where companies can reduce costs through the contact center. "When consumers switch from the Web to the phone, email, or chat, a company's cost to serve them goes up dramatically," Leggett says. Quoting an August 2012 report, she notes that retailers showed an extra $22,567,967 in sales and service costs that could have been avoided if their Web sites had enabled users to complete their goals online.

Further development of the tools we've already become so comfortable with will improve the experience. One intriguing example of this is a new model of social customer support. "One of the hottest topics with our members is the move to a swarming model, eliminating tiered support," Ragsdale says. "For this to work, you must have a strong collaborative model with expertise management to identify who knows what on any topic. This is a true embodiment of social networking, and ultimately delivers faster resolution and more satisfied customers and employees."

Other cool new things will take customer service to higher levels of satisfaction for the consumer. "The technologies of the future are technologies that support the four Ps of customer service: pain-free, proactive, personalized, and productive service," Leggett says. Technologies that fit here include annotated video chat, remote control, voice biometrics, outbound notifications, and predictive engagement.

Increased understanding of what customers go through in their product adventures could further boost the effectiveness of customer service representatives. "I've been hearing a lot lately about customer effort scores," Ragsdale says. If products are too difficult for customers to easily master, vendors endanger customer success. "I'm seeing more products coming to market that help companies monitor how customers use their products—common process flows and features, how long it takes to complete certain tasks, etc.," he says. Ragsdale recommends that businesses invest in tools to understand how customers use products, and work with product development to boost usability and eliminate common stumbling points.

Whether trying to improve customer centricity, advocacy, engagement, or what have you, shortsighted efforts will continue to miss the mark. "Very often, it seems the company is fixated on moving a single satisfaction or loyalty metric because bonuses are based on the number," Ragsdale says. "Many companies don't really seem invested in improving the experience for the customer; they just want to know how to ask the question or construct a survey panel to get higher numbers so the bonuses pay out."

Some things remain unchanged. "Whatever the buzzword of the day is, it's about putting customers first," Leggett says. "It's about delivering the right engagement to the customer to entice their loyalty. I think all the words mean the same thing. Think outside-in and do what is right for the customer."

Follow the Compass

Thanks to the input of the preceding researchers and thought leaders, we have a solid sense of where the three pillars of CRM stand. Using these, we've triangulated the current position of the CRM industry, and also have a strong sense of which direction to move for success. The only remaining question is whether to follow the indications or stray from the path into unknown territory.

Marshall Lager is a freelance writer and founder and managing principal at Third Idea Consulting. He can be reached at marshall@3rd-idea.com.

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