Meet Customers' Needs with an "Outside-In" Approach

The "social customer" has arrived and is molding the next wave of CRM strategies. If your business hasn't felt the impact yet, it's just a matter of time.

The impact of the social landscape upon business means the relationship between the enterprise and its customers can no longer be singularly focused on transactions. New tendencies in the socially networked economy are influencing every fiber of our culture—from political elections to Internet sales to trendsetting.

Companies ready to embrace this shift must position the social customer at the center of the new CRM landscape, leveraging social channels to establish, nourish, and manage customer engagement and loyalty.

Who is the social customer?

The social customer:

  • Consumes information from multiple sources, the majority outside the enterprise's control.
  • Learns about new products and brands primarily through social media and networks first and traditional media second, engaging the business last.
  • Expects an organization's products and brand to be present and active in the same social channels where the customer operates, not in a separate, centrally managed, and disconnected sphere.
  • Demands the organization with which he engages listen and respond rapidly without regard to the channel or department the customer uses to interact.

Social customers are increasingly reclaiming power in the business relationship. Businesses, in turn, need to earn their trust to convert this exchange into a fruitful relationship.

It's an evolution, not a revolution

Today, the waves of "inside-out" CRM automation across sales, service, and marketing functions have settled in most enterprises. These were relatively successful in automating a particular customer function in a business unit, although they rarely achieved a clear and single view of the customer across the enterprise. Moreover, many associated, internally focused "success stories" actually created additional disconnects from the perspective of customer interaction.

Next-generation CRM empowered by social networks should not replace the first waves of CRM. Rather, it needs to evolve a different approach, marrying prior generation CRM data and tools with new social CRM capabilities. Above all else, social CRM takes the "outside-in" customer perspective first and foremost. It evaluates enterprise functions and touch points from the customer's perspective, and then seeks to leverage ways to utilize CRM for customer engagement and loyalty.

The social customer enablers

Cloud computing, social networks, and mobility have fundamentally enabled "outside-in" social CRM. The concepts of "anytime," "anywhere," and "any way" are today a reality and a fact of daily life. The social customer not only has instant access to a wealth of information, but he or she can instantly share it, broadcast it, and disseminate it across businesses, society, and geographies—virtually without limits or boundaries. Furthermore, the social customer can abruptly shape opinions, trends, and outcomes.

Visionary organizations recognized this shift early, including the social channel in their multichannel strategy. They continuously innovate, leveraging social listening tools and analytics to steer advocates and influencers. Those who leverage the social customer and create opportunity from disruption will emerge as winners and advance their leadership. Those who don't will increasingly fall behind.

Value-driven CRM

In today's environment, every dollar spent needs to yield a tangible return quickly and for as long as possible. Businesses need to leverage and augment their existing CRM solutions, selectively focusing on new capabilities to maximize business benefits.

Value Realization Methodologies (VRM) have proven invaluable to help decide investment priorities. VRM goes well beyond the traditional business case by aligning organizational strategy and business initiatives. It defines target benefits and formulates the road map to achieve them, measuring tangible value through implementation and thereafter. Furthermore, VRM provides a thorough approach and the tools to optimize quantifiable results, while creating stakeholder ownership and accountability.

Traditionally, the business case has focused on return on investment, justification, and project funding, and actual benefits realized are frequently not measured.

Value-driven CRM builds on the business case and, broadly speaking, includes the following stages:

  • Value Assessment: Associated with the planning phases of the project, including the definition of performance metrics and the identification of opportunities focusing on tangible business benefits.
  • Value Build: Associated with all phases from design through implementation, embedding business value into business processes and driving priorities and decisions based on business impact.
  • Value Capture: Associated with go-live and production, focusing on benefits realization and assessment and identifying areas for continuous improvement.

Value-driven CRM provides an effective framework to:

  • Build consensus and focus executives, business users, and technology professionals on a common goal.
  • Define achievable targets and metrics.
  • Build and realize value incrementally across the CRM life cycle.
  • Drive decision making based on tangible impact on the balance sheet and the strategy of the organization.
  • Prioritize CRM initiatives, projects, and functionality based on a rational business model.
  • Foster accountability at all levels and drive change management based on goals and responsibility.
  • Quantify and assess actual business benefits against benchmarks and targets and provide a mechanism to correct deviations.
  • Evaluate and benchmark CRM initiatives after implementation for future planning.
  • Instigate a culture of continuous business improvement and accountability.

VRM can help to determine how, when, and where new capabilities enabled through business technologies can increase business net worth. Value-driven CRM is forged under this concept and recognizes that the interaction between the organization and the social customer not only brings incremental revenues but can help shape every aspect of an enterprise's strategy as well.

When leveraging the social customer enablers, value-driven CRM can influence product design, pricing, marketing, and customer-centric, strategic directions in a number of ways:

  • Interactions with customers can foster co-creation and help improve products and services.
  • Company portals, listening tools, and blogs can influence opinions and set trends.
  • Effective connections with customers can help identify needs and wants almost instantly.
  • Open interactions between customers and businesses can foster their ownership and loyalty.

While there is much more that can be explored on this topic, let it suffice to say value-driven CRM leverages VRM to create business value and rationalize investments. It recognizes that value realization is a continuous process. Consequently, it provides the flexibility to navigate and effectively steer the value road map.

Ravi Kumar S. is the global head of the consulting and systems integration business in the manufacturing industry group at Infosys. He has over 18 years of experience in the consulting space incubating new practice lines, driving large transformational programs, evangelizing new business models, and enabling disruptive technologies for market differentiation across industry segments. Raul Fabre is a partner and practice leader at Infosys. He has over 20 years of experience delivering business and CRM strategies and technology solutions. Sean Ryan is a senior principal consultant in the consulting and systems integration unit of Infosys. He has over 15 years of industry consulting experience in the areas of customer experience, business innovation, and technology.

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