The Future of CRM According to Vendors

NEW YORK (CRM Evolution 2012)—Senior executives from Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Salesforce.com, SAP, and SugarCRM kicked off day two of CRM Evolution by weighing in on issues affecting the CRM industry today: social CRM strategies, measuring customer value, and how to build brand experiences and trust. Paul Greenberg, president of The 56 Group, moderated the panel. Highlights of the discussion are as follows:

"How do you measure specific business benefits from your interactions with customers and what data do you use to identify them?" asked Greenberg.

"We used to think of the customer through different hierarchies," answered Anthony Lye, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle's CRM division. "Customers are now measured by...what they spend, their influence, and how they behave...Understanding those three factors will change your segmentation, your marketing, and selling activities."

Business is moving from a "transaction model to an ongoing engagement model," commented SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin. "In the SaaS model, the question is not what did they buy today, it's what did they buy over the multiple years of their connection to you as a customer," he said.

Salesforce.com's executive vice president of social applications, John Wookey, noted that tools for understanding social patterns are "starting to have real meaning for business benefits and provide tangible measurements of how engaged your customer is."

In terms of the demand for social CRM–related features, the market is still emerging, the vendors noted. Although some of their customers are "at the leading edge of using social media," many are still at the basic level, according to Augustin. "We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to enabling companies [with the ability to fuse social media with their CRM platforms]," he added.

Taking "baby steps" is key to building customer trust and introducing new technology, noted SAP's senior vice president of social business, Anthony Leaper. "Things like on-demand service [are] perfect for getting people up and running quickly and letting them play," Leaper said. "The idea is to evolve with your customer one step at a time."

Noting that product features are very similar, (and perhaps to dissuade competitors) in order to stand out, vendors can "no longer look to their products," Lye noted. "Now it's just a question of how quickly products will become commoditized," Lye said. "The relationship [with your customer] will always be the only point of sustainable differentiation."

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