Forging the Next CRM Frontier

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An important evolution is occurring in the CRM industry, thanks to a convergence of new technologies that leverage big data to better understand customer behavior, drive channel optimization, and enhance the overall customer experience. Properly implemented, these technologies, explained here, deliver increased customer satisfaction and higher profitability.

Big Data Analytics and Insight

In "Software Advances Are Propelling CRM to New Heights" (CRM, October 2013), I described CRM and third-party big data analytics tools that enable companies to analyze customer behavior, engage customers via their channels of choice, and recommend products or services in real time. In the time since I've written that column, data analytics tools have become even more powerful and intuitive. Almost all are capable of working in real time, collecting customer interactions across multiple channels, detecting customer sentiment, and engaging with customers through their channel of preference.

I predict that new real-time data analytic technology will meaningfully change the way that companies formulate and implement their customer-centric strategies. Let's apply these tools to a key CRM area of the future, namely multichannel optimization strategy.

Multichannel Optimization Strategy

The new "connected customer" is channel agnostic, expecting companies and brands to deliver on their promises, regardless of the channel in which the customer chooses to work. The challenge for companies is to find the right balance between fulfilling a customer's desired channel preference(s) and achieving the lowest cost-to-serve channel for each customer. This requires performing data analysis to understand current preferences and market research to determine future preferences. To achieve the lowest cost-to-serve channel for each customer requires careful analysis of all relevant financials for existing and planned channels. Over the years, ISM has worked with many best-in-class companies that have wrapped their arms around this trade-off and have achieved or are achieving multichannel optimization. This is without a doubt one of the most exciting future CRM challenges, and real-time analytics technologies will play a critical role in helping to resolve this challenge.

Multichannel Contact Center Tools

A number of software vendors that sell into the CRM space—such as LiveOps, Zendesk, and Genesys—are bringing impactful innovation to the customer service arena. LiveOps is a good example of a vendor that has made meaningful strides integrating multichannel, real-time data analytics technology. About a year ago, LiveOps broke new ground with a multichannel agent toolset that allows a contact center agent to receive and respond to customer phone calls, emails, chats, SMS, Twitter, and Facebook questions, all from a single screen. More recently it added real-time contextual routing capabilities for agents, a new data analytics technology that tracks a customer's behavior as he interacts within one or more of the company's communications channels. The company can then custom tailor a real-time action designed to leverage a customer opportunity or rectify a customer issue on an individual-by-individual basis.

Imagine that an important customer of Company X goes online to apply for a new insurance policy. The customer is confused by questions asked in the application and calls Company X's help line, but hangs up after waiting 10 minutes for an agent to take the call. The customer then goes on to Twitter and tweets about this experience. With contextual routing, Company X can collect this data in real time from this customer's Internet, phone, and Twitter activities, identify him as a valued customer, and trigger a pop-up message to the contact center agent to reach out and offer immediate assistance.

For me, this is a great example of the next CRM frontier, in which CRM software vendors will successfully integrate technologies to maximize a customer's multichannel experience. I am convinced that these new, integrated technologies will propel our industry to new heights.

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president and founder of ISM, Inc., a strategic consulting firm founded in 1985 that applies CRM/social CRM, big data analytics and insight, knowledge communities, customer experience management, and channel optimization to build successful customer-centric business initiatives. He is a frequent speaker, author of CRM in Real Time, and publisher of The eGuide to Mobile and Social CRM.

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