Traditional CRM has had a simplistic view of customer relationships, bound within the functional silos of sales, marketing and service. This view considered the enterprise comprised of silos that interacted with the customer only through specific and specialized processes. Those specific processes belonged to the undisputed realm of CRM.
It is arguably the most difficult thing to predict what a person would do or want at a particular time and place. However traditional CRM is based on the premise that having lists of opportunities and customer details will allow a software tool to accurately determine customer behavior and target them with the right offers. That too, when they are sitting in a sales & marketing functional silo with little or no connection with the rest of the organization. This is why, while customer-centric strategies will be among the top corporate objectives ; CRM may not be used in a majority of them.
The great divide between enterprises and customers existed, as CRM tools continued to believe that customer interactions happened only through a few processes in the sales and marketing area. As a result, prospect management, sales cycle management, campaign management or contact centers became the primary means of connecting with customers. Today however, customers interact with enterprises across the entire value chain. Success and retention depends on how deeply customers collaborate with enterprises across the entire value chain – from product / service conceptualization, design, development, sales & marketing and service. To build a truly customer centric organization, customer inputs are needed at every point in the value chain. For example Dell pioneered the concept of allowing customers to design their own computers, hitherto unheard of in the PC manufacturing industry.
Analysts like Gartner have long argued that CRM is not a technology, but a business strategy built around the concept of customer centricity. And Customer centricity is about connecting with the customer across the value-chain, through processes, people and technology. It involves the designing customer friendly business strategies & processes, training people about the importance of customer relationships and designing simple applications that deliver exactly what customers want.
However all is not lost. The situation has improved over the last few years due to more agile customer-centric platforms like Salesforce.com and BPM (Pega, IBM BPM, Oracle BPM etc.). These platforms are not tied to specific processes or functional boundaries allowing them to be used across the enterprise. They have focused on making it easy for organizations to deploy applications faster and connecting them to internal and external applications (extended enterprise). This has allowed organizations to build applications across the value chain, that interact seamlessly with social media, internal data stores and external apps bringing customers, suppliers and internal stakeholders on the same table. Other big changes include the ease with which these platforms adapt to multi-channel environments allowing seamless deployments across multiple channels or the ability to use intelligent decisioning within the process context. While there is a huge scope of improvement, these platforms are bringing the customer to the center of the value-chain, something organizations have been struggling for years.
While CRM as a concept remains alive and kicking, its implementation and focus needs to change. It needs to extend beyond reaching out to customers with new offers and tracking their outcomes. It needs to focus more on connecting to the extended enterprise, aligning itself to the core operational and business processes and building customer centric touch-points across the value chain. These changes will allow organizations to truly leverage the potential of customer relationships.