As the Jedi views the Force, so should the CIO view CRM

I predict that the customer-centric era will bring the disappearance of CRM. Does that sound crazy? If so, let me clarify, so as to not confuse “disappearance” with “demise.” Far from becoming extinct, CRM will become so ubiquitous that it is no longer discerned by most as a stand-alone function. CRM will support everything, and everything will support CRM.

In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi warns Darth Vader that striking him down will make him “more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” As Darth slashes through Obi-Wan with his lightsaber, he vanishes, merging with The Force to become part of the universal fabric. Likewise, CRM, which started as a distinct platform, is now a core business function, and will soon transform into something that’s infused organization-wide with every single aspect of business.

As companies become increasingly customer-focused CRM will become so fully integrated into every employee’s work as to no longer be something that even consciously registers with most as a specific function. By “disappearing”, it will become more powerful in terms of driving business than most can imagine, binding the organization’s people, processes and technologies together, enabling it to anticipate and exceed customer expectations. 

The CIO’s guiding hand in CRM’s metamorphosis

Progressive CIOs -- or Chief Interaction Officers as I call them -- will guide CRM’s Obi-Wan-style metamorphosis into the business function that informs and powers all other functions. The first step in this process involves freeing the flow of information -- building a centralized mission-control-style dashboard that gives every employee all the information they might possibly need to turn each interaction into a positive customer moment. 

With that objective in mind, CIOs should ask these questions as they architect the customer-centric infrastructure of the future:

  • Are we doing anything that strikes our customers as bureaucratic? People may not have risen up to demand personability from government yet, but they expect it of business. Any hint at red tape will send them running to your competitors.
  • Is our contact center focused on creating positive customer moments, or on making sure we don’t spend very much money serving the customer? Actually, these aren’t mutually exclusive. Excellent customer service shouldn’t require a ton of employee time -- if it does, it’s taking too long and you’re losing the customer moment. But there’s a world of difference between servicing a customer quickly, and merely getting a customer off the phone quickly.
  • Is our CRM social? With most of the world communicating via social media, it should be a no-brainer. Yet social media-enabled CRM is hardly ubiquitous. To make sure you’re a part of the conversation, give employees the ability to observe and interact with customers through all major social media channels. If someone Tweets that your product stinks, your customer service should be the first to respond. If someone posts on Facebook how much they love you, your people should be empowered to recognize and reward the advocacy. Beyond this, however, your CRM should be internally social -- an employee engaged with a customer should be able to post questions, Facebook style, and solicit the brainpower of the entire organization to find a solution pronto.
  • Is your CRM aligned with your CTI? Just as cloud-based CRM gives you infinitely more flexibility and scalability and enables a worldwide, real-time view, cloud-based telephony solutions offer similar advantages. These days if a customer has called you they’re either really interested, or really angry. Either way, your risk of sour phone interactions is enhanced by archaic, on-premise telephony.

Be one with the force...of CRM

Some companies will continue to think of CRM as distinct from core business platforms and processes -- a view that was fine when customers had only a telephone, postal service, and little choice but to endure petty bureaucracy. Now, with Marshall McLuhan's “global village”concept coming to fruition, meaningfully connecting with customers will mark the line between success and failure. Just as the butcher knows Mrs. Johnson might upgrade from pork to beef for her next party, businesses need similarly predictive insight into their globally dispersed customers. Achieving such insight requires a very different approach to CRM. We can’t just use CRM -- we have to be CRM.

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