2009 Success: Customer Focus + Cost-Efficiency Through Technology

2009 Success: Customer Focus + Cost-Efficiency Through Technology

By: Barton Goldenberg

February 2009

When I wrote this column back in November 2008, I was convinced that the economy would have worsened by now, and that our new President would find himself between a rock and hard place because the 2008 economic downturn was multi-faceted and particularly complex.

Yet despite all this doom and gloom, several ISM clients opted not to make any cuts to their 2009 CRM plans.  For example, despite a leading consumer package goods company cutting 3,300 jobs, they did not cut their CRM budget.  Despite a global financial services company going through a horrific period given the financial crisis, they did not chop their CRM initiative.  Despite a leading transportation company having a less than stellar year in 2008, they are pushing forward aggressively with their Web 2.0 initiatives.  All three of these best-in-class organizations came to the same conclusion: during tough times, when every dollar of expenditure counts, you’ll need to spend money to better understand your customers so that you can then focus on cost-effectively marketing, selling and servicing these customers.

With customer focus and cost-efficiency being CRM’s key objectives in 2009, best-in-class companies will also turn to a number of complementary technologies to help them achieve these two objectives.

Key Technology Trends

Organizations will need to take some time to evaluate what technology they need to stay ahead of the game and “bite the bullet” as they invest in key technologies.  Companies will be forced to seriously consider low-cost SaaS options and there will be a major march down this path as companies move more and more of their CRM projects to Web-based software.  This bodes well for vendors like Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Rightnow Technologies, Siebel on Demand and others; it will also push most other CRM vendors aggressively in this direction.  This also means your organization will increasingly transition to cloud-based CRM solutions in order to drive cost efficiencies into your customer interactions.

As my good friend Tim Bajarin (president of Creative Strategies) notes, we are on the verge of a very disruptive technology impacting CRM as well as IT in general.  We call it pervasive connectivity and it means that every laptop will soon have a wireless WAN chip inside so that a connection to the Internet will be possible anytime and anywhere a business user might happen to be.  Moreover a key infrastructure called LTE (Long Term Evolution) is being built out through the next generation of wireless networks that will deliver 3.5 or 4G speeds that will enhance their wireless data business offerings as early as 2010.  There is also the new class of notebooks called “Netbooks” that are very lightweight and small and have a wireless WAN chip built in.  There is the explosion in mobile devises that have CRM applications resident on the phone with easy access to the cloud (e.g., iPhones, Blackberrys, Windows Mobile 7 devices).  And finally Microsoft’s introduction of Windows 7 along with Windows Live, Windows CRM and Windows Mobile 7 will be a big deal this year and for most IT shops these technologies will become the cornerstone of their next generation hardware, software and applications’ framework.  All of which reinforced the growing potential of SaaS-based CRM and mobile CRM.

You’ll also turn to social media tools to help you collaborate with your Digital Clients as they seek a seamless experience across all of your sales and service channels.  Companies like Neighborhood America, Mzinga and others have already begun to extend their Web 2.0 technology offerings into the CRM space with impressive results.

Business Implications

Given these technology trends, the CRM people/process/technology mix will also need to change this year because organizations must put in place the right technology building blocks to make the shift from a hybrid client-server/SAAS model to one that ultimately shifts everything to the cloud.  Successful transition to this new model will help organizations drive down costs to market, sell and service their customers.

Companies will also have to think through – from a process and people perspective – how to deal with the explosion of mobile CRM applications being used by field sales and service personnel as well as by customers.  Of greatest importance, the large growth in the number of CRM applications that reside on smart phone devices, together with the explosion of internal and external Digital Clients that demand these devices, will help you achieve customer focus by deepening customer collaboration in real-time.

And finally executives will insist on achieving high user adoption rates for these new technologies, which means organizations will increasingly draw on user adoption best practices that include executive leadership, training, change management, communications, champion program, and an improved user experience.

Conclusion

What does all this mean for you?  For the remainder of 2009, apply proven CRM tools and techniques to better understand your customers; this will help you focus on cost-effectively marketing, selling and servicing these customers.  Also leverage technology trends – especially pervasive connectivity and mobile CRM – to help you achieve customer focus and drive down costs.  You’ll do all this because you need to stay competitive with the three best-in-class organizations noted above not just in 2009 but also in 2010 and beyond.