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Customer Strategist Phil Winters:
10 Customer Management Trends to Act on Today

March 17, 2010

Customer Strategist Phil Winters:
10 Customer Management Trends to Act on Today

Customer experience management is a key driver in terms of CRM, but not the only one. Recent developments in technology have unleashed a growing number of new customer management trends. Here are a few of the most important:

1. Consumers assume more and more control over their relationships with the companies they do business with. The challenge for corporations is to continue to delight consumers at every step of the decision-making process for a specific purchase, even when it is not possible to influence it directly.

2. Very early decision touchpoints and interaction between consumers now play a far greater role in the buying process. It's vital to know which touchpoints are relevant for your customers. Consider what each touchpoint means and which "moments of truth" will make a significant impact in the buying decision. Learn what customers are thinking at the early stages of the decision-making process, as well as what influences their buying decisions.

3. Social CRM is becoming integrated into total customer experience management. There is no doubt that social CRM will transition from being a standalone activity to one that needs to be integrated with their existing customer strategies. Determining which social CRM activities make sense for which customer segments - and deciding how to treat those activities - is the key to making use of social media tools.

4. A dearth of experts that truly understand customer analytics will force companies to produce and use customer insights differently. The days when a small team of experts owns the entire customer analytics process are coming to an end, necessitating and paving the way for a more holistic approach that involves more staff, at various organizational levels, in an environment where many can create and gain an advantage from customer insight, not just the chosen few.

5. In-house, outsourced or cloud platform? Technology options will not just be about total cost of ownership. Whether applications, databases, or infrastructure, real alternatives exist. However, the right choice will depend not on a total cost of ownership calculation alone, but also on a determination of how to best use the investment to ensure the take-up, acceptance, and learning throughout an organization, to meet its goals.

6. An increased focus on getting staff to embrace customer centricity. It's all about execution, and not just in marketing. Many senior executives, along with heads of sales and operations, are now realizing how critical it is for all parts of the organization to understand and proactively put the company's customer centricity investments to effective use.

7. Data - capturing it, managing it, making it usable - is now more important than ever. The data challenge has not gone away; if anything, it's gotten tougher. The volume and complexity of a company's various data sources can still mean the difference between a successful and a failed CRM initiative.

8. The focus of direct marketing will continue to shift away from a product push toward customer-optimized interaction. Organizations are quickly shifting to a mentality of getting the "best" action (for themselves as well as for their customers) and demanding a much higher return on their CRM investments. And consumers love the results.

9. Data privacy will shift from being a major roadblock to providing an important differentiator. Data privacy is still seen by many in direct marketing as the great show stopper. But nothing could be further from the truth. With a well-communicated policy, prudent organizations are seeing consumers actually granting permission to use more of their information, as long as it is sensibly done.

10. Customer intelligence will shed its studious, retrospective past to take on the role of informing and instructing an organization's interactive decision points - in real time. Customer intelligence was originally all about taking historical data, collected over time, and creating a few snapshots of "now and in the future." However, new data sources and new techniques are allowing organizations to make fact-based decisions on the fly, without having to wait the typical six to 12 months to gather enough data.

Phil Winters is an advisor with Peppers & Rogers Group. Contact him at

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