Software // Information Management
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7/22/2007
10:41 PM
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Do the Right Thing: Gain the Customer Experience Advantage Over CRM

Rather than bridging gaps between business units and creating a single customer view, CRM has too often created yet another silo with incomplete information. Customer experience management ensures that customer information is consistent across channels and that next steps are guided by segment- or event customer-specific strategies. Here's how to move toward a more holistic approach.

The term Customer Relationship Management (CRM) conjures up the idea of plotting strategies to get closer to customers while manipulating those relationships to the company’s benefit. Today's reality is somewhat different, as customers show little loyalty to any one company as they turn to the Web to find the deals that suit them best.

The ability to "manage" customer relationships turned out to be elusive at best, and expectations for CRM products were not fulfilled because they focused mainly on making internal sales processes more efficient: hardly "customer focused." CRM systems failed to provide the promised 360-degree view of the customer primarily because they didn’t have access to enough data.

Taking a more holistic approach, Customer Experience Management (CEM) sets out to ensure that each customer interaction is as positive as possible, so customers feel more inclined to remain loyal. CEM is a combination of revised processes and a more integrated technology architecture that manages customer interactions consistently across all business units and all communication channels. CEM also seeks to put every interaction into the context of all previous interactions with the customer and within a defined strategy for each customer segment so, for example, long-standing, high-value customers would typically be treated differently than transient, lower-value customers.

CEM is founded on the premise that without a single, “golden” source of data and a 360-degree view of the customer, it's impossible to make each interaction with a customer as relevant, positive and mutually beneficial as possible. Once a single view is established for all channels of communication, a customer reaching a call center will receive the same account information they might have just viewed on the Web.

This article discusses the challenges of transitioning from a CRM approach to a CEM approach. It involves spanning business units and creating and sharing a single source of customer data, which is never an easy task, but it's not an overly ambitious objective. But this article puts forward pragmatic steps and advice toward delivering a better and more consistent customer experience.

CRM and the Elusive Single View

The 1980s saw the beginnings of CRM and the suggestion that companies should become more customer-focused. The vision was that companies should break down their internal business-unit silos and focus instead on the customer. Not surprisingly, technology vendors soon offered CRM applications that encapsulated these ideals and proposed to manage the associated transactions and data. But breaking down silos turned out to be harder than most companies expected, and people soon forgot that CRM was supposed to span all the business units within the company.

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