Monday, February 13, 2012

5 CRM trends to seize on in 2012

This year will carry big expectations for Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs).

Firstly, the businesses who use them will be expecting them to do more (and for less). Secondly, end customers — increasingly aware of what CRM systems are capable of — will be even more insistent that businesses deal with them as they expect.

In short, businesses will be looking to their vendors for help with doing more with CRM, and we expect to see a combination of new and old capabilities receive more attention.

Here are some CRM trends CIOs should watch for in 2012:
  1. Anywhere. Anytime.
    It’s become a mantra for good reason: Anywhere/anytime computing offers enormous benefits in the CRM space.
    In 2012, mobility and the cloud will continue to create opportunities for businesses to engage with customers in intelligent ways across all touch points.
    While they don’t have to go hand-in-hand (indeed many businesses continue to be concerned about the cloud’s ability to keep confidential customer information safe), they are a powerful combination.
    The ability to instantly check what’s in the pipeline, or for outstanding issues, just before speaking with a customer is now a required tool. And in the new year, the push from staff for CRM applications on their mobile and tablet devices will only intensify.
  2. Any insight.
    CRM systems generate and collect a great deal of data. Unfortunately, much of this information goes to waste because the possibilities for exploiting it are ignored.
    The ball is in the CIO’s court when it comes to improving the value their businesses can extract from the latent data in their applications through better exploitation of marketing, market insight and customer engagement opportunities.

    This is more about getting the full potential from existing features than it is about utilising new ones, but it’s something I think CIOs will be driving in 2012.

    CRM vendors will also have a role to play in educating businesses about what’s possible.
  3. Customer-isation.
    We all know that customers are demanding better, faster and more integrated experiences.
    Indeed, many of the businesses we deal with are reporting an increasing impatience on the part of customers who feel that ‘the system should know’ when it comes to their identity, purchase history and other details.

    2012 will see savvy end customers who are increasingly aware about the capabilities of CRMs, meaning businesses will need to focus on delivering coherent interactions online, in person and on the phone.

    Being behind the ball in this regard will be less and less affordable.
  4. Social networks.
    Some businesses are finding social media a tough ask, with plenty of scope for both success and failure.

    It’s a difficult area but social CRM has matured. In 2012, expect to see much better social monitoring and engagement tools integrated into CRMs.

    These bring two essential functions to the table. Firstly, they make monitoring for commentary on social networks easier and, where commentary is adverse, putting out spot fires much faster.
    Secondly, social CRM allows for faster community-building and management, across sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn — providing businesses to create and (as far as possible) control the online conversation space around their products.

    Done right, social CRM implementations will see businesses become more effective in social media, with more metrics around results.
  5. More for less.
    Because of the cloud, the excuses for CRM vendors offering less than complete feature sets and capabilities in their CRM offerings are fast vanishing.

    In 2012, this will translate into reduced costs for CRM users — or steady costs but for more powerful solutions.
Summing up
Businesses should be looking to increase the communication, knowledge sharing and business insight opportunities they can leverage from their CRM systems in 2012.

With mobility, coherent customer experience and social engagement becoming the norm, it’s in the better use of analytics that companies are likely to find and win more business and develop a competitive advantage.

Ian Whiting is CEO of CRM, ERP and POS experts Markinson Business Solutions.