This year’s top 10 trends in CRM innovation

In 2010, we found that CRM efforts were largely focused on results-oriented activity, with special attention paid to sustainability and customer retention. CRM was primarily used as a platform for nurturing and developing a better understanding of customers and using this increased knowledge to develop relationships. This was critical to businesses as a result of the economic climate and the changing dynamics of customers and internal resources that this climate created. 

Last year we also saw an increasing number of organisations evaluating cloud-based solutions – from to Siebel On Demand to Microsoft – through cloud service providers. This will continue to be a significant trend in 2011 with the introduction of Microsoft CRM 2011 Online to the market.

In 2010 we also saw more firms starting to use social media as a communication medium, helping them to drive a sense of community, in order to retain existing customers and attract new ones. In 2011 this will only continue to grow with the availability of increased integration to CRM.

If we look to 2011, I see a year with productivity improvements front and foremost, and an emphasis on continuing to drive customer retention. In conjunction with this, businesses will also look to smarter use of CRM across all channels, using CRM as a tool to drive consistent results and revenue.

If I were to name the top 10 trends for CRM in 2011 that I believe managers and executives should consider, they would be:

 1: Social Customer Engagement

In 2010, businesses started to actively develop social media communities. In 2011 this will grow substantially. With customers increasingly asking ‘why should we do business with you?’, driving brand awareness and differentiation will be key to business success – social media is one way of doing this.

With advancements in CRM software and the concept of social connectors, access to social media content will be more attainable and enable greater usage. We are also likely to see greater reliance on social media as a communication channel in direct and indirect B2C industry segments and in B2B for growing greater partnerships and community amongst customers. 

2: Streamlining Marketing and Sales to drive revenue-based outcomes and a move away from activity-based outcomes

With the current economic climate as it is, businesses have focused on growing revenue while reducing cost by growing current customer relationships. In 2011, businesses will again want to review their alignment of Marketing and Sales to ensure that they are working together to drive the same outcomes – not just generating activity, but activity that is converted into revenue. CRM systems will assist with this process by offering continued business process automation, greater access to shared data and goals and greater visibility of activity and, more importantly, how and where this activity has turned into revenue. 

3: Greater access to data and metrics at a personal user level

Users today expect more from their CRM system than ever before. They expect to have access to their data in a personalised format that works for them. This year we will see a trend in CRM applications that will enable users to personalise their data views, making the most of all the features available to them within their CRM system.

Executives should expect their CRM system to deliver user-friendly dashboards that can be personalised by the end user and provide visual cues, such as colours applied to ratings of opportunities, that will allow employees to focus on high priority activities. I would also expect that individual sales targets and goals can be created and monitored in the CRM system to drive awareness and revenue-based outcomes. 

4: Growth of Mobile applications and the empowerment of customer-facing employees

With the release of Windows Phone 7, Apple iPads, Windows-based tablets and the ever-increasing usage of smartphones and iPhones, businesses will realise the value these devices can bring to the employee in the way in which they engage with customers and capture information.

Although wide-scale adoption of mobile CRM applications in a pure CRM sense is unlikely, I do see a greater opportunity to select specific business processes that can be implemented on a mobile phone or tablet to improve customer-facing employees’ productivity. 

5: Growth of SaaS understanding and impact on business

SaaS (Software as a Service) and cloud-based solutions reached a tipping point in 2010, with a few adopters, small and large. In 2011, with the introduction of Microsoft CRM 2011 Online as a subscription-based service provided by Microsoft, SaaS will become increasingly mainstream.

We will see a move away from the treatment of SaaS as just another delivery mechanism, becoming more of a strategic play together with better understanding of the associated governance and management challenges. Vendors will need to show experience and thought leadership in managing services offered in the cloud. 

6: Extending CRM to realise greater ROI across the business

Typically, the focus of CRM relates largely to the Sales and Marketing functions within an organisation, but these areas alone do not drive the expected ROI from the solution. 2011 will see organisations looking at how their investments in CRM can be extended to drive greater ROI and integration into other business-critical processes. If we look at why some CRM implementations fail, it’s often because they are only ever deployed to a single department and never progress beyond it. As a manager or executive, CRM needs to be a long-term commitment with optimisation and improvement activity planned every financial year. 

7: Continued alignment of companies and web experience

2011 will see a continued growth in organisations’ web presences, along with a need to maintain customer data through informative and interactive web channels. This will be aided by CRM applications becoming better integrated with web-based channels. Businesses should therefore focus on how they can take advantage of the ever-growing web, community-driven sales and self-maintenance of customer data, with their CRM system as a central part of this picture. 

8: Greater choice demands consistency in approach

Consumers and organisations are looking for consistency in approach and communication. In 2010 the growing use of tagging and mobile devices to scan barcodes enabled far greater access to comparison websites and competitive information. To win in an environment where data is easily accessible, businesses need to drive competitive advantage through consistent customer interaction at all levels and through all channels – whether it’s the web, a mobile application or face-to-face. Consistent interaction can be orchestrated through a CRM system using business process automation, dialogue-based interactions and accessible, useable information. Service will therefore become an increasingly important differentiator. 

9:  Customer Data Management best practice continues to be an issue

Although it remains key for all businesses, the management of customer data is still a challenge for organisations and CRM systems. In 2011, organisations will need to focus on the quality of customer master data and task the ‘business owners’ with taking responsibility for its quality. 

10: Repeatability of engagements

A common reason for the failure of CRM systems is that processes are reinvented for each engagement and lessons learnt are not revisited. A well implemented CRM system and document management solution can drive consistency, reduce cost and improve visibility of engagements across a wider user base. In 2011, CRM solutions will need to encourage repeatability through standardised processes, interactions and document management through the customer lifecycle.

In essence, 2011 is going to be year of productivity, with the core focus of CRM on improving customer retention through smarter interaction and consistent brand communication combined with the opportunity to review the governance structure and delivery of the CRM application to the user base.

My top 10 trends for CRM in 2011 first ran in February’s IT Brief.

Microsoft CRM 2011 On Premise Released Early

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