The Evolution of Customer Relationship Management

The Evolution of Customer Relationship Management

Written By: Eric Gjerdevig

from May 4, 2015

Relationship Status: Engaged!

Customer expectations seem to be changing at the speed of light. Today, sales professionals do more than just sell; they are service representatives and subject matter experts. Traditional sales functionality no longer defines the sales force automation (SFA) market. As sales processes morph and get increasingly competitive, the role of the salesperson has changed quickly. This rapid evolution is redefining what is at the center of customer relationship management (CRM). The increasing complexity of our customers and their expectations are driving the need for more “intelligent” CRM solutions and bringing together historically separate business functions such as sales, marketing, and customer service.

Paul Greenberg, a CRM industry analyst and author of “CRM at the Speed of Light”, has defined customer engagement as “the ongoing interactions between customer and the company, offered by the company, chosen by the customer.” Comparatively, Gallup defines customer engagement as the emotional connection between your customers and your company. Greenberg’s definition sounds a lot like loyalty, which, although is not mutually exclusive, is different. Gallup’s seems to put too much emphasis on an emotional connection.

So, what is customer engagement; is it just a new term for satisfaction? The difference between customer satisfaction and engagement is more than just semantics. Engagement implies a deeper level of interaction with the customer. Satisfaction is a one-way street and is reflective of a single point in time. Engagement is a two-way street and embodies the sum of a customer’s experiences and relationship with your company over time. Engagement is a living conversation between an organization and its customer. An engaged customer may not always be satisfied but cares enough about the relationship (or feels valued enough) to let you know they aren’t.

So, why is engagement important? First, nothing predicts organic growth like customer engagement. Engaged customers shop more often, buy more, tell others about it, and often are less price-sensitive. Second, simply “satisfying” customers does not have the same effect as engaging them. To be honest – traditional customer satisfaction programs don’t work. Traditional efforts do not create the types of connections that drive long-term relationships and value. Finally, customer engagement is more important than ever, since every issue has the potential to win high praise or verbal denunciation, either of which could go viral with the click of a mouse.

Today, the impact of mobile technology and social media has led to a shift in the way businesses engage with their customers. Businesses must realize that interactions between companies and customers are increasingly spread across different parts of the organization and through various channels. Businesses can no longer force customers to communicate through the most convenient channel (to the business) but must instead listen and respond to multiple channels and to what is most convenient to the customer. More than ever, companies are trying to get closer and understand their customers better. They want to provide a personalized – but not necessarily personal – experience.

So how does a solution like Microsoft Dynamics CRM fit in to this moving concept of engagement? Historically speaking, CRM systems were more of a command-and-control tool than a customer engagement tool. The fact is many vendors such as Microsoft, Salesforce.com, SAP, Oracle, and others are all struggling to define customer engagement. Therefore, they are all tackling this opportunity in slightly different ways. As such, it has been discussed more in the last six months than in the previous 10 years. Kirill Tatarinov, executive vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions, spoke in the opening keynote of Convergence 2015 on this exact topic saying, “Customer engagement is the most critical business process of all.”

As the market works to refine this definition, there are some areas where organizations should focus their efforts. Successful customer engagement strategies and processes must be supported with the right tools to drive efficient and positive customer interactions. A common barrier to growth in small companies is breaking free of the “hero” model because they lack the tools and processes to support their business on a larger scale. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is great at supporting and automating business processes.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM, when paired with various add-on products for such things as customer portals, live chat, text, and social insights, can be at the heart of providing a consistent, multi-channel, experience to customers that can differentiate your product and/or service from that of your competitors. Today consumers expect more out of service experiences — from initial engagement with a brand or retailer to post-purchase interactions. Consumers today follow the mantra of “IWWIWWIWI” (I want what I what when I want it). That’s the new standard to driving engagement and the true definition of a seamless, always-on, omni-channel experience.

To read more about customer engagement, how Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be at the center of supporting your engagement strategy, and how several great add-on solutions help support this goal, please download our ebook titled “What is Your Relationship Status? Redefining Customer Engagement in Today’s Connected World” from http://www.summitgroupsoftware.com/customer-engagement.