Customer Engagement Intelligence Doesn’t Reside Only in a CRM Application: It Lives Throughout & Beyond the Enterprise

When customer relationship management (CRM) software first debuted, it was a miracle. For the first time, companies didn’t have to build a database of prospects and customers to track their preferences and purchases. There it was, efficiently organized. With analytics, companies could see who patronized them the most, and who generated the most profit. That’s why, along with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, CRM software has become one of the few successful enterprise software mainstays. There’s only one problem: it’s a silo. It’s hard to exchange information with other applications. If enterprise vendors knew how companies were actually going to use products like CRM, they would have built them with better application programming interfaces (APIs). CRM vendors focused on solving one problem – the lack of a great customer database – and accidentally created another one: how to make that information seamlessly available to other applications, and make information from other applications seamlessly available. Customer information, after all, doesn’t just live in a CRM application; it lives throughout & beyond the enterprise.

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Aggregating customer data with other applications is not an idle desire: CRM information – those purchases and preferences – has inestimable value. Whether transactional, interactional, historical or behavioral, it can drive insight into marketing, into customer service, into manufacturing, and into logistics. Considered holistically, rather than as a silo, the data in a CRM application can trigger greater insights into which products and services are successful and which are not; which products and services should be tackled next; the potential volume of sales based on stated customer interest; and more.

By suggesting that CRM stop being a silo, we’re not talking about a wholesale reconfiguration of CRM. But think of the CRM application as just one big data mart. It contains lots of information about customers. Just as with any database, companies can analyze that information and leverage the multi-channel intelligence it may contain–social, mobile, structured and unstructured. But then what? How do those insights then drive other activities within the company and without by engaging customers?

That’s where business process management (BPM) comes in. Aggregating BPM and CRM makes both more valuable. By taking a holistic viewpoint, companies can create workflows that trigger responses to customer requests faster than ever before. BPM adds the ability for companies to leverage insight based on both external and internal content and/or data residing in CRM systems, and then take action based on that information. Hypatia Research Group has identified five major categories wherein companies can derive this insight—which represent the maturity levels for software combining both CRM and intelligence-driven BPM. As illustrated in the figure below, maturity levels for software that incorporates CRM and BPM starts simply and becomes more sophisticated.

FIGURE 1: MATURITY LEVELS FOR SOFTWARE INCORPORATING CRM AND BPM

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Source: ©2014-2015 Hypatia Research Group. “Next Generation CRM: All About Business Process Excellence.” All Rights Reserved.

Alerts. Employees shouldn’t have to wait to query an application to get information. The system should be smart enough to alert employees when a prized customer (or even a prized prospect) updates information. Furthermore, the source of alerts should go come from beyond the CRM system as well – from social media, from technical support systems, from Web site downloads; in short, from any self-service interaction a customer takes.

Rules. A company with 10,000 customers may not be able to respond to all the alerts a system might create. That’s where rules come in. A company may want to set up a system whereby the customers representing the highest revenue get unresolved questions addressed within four hours. Ditto for prospects representing high potential revenue, while sales or support staff might respond to customers who have made lesser financial commitments within a longer window. The concept of rules can be wonderfully flexible: a company may set up a rule to offer free shipping for a 24-hour period or for certain levels of purchase, and then reconfigure them based on response.

Decision trees. Think of a decision tree as a more-complicated set of rules, an aggregation of if/then/else programming that allows companies to make more granular decisions about handling customer queries, purchases, and complaints. The important facet to remember about both rules and decision trees is their flexibility. For the highest level of agility within BPM and CRM, companies must be able to respond to changing business conditions and adjust their decision tree accordingly. That also means the ability to adjust the decision tree must be simple enough to be intuitive for the highest number of employees.

Advanced analytics. Companies can use the aforementioned capabilities can be used to address the needs of individual customers, but in addition, they must also be able to identify macro trends representing consolidated patterns of activity. For instance, are certain groups of customers delaying purchases? Or are they responding beyond expectations to a new offer? That in turn may trigger the need for increased manufacturing output. Is social media abuzz with comments? The ability to analyze unstructured and structured data together is the basis for big data, a key technology for tracking customer sentiment. Identifying these patterns requires not only applying business intelligence to the CRM database, but enabling the company to channel that information to other related systems.

Guided IntelligenceTM. The goal is to create an aggregated BPM/CRM system that is greater than the sum of its parts, one that allows the input and output of information in a virtuous circle, so that CRM data informs BPM data and vice versa. The result is a more-intelligent system that gives companies the ability to enhance one of the key competitive differentiators: the customer experience. Being smarter about customers not only increases customer engagement, but it has the potential to increase revenues from customers not only satisfied but delighted with the service they’ve received.

To better identify the CRM and BPM vendors that understand and support the importance of the aggregation of both kinds of software, Hypatia Research Group has evaluated a handful of vendors for consideration. For each vendor, we have compiled an overview of their business; a description of their software’s features; and a customer case study. We then provide a summary and recommendations. Source: ©2014-2015 Hypatia Research Group. “Next Generation CRM: All About Business Process Excellence”. All Rights Reserved.