The Cadence of Cloud, Social, Mobile & Big Data Continues
The Gartner Customer 360 Summit was held March 14 to 16 in Orlando, FL. The conference was organized among five tracks:
Customer Service and Support
Customer Experience Management
Innovating and Integrating Marketing
Increasing Sales Effectiveness (new track this year), and
Gaining Analytical Insight
As compared to the prior two years where the overall buzz was social CRM (sCRM), this year's overarching theme was Customer Experience (CX). In fact looking back several years, both the CRM industry and this conference have taken a CRM evolution from operational (capture data, automate processes) to analytical (understand data and learn) to social (engage and reciprocate) to customer experience (wow, I think customer centricity finally made it to CRM strategy in this current phase).
Gartner identifies the four 'rhythm' CRM trends as cloud, social, mobile and big data/analytics. There really wasn't anything new regarding the cloud, however, there is a feeling that public clouds should permit customers greater portability and prevent SaaS providers from trapping custom code or data from leaving their platforms. To date, this has been an argument by open source providers such as SugarCRM which promote not just the reduction of barriers to entry, but also barriers to exit. Whether mainstay SaaS CRM companies such as Salesforce.com will empower customers to take custom developed (Force.com) apps and data (in a flexible database format, not an inadequate CSV file) to another cloud will most likely depend on whether customers and the competitive environment make this necessary.
Adam Sarner advised "we're at the peak of the social CRM hype cycle" and forecast the social CRM software market (including software to support sales, marketing and service) will grow to $1.3 billion in 2013. However, he also advised that the two top reasons companies are not investing in social are unclear ROI and lack of strategy. Many still ask "What's the ROI of social CRM?" It's a good question, but it's too broad to deliver a meaningful answer. Social CRM ROI really depends on the specific use case(s), the problems being solved or the opportunity being capitalized. With that said, Sarner also advised that "56 percent of social software references are not measuring effectiveness."
With mobile we've witnessed a tablet explosion that wasn't even on the radar a few years ago and is now being integrated to several customer facing roles and processes. Mobile apps are becoming more specialized, contextually relevant, consumer-like, componentized, mashable, cheaper and even disposable. Beyond increased adoption, the next mobile advancements are likely to be mobile payments and greater leverage of HTML5 as a cross platform mobile presentation layer. The continued rise of a mobile workforce will continue the rise of mobile technology. I also suspect that because mobile emerges from the consumer markets and is far more socialized than other apps, we may see mobile tap into even more personalization—using music, video, memories or memorabilia—to thereby tap into user emotions and the user experience.
Even more than the tablet explosion, we're witnessing a data explosion and in fact most companies are both drowning in data and not fully leveraging their data for analysis and learning. Gartner suggests more companies will advance from reactive to predictive reporting, using both structured and unstructured data, and will even benefit from data mining or pattern recognition to optimize, simulate and predict. I'd like to believe this, but I've been hearing this prediction for 7 years with not much uptake. Analytical tools are for the most part specialized and require significant IT involvement to integrate, aggregate, stage, format, deliver and present data. I don't think we'll really see analytics and BI take off until the supporting tools are pre-integrated and delivered with the broader CRM software systems.
Customer experience has come to the forefront of the CEO's agenda and CRM circles. Customers are like elephants—they don't forget bad experiences. And in a down economy where businesses have retreated to refocus on their customer bases, improving the customer experience is a mandate to increase customer share and manage churn. For most companies, investing in CX is a function of pain (pressure for change) and investments are largely made by companies with poor customer support who want to stop the bleeding or humiliation. Fear or ego is often the spark. Companies with so-so customer relationships often have a more difficult time justifying the investment. Irrespective of basis, there's no silver bullet to achieve customer experience success. Instead, its a combination of a 1000 small improvements which collectively prevail. Ed Thompson made a comment worth repeating, "There is no such thing as a customer experience management technology market", so don't seek out a CX software product. Most any technology can impact the customer experience.
Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin delivered an entertaining keynote with some interesting points. Chief among them was the call for advertisers and marketers to recognize that messaging design must change from 'average products for average people' to delivering highly focused messaging that gets people talking. For the last 100 years, 'average' has equated to the mass market and appealing to the mass market was accomplished over few channels. This era is clearly over. The number of media channels has exploded, and in fact anybody can create their own channels if they like. More channels coupled with increased scarcity of attention makes marketing infinitely more challenging. Marketers must now break out of 'average products for average people' and instead deliver unique messaging to targeted channels. In this new paradigm, marketers interrupting, bombarding and yelling at consumers no longer works. Consumers can easily tune out high volume, low value interruptions. Fortunately, people have a need to be social and organize themselves into groups that share a common interest or goal. Marketers must now identify these consumer groups (what Seth calls tribes) and build a connection by whispering and approaching these consumers in more of what looks like a dating relationship. The net takeaway is stop trying to reach everyone and instead reach a few and get them to talk.
The show was well done, but I would be remiss if I didn't offer some recommendations. First, I thought I was arriving to the opening keynote 20 minutes early, but it turns out I was 10 minutes late. Unfortunately, the online (downloadable) event brochure and schedule maintained on the Gartner website was inaccurate. Second, organizing presentations in tracks is a good start but insufficient. It became clear when talking with attendees that the audience spanned the gamut from beginner to expert. While such is often the case, many conferences find their attendees fall along a bell curve—with fewer beginners and experts and most fitting in the middle. This conference seemed to be different this year, effectively flattening the bell curve. There were many beginners trying to figure things out for the first time. There were similarly many veterans looking to take their CRM or similar programs to the next level. Delivering the same presentation to both beginners and veterans incurs the obvious relevance challenges. Organizing the presentations by track and experience level would go a very long way in making this event far more valuable for the attendees. Third, the show was light on new research results. There weren't any revealing research releases that you would talk about later that night over dinner. Saving a few of the more interesting announcements for the event might be a method to keep the energy up.
Both the CRM industry and this conference have taken a CRM evolution from operational (capture data, automate processes) to analytical (understand data and learn) to social (engage and reciprocate) to customer experience.