May 25 by Wendy Close

View of Washington DC, where this years CRM evolution was hosted.

I spent Tuesday morning at the CRM Evolution Conference in Washington D.C. listening to a panel of CRM market experts and influencers discussing key trends in the CRM market from mobile, to analytics, to customer delight. The panel had some interesting observations. While some were obvious to me, others were, well, darn-right shocking.


“We are far from done with mobilizing the enterprise. Tablets are far more powerful now and even complete with analytics,” according to Denis Pombriant, Founder and Managing Principle of Beagle Research. “Now sales can get their orders in from their tablets.” I totally agree with Denis on this one. As we press into prescriptive analytics based on machine learning, I can see the power of a salesperson with a tablet prescribing the right offer, at the right discount, at the point of sale, right in front of the customer, using their tablet. Medical supply companies selling to hospitals is a perfect example.

CRM Evolution session.

The panel of CRM market influencers agreed that CRM solutions must support multiple channels but for the consumer and I would add the salesperson, it’s all about the mobile device – “the one channel”. To the consumer it’s not a bunch of channels – it’s just one – my phone whether I’m on my email, the web or just talking to my phone interacting with it via Siri or Cortana. I’m not thinking about multiple channels. I’m just using my mobile phone. Getting the customer experience right on the mobile device is the most important. “Mobile is a way of or fact of life now,” according to Marshall Lager, Founder and Managing Principle of Third Idea Consulting. Key takeaway – get mobile right. Create a good experience on the mobile phone for consumers and for salespeople configuring quotes and orders right from their tablet computer will be key.

Predictive Analysis

Is it a reality? According to the panel of experts, it definitely is real. In fact, Rebecca Wettemann of Nucleus Research points out, “It’s been around for a really long time, but now there is a lot more I can do with it.”

“It can now serve-up the right content – which product bundle I need to serve-up and at what discount. It’s changing the game,” according to Kate Leggett of Forrester Research.

Rebecca talked about how these “Edge apps like Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ), which enable companies to offer the right product bundles, at the right prices, go beyond CRM and can produce some of the highest ROI. In fact, in a conversation we had with her the prior day, she shared results from research showing that apps like CPQ, which fall in the category they’ve coined “CRM Edge Apps”, are producing 4X the ROI of CRM apps! Wow. They’ll be publishing this research in June and we’re looking forward to getting our hands on it and sharing with you all.

Other influencers on the panel noted that predictive analytics is pretty complex so it’s good to start in small increments. Focusing on individual cases is now what’s important versus predicting on large segments of customers which is what use to be done with analytics.

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It’s not about technology as much as it is about knowing what to do with all the data. Denis points out that “Using the data to build customer loyalty is really where the gold is”.

To Delight or Not to Delight the Customer- That’s the Question

Two men smiling and Shaking hands

Do we have to delight the customer all the time? If not, what should companies actually be thinking about? The panel commented that it’s impossible to do it at every scale and, if you do delight, customers will come to expect it (the bar will rise). If the definition of delight is based around being unexpected, then you can no longer delight them. How scandalous for those of us who have spent decades in the CRM market discussing the importance of creating happy, loyal customers. Can we really admit we don’t need to delight our customers?

This panel agreed that the goal was not to delight, but to simply not drop the ball. Liz Herbert of Forrester, points out, “Just fulfill my need. Just fix my problem or answer my questions – I don’t have time to be delighted”. As I was waiting in line at American Airlines, I certainly had time to be delighted and would have actually loved to be delighted. Nonetheless, her comment really got me thinking.

“It really comes down to how valuable that customer is,” according to Rebecca. This brings up the topic of better service for better customers i.e., those that create more revenue and profit. As long as your organization is one of those customers, this strategy is great. But what if you’re not?

Another panelist points out that it’s important to capture “customer emotion” in the call center so that we can learn and improve. There seems to be no argument here. Everyone appears to agree improving the customer experience is a worthy cause.

We also need to think about customer expectations. We expect a company to pick up the phone. That’s not delight. But that might be, according to this panel, just enough. “Just help them get it done – there not looking for delight. Just deal with the issue authentically. Overtime this will pay off with a customer. And this brings stickiness.”


So I’m left thinking that maybe we don’t need to delight? In my next meeting with Jim Steger of Sonoma Partners, he takes my thinking to a whole new level making the comment that “it’s about managing disappointments”. We all laugh but then I think to myself — is this what CRM has become? Have I spent my career in CRM only to help organizations manage disappointments? This does not sit well with me.

Otherwise, one of my colleagues traveling with me Michael Dunne, who is more pragmatic, states, “The priority is really impressing the customer, especially in B2B relationships. That is, in meeting expectations in a professional, efficient manner, that reinforces the customer experience, bolsters your brand and reputation, and increases the likelihood of a client wanting to do business with you again”.

Kid with head in hands, managing disappointment

My very nature is one of positivity. It’s one of my top five strengths. I have to say, for me, I just can’t give up on the idea of delighting my customers. I’m a visionary. Thinking about making customers happy and delighted propels me forward. For today, I can’t give up on this vision —even if people are happy with just not being disappointed. I’ve just gotta be out for more.

Well, what do you think?

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