Customer relationship management, or CRM, is having a renaissance. The promise of CRM was that it would streamline customer service, marketing, and sales efforts with a unified view of the customer, but the technology was dogged by complaints of clunky and expensive software.
Some critics blame software providers (Siebel Systems anyone?) while others say the blame partly belongs to companies that invested in CRM software without a clear business strategy or measurable goals. A few years later, CRM has resurfaced as a means to connect customer data and help deliver a consistent brand experience. So what changed?
"The traditional boundaries of CRM have blurred," said Scott McCorkle, CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, at Salesforce.com's Connections conference in New York this week. "Customers want a consistent experience that lets them receive the information they need when they need it...giving rise to the connected customer."
Consumers, in other words, expect organizations to provide the same level of service and attention regardless of the number of channels (email, phone, text, in person) they use. CRM can potentially help organizations by providing a centralized source of first-party customer data. Advances in cloud computing, the proliferation of channels like social media and mobile, and the growth of data science have also contributed to a resurging interest in CRM.
Additionally, CRM data is being looked at as a way to enable better advertising. As Digiday's Chris Smith pointed out earlier this year, Oracle, Adobe, and Salesforce.com are putting forth the idea that first-party data is "the most valuable data around -- and is critical to ad buys." In upgrading its Marketing Cloud, Salesforce.com said it was adding more connections to display ads as well as sales and service to make it easier for companies to leverage their customer data across departments and channels.
Oracle expanded its own Marketing Cloud with Datalogix, a company that analyzes consumer purchasing data, which Facebook, Nielsen, and Adobe were also reportedly interested in. Combined with the data management platform Bluekai and CRM assets, Oracle has comprehensive consumer profiles that can power personalization across digital and offline marketing.
But CRM data by itself isn't enough to capture customer loyalty. To stand out, companies must engage consumers at the emotional level, argue Forrester Research analysts. Elevating the customer experience through emotional engagement was a major theme at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum, which was also held this week in New York.
Savvy marketers understand that consumers are inherently irrational and often make decisions based on a gut feeling, said Forrester Research Analyst Anjali Lai. Marketers, Lai continued, should "understand the customer holistically to create content that resonates with their identity and prioritize the moments that are inherently most emotional for customers."