Delivering Inspiring Customer Interactions Takes More Than CRM

Those of you who know my evangelistic tendencies vis a vis CRM solutions may be shocked at the title of this week’s blog. What? Could Leaper be suggesting that CRM is not in itself the be-all and end-all?

No, it’s not. I rather like to think of CRM as the embrace-all, the make-sense-of-all. It’s a tool for bringing together both the standing pools and rushing streams of data and enabling you to see and seize the opportunities that occur in so many places and at so many often overlooked moments.

The Center of Things
I’ve written before about using CRM to deliver highly personalized services, and to enhance customer intimacy.  Ideally, we aim to meet customers with precisely the right offer, delivered at precisely the right time, and at precisely the right price and conditions. CRM solutions can facilitate this, but only if the right information is coming into the solution. Moreover, it can facilitate this only if it can sort through  and connect all that information and expose the opportunities that you seek.

The more raw data you have coming into your CRM solution, the more possibilities there are to expose opportunities. The more powerful and intelligent your CRM solution, the more likely it is to be able to see and seize the opportunities that are out there.

What kind of data are we talking about? That depends on your business and your customers. The history of your interactions with your clients—what they’ve purchased, with whom they’ve interacted, the history of on-time payments and the like—that’s simply a given. It’s what you bring into the CRM solution on top of that that provides you with new insights and opportunities. That might be feeds from social networks; it might be the record of particular customer preferences or quirks; it might be something completely external: long range weather forecasts, stock and commodities prices, or something else entirely.

Indeed, the datastreams into your CRM solution might include all these things and more.

Moving Away from the Center
Needless to say, you’ll require a high-performance CRM solution to ingest and process all this information. You also must have tools that are sophisticated enough to discover correlations and connections among huge amounts of information—and to do it quickly.

But just as important as the processing power at the center of your CRM solution is the movement of relevant information away from that center. If your CRM solution is over there and if the personnel who could be acting upon the opportunities are over here, you may as well not even have a CRM solution. You need to make sure that the people and systems in a position to seize the opportunities have the information they need to do so.

Previously, I mentioned that Virgin Atlantic would impress me to no end if it simply took the next step and went from being able to provide me with the milk and ice that I always request at take-off to remembering my preference for that beverage and offering it to me proactively.

Clearly, Virgin Atlantic could capture and store that nugget of information into its CRM solution if it wanted to. But if it stays in there, it does them no good. The real trick is to make sure that said nugget of information is in the mind of the cabin attendant when the attendant is making the rounds of the cabin for drink orders.

Does that present itself as an iPad app that interacts with the CRM solution? As a proactive prompt in a Bluetooth headset that is tied in with a location sensor in the plane? How that information gets to the cabin attendant is a matter for the clever people at Virgin Atlantic, but the real opportunity to delight me arises by getting that information to the attendant on my flight.

And that’s why delivering inspiring customer interactions takes more than CRM. Inspiring customer interactions may depend on a huge volume of information, coming from a wide range of both traditional and non-traditional sources. Even more importantly, inspiring customer interactions require an information infrastructure that can push the opportunities from the CRM solution out to the person or system that can seize that opportunity most effectively.

Here at SAP, that’s where our technology innovation is taking us. The SAP HANA in-memory Big Data solution enables us to help clients make sense of all the datastreams they use and to find those golden nuggets of information that can lead to an inspired customer interaction. We’re coupling that with innovations in mobile, leveraging our Sybase know-how to ensure that those nuggets get to the people who can capitalize on this information—at the right time and in the right circumstances. Keep a look-out for the new SAP Customer Briefing app that we’re developing for the B2B market. Why? I’ve been playing with it—and it showcases like nothing else how we can deliver truly engaging CRM to meet the needs of today’s organizations.