A New York minute is defined as an instant, or as Johnny Carson once said, it’s the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn.

Today’s speed of business is approaching a New York minute, and many businesses are ill equipped with traditional, legacy CRM tools built around the 19th century linear marketing funnel of awareness, interest, desire and action.

This “funnel” or old world thinking cannot stand up to today’s blended world of digital and physical channels.

Customers are scripting their own buying journeys in a world that involves not only the traditional TV and print advertising, but also internet searches, e-shopping, and social media such as Instagrams, Twitter, and Facebook. This new generation of customers wants to consume information fast, with the flexibility of getting that information consistently across their channel of choice, on their mobile devices while they are on the go. Hence, I playfully describe this buying journey as from Tweet to Receipt in a New York minute.

Earlier this year, a fan of the pop idol Taylor Swift flew halfway around the world from South Africa to London to attend Taylor’s concert. Unfortunately, because of flight delays, the fan, @StephanieBe, missed the concert. Throughout her journey, @StephanieBe shared her tears, experience and disappointment through Twitter. The morning after the concert she woke up to a sweet surprise, a tweet from @taylorswift13 telling her that she’d sponsor her ticket for the Dublin, Ireland concert if she could get there. Throughout @StephanieBe’s journey the airline responded promptly to several of the fan’s tweets, however although it was responsive with casual twitter chat, it didn’t seem to address her needs by connecting to the sales and customer service arm of the airline. The fan ended up making it to Dublin, but without the help from the airline. In the end, Taylor Swift made a fan very happy, she increased loyalty from all the fans following the drama via Twitter, and she also gained positive media coverage.

Most companies have some form of customer relationship management tools (CRM), but the 19th century CRM cannot address this new real-time blended world of physical and digital channels.  Businesses that are adapting to 21st century customer engagement methods are ahead of the game. Not only do they have a real-time understanding of their customers, and are able to personalize and optimize the customer experience across multiple channels, but these leading businesses are also able to arm employees, suppliers, and partners with the customer engagement tools and insights needed to increase sales productivity and deliver service excellence.

Basically, CRM as a category is evolving and customer engagement is the new category that can address the needs of the digital customer of the future!

Going back to the Taylor Swift fan story, @StephanieBe is the classic digital customer of the future — she is digitally connected, socially networked and better informed. Companies need to be ready to cater and support this new world customer. The airline in this story gets points for monitoring the Twitter channel, however customer service, and sales were probably disconnected and unaware of the chatter in Twitter which portrayed the airline as playing hard-ball and unhelpful.

In this new world of customer engagement, from the time they walk into your stores you need a real-time platform that can deliver a single view of every customer interaction, visit your website, tweet about your products, or reach out to your call center for help. Also, this platform must facilitate the integration of business data and processes in a company’s heterogeneous landscape of solutions to ensure a single contextual view of the customer across all business applications.

Take a retail example –with the advent of IoT data it means that you have a real-time stream of information about which customers are in-store, where in the store they are spending their time, what products they are interested in, etc. This data combined with social data, and the point-of-sale transactional data can be analyzed to optimize placement, promotions, traffic, staffing, and more. In the old world the point-of-sale (POS) component of this example is based on a data warehouse or old analytics system – which means that it is operating on the past. In this new world, you operate in the moment, with the ability to go from insight to action in real time.

Customers, partners, sales and service employees are always on-the-go, making mobility a critical technology capability for modern companies in this new world.

To ensure adoption and a proper return on investment, companies are looking for solutions that can be used anywhere, and that are easy-to-use and consistent across any device. Sales and service employees and partners are mobile warriors who need to access data and systems not only while connected to the Internet, but often while off-line where there is no internet connectivity. Real-time analytics, a well-designed user experience, flexibility of device, and easy accessibility of data and systems is what differentiates the top customer engagement solutions in this new world.

Enterprises that want to better serve and adapt to their digital customer needs within a NY minute, must go beyond traditional CRM, and must digitally transform their business to engage and transact with customers across every channel and on any device.

My personal bias is that such 21st century customer engagement solution must be powered by a next-gen cloud platform with real-time analytic capabilities.

Don’t Run CRM. Run Simple.

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