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GUEST COMMENT How thinking beyond CRM will win over the digital customer

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Customer engagement is becoming increasingly complex, as digitally-savvy buyers hold new expectations of the service delivered to them with regards to convenience, relevance and speed.

A new device or channel may become an audience’s preferred method of communication, or a simple shift in customer buying behavior could present a hurdle for businesses. What’s clear is that the landscape is changing and unearthing a new set of challenges for the IT department.

Traditional CRM systems were built for a different era of consumer, and as we move closer to a truly digital economy, brands know that a new approach is needed to win over their customer base. As such, it’s time for a new kid on the block that can go beyond CRM to more deeply understand each customer’s needs and engage with them in the moment when it matters.

Approaching a digital era

Yesteryear’s business-led economy is fast becoming obsolete. Built with the bricks of mass-media marketing and the mortar of vendor-driven information, this customer interaction model is not sustainable in a digital world.

Individuals now refuse to be the passive customer, and often shun TV and web advertising. Instead they are digitally connected, socially networked and better informed. They also expect to get a return on the data ploughed into a brand’s big data bank, receiving a personalised interaction that goes far beyond what marketers currently offer, irrespective of the channel or device. Businesses therefore must be prepared to interact with an audience that is technologically aware and highly engaged in their personal lives, and independent, sophisticated buyers at work.

This changing nature of customer experience journey means that the ecosystem now requires a refresh. In a business-driven economy, CRM tools served as the nervous system for front office teams to execute, automate internal processes such as sales forecasting, and issue tracking. As the customer began to change the rules of engagement it became evident systems were insufficient – and point solutions focused on optimizing customer-facing processes have since been purchased to solve new engagement challenges.

But this siloed patchwork approach means that businesses are currently faced with a complex pool of solutions that don’t really allow them to engage with customers throughout the entire customer journey, let alone create new business models. In the digital economy, companies need one simple interface that can drive relevant, contextual experience across all customer touchpoints in real-time – in the moment when it matters to the customer. Multiple departments must be able to leverage customer context to personalise each interaction and deliver great experiences across channels.

Rapidly changing market conditions and customer expectations also mean that ensuring IT agility is paramount. From adding new channels, to evolving business models, and entering new markets – having the option to experiment with change, pull insights and respond quickly will enable true digital transformation to take the market advantage.

The data challenge

With increased digital interaction with customers comes the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of what make customers tick and gain insights into the wider audience context.

Though the challenge exists for enterprises to effectively collect, organise and interpret the reams of customer data in their hands, in order to create usable yet detailed customer profiles that can be shared with the entire front office. An even greater challenge is in the ability put relevant engagement into action to build those profiles quickly enough to be able to act them in the moment, optimising a customer’s experience in real time.

A data-driven value chain is poised to disrupt the status quo business model in almost every industry, but the right processes must be addressed now to futureproof your IT. If a business runs off a complex bundle of IT systems, strategies, and processes they will soon find that organising insights and engaging with customers becomes a minefield.

Being quick to respond to customer insights, and leverage to keep the business relevant not only will enable individualised customer experiences across channels.

The road to transformation

Digital transformation has touched every industry, leaving businesses with a bigger challenge of how they can differentiate, adapt and meet the evolving needs and expectations of today’s digital customer.

To stay relevant to their customers and one step ahead of the competition, brands need to go beyond the traditional CRM methods and deliver rapid innovation, simplify processes, be more agile. With an omnichannel customer engagement approach in hand, they provide can capitalise on key insights that will deliver effective and seamless customer service.

Volker Hildebrand is global vice president of customer engagement and commerce, SAP Hybris

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