Much like the end of the year, everyone seems to be publishing predictions, trends and the future as a year begins. A little bit later than I had anticipated, I’d like to put in my two cents as well, from a European, or perhaps more specifically, from a Dutch perspective.
Service instead of sales Increasing focus is being put on improving service and ensuring customer service meets the expectations of customers. It seems however that most companies now use optimal sales processes and support these processes with an up to date crm system. Companies are starting to realise that making a sale is only one interaction, whereas service interactions occur more frequently and have a significant impact on the probability a customer will renew their contract. 2008 will see an increased focus on Customer Experience Management and Word of Mouth Marketing. The Net Promoter Score will remain an important metric for companies, even though it has been receiving some bad press.
Making your customer his own service representative
A second trend in CRM in 2008 is derived from increased pressure on cost efficient customer service. Not all products are sold at such a price that warrants service representatives making a service visit, or a call centre that provides simple services such as adjusting a cellphone price plan. Customers aren’t stupid and aren’t willing to pay a premium for activities they can perform themselves through a web based or voice response system. I expect that self service applications found within the Internet domain and are used by Internet Service Providers, will quickly make their way to cell phone, SaaS and other subscription based services in 2008.
Citizen Relationship Management
In other countries, like the UK, local and national governments have already hopped on the CRM train. Increasingly Dutch National and Local Governmental institutions are seeing the benefits of standardized CRM solutions for case management and customer interaction management. By gathering dispersed information in a single system, local governments are able to provide better service to it’s citizens or inhabitants by providing a single point of contact that is used to answer a multitude of questions in an efficient way, reducing frustration and the feeling of being caught in a bureaucratic trap. Larger municipalities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Almere have implemented typical customer or citizen relationship management processes and systems and other cities and national government institutions will probably follow suit in 2008.
Continuing rise of analytical CRM Within the Netherlands the CRM boom of the end of the last century has been followed by a rise in analytical CRM applications starting in 2004. Most companies are using analytical CRM applications to make the most out of their operational CRM data and leverage that data within their marketing efforts. Some companies are lagging behind in utilising effective data warehouses and analysis tools that provide a better insight into customer value, and these companies will continue to invest in implementing analytical CRM systems. In other words, a lot of effort has been spent in gathering customer interaction data and customer profile data, let’s use that data to sell more and provide better service! Replacing early CRM boom systems (’90’s-’04) with new ones
Companies are continuously in the process of upgrading their CRM systems to new versions. With the Rise of SOA, Web 2.0 and CRM 2.0, I expect that companies will take a more radical move, by replacing their CRM systems with new systems and rethinking their existing CRM functionality, and revamping their CRM processes. As indicated earlier in this post, the focus will be on improving the customer experience. Social Customer Networks / Media
An excellent example of a company utilising social media to improve it’s reputation is UPC, a large cable TV operator active all over Europe. UPC had (and for the most part still is) been suffering from a bad reputation, as a company that provides below average service, and started a number of initiatives to turn that image around. Beside revamping their service desk, UPC also created a webcare team, dealing with search engine reputation management, or responding to negative customer stories on the web, taking action and trying to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The UPC Webcare team uses TechnoRati, Google, and monitors several forums to find negative customer reactions or issues. A number of companies have already started with Webcare teams themselves and I trust more companies in the B2C field that are struggling with their reputation, such as Energy and Utility Companies, TelCo’s and other Cable companies will follow suit. Check this story (in Dutch) for more information on UPC’s Webcare teams.