CRM Plus BPM Lies at Heart of Superior Customer Experience Management

    Investing in a customer relationship management (CRM) application, when properly applied, can be an immense benefit to the business. But’s it not until a CRM application starts being employed to transform customer experiences that collecting all that data begins to fundamentally change how the business operates. To achieve that goal, organizations are starting to view investments in CRM and marketing applications within the context of a larger exercise in business process management (BPM).

    Case in point is Caesars, the entertainment and gambling behemoth that just emerged from bankruptcy. To provide a better experience for its best customers, Caesars has been investing in software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications provided by Oracle that enable it to apply predictive analytics to data being collected in real time. Armed with that intelligence, Caesars CEO Mark Frissora explained to attendees at a recent Modern Finance Experience 2018 event hosted by Oracle that the company is now able to better predict individual customer behavior based on correlating data that currently resides in applications.

    “We can call up a screen that can tell us when a Total Rewards customer was last here, how much money he spent, and what his net win or loss is over a lifetime,” Frissora says. “We can start predicting customer behavior so that we can focus our reinvestment in those customers in a much smarter way.”

    That ability to interact with customers while they are actively engaging with an organization in real time is fueling investments in everything from so-called translytics databases that enable analytics to run concurrently alongside transactions to a new generation of CRM applications that blurs the line between what were once separate sales and marketing functions.

    Matthew Tharp, chief evangelist for BPM’online, a provider of CRM software, says much of the focus on customer experience management stems from the fact that sales and marketing in the digital age need to more tightly align. That’s hard to achieve because each group is using a different set of applications to engage customers, says Tharp.

    “Today sales and marketing organizations may have as many as 12 different applications between them,” says Tharp.

    In a similar vein, Jeff Nicholson, vice president of CRM product marketing for Pegasystems, a provider of a suite of business process management software, says it was the need to extend CRM beyond merely being a database of customer records that lead the company to infuse a BPM engine within its application.

    “Organizations today engage customers across email, mobile applications, web sites and the phone. That creates a need to be able to centrally manage those interactions within the context of a business process,” says Nicholson.

    “The CRM application of old is no longer sufficient,” says Nicholson. “There needs to be an orchestration engine.”

    That need to dynamically orchestrate business processes surrounding a customer engagement is also changing who makes the purchasing decision when it comes to CRM. Everyone from chief marketing officers (CMO) and digital officers to head of sales and the senior IT leadership is now involved.

    Changing Roles for IT, Sales

    In many organizations, marketing organizations now directly engage both existing customers and prospects as part of an effort to not just inform customers, but also generate revenue. In many organizations, this shift affects both the role of sales and IT.

    Sales teams are now being asked to focus on gaining new customers, while marketing and customer support focus more of their time and energy on increasing the share of wallet an organization enjoys with existing customers. That shift has lead marketing organizations to make massive investments in IT that are now often overseen by a IT professional who reports directly to the CMO rather than the CIO. There’s still a significant amount of collaboration between internal IT teams when it comes to integrating marketing platforms with backend systems. But the amount of IT spending under the direct control of CMOs has increased exponentially and in some organizations exceeds the size of the IT budget controlled by the CIO.

    Naturally, there are no hard and fast rules concerning who inside an organization owns customer experience management. In some cases, the head of sales has assumed responsibility. In others, the head of customer service is in charge. Regardless of approach, the goal is the same. Customers will no longer tolerate disparate engagements that result in them having to share the same information about themselves multiple times. Customers expect the person they engage with to know everything that has transpired between them and the organization that person represents. Anything less than that experience winds up making that customer feel unappreciated. At a time when the only real differentiation between one vendor and another is the quality of the customer experience, integrating sales and marketing and customer support functions is now table stakes.

    Sophisticated Customer Experience Management Not Optional

    In fact, the day when all that organizations aspired to accomplish was to track customer records in a CRM application has come to an end. In its place are emerging more sophisticated approaches to customer experience management. In some cases, that means leveraging existing investments in CRM applications by integrating them with a BPM engine. In other cases, it means acquiring a new suite of applications that all share a common BPM engine capable of integrating disparate sales and marketing functions.

    Customers who have a positive customer experience are not only likely to buy more products and services, they also tend to share those experiences with others. In fact, they often wind up being the highest quality source of sales leads for the organization. The first challenge most organizations will face is pulling together all the data sources needed to create a holistic understanding of the customer. Armed with that data, the organization as a whole can then begin to proactively engage those customers using, for example, predictive analytics, to make an educated guess about what product or service that end customer is likely to want next. Rather than randomly spraying content via emails and other forms of digital communication, more targeted messages informed by previous purchasing histories can be delivered.

    It may still take a while for most organizations to achieve that level of customer experience management. In fact, most organizations are still working on fundamentals such as integrating CRM and marketing applications, says Paddy Bell, senior sales executive at CallidusCloud, a provider of sales performance management software that is in the process of being acquired by SAP.

    “Sales organizations still need to figure out how to deliver the right content at the right time,” says Bell. “Four out of five sales engagements today are ineffective.”

    But the one thing that is certain is that organizations that are not able to live up to increased customer experience expectations will soon be falling by the wayside in droves.

    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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