Random thoughts on CRM

Here are some thoughts on how I see the CRM market moving and various tech companies and projects that I think you'll find to your liking.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

There are days where it is just better for me to throw out what I'm sort of randomly thinking about. What you see below is how I see the market moving and some good and bad that is marking the Big 4 tech vendors in the enterprise markets.  Plus a few other goodies. 

But, keep in mind, these are not complete theses. You know if they were, this would be an 8,000-word post about the subjects at hand. But these are based on months of reading, conversing, writing, and studying.   

The customer facing market is changing

In the next three or four years, I think we are going to see an important business market change.  Customer engagement is going to occupy the space that CRM occupies today.

The customer engagement market is far larger in potential than CRM and in fact is the replacement market for CRM. CRM as a market is going to be a sub-market – the operational requirements for customer engagement and the companies serving that need – will be a substantial chunk of the customer engagement market, but by no means the only segment of it.  Social CRM, which morphed CRM into what it is today, was the forerunner and the signal for this. Social channels are now inclusive in CRM systems and thinking – incorporated with the more traditional operational aspects of CRM systems and thinking. It’s the operational hub with pipes that are driven into the other areas around customer engagement.  The other areas may include:

  1. Customer journey management
  2. Customer experience management
  3. Customer analytics including sentiment and text analysis
  4. Social listening
  5. Gamification engines and platforms
  6. Customer engagement platforms (broad definition here)
  7. Feedback management systems including ranking, rating engines)
  8. Reputation management engines
  9. Customer interaction engines (e.g. Epiphany, Exact Target)
  10. Self-service knowledge engines
  11. Community platforms
  12. Social networks
  13. Personalization engines
  14. Communications platforms that foster customer communications (parts of unified communications fit the bill here though UC is a lot more than this)
  15. Enterprise video chat/conferencing
  16. Customer Effort Scoring (score on what you do. Thanks to Esteban Kolsky for this one). How much effort does a customer make
  17. Loyalty and Advocacy systems

There are many other areas that are incorporated under the umbrella of a customer engagement market (technology market), but this is to give you a flavor of where things are going.  But they are going there.

But it’s a nascent market. As I was doing the 2014 Watchlist, there were a significant number of companies who called themselves “customer engagement” something or other.  But not a single one competed with any other one because they were entirely different companies. So we have a lot of niche players or larger players with the customer engagement message putting things together at this point. The market is open for a kind of stake in the ground definition and one or two of the companies can seize some serious ground if they can develop the products and the intellectual framework to become a top of mind definer of the space. That doesn’t exist yet. 

So, what I’m saying, randomly and unverified, is that in three to four years, CRM as a market will be a subsumed specific piece of a much, much larger market called customer engagement. Am I right? I don’t know.  I think I’m on the right track re: the market. I know I’m on the right track re: customer engagement as the most important piece of corporate focus for the next decade.  Strategies, programs, systems, and technology are all required now – and now is the time to define it all – lest it go the way of the Social CRM Magic Quadrant.

Short takes on what I like about each of the major players these days

I like the overall progress in the customer-facing world as a whole, though its messy and chaotic. I also like the fact that the varying technology companies out there are trying to be more than just tech sales purveyors.   Each of the big four are doing something good in the market that they should be glad and proud of.

  1. Salesforce.com – They finally have the platform to achieve the vision they set over a decade ago and still remain the hottest company in the customer-facing space.
  2. SAP – They have the right messaging around customer engagement – one of the first major companies to focus it correctly. They have the best field service application that I’ve ever seen, bar none, and that’s saying a lot given that it’s a big market opportunity.
  3. Oracle – They are building very smartly focused sales, service, and marketing clouds with immediately understandable capabilities.
  4. Microsoft – No company thinks better than they do when it comes to building ecosystems of partners that provide end-to-end (consumer to business end-to-end, not just back and front office) technologies to support and even drive the lives of their users.  This shows in that they are targeted for $100 billion in revenue in a couple of years and that is 98% partner earned. 

Short takes on what concerns me about the major players these days

Okay, you heard the good. Now to maintain my badass reputation (yeah, right), here’s a single one of the concerns I have with each of them. A big picture concern.

  1. Salesforce.com – They are getting so big and so process driven that a lot of the creativity that characterized the company is starting to seep out.
  2. SAP – The continuous politics at this company are forcing it to step on its own feet every time they make progress – and we start again.
  3. Oracle – They are totally locked and loaded into their customer experience messaging and it’s the wrong message to send to the marketplace.  This prevents them from thinking in terms of ecosystems – which is a 21st century requirement for a large company’s success.
  4. Microsoft – They are moving quickly but still don’t have the messaging down at all. They send mixed messaging signals to the market and they are hard to read. They need to clarify this right away, since they have successfully accomplished a radical transformation of their customer-facing applications for the better. Now the world needs to hear it.

These are all random ramblings from me. A bit of what I’m thinking these days and thinking about. 

Finally, some projects and things I have pending that you might be interested in getting involved in…or avoiding with every fiber of your being.  Your call. 

Things/Projects I have pending

  1. CRM Idol 2014 – We are announcing CRM Idol 2014 on June 2 with major changes to the registration/entry process. What I can reveal now is that we are restricting the contestant number to 25 this year and to even be a contestant will be something to be proud of.  The registration process will be more rigorous and a little more extensive. Once in, we continue with contestants, semi-finalists, finalists and one winner. The mentoring this year will be even more extensive than last year.  No contestant will ever really lose.  But there will be only one winner.
  2. The 56 Group website (http://www.the56group.com) It's not up yet so don't bother to go to the link here. That's for future reference. This is nearly three years in the making and is a grand experiment put together by me and the development team at DRI Global.  Rather than a typical website to promote or serve for what I do, this is an industry  “platform” (using the term loosely), available to those in the customer facing world who want to have a presence somewhere.  I think it will launch sometime in the fall. This can be a fascinating experiment. If it works the customer-facing community, be it vendors, influencers, practitioners, consultants, will have a place to go that won’t cost them. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. No harm, no foul. 

Various capabilities:

  • Community – you can have a community as long as you are in the customer-facing world and follow the rules that are set out and facilitate your own community.
  • Multivendor marketplace – you can sell your stuff on this sight, though this is by either invitation only or my approving a request. This means you have your own catalog and your own payment channels.
  • Media libraries – videos, documents, audio, you name it can be carried on the site.  Library facilities available to community owners and marketplace owners and whoever else I want to put there.  Me included.
  • There is a loyalty program (points based) built into this that gets you discounted and free services from me as you gather up points.
  • E-learning platform – you can build e-learning courses and sell them straight from the site.
  • Lots of other stuff – this is all I’ll tell you now but there is a lot more.

New book – I’m working on a new book that will focus on Customer Engagement for 2015. Hopefully as definitive as CRM at the Speed of Light turned out to be, but if not, at least it will be fun to write. The posts you will see coming from me in the near future are the basis for the book.  

Okay, folks. I’m done. I just threw all this stuff at you to mull over. I apologize if I’m being too presumptuous in telling you what I’m doing or thinking.  If not, hope you either have ideas to respond to me – or you want to participate in one or all of my projects. Let me know in any or all cases.

See ya later.  I’m speaking at the Callidus Cloud C3 conference today on “Big Data and Customer Engagement” and I’m all excited. 

Editorial standards