April 17, 2001, 10:57 AM —
It's time to admit the truth about CRM (customer relationship management). CRM is not a great technological breakthrough, but an acknowledgement that we as a society have grown more knowledgeable about making purchases. Software that supports marketing and sales operations is just now catching up with the software that supports the rest of your business. The outcome of the growth and improvement in this software sector is good for consumers and businesses alike.
Understanding where we are with CRM today and where it might go tomorrow means appreciating where we've been. (See our illustration, "The development of CRM.")
Marketing and sales have come a long way since the glitzy, glamorous ads and jingles of the 1950s. Consumers everywhere have changed. We want more personalized attention, more information about competing products, and more opportunities to provide feedback on the items we purchase. Rather than passively accepting broadcast marketing and sales messages as we did in days gone by, we want proactive interaction before, during, and after purchasing.
The response of businesses to these customer demands has led to the explosive growth of CRM solutions as well as other technologies, such as SFA (sales-force automation) solutions and ERP (enterprise resource planning) software. Integrating CRM offerings with other back-end processes and related technologies, such as ERP, data and text mining, voice-to-text, and BI (business intelligence) tools, will only strengthen a company's knowledge about its customer base and what its customers really want.
Consumer buying patterns and interaction with companies will continue to change given the ever-fluctuating influences of society and technology. This will cause the CRM segment to undergo many changes in the coming years.
Considering the amount of change being forecast for the CRM marketplace, it's no surprise to find that the majority of the 500 readers we polled in the InfoWorld CRM Survey were seeking outside advice pertaining to CRM. And more than a third of those polled indicated that they would seek outside help for CRM implementation, consulting services, or training.
Knowing that consumers' habits change, what technologies can we expect to shape the CRM arena? CRM solutions and services will be most deeply affected during the next three to five years by connectivity enhancements and changes in software constructs.
Sometimes referred to as mCRM (mobile CRM), wireless and mobile technologies are beginning to converge with CRM solutions. Customers already expect access to your company via phone, fax, e-mail, and Web browser.