“Total Customer Management” as the Next Generation CRM
Mario Pufahl of ec4u sees “Total Customer Management” as the Next Generation CRM
(Karlsruhe, July 24, 2012): A debate has been going on for quite some time now on how CRM will evolve. Mario Pufahl, partner and member of the management board of ec4u expert consulting ag, is of the opinion that CRM will transition into Total Customer Management (“TCM”), defined by a cornerstone of sustainable customer relationships. The following brief discourse by Pufahl, a CRM expert, delves into what sustainability means in this field and what to do when implementing these goals.
Even now, CRM often comes across as a highly technical issue, such that traditional aspects like customer care or customer value are frequently missing or addressed only in passing. One could almost suspect that these facets are used retrospectively to legitimize the technical solutions, somewhat like the traditional approach of business follows IT.
However, in reality the crucial question facing all those involved is how to shape a sustainable relationship by taking actions that respect customer privacy and are deemed ethical – but which do not neglect the commercial interests of the enterprise. Against this backdrop, we observe the gradual evolution towards sustainable CRM, or more appropriately TCM.
TCM means optimizing all touch points with the customer from the latter’s perspective, by applying every bit of information you have on the customer for related interactions. In other words, TCM embodies the promise you make to serve the customer by providing the maximum benefit and a sustained advantage. In turn, the customer rewards you with a long-term relationship.
Therefore, TCM is more than just your sales, marketing, and customer care departments managing the relationship. For example, it encompasses:
- Intuitiveness and solution-oriented self-services: customers can adapt the services to suit their preferences perfectly, as in the case of online shopping portals like Amazon that personify such principles.
- Understand and speak the customer’s language: many enterprises are surprisingly astonished to realize that the language of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and their attendant rules, are worlds apart from what they are used to. The prevailing principle here is that contacts with customers are likely to be more sustaining if the customer care representative and her/his customers are in similar phases of life, like raising a family.
- Ensure customer privacy across all business processes and channels: one is repeatedly amazed to find out how many enterprises deal with customers without any due consideration of customer privacy and applicable law. Damage control is too late once a customer discovers any such misuse, and the relationship is often terminated.
- Be steadfast in your customer relationships: it is equally surprising to see how few enterprises actually set up a 360° view of their customers. A long-term history on a customer is an inalienable part of any sustainable relationship.
- Avoid off-the-shelf responses: TCM also means that an enterprise should not use a standard respond for a dynamic customer relationship. Customers clearly expect personalized solutions focused on their specific circumstances.
The key question that now arises is: how should one practice TCM? For starters, create sustainable value for customers by investing heavily in understanding their needs. At the same time, when interacting with customers, focus on them and not on your product – because, more and more customers are looking for less and less mass produced goods. The want the right (tailored) solutions at the right time. The means to achieve this is by applying real-time decisions using business intelligence and probability models. If the buying probability is low, just don’t bother to offer any products or services.
The next relevant issue is to achieve a 360° view of a customer at all touch points, since sustained relationships are founded on a plethora of information. You must invest actively and extensively in integrating information on customers. Moreover, quick solutions are needed by granting broad decision-making authority (empowerment), such that your staff (with the right customer information) and the customers are able to make the right decisions in real time.
Finally, a culture of privacy is paramount. Therefore, you must encourage company management to set an example. This will undoubtedly collide with your enterprise’s short-term profit goals, and diverse interests in various departments could conceivably thwart the TCM program. Nevertheless, view this as a challenge for accomplishing TCM – i.e. find suitable solutions to overcome such headwinds.