It’s that time of the year again, when we look back to the past and try to project what will happen in the future. Although I do not consider myself to be an analyst, I do have some ideas I’d like to share concerning my areas of interest.
The year 2010 has seen a rapid adoption of the idea that companies should listen more closely what customers are saying in order to understand their job-to-be-done and work towards meeting their desired outcomes. These outcome can be an ideal customer experience, or adapting a service offering so that it better meets needs and expectations. Customer experience now increasingly includes using social media to find and exchange with like-minded individuals, creating de facto online communities. Customer Engagement strategies which integrate these channels is increasingly being accepted by companies for Voice Of Customer, to source ideas for innovation, and to scale support.
So this is where I get to my first idea. Currently there is still a disconnect between between the contact, transaction and historical interaction data we have stored in out CRM systems and the behavioural data that we can learn from what customers say and want through Social Media channels as well as traditional channels such as email and interaction with customer service reps. What most platform currently do is allow the creation of events (automatically or manually) based on clever filtering and funneling by tools such as Radian6 or Attensity or flagging in a community platform such as Lithium’s after a predefined delay.
Although these tools certainly do have their merits, I think the next evolution will be that the customer’s Social Media activity extracted from them will be blended into the ‘snapshot’ we have of the customer by adding the historical and transactional content of the CRM System. This will give us insight into what experience the person is expecting (based on personality analytics, sentiment evolution, social and interest graph segmentation, issue anticipation etc.), and help her help herself or her peers, but it will also help decide what priority to give the interaction (or level of engagement) based on whether she is a high-value, high potential customer, whether she is likely to churn and so on. So I believe that this year we will see more integrated platforms that link customer behaviour glaned through cross-channel engagement to transactional data. The key hurdle to overcome will be linking the different identifiers to the right customer…
This year we have seen the coming of age of Enterprise 2.0 where company are moving from the “why do it” to the more pragmatic “how to do it”. People are become a central preoccupation because we have been grossly underutilizing the capabilities and potential for innovation of our Knowledge Workers, forcing them in a straight-jacket of assigned tasks and roles rather then empowering them to make choices and decisions to achieve goals and objectives. Enterprise 2.0 has given us tools that facilitate communication, flatten hierarchies and break down silo walls, but they seem to miss the compelling reason for their implementation (other than serendipity, innovation sourcing etc.). I believe the compelling reason is collaboration for, around and with the customer – together with partners and suppliers. We now have the tools to invite the Social Customer into our company as witnessed by the convergence between social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 into Social Business (yes, I know, definitions may differ but not really of importance IMHO) and this has the potential to better meet market expectations.
What is missing from this picture though, is agility, visibility and traceability into what is taking place in these collaborations. Business Process Management was my initial thought, but this is just to rigid to effectively handle ad-hoc, unpredictable interactions. This is where I believe Adaptive Case Management has a role to play. It empowers the Knowledge Worker, gather step inputs as relevant (history, documents, issues etc) and lets her decide on the next step to take based on the outcome of the previous one. Best Practices as captured as templates, which in turn can be chosen an adapted as needed. What I do feel is missing however is that it does not sufficiently take into account the human factor, namely the possibility to find Knowledge Worker Expertise that we can identify through Enterprise 2.0, and then match as an input suggestion for the process step at hand. The same would go for external input such as from customers or groups of customers that can provide insights that are useful to meet goals. Analytics again will play an important role in this.
For the last part I’d like to look ahead even further down the road, possibly 3-5 years down the line. The Cloud (and not the Clouds as SFDC said at Dreamforce 10) is slowly turning applications such as CRM into a commodity that is ubiquitously accessible (on-demand through whatever means we choose). The promise of Utility Computing is coming ever nearer – and possibly making infrastructure providers such as Amazon the improbable ‘winners’ of the ‘No Software’ wars ;).
I think a key promise of the Cloud is not so much that you outsource your IT management or that you can access it from anywhere (mobile, desktop, etc), but rather the potential to quickly connect your dataset to that of your partners, suppliers, channels and mine the collective data for customer insights that you would miss if you’re looking at only your own data.
This in a nutshell is what I think could or even should play a role in the next year based on my understanding of the markets (insert endless unnamed disclaimers here that you won’t readanyway). Rendez-vous next year to see how wrong I was ;) Please share your thoughts in the comments below!