Wednesday, April 30, 2014

CRM and the Customer Code Halo

This post first appeared on Social Media Today on April 30, 2014 -- CRM and the Customer Code Halo

"An extinction event (also known as a mass extinction or biotic crisis) is a widespread and rapid decrease in the amount of life on earth." -- Wikipedia

There is another extinction event going on right now -- related to our business ecosystem rather than our biological ecosystem. In certain industries we are seeing a widespread and rapid decrease in the number of companies that serve certain types of business and consumer needs. Information, Media and Entertainment is one such segment (as I outlined in my article The Ur Industry of Digital Transformation. A second industry going through profound changes is retail -- first moving (since the 1980s) to "big box" format and then more recently moving to online.

As I have been outlining in my series on Enterprise Transformation and the Role of Social, there are substantial changes coming to every industry - how work is done, who does the work, and how value is derived from the work by all of the stakeholders - employees, companies, and their customers.

In the last few articles, on the transformation of our customer communications From Advertising to Engagement, I have highlighted the changes in the behavior of companies toward their customers and in particular how marketing organizations will need to change themselves -- how the think about their role in customer communications and what they do with their customers to Connect, Collaborate, and Support...

But all of this assumes a substantial investment of time and money -- an investment which companies are not used to making. But not making this investment is one of the sure ways to become a part of the mass of companies that will become extinct, instead of thriving in the new digital ecosystem that is developing.

The investment that has to be made is in something we call Code Halos -- the ability to "see" the real-time, ever-present data and analytics that surround every one of your employees, customers, products, and the places you interact with those employees and customers. And the systems that help you use those Code Halos to derive insights, make decisions, and drive employee and customer behaviors.

What this means for your company is a massive investment in information technology and in the people who will be able to operate and derive value from this investment. I will start with teh Customer Code Halo and work over the next few articles through organizations, products, and finally employees.

CRM is The Core System of Engagement and Where you Manage Customer Code Halos

One of the things I am frequently asked by clients is how to measure the ROI of social. Nevermind that they never had a good way to measure the ROI for most of the things they did as a company. When considering doing something entirely new, there has to be a well grounded justification. But the problem with the question is that you can never get good at measuring ROI until you actually manage the information you are trying to measure. The starting place for organizations with respect to customer information is CRM - or "customer relationship management" systems.

Most companies have one or more CRM systems -- often more than one as a separate CRM initiative may have been pursued for sales vs. service or even for multiple different sales and service channels (even when serving the same customer). So a starting point is CRM consolidation -- getting all of a company's information in one place, so there is a single version of the truth for a company shared by marketing, sales, and service organizations.

The next step is to go beyond a company's own transaction and service records, and incorporate external data into the customer Code Halo as well -- social data, 3rd party data from vendors or partners, real world interaction data... anything that helps build a complete picture of the customer. The goal is to get a rich multi-dimensional understanding of your customer, and to have that information available to all of the parts of your company that engage with customers.

Having this complete Code Halo enables a new set of activities -- generating insight, personalizing experience, driving "next best action" and also tracking how your various engagement initiatives relate to the key measurements of that engagement: influencing purchase decisions, loyalty, and brand or product advocacy.

Customer Service

The new omni-channel customer service world is one in which customers will expect to be able to engage in a service request starting in one channel and continuing in another one seamlessly. I bought the product online but want to return it at a store. I tweet a complaint but want to get an email from the company in response. I call with a complaint but get a letter in the mail with an apology. How will your company make sure that your customer's have a seamless interaction with your company from channel to channel? By making sure all of the information about the interactions with those customers are stored in a single system of engagement, one Code Halo in a CRM system that every employee who interacts with your customer can see the complete record of interaction.


Improvement of every aspect of the sales process can be achieved through Code Halos - optimizing who your sales force is calling on, what products and product bundles are being offered, even closing the sale. And similarly to the customer service challenge, your customers will have an expectation of being able to interact through every channel seamlessly - start a purchase process online but pick up the product in a store. Mobile application ordering is one of the fastest "online" mechanisms but some vendors even support using mobile applications in stores. A few companies are even taking orders through social media.


Increasingly the marketing organization has to own the entire customer experience - not just the first part of the journey - demand generation and consideration. Marketing needs the aggregate customer insights that come from seeing all of the customer Code Halos, and also the individual insights about what the personalized experience should be at any given moment. It is both reflective and real time, dynamically segmented and all about the individual. Ultimately marketing also owns the ROI question and must track engagement through to transaction and advocacy to establish which marketing investments should be scaled down and which ones should be scaled up. As a result the CRM system of engagement has to support an analysis of the interactions with customers as much as holding the raw data itself

In every industry, for every company, there is a pressing challenge to transform -- seize the new digital tools and engage with customers in new ways -- more immersive, persistent, and across the customer life cycle. CRM is one building block but companies will also need to master business process management (BPM) and master data management (MDM) capabilities as well -- more on these competencies in the next article.