Trying to do business without also having a modern CRM system is like walking around naked. You can do it, at least for a little while, but people will begin to think you’re weird and the trouble is that those people are all potential customers. CRM is essential today because, despite our reverence for the free market, it’s really more like free markets–plural–and we need to be relevant, to treat people the way they expect to be, in each venue we decide to play in.
Before he died, Steve Jobs observed that the marketplace had bifurcated and the traditional Bell curve we use to represent it had actually become two humps, sort of like a Dromedary camel becoming a Bactrian.
Jobs saw one market for good enough products and the other for luxury items. His insight was that, with modern technology goods and customer facing systems, the merchandises in each group was essentially the same. In other words, much of the difference today comes from how products are sold and serviced. Good enough products had to be easy to use and intuitive in Jobs’ scheme and luxury goods had to come with hands on service throughout the purchase and ownership process.
That wasn’t so long ago and, wittingly or not, the observation drove CRM’s evolution to the point that today the suite is dripping with artificial intelligence and machine learning for insights into what to do for a customer next. CRM is now also over the top with journey maps as well as chatbots that do a pretty good job of interfacing with customers. They will only get better too.
But nobody who gets the good enough product, it turns out, likes being reminded that they didn’t spend big on the luxury item and all that service. We all like getting more than our fair share of service, especially if it’s free. So modern CRM splits the difference and provides affordable service and support without quibbling, through technology. Now, I would love to say that our work is done here but we both know better.
Here comes the rub. The other day I was reading an articlefrom last March in Inc. magazine that brought home how disparate our markets are and by implication how much vendors need high quality CRM today.
What once looked like a Bell curve and then looked like a camel has in a few short years come to resemble high tide at Huntington Beach. It’s clearer now than ever that people of different stripes, including different generations come to marketplaces with very different needs. We knew that already but maybe not its full extent.
So, in the article, “73 Percent of Millennials are Willing to Spend More Money on This 1 Type of Product,” writer Melanie Curtin quotes a Neilsen report saying, “While 66 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, a full 73 percent of Millennials are.” Neilsen’s definition of Millennials is people born between 1977 and 1995 while others skew the timeline toward the present.
For instance, Pew Research brackets the group at those born between 1981 and 1997. Regardless, Pew and others rank Millennials and Baby Boomers neck and neck in cohort size: 75.4 million millennials according to a 2015 US Census study vs. 74.9 million Boomers.
But let’s get back to sustainability. As the author of a book with sustainability in the title, it warms my heart to think some of those people could actually find my book but the CRM side of me also says whoa horsey! A CRM system better be able to distinguish between a younger customer and someone older who might have different priorities.
Sustainability is not a well-defined category though you know it when you see it. It can mean everything and nothing but generally it refers to things with long lifecycles, things that can be easily recycled, products and services that aren’t generally one and done. So paper napkins not sustainable, recyclable paper plates, yes. And of course renewable power generation yes, yes!
Any market where 66 percent of customers want to pay more for something, let alone a market with 73 percent thinking that way, ought to raise more than eyebrows. But this all speaks to the need for data that tells vendors concretely who customers are.
We might still rely heavily on the next best algorithm to help determine what’s next but now we see that age cohort might reasonably be part of the calculations. I expect that simple discoveries like this will keep CRM developers busy for a long time as they continue to iterate toward CRM nirvana. At its heart, this means continuous improvement of process as the CRM suite seems to be fairly well broadened at this point.
Show season is starting in CRM. It’s the time of year when almost every CRM vendor holds a conference in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas, or Austin. Next week Oracle kicks it off with Modern Customer Experience (MCX) in Las Vegas. It will be a great chance to see the company’s CRM apps put through their paces without the dilution caused by all the database and middleware discussions of OpenWorld. Not that I mind, but as a CRM person discussions of benchmarks can leave me cold.
At any rate, Oracle has been coming on strong in the last 5 years making serious moves to the cloud and into CRM. They got serious, in my opinion when Larry Ellison pointed to the cloud and the company has spent billions to reach its rather complex goals in apps, platform and infrastructure.
It has only been in the last couple of years though that the company has achieved something like critical mass, which is why this edition of MCX will be so interesting. Rather than bringing so many products to market, the company has begun turning to process and it’s process that I think drives the discussion about things like sustainability.