I think that we still face a real challenge that companies continue to use these tools for their benefit, not the benefit of their customers. They like to hop onto the "cool, new thing" bandwagon, but they don't always truly believe in what they're doing. The constant push for immediate, trackable ROI doesn't help.
2010 should be an interesting year for the SM discussion. This will be the year that it moves from shiny new toy to either useful, real tool that companies use to create authentic connections with their audiences or the ad industry will move on to whatever shiny bauble comes next. Companies will need to move beyond lip service if they want SM to move from CRM to CRE.
Like many people, I have a Palm Pilot that keeps track of all of my important information: phone numbers, addresses, upcoming events, family/friend birthdays, anniversaries and the like. What it can’t do is actually mail out the card or make the calls. This illustrates the difference between CRM—Customer Relationship Manager—and what I call CRE—Customer Relationship Experience. Having the information in my Palm is CRM. Using the information to make sure that Mom gets her Mother’s Day card is creating the right CRE.
Right now, CRM is all the rage. Companies spend millions to create CRM software, data mining and voice recognition tools. They build immense databases to combine a person’s multiple experience (online/offline buying, surfing habits, etc.) into a single record. New wireless technologies will allow companies to track where you go and deliver location-based advertising to you in real time, while you’re there.
CRM is often used as a tool to help the company touch the customer. Unfortunately, customer service is all about the customer touching the company! Many companies implement CRM to add bottom-line savings or to provide better sales opportunities. If that’s the case, it should really be called PRM -- Profit Relationship Management. CRM has little to do with the customer, and even less to do with the relationship. In fact, it often stands in the way of customer relations.
Increased business value used to be a byproduct of good customer service. Today customer service is a byproduct of trying to increase the business value. Consumers are smart. If you want to look into a crystal ball for your company’s future, take a look at where you fall. If you’re closer to lip service than real service, get your resume out today. Your future doesn’t look very good!