Monday, April 05, 2010

6 Views on Customer Strategy Trends for 2010

Several industry watchers grab their binoculars to look ahead to the customer strategy trend that will have the biggest impact on business in 2010. Not surprisingly, social media is still atop the “what's hot” list. Next year, however, expect to see the emphasis shift from branding to service, as companies expand their use of online communities and customer forums to both serve customers and to create places where customers can help each other. Ultimately, 2010 will be the year to make it easy for customers to be heard, to respond to and resolve their issues expediently, and to create advocates as a result.

1.  Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D., cofounders of Peppers & Rogers Group

One of the biggest sea changes in the way our whole society functions is happening as a result of social media: People are helping other people more than ever before on service websites like those Verizon and Dell provide for their customers. The reason customers help other customers is simply, "Because I got good service, I want to help other people."  It's generating a tremendous increase in the charitableness of people. And it fuels a trusting environment. Today's increasingly central role of person-to-person trust will change the character of business over next decade. We now have a mechanism—the wisdom of crowds, social transparency—that forces vendors to play it straight. Trust will ensure the future success of a company. Organizations have to do things that are good for them this quarter and that are good for their customers over the long term. Trust is now a currency.

2.  Natalie Petouhoff, Ph.D., senior analyst, Forrester Research

Two areas of focus will be knowledge management and social media. Social media is a business transformation tool. It's important to engage in conversations and use the information from those interactions as intelligence on how to transform your business. We're seeing this especially in service: It's no longer "do more with less;" it's now, "fix this." Budgets are opening up as a result.  Agents have one-on-one relationships with customers and when that doesn't work, customers are broadcasting that one-to-millions. If you respond, customers respect that. They don't expect perfection. You can't listen and do business as usual. You have to respond.  There's also a new paradigm of super-user customers who love to answer other customers" questions, and who want to be acknowledged, get kudos, and be VIPs. Companies are integrating that [service resolution] information back into their KM systems for agent and for self-service, and have a robust KM system as a result.

3.  Jeanne Bliss, president of Customer Bliss and author of I Love You More Than My Dog

Two things: One is that the leaky bucket did not get refilled in 2009 in the way it had previously. There wasn't the prosperity of more customers as there had been in the past. So, many executives are finally looking at customers as the asset of their business. As a result, they're realizing that they have to do things differently to retain customers. It's become a great forcing function. Also happening is that we've gotten over the "magic-bullet-itis" of social media. Executives now understand that social media is part of an overall customer listening strategy, so they'll do a better job of integrating social media into a customer listening strategy instead of thinking as a separate entity. It’s really just one more arrow in the quiver to listen to and respond to customers.

4.  Brent Leary, cofounder and partner, CRM Essentials

With more [cloud-based systems] and smarter devices, it's never been easier to put our ideas into action, and into the hands of more people. So it will be important that our ideas are bigger, better, and more focused on our customers. That's why 2010 will be an important year to begin really listening to customers, and using social media monitoring tools to fully understand what is important to them, who they listen to, and how we can best serve them. Listening to their sentiment can help us generate better ideas to put into action, and hopefully, inspire customers to stay with us longer.

5.  Joe Outlaw, principal analyst, Frost & Sullivan

Support for social media and social networking will have a large impact in 2010. There's been a lot of hype around trying to monetize lead generation and peer-to-peer on the sales and marketing side. There's more on the customer service side, like forums, that is real and works today. Companies use software to monitor sites and blogs for customer service issues, not necessarily for brand defense. They're hearing about something that may impact the contact center's ability to deliver service. Comcast, for example, tracked people complaining about the dropped feed of a big fight; the company was able to proactively prep agents on what to say, and found that local TV coverage was actually the problem. This might be considered brand defense, but it's also service.  Additionally, service, which often doesn't have much budget, is partnering with sales and marketing folks on their companies" social media efforts. We're in the early stages of determining what information should go where and who should deal with it, but the side benefit is that sales, marketing, and service are working more closely together.

6.  Jeff Hilimire, chief digital officer, Engauge

The customer strategy trend that will make the biggest impact on business in 2010 is the ability to forge a relationship with customers in the way that they wish to interact with you versus the way you want them to interact. This means understanding that some customers want to talk to you on the phone, some want to receive emails, some want to get a text, some a Facebook message, and yes, some a response via Twitter. This will force companies to rethink the way in which they interact with their customers, focusing on one-to-one conversations instead of mass messaging.

You can read what’s on my mind for the coming year in Issue 14 of ACCELERATE Newsletter

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