Sunday, December 28, 2008

On 2009 - the year of sustainability

The new year is approaching, 2008 is ending with some of us feeling the consequences of the credit crunch. It's time to look towards the future. Every new day and new year opens a wealth of new opportunities,  even in a crisis. 2008 ends with a starting recession, many business are facing tough times. I do not have a crystal ball and am not much of a fortune teller either, nonetheless I would like to offer my views on 2009, from a CRM perspective that is.

2009 - the year of sustainability
In 2007 and 2008 we've been able to see a new trend rise, sustainability and environmental awareness. We've come to realise that we need to use the earth scarce resources wisely. Sustainability can also be applied as an economic and not environment term however. Wikipedia lists the following for the term sustainability:

Sustainability, in a general sense, is the capacity to maintain a certain process or state indefinitely.


So sustainability can also be applied to your business as the capacity to remain operating and to remain in business. How could one survice the current economic crisis and what does sustainability in crisis mean?

  1. Sustainable operating model

  2. Sustainable customer base

  3. Sustainable investments

A sustainable operating model
The first thing companies focus on in a crisis is operational excellence. Reducing expenditure and increasing efficiency. Cut out unnecessary costs and focus on the core of your companies operation. This could mean divesting or closing retail outlets and changing your channel partner strategy. Perhaps others are better at selling and marketing your products than you are. Operation Excellence also marks a path to lower cost channels, such a self service internet channels as opposed to contact centers or an on-site repair man. In other words, I believe that 2009 will lead to companies employing self service more and more, as a means to both improve customer service (24/7 access) and reduce cost.

Sustainable customer base
During a boom companies typicall focus on Sales & Marketing when it comes to their CRM investments, trying to get a piece of an ever increasing pie. In a crisis the pie usually stays the same size or gets a bit smaller. Unless you provide an innovative product or service for which a whole new pie exists, you will try to have to make do with getting a bigger piece of the existing pie. The focus, in my view, should be to focus on preserving your existing customer base through excellent service, and gaining new market share through word-of-mouth marketing. Spending heavily on marketing campaigns for a .05 percent marketshare increase is nonsense if your existing customers are leaving. So keep your current customers, provide excellent service, preferably better than your competitors, and gain marketshare that way. After all, the cost of acquiring a new customer is 5 times higher than keeping your existing customers and convincing them to spend a bit more with your company.

Sustainable investments
Due to the credit crunch most companies are no longer able to draw unlimited financing from either the stock market, or the credit market, one has to invest wisely. Invest in improving your current products or services, products or services that are complimentary to your current portfolio and invest in customer service. Secondly make sure you invest in a way that is environmentally sustainable and use that as a marketing tool.

Sustainability and CRM?
So what does this mean for your CRM efforts. I feel that 2009 will see an increase in spending on improved customer service, through more possibilities for self service, increased spending on cost-efficient call centers (through products such as Oracle Contact Centre Anywhere) and increased spending on loyalty management applications. Loyalty management spending will be directed at keeping existing market share and growing the existing customer base through word-of-mouth marketing.

I'm looking forward to another interesting year in CRM, CRM Applications and IT.

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