Don’t like the new normal? No worries, just wait five minutes…

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The idea for this article discussing next generation CRM and the new normal came to me during a webinar I did with Kate Leggett at Forrester where we discussed the lessons learned during the pandemic and how businesses must adapt to them. While we focused on sales and service for B2B, the lessons were universally applicable to any CX initiative and business transformation initiatives that interact with customers.

During the webinar we came to the dreaded (by me) moment when we talked about the “New Normal”.

Man, oh man. Do I hate that phrase…

Let me explain.

The new normal: How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways

There is no new normal – there’s the right now we’re living with, and there’s the inevitable change that’s coming tomorrow, or later today. We have no way to build a new normal when we don’t even know what’s potentially coming down the pipeline hours from now.

How on earth can you anticipate (pick one):

  1. A potential flare-up of the pandemic due to a birthday or graduation or simply a celebration followed by forced closure of businesses?
  2. A potential mutation of the virus and different needs from customers (Do we need nose clips instead of masks next? Safety glasses? How will your business function with that new information?)
  3. Schools not opening again, or opening again and closing, or something in between (or, no longer a need for schools, as my teenage daughter eloquently put it last week) and the subsequent demand on parent’s time and attention (and the impact on businesses)?
  4. The release of a vaccine that works, then doesn’t, then works again, or a different therapy that takes care of everything (good things do happen, but they don’t usually make significant change for businesses as much as bad things) in days.
  5. A combination of the above, and more things happening – or not.

Yes, I’m being somewhat macabre, trying to make the point that we’re dealing with “unprecedented” (stop using that word, it doesn’t mean what you think it means) times (which, by the way, they all are, since there was never a circumstance where variables are the same as today, mostly because today and right now never happened before, the same way as they’re happening right now, etc. – H/T Alan Berkson for that nugget) and that we’d be better off not setting up business for a “new normal” when that new normal will change in the next 20 seconds or 20 hours.

Depressed yet? Don’t be. This is the opportunity you have been waiting for.

Never waste a good crisis, and all that… let me explain.

A customer journey of 1,000 miles has already begun – and it never ends. The question is, are you illuminating the path, or trying to find the map?

The smart part of you has grown tired of journey management (hopefully) and thinking that interactions with customers are always going to be the same, thus you need to script every interaction and populate your systems to support those interactions. You know better than that.

You know by now that the change in control of the conversation (Paul Greenberg, 2009) where the customers’ expectations must be met constantly has made a mess of your static solutions and systems, but you didn’t have an effective way to tackle those changes without management barking at the cost / time / resources it would take to get there.

Golden opportunity anyone?

This is the time when management is willing to invest to setup the business for:

  • Never (hopefully) being caught flatfooted again in a crisis, and
  • Saving the business by building sustainable operations

But, how do you that? Do you really wait for the next “New Normal” and change things again?

No, that’s not the path.

Welcome to the future of business: Watch your step as you enter the platform (Next generation CRM is the next stop)

Ever since I came to SAP, I’ve been working with our product and GTM teams to embrace the concepts of platforms and ecosystems. I didn’t have to work hard, to be honest, since the concept and the idea was already there – these are smart people here – but had to make sure we’ve got the right vision and the right path to get there (let’s call that a strategy; I can justify my job better that way, what with being in charge of the strategy and all that).

We came up with five golden rules of building a dynamic, flexible platform that can be used by our customers to support their business transformation initiatives:

  1. Outcomes-first: In the old CRM world results mattered, and results are company centric. The company decides what they want to do with their customer base, they implement their processes, and focus on reaching those results. They’re well known, documented, and measured by metrics that matter to the company’s efficiency. In the new world where customers are in control of the conversation, we need to focus on outcomes – what are their expectations and how should they be delivered effectively. Because of the changing nature of expectations, metrics are not so clean-cut, but the value of the data collected is magnitudes higher than CRM operational data. This is your new focus.
  2. Ecosystem-centric: Traditional core CRM (sales, service, marketing) is single-function (create a campaign, sell a product, service a need) and sometimes crossover (service a need before selling a new product, or before upselling for example). In this new world of next generation CRM, customers’ expectations require an end-to-end approach to each interaction. The world changed from selling to selling amidst a conversation (per customers’ expectations). To deliver in that model, you must break down the silos and the walls between functions and focus on delivering end-to-end experiences according to needs and demands, and end-to-end requires a comprehensive ecosystem.
  3. Insights-driven: You know all that money, time, and effort that you spent digitally transforming your organization the past 5-10 years? Remember how you could not quite put your finger on why it mattered, especially only for operation customer data that was collected in your CRM system? Times changed. All that data and the experiential data you’ll collect when you embrace ecosystems and outcomes will be used to feed a state-of-the-art analytics solution that will generate insights that will drive your decision making and your optimization and business transformation initiatives. This is why everything else matters – so you understand easier / faster / better stakeholders’ (including customers) expectations and needs and can optimize your processes via insights.
  4. Conversations over content: This one should’ve been the first one, but it’s the shortest to explain. Content is commoditized. The context and intent provided by conversations is not. Your mission, should you choose to embrace it, is to recognize the differences and embrace the conversations. For those in the touchy-feely crowd, this is about embracing the humanity of the relationship, and using it to help the business remain sustainable.
  5. Iterate. Iterate. I know, I know – this should go without saying, but apparently things that should go without saying are not actually going anywhere (PSA: wear a mask, all the time. Should go without saying, right?). So, I am saying, constantly reinvent and improve what you do, use the insights (point three above) to help you with that, and make changes that reflect what your customers need and want and – more importantly, expect.

Be ready for whatever comes next

You will hear – and see – a lot more about these five rules and next generation CRM in the coming months, and we’ll show you the full enchilada at CX Live later this year, but for now – see how you can embrace these rules in your business and transform your operations so that the new normal is just another day in Shangri La and whatever it brings, you’ll be prepared.

We would, obviously, prefer that you use our solutions to embrace this – but even if you don’t – be ready for the new normal, or wait five minutes for the next one.

Not your average webinar.
Next generation CRM, platforms, a script thrown to the wind:
it’s all HERE.

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Esteban Kolsky

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