CRM-based digital experience architecture
Good things come from centralizing digital experience solutions around CRM.
CRM by itself can hardly power digital experiences, at least not programmatically. By itself, CRM is essentially nothing more than a list, or a “list of lists.” Where it gets interesting — and powerful — is when you integrate CRM with expertise, products, and data — driving powerful digital experiences.
The value of CRM products like Salesforce isn’t to have a shared list for sales staff but to be able to deploy it organization-wide for things like:
- Initiating large-scale, personalized marketing campaigns
- Communicating with clients by the best channel and at the best time
- Selling in a way that tracks and centralizes purchase history
- Solving problems for customers, as in the case of technical support
- Attracting and documenting potential new customers
The idea is to do these things in a very well integrated way such that customer-specific data is carefully aggregated and integrated, even when there are thousands of phone calls, emails, conversations, payments, etc.; happening every single day.
That thoughtful preservation of customer data is the foundation on which to offer him or her excellent experiences with your brand. And how to eliminate wasteful and frustrating experiences, such as, to cite a personal experience with a phone carrier, being told one thing by in-store sales, another by a phone customer support person, and yet another by a website. Somehow I don’t think I’m alone there. Frustrating, incoherent customer experiences can be resolved by a digital solution whose CRM integrates intelligently with multiple business software assets, like E-commerce, customer service, and marketing products.
Specific examples of products Salesforce might synchronize itself with: HubSpot or Marketo for Marketing Automation, TalkDesk for Phone Customer Support, Exact Target (now part of Salesforce) for bulk email marketing, Marketo or Drupal Commerce for Ecommerce, and Tableau for business intelligence. Each product will put its unique constraints and blessings on the architecture of the CRM. Those constraints and blessings will flow through to the CMS and affect the digital experience on customers on the website.
The CMS-powered web is getting better and better at delivering smart, personalized digital experiences; it’s the most powerful tool that is part of the customer’s actual experience. A Web CMS software implementation can also function as the primary content warehouse for an organization, supporting the efforts of those who communicate with clients by direct mail, telephone and so on. And of course, a powerful Web CMS platform like Drupal can also be the motor for content and functionality of distributed apps on the mobile device and kiosks. After CRM, CMS software is the second-most important piece of the digital experience solution architecture
Let’s not forget the importance of Expertise. It’s a human characteristic, not a technology, but it’s a key part of the equation. As with software products, the expertise people impart to a solution should be reflected in the solution’s architecture. Expertise can affect CRM data structures, for example, just as an integration with a Marketing Automation product might. For example, workflows. Workflows for strategists, salespeople, and marketers aren’t cookie cutter — every company has their unique strengths and needs custom-designed workflow built into their technology solutions. Designing expertise into a solution makes it easier — and more likely — that those who have it will bring it to bear.
Notes from the field
The first time I delivered an integrated Web-CRM solution to a client was with Blackbaud Sphere in the mid-2000s. What a welcome discovery after so many years of trying to make CMS software function like a CRM. In the first few years of working with the Sphere platform, I noticed:
- newsletter sign up forms and letter to the editor forms generating CRM leads
- those CRM leads feeding email campaigns, spawning qualified leads
- campaigns being orchestrated across email and direct mail simultaneously, using demographic data gleaned from the web for targeting
- leads converting some to customers (purchasers or donors) or “contacts” in CRM parlance
- new contacts created through successful payment transactions
- contacts integrated with CMS-based accounts
- dynamic/smart auto-segmentation, for smart marketing appeals and for Web content personalization
- contacts integrated from offline records created by things like Walk-a-thons and conferences
- contacts empowered with Web-based marketing tools to recruit other leads and contacts (Friends Asking Friends)
Just noticing these possibilities was so inspiring to me and the clients I worked with. A decade later, my general view is that CRM remains an extremely under-utilized marketing tool; sure, many organizations have CRM, but is it integrated, is it the hub of marketing operations, and does it drive customer experiences? The advent of digital experience as a business concept is a great opportunity to re-assert the value of integrated CRM, even if the focus (and budget) of investments in digital may be weighted towards websites and applications.
Customer Experience Management (CEM) vs. Digital Experience Management (DXM)
These two concepts are similar; some would even say they are one and the same, but I think there are slight distinctions that are useful to think about. With “buzz words,” the concept comes first, then comes the label. Both CEM and DXM have been around for a while as concepts, but the labels are relatively new. Both CEM and DXM are useful ways of thinking about what kind of solution you need to set up for your organization. For CEM in particular, there’s the constant theme of integration, which often involves technical subjects like Open Source software, “APIs” (et al.) and SaaS, as well as business and management themes, like Agile approaches to creating and maintaining systems, and silo cross-pollination.
I am linking to a whitepaper http://www.digitalclaritygroup.com/the-need-for-integrated-customer-experience-management that introduces the concept of CEM pretty well. CEM is an altogether broader approach to “Experience” since it attempts to encompass all possible interactions (in the known universe, so to speak), even as far as how customers experience walking through the door of a retail brick and mortar store. So it’s more focused on things that happen offline and in person, something which is increasingly influenced by, and recorded by, digital tools and processes.
Digital experience, on the other hand, emphasizes the digital user experience across platforms and devices; a big subject, and one which like Customer Experience does well to requisition CRM as its technical hub. User experience design is at the core of DXM.
For both concepts, holistic integration is clearly the key to the eventual solution, in part because no software products exist, or could exist, that by itself is capable of adequately managing all the experiences of every kind of person with whom it may interact. Not even CRM. And what’s more, organizations might have to integrate with one another internally to take advantage of the technical integration.
That’s why it’s important to design people and expertise into a Digital Experience solution. If you follow that guideline as you design solutions, your firm will find a lucrative buyout offer in its lap sometime in the next 100 years 🙂