Is this where predictive CRM begins?
While CRM continues to mature as a business discipline, many systems still only support a historical and transaction-based view of the customer, tracking what customers buy and when their purchases are made but not classifying the customers' motivations, according to CRM vendor Online Insight.
At the point of interaction, through all sales channels, Online Insight interacts with customers and collects real-time data to give a better impression of their personal preferences, needs, intentions and attitudes.
Looking forward Harry Watkins, research director for CRM at Aberdeen Group, comments: "Where typical CRM solutions look backwards, this product looks forward to fulfill current customer expectations, while constantly refining and improving products and services to meet changing realities."
In his recently published report, Customer Voice Management: Driving Value by Listening to Customers, Watkins says that using past behaviour to predict how customers will react to new offerings that are significantly different from earlier products is often problematic. "Using solutions that capture the voice of today's customer and integrating it with critical value-add processes (like product development, sales, marketing and after-sales service) can bring new levels of customer focus, leading to competitive differentiation, long-term customer satisfaction and improved profitability."
There is still a degree of confusion about what CRM really means, what companies want from it, what technologies to use, and how to make sure that customer value is delivered in every interaction with the enterprise. "We are seeing more and more companies complement CRM and product lifecycle management solutions with value-add point solutions to fill critical customer information gaps," says Watkins.
A trust relationship Consumers looking for complex multi-featured products and services - mutual funds, electronics, holiday packages and even homes - face some confusing options. There are huge ranges of products, each with a unique set of attributes. Helping customers narrow the choices based on their personal preferences is one way to nurture a trust relationship between customer and company. Gregg Mahoney, CEO of Online Insight, says, "Using our system to understand customer preferences creates a win-win situation in which sales teams learn to cater to the customer's needs, and the customer is satisfied with the deal."
Catering to the customer and giving sales agents a better understanding of what customers want was what Beazer Homes USA had in mind when the company implemented Online Insight. The home-builder initially rolled out the solution on its beazer.com web site in November 2001, making it easier for people to find homes that match their preferences for features such as location, community amenities, commuting distances and price. And in April 2002, the company upgraded its system to include real-time delivery of that customer preference information directly to its sales agents.