Business guru Peter Drucker famously once said that the purpose of business is “to create and keep a customer”. Such a simple proposition, and yet businesses have struggled throughout the decades to manage this most essential of relationships, forever trying to keep pace with the constantly changing needs and demands of consumers everywhere.

The truth is that today’s customer will make your business work hard for their attention: they won’t start a conversation with you just because they like you, they’ll talk to you because they need something, usually now, and they want it on the platform that suits them. They are tech-savvy and time-poor, and they want a relationship that works for them. With customers becoming more demanding, brands must learn how to manage these relationships to the point where they can be one step ahead and anticipate the needs of their audiences.

Don’t be a bad date

Simply providing a decent customer experience for a single interaction is no longer enough if you want happy customers. These days, customers are more easily disappointed, believing companies have failed to improve their handling of customer relationships. They are quicker to judge businesses critically and are less willing to forgive poor customer experiences that fail to meet their expectations. In most industries, it is also now far easier for unhappy customers to compare and switch providers. For the majority of customers, three negative experiences are the limit – at which point they consider switching their business to another provider.

Customers are also more prepared to act decisively when their relationship with a business takes a turn for the worse. They are happy to openly broadcast poor service and bad experiences to everyone they know through social media channels. Over one-third (41%) of those we surveyed for our Engagement 3.0 report said they will share a bad experience online, on the phone or in person, and detractors will share their negative experience with an average of 18 people.

How to make the right moves

1. Don’t break promises

The concept of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) first entered the marketing world in the late 1990s. It originally set out to improve customer relationships, incorporating technology to actively understand and utilise insight.

However, despite its early promise, it really has become a term associated with technology to handle the operations and transactions of customer-facing businesses. It’s the System of Record. While this has been successful from an operational point of view, it hasn’t answered the original brief.

To connect with its original mission, we must understand the role of CRM in a new world, a world where real-time and ongoing engagement are paramount to the means by which brands build deeper and more valuable relationships with their customers. Traditional CRM technology and other customer-facing systems remain valuable to manage business operations related to the customer, but ultimately are subsumed by a new generation of customer engagement technology, becoming a service provider to an engagement layer, servicing the real-time context in which the real work gets done.

2. Pick the right place at the right time

Customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy remain elusive goals for most businesses, and the challenges facing them are increasing with more devices, more channels and more touch points to engage on than ever before. What’s more, many of the insights gathered from online and offline customer interactions are not used, shared or joined up within the organisation to deliver what the customer needs when they need it.

Today’s customers want personalised, contextual and relevant information that delivers value at every point where they interact. To match these needs and improve how customers feel about their relationship with organisations, businesses need to shift from a focus on improving just individual experiences, to one where they leverage insight across the business to add value throughout the customer journey as a whole.

3. Go the extra mile

As the digital world has become more sophisticated, our CRM strategies must keep up. They must go even further than the current System of Record we have in place and strive to be useful by servicing an engagement layer that understands customer behaviour and intent. That builds richer profiles that incorporate real-time journey insight and suggests next best conversations that are relevant and personalised, whether that’s online, on the mobile app, in-store or through the contact centre.

Combining the latest advanced technology and improved data management will allow marketers to listen to and understand their audience throughout the entire lifecycle of the customer journey. Over the next 12 months, savvy marketers will explore a new model of CRM, a model where existing CRM becomes more important as a System of Record, but ultimately acts as a service provider to new engagement technology, helping them to create personalised conversations that will meet each customer’s specific needs wherever and whenever they interact. Because everyone likes to feel special.


By Jason Hemingway, CMO at Thunderhead

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