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Throw Out the Buckets: Customers are Customers

by Dave Hannon

January 14, 2014

For many years, companies felt a need to put customers into buckets. A bucket for industrial buyers. A bucket for consumers. A bucket for large customers, another for SMEs. And each bucket had its own CRM approach and requirements.

And while customer segmentation certainly makes sense in some cases, many companies are beginning to understand that too many buckets can get in the way. Managing a customer relationship successfully has the same priorities, whether it’s a single consumer buying two iPads or a multinational buying millions of transistors to make millions of chips that will make millions of iPads. The goal is to engage the customer with whatever tools and information you have at your disposal. Period. And those realizations are already impacting the CRM landscape.

As Rebecca Wettemann of Nucleus Research recently told SAPinsider’s Ken Murphy in a recent podcast, “In reality, all buyers are people and so what we’re seeing on the CRM front is less of a distinction between applications or solutions that are focused on delivering customer experience for business-to-consumer or business-to-business companies. Because all buyers are people, we need to target them in the same way, even though their transaction size may be different and the way they ultimately place their transaction may be different.”

“All buyers are people.” Or put another way, customers are people, not simply other companies or account numbers in a database. While that may sound obvious, the revelation is changing the way leading-edge companies interact with their customers. There is a renewed focus on learning about the customer’s needs and engaging them, rather than simply managing the account. “To truly transform your business today, you should focus on one-to-one customer engagement, which involves recognizing the power that the customers hold and interacting with them on their terms, using real-time intelligence to become more informed about the customers and their needs,” says SAP’s Jamie Anderson, Global Vice President of Product Marketing for SAP’s Customer Engagement solutions, in the current issue of SAPinsider.

The blend of ERP and social media is a perfect example of this trend in action. Rather than simply looking at past transactions in an account database, analyzing real-time conversations on social media gives companies access to people (buyers) saying real things about their products. It’s a chance to engage customers of all shapes and sizes in a public setting instead of managing customers behind closed doors. In an interview in the new issue of SAPinsider, Volker Hildebrand, SAP’s Global Vice President of Customer Engagement Solutions, drills this home by describing the benefits of technology like the SAP Social Media Analytics application by NetBase. The solution “allows companies to track consumer conversations on social media channels and to monitor the social sentiments of these conversations — whether they are positive or negative. As a result, companies can better understand what customers are saying about their brand, products, and services.”

And while you can’t predict what customers are going to be saying about your products or brand on social media, I can guarantee none of them are saying “Plllleease put me in a bucket!”

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