The only source of competitive advantage is the one that can survive technology-fueled digital disruption — an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers. This means effectively managing the four key areas of customer relationship management (CRM): strategy, process, people, and technology.  Reflecting on my client work during the past year, and delving in to Forrester’s most recent research, here are the top twelve CRM trends to consider as you finalize your plans for 2013.


Trend 1: Enterprises must navigate digital disruption. Thanks to digital platforms, your customers live in a world of heightened expectations and abundant options; they can get more of what they want, in more places, at more times, than ever before.

Trend 2: Companies will transform to become experience-driven organizations. More enlightened companies are defining customer management strategies from the outside in, articulating a customer management strategy defined in customers’ terms that can be used to guide organizational improvement efforts.

Trend 3: Brands turn attention to CX design. The right customer interactions, implemented the right way, don’t just happen. Instead, they must be actively designed. Brands must understand and manage their customer experience ecosystems, which comprise all interaction points across customers’ journeys.


Trend 4: Untamed processes will get more attention. More organizations will move from isolated business process management (BPM) and/or front-office CRM projects toward cross-functional transformation initiatives to support the invisible and untamed customer management processes that are critical to delivering an exceptional customer experience.

Trend 5: Agile implementation approaches will scale to the enterprise level. Organizations are adopting Agile project management and software development methodologies to help them to become more nimble and implement more flexible business management approaches.


Trend 6: Social customer engagement will move into the mainstream. The key to adding value to social customer engagement is to be clear about your objectives: 1) listening to better understand customers; 2) talking to spread messages about your company; 3) energizing to supercharge the power of word of mouth; 4) supporting your customers to let them help each other; and 5) embracing your customers by enlisting them to help design your products and improve your processes.

Trend 7: Mobile applications will empower consumers and employees. Mobility technologies provide new ways to improve the productivity of front-line employees and engage more deeply with customers. Technology vendors are rushing to provide solutions that work across all mobility technology platforms and support all device form factors (laptops, smartphones, and tablets). And these solution will enable “write once, deploy on any device” capability.

Trend 8: Marketing tech will drive customer engagement innovation. Once relegated to the province of direct mail teams and analysts, customer data and marketing technology are now essential to every marketing function, from strategy to creative development to execution. Defining a road map that matches short-term and long-term marketing goals with specific technology solutions to help meet those goals is now a critical priority.

Trend 9: Navigating the customer analytics ecosystem is crucial. Organizations across industries increasingly view analytics and measurement as key capabilities to improve firms’ understanding of customers, continuously optimize marketing campaigns across channels, and enhance the relevance of customer experiences using data-driven insights. But the customer analytics ecosystem is complex and difficult to master.

Trend 10: Organizations will adopt flexible CRM management practices to capitalize on SaaS. Organizations are rapidly adopting software-as-a-service (SaaS) CRM solutions — often referred to as CRM in the cloud. But to take advantage of these more flexible solutions, you must embrace a new solution governance approach where technology innovation is embedded in the business — not in IT.


Trend 11: Customer experience disciplines will cut costs and boost profits. Companies see a substantial business benefit when they systematically hunt down and eliminate customer experience problems. This means implementing best practices in six disciplines: customer understanding, measurement, governance, strategy, design, and culture.

Trend 12: VOC programs will drive action and demonstrate results. More than two-thirds of organizations with voice of the customer (VoC) programs say that these programs are very valuable or extremely valuable when it comes to improving customers’ experience. But two-thirds also report that their VoC programs don’t deliver financial results. Most of them haven’t done the calculations to figure out those results — or don’t know how to. But those who do connect the dots successfully find that VoC efforts drive customer retention and growth metrics.