Focusing on CRM in 2012 means taking changes in behaviour into account: customers and businesses adapt to technology just as they do to the economic context.

In 2012 ISDs will definitely be focusing on CRM. Customer relations management has proven to be essential for all businesses at a time when the media have been continually headlining the crisis, first in 2008 and then again since mid-2011.  Despite everything IT is still dynamic and IDC is highlighting the importance of CRM and analysis applications in their 2012 forecasts.

Therefore we are witnessing two fundamental trends. First of all, customers are being “emancipated” as new technology has given them access to a high level of independence over the last few years; and secondly a “crisis” context which is affecting both customer expectations, company opportunities, company organisation and finally how they interact with each other.

Technological development has changed some of the issues. From a customer perspective, communities, opinions and sharing has never been as readily accessible, mainly due to the social networks. These grass-roots exchanges are making companies look at monitoring their e-reputation more closely and assess the need to participate themselves in social networks (though how to do that effectively is another matter) or risk being frozen out of the discussion. A company needs a managed approach to make effective use of what is generally called Social CRM.

Self-care” is another noteworthy symptom. Nowadays there are a large number of automated systems which customers can use to solve problems themselves. FAQs and voice servers are widely used. However they cannot replace any relational expectations that a customer may have. Laurence Vernier-Palliez, Director of Clienteam says in Les Echos that these two aspects are a “revolution”: a “boon for the customer and a headache for most businesses”.

Customer Proximity and 360° Vision

Customers are being faced with CRM problems that keep getting more complex. Faced with customers who are often resourceful, independent and made demanding by the economic situation, greater proximity and greater commitment are proving necessary.

The gap between objectives and results is therefore becoming a key turning point. The results of the 2012 “Customer Intimacy” barometer survey performed by TNS Sofres for CSC has highlighted this situation.

Faced with the crisis and the tendency of large companies to react cautiously by only controlling costs, the barometer advises you to prioritise developing the quality of a “simplified” relationship. A strategy of tailoring proposals and also close contact while taking specific requirements into account is another approach which the barometer recommends.

However, customer proximity implies clear visibility.

For any business, acquiring and activating customer knowledge remains a continual challenge. There has never been as much data available on customers and their relationships with products and services. The multichannel marketing, sales and customer service approach means that data can come from anywhere, a situation which is becoming more and more important in conjunction with the idea of Big Data. Business Intelligence and Data Mining tools are therefore essential for converting this data into a useful CRM lever, to achieve 360 degree customer vision and then use it.

Therefore this is the challenge for the year 2012: how to do more for customers who are used to using new media and systems in a context where the trend is for companies to become more self-reliant.