Customer Lifecycle Management is hot topic in CRM today. I see a number of phases in the evolution of Customer Lifecycle Management in the past, currently and in the future. Each presents its own unique challenges.
Phase 0 – Adhoc Customer Management
Companies just manage everything in an adhoc manner.
Outbound campaigns are developed as stand-alone campaigns. Online campaigns ditto. Inbound customer contacts are managed as they arise. There is little or no coordination of contacts. Typically no software is used to manage contacts other than the ubiquitous MS Office tools.
Companies in this phase do not really manage the customer lifecycle at all.
Phase 1 – Fixed Customer Contact Plans
Companies manage outbound contacts through fixed contact plans. The plans don’t vary no matter what happens to the customer or what happens within the company. Often there is only one plan for all customers. Customers are assigned to plans and then follow them until the plan ends.
Outbound marketing campaigns are still developed as stand-alone campaigns. Online campaigns ditto. Inbound customer contacts are still managed as they arise. There is some adhoc coordination of contacts but only in response to particular issues. Typically, simple campaign management tools are used to manage contacts and adhoc marketing campaigns.
Companies in this phase manage customers in a one size fits all way.
Phase 2 – Semi-variable Customer Contact Plans – “Customer Pathways”
Companies manage outbound contacts through a series of customer pathways. Each pathway describes a series of linked contacts that naturally belong together, e.g. welcome contacts for a new customer or segment-level contacts. The pathways contain a number of contacts in sequence, rules for triggering the pathway and rules for switching between pathways. The triggering of pathway contacts, their execution and switching to another pathway driven by business rules embedded in pathway logic (but not usually within a business rules tool). Customers are assigned to a pathway and then follow it until the pathway ends or they are transferred to another one. The pathway the customer has been assigned to defines what contacts the customer will receive.
Outbound marketing campaigns are still developed as stand-alone campaigns. Online campaigns ditto. Inbound customer contacts are still managed as they arise. There is some planned coordination of contacts but not across the entire customer lifecycle. Typically, industrial-strength campaign management software, e.g. Unica Affinium, is used to manage the pathways, pathway contacts and other marketing campaigns. Other CRM tools are used to manage other contacts.
Companies in this phase manage customers in a semi-variable, planned way. But it is difficult to mix and match different pathways or to respond to adhoc events.
Phase 3 – Variable Customer Contact Plans – “Customer DNA”
Companies manage all contacts through Customer DNA. Customer DNA consists of any number of contact plans that describe how planned contacts are managed plus an emergent contact plan that manages which contacts the customer will actually receive.
Each contact plan describes a series of related contacts that naturally belong together, e.g. a lead management contact plan, a customer management contact plan or customer loyalty programme contact plan. Plans can also be prepared for outbound marketing campaigns, online campaigns and inbound customer contacts, even for partner campaigns. Each plan contain a number of contacts in an idealised sequence, plus rules for triggering the contacts, for sequencing them, for prioritising them and for carrying out the individual contacts. The sequence of contacts in the plan doesn’t fix the sequence in which they will be actually carried out, or indeed, which contacts will be carried out at all.
Customers are enrolled in individual contacts plans according to their situation. The sum total of contacts in the contacts plans they are enrolled in describes all the contacts the customer is eligible for. The actual contacts that the customer receives is identified in real time by deciding the next best contact from the contacts in the different contacts plans the customer is eligible for. The choice of which contact the customer will receive from the different contact plans, the sequencing of contacts where more than one is appropriate and the prioritisation of contacts if they clash is driven by business rules embedded in the contacts themselves. This is usually carried out using a business rules tool, e.g. Haley Systems’ Authority. Typically, industrial-strength campaign management software, e.g. Unica Affinium, is used to manage both the contact plans and the carrying out of the individual outbound contacts. Online and inbound contacts can be managed the same way, although this may require integration with other CRM tools.
Companies in this phase manage customers in an effectively infinitely-variable way. The actual contacts the customer receives emerges out of the interactions between the contacts the customer already had and those they are eligible for at any point in time. But it is easy to mix and match different contacts plans and to respond to adhoc events.
Phase 4 – Customer-managed Variable Customer Contact Plans – “Customer Managed DNA”
Companies implement Phase 3 Customer DNA in ways that allow customers to manage some of the rules themselves, e.g. allowable marketing contacts or the maximum number of contacts. This could be done by giving customers access to high-level versions of their own contact plans on-line through contact configurators. As contacts move increasingly to mobile media, it could be done by moving the configurators to mobile devices, in particular, as applications running on individual mobile telephones.
Companies in this phase manage customers in an effectively infinitely-variable way but give much more control over the contacts they will receive over to the customer.
The big challenge is to identify where companies are today (mostly Phases 0, 1 & occasionally Phase 2), and to help them evolve step-by-step to the next phase. There are also a number of other deeper challenges associated with understanding the capabilities required to deliver each phase, and how processes, systems, data flows, work routines, roles & responsibilities and org structures need to change to deliver the capabilities. New technologies will probably drive much of the evolutionary process if history is anything to go by.
What do you think? Is Customer Lifecycle Management daily business for you? Or are you struggling with inflexible contact plans?
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