This past week, the world’s brightest business and technical visionaries gathered in Las Vegas at PegaWorld, hosted by Pegasystems. Our own leading Renegade, Drew Neisser, was in attendance and met up with Pegasystems’ Vice President of CRM Product Marketing, Jeff Nicholson, for an impromptu podcast and interview.
Nicholson is a frequent presenter at industry conferences like PegaWorld, and for good reason. His specialties include CRM, digital and real-time marketing, artificial intelligence, and more. The Q&A below is just a brief sample from an insightful conversation.
To hear more about the future of CRM and artificial intelligence, “next best actions,” and the customer journey, tune into the latest Renegade Thinkers Unite podcast with guest Jeff Nicholson, VP of CRM Product Marketing at Pegasystems.
Drew: Tell me first for my aunt, who is not as tech savvy: what the heck is CRM?
Jeff: Well, what CRM should be is a very different thing than what CRM has been in the past. CRM was sold to businesses—it stands for Customer Relationship Management and it’s been called that for a long, long time.
The problem is that it actually didn’t do that. It was sold as this kind of relationship in a box: you just turned it on, and great things will happen. In practice though, that “R” in CRM really turned out to be nothing more than the word “record.” They turned out to be customer record management systems in practice and that’s part of the reason why this space is so ripe for reinvention. If you look at the CRM systems that have been sold over the past decade, the systems are just for managing customer contact details in querying and reporting on details, and some do a better job at managing the information than others.
To make matters even worse. many businesses actually have several different CRM systems, which ends up giving you different versions of the truth. So when your aunt calls that contact center or goes to the website, there’s a reason why her information’s disconnected. It isn’t there. As she moves across channels to a mobile app—because maybe you’re Aunt likes mobile apps—or she tweets, or goes to Facebook Messenger, there’s a reason why her experiences are disconnected. There’s a reason why it takes so long to get a resolution to the issues. It’s because customer record management systems were never designed to solve these types of problems.
Drew: So where are we today with CRM? What is state of the art?
Jeff: So there’s an interesting sea change happening right now and it starts not with the industry but with the customer. All customers are empowered. You have a very slick looking mobile phone right there. Your aunt has one. We all have them. We are digital and often digital first.
Where it’s getting interesting is that customers are demanding a better experience. They’re comparing the experience from every brand to the last best experience they’ve had, regardless of the brand or the industry. So the walls have come down in terms of who you’re competing with, in terms of experience. This has got a lot of businesses scrambling to somehow figure this out.
Drew: If you want to be cutting edge right now, where does AI fit in?
Jeff: Well if you are trying to get results right now, I think the key is actually embedded in your question. What it means is that you have to get a strategy in place now. AI in years past has been something that has been monumental. It took you 6-12 months or even longer to stand up and get something running, let alone getting business results. Those days are no longer palatable or practical, and frankly, they no longer are enough. If you’re a business right now (particularly a large enterprise) that is not applying AI technologies, you’re simply behind.