The 5 Most Known Secrets to Generate Value with CRM

Marco Ottaviani, Head of CRM and Customer Activation, MSC Cruises

Marco Ottaviani, Head of CRM and Customer Activation, MSC Cruises

The CRM may assume different meaning in different companies, and often is identified with software names, or organization areas like the customer service or the loyalty program.

But the CRM is the way the company may generate value from a relation with a customer reducing the costs to serve, increasing the customer spending, enhancing product experience (with all the positive impacts on the medium-term value).

As the universe, also the CRM has its own atomic constituent that is the definition of the Customer identity. A real CRM is built around this atomic definition with a role of Master for these data. Seems obvious, but in the systems integration kingdomit is a challenge costing additional effort and money to the company to have the CRM integrated with any other system that manage directly or indirectly operations with the customer, and more as master for the customer identity information.

The below 5 secretes are applicable from a condition you have such a CRM…you did the basics…otherwise you will find more in another article I’m going to write on this specific topic. Probably I have written a too long introduction, let’s start:

1. Identify Customer Needs That Are Specific To Each Customer Journey Phase

This is by far the most strategic aspect, to be done once every 3-5 year. First step is to do qualitative interviews with your Customer, not with who in the company think to know the customer. It is critical. The journey phases need to come from a point of view that only the customer can give. A possible approach it is to carry out some qualitative deep interview with a selection of customer segmented by persona, to after validating the information with a quantitative survey. The expected result is to split the customer journey knowing for every step what are the specific customer needs and expectations they have when interacting with the company. This picture includes also the kind of information are exchanged and systems involved.

With a good representation of the customer journey phases/steps, needs and expectations, you will have all is needed to think the possible business objectives (leveraging the customer needs). And once such a framework including business objectives is ready, arrives the key and final moment to create value identifying the use cases list. The use cases are business idea that can answer the business objectives leveraging on the customer needs and expectations. A use case it is a building block of the CRM vision to be implemented. The effort is to cover with building blocks the entire journey.

2) Business First, Technology After

Every one of us is passionate for technology, and every day we are engaged by new incredible supplier able to offer new digital capabilities. So it is recurrent to be driven by technology, to trust the supplier will create value as he has done with other customers. But this is like to think is possible to understand how book has started reading only the end.

"It is important to not be driven by technology and think of the personalization as a way to answer customer needs"

It is critical to stay focused on business objectives, and customer needs to be answered. The technology need to be scouted as a precise answer. You will always find some digital solution offering more, and is good, but is critical to respect the core objective to avoid just implementing a nice thing, a “me too” solution, out of vision unable to create value in medium[1]term.

Then…the technology alone is never the solution. It is needed to think of other layers like processes and organizational model. The tech, processes, organization level of maturity need to come together.

 3) Tracking Is Not Enough, It Needs A Generated Value Gap

With the building blocks in your hand, you will have the “bread” to imagine solutions and ideas to be tested. That imply careful result assessment. In doing this it is essential to confuse an A/B testing approach with a commitment in assessing the value gap generated.

An A/B test approach will always have a winner and a loser. It is easy and comfortable for everybody, you already know there is one will have to be implemented at the end of the test. But what about both of them do not create value? And is not reading a tracking, even with the most evolved attribution model that you will learn it. The reality is far more complex, mad of seasonality, external factors, synergy effects, underneath phenomena. An A/B test may give completely different results if repeated.

Here the reason on is to assess the success of a pilot with control groups. Thinking observation period able to observe effects in different business scenario. A control group is a sample that is not exposed to your stimulus, but it is to all the other of the context. It is the only way to read a Net Value generated (or destroyed). But once again, a control group has a cost of time and investments, plus need specific internal skills (you cannot ask to the supplier to do it). So…. it must be a religion of a CRM director, and the way any kind of result will be reported to take final decisions.


The marketing automation is probably the most powerful way to unleash value on the customer journey with the CRM. To do it is needed an orchestrator real time integrated with the CRM. The marketing automation is based on the design of multi-channel work-flows based on triggers and analytics. Every work-flow is a use case, and every use case is to be considered as complex solution to be kept maintained and evolved in the time with a released approach, the same way you may plan new systems enhancements. A work-flow is made of digital solutions and processes to be constantly monitored, are need skilled people always in touch with IT. The marketing automation follow the vision of the building blocks along the customer journey, it is a wallet of solutions to be built year after year following a shared road map.

 5) Personalization At The Service Of The Customer

The personalization is the most exciting challenge for the CRM and it deserves a dedicated topic. Here I want to underline once again the importance to do not be driven by technology and think of the personalization as a way to answer customer needs. The basic approach implementing the personalization is to work on use cases that may simplify the customer choices, offer a relevant service/answer. In doing this you may have advanced models based on personal and behavioural information, but what is making the difference is the possibility to associate specific contents and services. In designing a use case based on the personalization is key to re-think business processes managing contents and service. The technology alone can help till a certain limit, pushing to solutions too simple to make the difference. 

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