Episode 20: The Future of CRM + AI (Live from PegaWorld)

Guest: Jeff Nicholson VP of Product Marketing, Pegasystems

Every now and again, we like to switch things up here at Renegade Thinkers Unite. The Q&A below is a sample from an insightful—and completely impromptu—podcast I recorded live from PegaWorld with Jeff Nicholson, VP of Product Marketing at Pegasystems. Jeff is a frequent presenter at industry conferences, and for good reason, with expertise in the realm of CRM, real-time marketing, artificial intelligence and more. (If you’d like to listen to the podcast, click here.)

Drew: For my aunt who is not as tech savvy as you are, what the heck is CRM?

Jeff: Well, it’s really interesting what you’re asking. What should CRM be is a very different thing from what CRM has been in the past. In the past, CRM had been 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 and needs it, quite frankly. 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. Many businesses actually have several different CRM systems, to make matters even worse, because it gives you different versions of the truth. So when your aunt calls that contact center or goes to the Web site, 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 tweets, or goes to Facebook Messenger; There’s a reason why people’s experiences are disconnected. There’s a reason why it does take so long to get resolution to the issues. And that’s because customer record management systems were never designed to solve that problem.

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 the 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 figure out how they can somehow figure this out.

Drew: If you want to be cutting edge right now, what does AI mean?

Jeff: Well, if you are trying to get results right now, I think the key was almost in your question. What it means is you have to get a strategy in place now. AI in the years past has been something that has been large. It has been something that took you six months, 12 months or longer to stand up and get 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 that is not applying AI technologies (particularly large enterprises) you’re simply behind.

Meet the Guest

Jeff Nicholson is the Vice President of CRM Product Marketing for Pegasystems, where he leads the company’s CRM market vision and strategy. A recognized customer engagement thought leader, Jeff works closely with industry analysts and has been a frequent presenter at CRM industry events on subjects including consumer engagement strategy, customer analytics, digital marketing, and customer journey best practices. His viewpoints and opinions have been featured in publications and outlets including Forbes, AdAge, Chief Marketer, CMO.com, CMSWire, CustomerThink, Direct Marketing News, The Economist, and MediaPost.

What You'll Learn

  • How CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is finally delivering on the hype that started in the days of Siebel Systems.
  • How AI (artificial intelligence) is making it possible for brands to anticipate the needs of your customers
  • The idea of "next best action" and what it means for the future of marketing and customer interactions
  • The customer journey needs to be an interdepartmental endeavor not just a marketing thing

Quotes from Jeff Nicholson

  • What CRM should be is a very different thing from what CRM has been in the past.
  • There's an interesting sea change happening right now and it starts not with the industry but with the customer. All customers are empowered.
  • We see that sometimes people are lulled into believing that the customer journey is a marketing thing and it's simply not because it's the customer's journey not the businesses and the customer touches all your functions.
  • We commonly see that marketing will feel they own the experience and many do to be honest. We see Chief Customer Officers emerging, which is a godsend to the industry, but to say that the customer journey is a marketing thing? That's where things fall down.

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