How can anyone not thank J. J. Abrams and his Bad Robot Productions for creating “Revolution?” Watching it, oddly, creates a stream-of-consciousness thought that one of the character Flashbacks should be to one of the CRM platforms from one of the large enterprise application vendors. Over the past seven years only one new and scalable CRM system has emerged on a stable Cloud platform. If you are an IT leader or a VP of Customer Support and you are looking out at the possibilities for a facelift – the range of choices is grim. There are a couple of fine, legacy application providers who have carefully maintained their platforms, and targeted them for tight use-cases such as health insurance.
What happened? Who pulled the plug on CRM innovation targeted for use by humans in the myriad customer service centers around the planet? There are about six million customer service reps around the world – two million of them are in North America. And you know what new tools they have gotten lately? The equivalent of the Abacus and Sextant. Both were fabulous tools in their day, and have a role still. But, really?
Where is the modern desktop with built in real-time decision support? With a view into the customer’s social path through Google and Facebook and/or a forum? How about advanced knowledge retrieval? Contextual knowledge crafted to the likely needs of the customer and needs of the enterprise that serves them?
We are in an age of wonderful tools to collaborate internally, to support online communities, to analyze customer patterns, voices, words and movements. Yet all of these tools that are second nature to the digital native are foreign to the VP of Customer Support, or, more properly stated, out of their reach. The cool stuff goes to the cool people in Digital Media and Marketing. Exactly 45 years ago, Bob Dylan was recording the album, John Wesley Harding. One of the track lyrics sums it up for the VP of Customer Service and the agents in his/her charge:
I pity the poor immigrant
Whose strength is spent in vain.
Central to the problem is that the enterprise is challenged with coping with mobile customers, Social Media, the need for information analysis, and a new wave of Cloud-based applications. The enterprise application vendors follow the money, and most CEOs have punted on supplying human interaction in favor of self service and social media. The VP of Customer Service does not have much clout with the CIO at the moment. The ageless beauty of silicon trumps the fleeting looks of carbon equivalents (AKA, humans). But, as they say: the wheel’s still in spin.