In our great depression, customer engagement is king

The biggest issue for businesses at the moment is customer engagement.

The ongoing economic troubles are, of course, a worry for every company, but there is little than many firms can do to change the economy on their own. So, at a time like this, they need to get more from their customers if they are to grow and succeed. There are few IT leaders that Computer Weekly talks to who don’t list customer engagement near the top of the conversations they are having with their CEO.

As the latest Computer Weekly Buyer’s Guide shows, plenty of organisations are turning to technology to achieve that vital competitive edge in attracting, retaining, and delighting customers. Forward-thinking firms have realised that social media, for example, is rewriting the rules of customer acquisition and the opportunities are huge.

It is an old mantra of marketing that it costs many times more to find a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. But those rules are being rewritten on the web. There is no customer relationship management (CRM) guidebook that tells you how to go from zero to 500 million customers in five years, as Facebook has done.

In so many industries, technology is fragmenting long-established business models and dramatically reducing barriers to entry – in media and entertainment, in retail, even in some areas of financial services.

And it is only happening because of IT.

So if, as an IT decision-maker, you’re faced with a CFO telling you to cut your budgets, and a CEO saying there’s no money to invest – be ready to talk about customer engagement. Have a plan to show how IT innovation can uniquely enhance customer relations at low cost and high quality.

CRM promised much and often delivered little, so there’s an inevitable residue of cynicism from business leaders as a result. But CRM was essentially a reactive, data gathering exercise. The opportunities now from mobile, social media and the web should put smart, customer-focused IT leaders at the forefront of surviving what the Bank of England has called the worst depression in the UK’s history.