When you think customer lifecycle, you may automatically think CRM. To date, CRM technologies and the business processes that support it, have excelled at managing all the communications and engagements with a buyer leading up to the point of initial sale. But that’s not the whole lifecycle. ServiceSource is seeing a growing need for companies to focus on customer engagement after the sale. In fact, we predict that in 2016 and beyond the industry will see the need for companies to augment their CRM initiatives with solutions and a holistic approach that focuses on the customer.

Before we go any further, let’s pause on that last word: Customer.

Often, customer is used ubiquitously to mean anyone who engages with a companies’ brand. But when we refer to the customer here, we do so in its purest form—the post-transaction buyer who has invested in a company’s solution, is in some stage of utilizing that solution, and is looking to realize the desired outcomes from that investment.

The buyer relationship with a company breaks down into two categories—prospective customer and customer. The first half of the equation, the prospective customer, involves very little desired interaction with the company. It requires demonstration of solution capabilities, verification of the desired use case, building trust and preference for the company’s solution over competing choices. Today’s CRM, and the processes that support it, does this exceptionally well. But there is an unfilled gap when it comes to addressing the second half of the equation—managing the customer relationship. Managing the customer relationship in order to grow and retain recurring revenue from the customer requires a different set of capabilities. Especially now that cloud technology and the subscription business model have created an empowered customer and a fiercely competitive landscape driven by flexibility, low barriers to switching and increased choice.

Once you have the customer, the relationship involves significantly more desired interaction from the company. The right kind of interaction. The kind that focuses on helping the customer derive the most value from the solution in which they have invested. Many companies have tried to repurpose existing technologies and resources to do this, but are fragmented, siloed and uncoordinated in their approach. And this hurts the customer relationship and does little to deliver the value they expect.

We predict in 2016 and beyond that companies will begin to follow the example of leading recurring revenue enterprises, and adopt a holistic approach to managing their customer relationships. Here are a few ways they’ll do that:

  • They will transform their business around the customer.
  • They will synchronize all the customer-facing people and technologies around processes that deliver customer value early and continuously throughout the course of the relationship.
  • They will align across multiple departments—service and support, customer success management, product management, professional services, marketing and sales, and establish customer engagement processes in which the right interactions are initiated with the right customer at the right time with the right solution.

The end result? High levels of adoption in which end users are actively and avidly consuming your solution. The relationship is extended year-over-year as the customers experience the outcomes and ROI they expect. They expand their footprint with you when they begin to see how the value being delivered can be applied to other areas of the company, or look to your company to help address other pains they are experiencing. And, ultimately, loyalty, when the customer views your company as truly vested in their success and indispensable to the value they deliver to their customers. Putting the customer back into CRM isn’t about just acquiring a new set of technologies, or repurposing existing people, processes, and tools, or just standing up a customer success team to perform health checks. It is about transforming the way you engage with the customer, deliver value and position yourself as indispensable to the success of their business. To learn how to get started, download The Definitive Guide to Revenue Lifecycle Management.