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When Relational Marketing and Customer Service will meld

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Customer Service and Relational Marketing are the two adjacent disciplines of CRM, but have long suffered from a lack of coordination. Indeed, the processing of incoming customer messages (“Pull”) and outgoing brand messages (“Push”) has often been done separately. In recent years, several phenomena have contributed to bringing the two disciplines closer together, but will we ever see a real merger?

Several indicators may suggest it :

Indicator n°1: social networks

Social CRM, especially on Facebook, is symptomatic of this convergence, being both a relational channel for the brand (organic and/or paid), and a privileged Customer Service channel. The sounding board for customer complaints and comments forced the Community Manager to take on a hybrid role at the intersection of campaign manager and customer service manager.

Indicator N°2: The evolution of Marketing Technologies

Relational Marketing-oriented “Martech” solutions, such as Campaign Management Tools (OGC) or Marketing Automation have gradually integrated functionalities to automate certain Customer Service cases (post-purchase satisfaction / post-complaint…)

For example, Salesforce anticipated this convergence with the acquisition in 2013 of the Automation Marketing tool ExactTarget. The leader in Customer Service solutions also integrated the social networking dimension into its Cloud Marketing at the time with the acquisition of Radian6 (Social Listening) and BuddyMedia (Community Management). Today, it is possible to orchestrate multi-level activation paths integrating e-mail, SMS, social networks and call centers in these Marketing Automation solutions.

On the other hand, Datalakes now make it possible to converge data from Relational Marketing (reactivity to push messages in particular) and Customer Service (semantic analysis of conversations). By crossing them with other types of behavioural data (e. g. navigation) to achieve the best possible customer knowledge.

Indicator N°3: Reconciliations within organizations

Whether or not as a result of the first two points, more and more companies are now integrating Customer Service and Relationship Marketing into the same CRM department. This grouping has made it easier to avoid marketing unsolicited customers, or to use the call center as a relational channel for outgoing up-sell or anti-churn calls.

Indicator n°4: ChatBots and VoiceBots

Promised as the future major mode of interaction with brands, ChatBots and other VoiceBots foreshadow a future where all digital relational supports will be conversational and capable not only of sending “top-down”messages  but also of receiving and answering questions. This is already the case on most branded websites, but e-mailings, SMS, push notifications, banners will probably also have to evolve in this direction. For example, e-mailings with a “no-reply” reply address should eventually disappear. The ChatBots themselves, if they are now rather inclined to do “Pull”, are beginning to be used for “Push”. Facebook offers a subscription model or Sponsored Messages in Messenger, for example, and will certainly deploy the same model on WhatsApp.

Indicator N°5: WeChat

More than just a social network, WeChat is a precursor to new forms of transactional, relational and social platforms on the Chinese market at a global level. It is Facebook’s more or less stated objective to be able to replicate such a model. The WeChat application natively integrates features combining Relational Marketing, Loyalty Programs and Customer Service that make it the preferred brand platform for customer relations in China.

These links between Customer Service and Relationship Marketing are already largely in place and will continue to grow and eventually lead to a truly Conversational Digital Marketing where the only marketing “Push”, with no possibility of a response, will probably have disappeared. Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing have a major role to play in their ability to analyze these conversations, and automate a first level of interaction. Although increasingly automated and in real time, this Conversational Marketing will still have to retain its share of creativity and emotion to play its role as a catalyst for loyalty.

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Fabien Remise, Head of Customer Engagement