By Sharla Sikes
Customer relationship management is an
always-evolving industry, and todayâ€™s surge of CRM software options is driving growth in staffing needs, too.
In a tightening economy, customer relations have become ever more importantâ€”hence the increase of
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careers based around building, protecting and cultivating relationships with customers for businesses in nearly every sector.
According to a recent study by GI Insight, most top corporations based in the United Kingdom have appointed a head of CRM. Including positions that also encompass other titles, such as customer services director or marketing director, brings the total up to 48 percent.
“CRM is now a universally accepted concept amongst marketers,” says Andy Wood, managing director of GI Insight. “Since one-off CRM technology costs can be written off and ongoing senior people costs cannot, a company that puts CRM into the title of
one of its senior managers is making a real statement of commitment to CRM. CRM initiatives have been taken, hard bottom-line results measured, and ongoing metrics put in place, before CRM management is afforded senior status.”
So what are these positions, and what sort of training or background do they require?
One position falls under the heading â€œcustomer experience.â€ Growing from a â€œbuzzwordâ€ only a few years ago to an integral part of most companies, customer experience centers around putting customersâ€™ needs and wants in the foreground. The customer experience manager or similar position is one that some industry experts expect to play an increasingly important role.
“It is a fashionable title at the moment, but as the economy starts to tighten it will become a lot more fashionable,” said Joe Slavin, chief executive of Fish4 who heads up Fish4jobs. “When youâ€™re growing as quick as companies have been over the past five years you donâ€™t have to think too much about the customer because if you lose one then you just go out and get another. But as the economy starts to slow down and bite harder for business it is more important now than ever that the customer relationship is catered to. You have to keep customers happy.”
Customer analytics is another CRM career opportunity. A forecast last year predicted 2008 would bring a shortage of skills in analytics, according to managing vice president Scott Nelson at the Gartner CRM Summit. Analytics skills cover a variety including the assimilation, cleansing and organization of customer information, as well as the â€œstrategicâ€ skills to put that information to good use. Itâ€™s unlikely that one person will have skills that encompass all of those areas.
“Just five or six years ago we were doing 360-degree views of the customer and we thought we had our hands full getting all that information from the enterprise and making it useful to someone to service the customer,” says Bruce Culbert, founding principal and managing director of BPT Partners, CEO of iSymmetry and all-round CRM expert. “Now there is 10 times more information outside the enterprise about the customer and the ability to tap this information that you didnâ€™t obtain yourself is bizarre. There is more information out there than there ever was and the challenge is finding value in that information and making it actionable.”
“If I was going to school again, analytics is definitely an area Iâ€™d study!” Slavin adds.
Internal branding offers yet more CRM-based opportunities. Thereâ€™s a growing demand for a position that ensures customers receive a â€œconsistent company experience.â€ Many corporations employ an internal brand manager, with more expected to follow.
“Internal branding is an issue for every company I work with and CEOs understand how important it is,” says author, speaker and consultant Steve Yastrow. “But at the same time, they donâ€™t know what to do about it and they have nobody to delegate it to except the training department. And that is not enough. One of the great untapped opportunities is to clarify and reinforce the internal brand.”
These titles and positions arenâ€™t truly new, but more roles are emerging as the CRM industry becomes a more and more integral part of business culture.
“New jobs are emerging in this area, and emerging quickly,” says Culbert. “You have demand for social media specialists, who have similar qualities to marketers or editors, but they are the folks who do internal blogs or report on blogs. There are interaction engineers â€“ someone who engineers multiple touchpoint interaction. I was on a panel the other week and I was introduced to a social tag expert. His job is to do experimentation on social tagging, identifying what people are interested in
by their social tags and enabling the delivery of more contextually appropriate messaging.”