Leading consultant discusses CRM strategies

Baskaran Natarajan, global head of enterprise CRM solutions at Tata Consultancy Services, sits down for a Q&A on CRM strategies at OpenWorld.

Baskaran "Basky" Natarajan is an expert in CRM strategy. The global head of CRM enterprise solutions for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India’s largest IT services consultancy and an Oracle Partner for 12 years, has spent 14 years with the company, eight in the U.S., and currently is responsible for all customer experience management (CEM) initiatives.

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At this week's Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, he sat down with SearchCloudApplication.com's Adam Riglian to discuss CRM strategies, the market as a whole and what to expect in the future.

How do you see customer relationship management (CRM) evolving over the next five to ten years?

Baskaran Natarajan: Customers today are more social, agile and mobile. The whole industry is shifting towards looking inside-out to outside-in. It's more customer-focused and the customers are more agile. They keep changing the channels and points where they reach out of the enterprise for various purposes, whether it's for the sales or marketing or other services. Customer experience management, that is where the industry is moving today.

A company would be behind if they didn't have a cohesive CRM strategy. Once everyone has one, how will companies gain value that puts them ahead of their competitors within CRM?

Natarajan : Most companies today have a CRM strategy in some form or the other, but really the execution is the challenge the customers are facing. Delivering the cross-channel customer experience.

What types of companies are using CRM more effectively than others at this stage?

Natarajan : CRM predominantly is active in B2C. The customers are very dynamic and highly demanding. That is the space where we see most investment happening, where they are more customer-focused. Having said that, in B2B the investment is happening more in channel management.

Is it difficult to sell CRM to B2B businesses?

Natarajan : Yes, they are less focused on the need. Today, at least in high-tech, semi-conductor and manufacturing, where the customers want to have data collected on their customers. In the earlier days, they just relied on dealers to sell it and they didn't know who the customer is. But now connecting the enterprise, partners, dealers to the end customers is something they are trying to do.

To summarize, B2C allows for more traction for CRM compared to the B2B.

What sort of advice on CRM strategy to you find yourself frequently giving?

Natarajan: Most of the customers when they approach TCS keep saying, yes, we have this problem, we want to do it, but really they don't understand what it means for their business. That's where we engage with them and make them really understand what the CRM capabilities are going to deliver in terms of the business KPI [key performance indicator].

What is your relationship like with CRM vendors, and Oracle in particular?

Natarajan : TCS has been working with all the leading CRM vendors for the last 12 years in the CRM space, and Oracle is our strategic partner; most of our CRM business is coming through Oracle, Siebel [before that]. We have a great partnership and a great working relationship with Oracle, and [in] our new initiatives we are working with Oracle on customer experience management that go to market for retail, communications and financial services.

What do you perceive as the biggest strength of Oracle CRM?

Natarajan: The good thing about the Oracle CRM solution is they have the best of breed of everything. Marketing, loyalty, real-time offers for the customers, Web commerce user experience, knowledge management; they have the best of breed of CRM tools.

What would a company following the best CRM strategy be doing today?

Natarajan:Today, most of the customers, they have CRM in some form or another. The new initiatives they are looking at are customer experience management, trying to achieve business agility, brand equity, long-term profitability and improved productivity. To achieve this, they are enabling multiple channels today: social, mobile, internal collaboration, partner collaboration and customer collaboration, and ensuring all the interactions and the processes are consistent across the channels and across the customer lifecycle. That is the journey most of the customers are going through today.

Adam Riglian is a news writer with SearchCloudApplications.com. Follow him on Twitter@AdamRiglian.

This was first published in October 2012

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