CRM in Italy: The Customer Renaissance

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Customers are in their own period of Renaissance, empowered to speak about their experiences whenever and where ever they want.

The Italian Renaissance was an age of magnificent change during which humans developed new, better ways of thinking about the world. This change was fueled by technology – the invention of the printing press, which democratized learning and allowed faster dissemination of Italy’s ideas far and wide.

As technology continues to revolutionize our lives, it has profoundly changed the relationship between businesses and customers. What used to be a top-down, company-controlled relationship has been turned upside down thanks to mobile communications and social media. Now, customers are in control, demanding each engagement is tailored to their specific needs. Customers are in their own period of Renaissance, empowered to speak about their experiences whenever and where ever they want.

And speak they do. As an Italian, I can tell you Italian people do not hesitate to share their opinions. At both the consumer and business-to-business level, there is no tolerance for the company that can’t instantly deliver service, provides no insight into the status of orders or expects a customer to listen to irrelevant offers. While the Millennial generation led the way with rapid, widespread adoption of mobile phones and social media, this willingness to broadcast has been adopted by just about every generation in Italy.

Customer Service in Italy Remains in the Dark Ages

Italian companies have been slow to respond to this shift in consumer expectations and behavior. I sometimes think Italian businesses are stuck in the Dark Ages. This is the result of a historically protectionist, monopolistic economy. But as globalization forces markets open, Italy is doing away with protectionism. Companies from all over the globe are now entering the Italian market, increasing competition and bringing with them more advanced, customer-centric operations that, quite frankly, make the locals look bad.

So what are Italian companies trying to do to get out of the Dark Ages and deliver a customer-centric experience? In some ways, they are on the right track – looking at how technology can help them better satisfy customer needs. But I see them picking the wrong technology as their customer experience “solution”. Too often, companies think that moving operations to the cloud will solve all their problems. There may be some improvements, like lower IT costs, but moving a bad customer experience from in-house to the cloud only produces another bad customer experience.

Think About the Customer First, Then Find the Right Technology

I counsel Italian companies to first analyze what their customer experience is like and what it should be like. How should the answer, the action, the offer, the channel and the moment be used to best meet each customer’s needs? Creating this customer-centric vision requires not just the cloud, but technology that can know who the customer is, understand the customer’s intent and continuously adjust to the context of the specific interaction. Technology designed to let you easily adapt your people, processes, channels and operations helps to foster the customer’s perception that the business “gets me.”

One of my customers, a large Italian telecom, is at the forefront of transforming its customer experience. The company faces stiff competition from many big European telecom players. Starting with their enterprise business, the company set the goal to treat each enterprise customer in a personalized way. However, a “black box” of legacy systems focused on managing back-office work thwarted this customer-centric vision. Customer-facing representatives had to search through several different systems to find information.

With their new customer engagement vision in mind, the company designed a digital solution that hides the complexity of the legacy systems. Representatives can immediately access all of a customer’s information through a single interface, enabling them to provide faster, more accurate service. The solution has simultaneously increased staff efficiency and enhanced the perception among enterprise customers of a responsive, customer-focused company.

This is a great time for Italian companies to expand and share the creativity and quality of their goods and services globally. Join us on May 5th in Milan at the complementary CRM Evolved conference to hear how some of the world’s leading brands are transforming their business to connect with customers in a new way and improve their bottom line. With the right technology, your business can create its own Renaissance.