The world is going through a period of change.   Boom & bust cycles are a fact of life but this time, some say, it is unprecedented change.  Fundamental assumptions are changing & continue to do so.  Arguably, unlike previous recessionary times, these changes are happening faster & reaching further in an increasingly connected world.

Thinking about these changes, I was reminded of the 1998 book "Who Moved my Cheese ?" by Spencer Johnson.  Told in the style of a parable, it describes change and the reactions by mice & "little people" in their hunt for cheese.  The essence of the story is how to anticipate, react & enjoy the change.

In their attempts to both explain & illustrate the current world situation, much of the media talk about "the cheese being moved" but leave us all unsure as to where the cheese will end up.  Attending both trade shows & a Gartner briefing here in London got me thinking - the enormous value of CRM techniques & solutions in "looking for the cheese".

Gartner suggested this week that the key theme of 2009 is "thrift".  From a business perspective, that means priorities are focused on cutting operating costs & looking for business process improvement wins.  What a perfect opportunity for a CRM solution ! 

Can a CRM initiative help reduce costs & improve service ? Yes it can.  It's the right time to study good PROCESS and SERVICE examples - benchmarking the best (within and outside similar industries) and then improving those inefficiencies inside a typical business.  It's all about the experience of a customer as they "travel" through a business, working to improve the journey & reducing the internal costs.

In similar terms, knowing customers is more important than ever.  Bringing together data into one system & using analytical tools enables better understanding of customers.    Who are they  ?  What do they buy ?  Who has stopped buying & why ?   It's all about knowing where your cheese might be heading.  And, from a customer perspective, being more intelligent with offers means offering better value, delivering more relevant offers & offering smarter service.   Sharpening the business value proposition to keep customers for longer.

Reducing costs & improve effectiveness in operations - it's certainly been a key theme of the "Articulating the CRM Proposition" training course I deliver for UK partners.  And in times we live in today, it's more relevant than ever before.

Next time  - why sharpening a proposition involves more than just the CRM product.