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Chuck Schaeffer CRM Evolution Conference Review

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 By Chuck Schaeffer

Social CRM Still Dominates The Customer Relationship Management Agenda

The annual CRM Evolution conference hosted by CRM magazine was held August 8 to 10 in New York City. Paul Greenberg was again the conference Chairman, and David Myron, Editor of CRM magazine, was again the man behind the curtains pulling all the right levers to make sure the keynotes and sessions went off exactly as designed—which they did.

The opening CRM conference keynote was delivered by former Presidential advisor and CNN Political Analyst David Gergen, whose speech, Responding to the Voice of the Constituent/Customer, referenced the politics of CRM and used several political analogies to answer the question "Can businesses avoid the communications mistakes of government?"

Taking a lesson from a change successfully implemented in the prior year, the CRM conference was organized into three tracks—CRM, social CRM and deployment strategies. Social CRM again attracted the lion's share of interest, buzz and in-hall conversations. Despite being the hot theme for several years now, speakers were quick to remind that attendees at the show are generally the innovators within their companies or the industry at large, and social CRM remains in the experimentation stages for most mainstream companies. Social CRM metrics, benchmarks and proven ROI frameworks remain elusive and outstanding for future conferences. Nonetheless, for those innovators willing to pioneer new concepts before their competitors and the market at large, the conference speakers were able to cite strong research, specific customer case examples and lessons learned from their clients and earlier pioneers for the benefit of all.

There seemed to be more panel discussions this year, and the moderators were more successful in engaging audience participation; a clear sign that moderators chose the right topics to deliver. Most impressively, the event brought together many of the most talented thought leaders and expert panelists the industry has to offer. I won't list names simply because there were too many, and I don't want to leave anybody out.

The CRM conference audience itself was a mix of practitioners, consultants, media and thought leaders. Attendance was up 9.2% from the prior year, however, the CRM group was clearly much smaller than the jointly housed SpeechTEK crowd. Possibly as SpeechTEK has been around a lot longer.

The closing keynote came from thought leader Brent Leary who spoke on achieving the social CRM promise. Brent is naturally funny and a generally soft spoken speaker who chooses his words carefully, which leaves audiences paying close attention to those words. Brent gave some solid recommendations, and backed those statements with research points and some case study examples. His citing of Hyundai and Mazda building social apps on tablets for customers and dealers really got me thinking.

As is tradition, Brent and Paul Greenberg closed the conference with a CRM Playaz episode. Marshall Lager also joined the duo, which was quite appropriate as between the three of them they clearly posses the majority of all the humor that exists in the industry. Immediately following the CRM Playaz, Paul Greenberg again raffled his consulting services, a $40K value, and as good luck or good karma would have it, yours truly was the winning participant. I'm now taking my luck to Vegas. Wish me continued fortune.

The only downside of the conference was the venue. This conference was moved to the Hilton New York this year. Without going into the volume of real world examples in how not to achieve positive customer experiences offered by the Hilton, I'll simply say I hope CRM magazine returns the conference to the Marriott next year. Or at least any hotel other than the Hilton New York.

The conference aspires to showcase the latest ideas and trends in customer relationship management—blending CRM practitioners, consultants, customers, vendors and other leading voices in the industry in an annual event that shares and discusses the latest ideas, innovations, technologies, services and solutions, and to this end the conference delivered. CRM Evolution has become the vendor neutral CRM conference of the year. End

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