Going forward, the economic challenges businesses faced this past year will reinforce the need to redefine business processes around customer value. As more companies move in that direction, the trends below will shape the way business is done. They're not predictions, they're concepts you are already familiar with. But concepts and ideas take time and nurturing to grow. These are ideas whose time has come and will have the most profound effect on your day-to-day operations in 2003.

1. Companies that manage information responsibly will lead the way. Privacy legislation will continue unabated, but will never protect us from the path of companies that don't practice responsible information management. Those companies operate offshore and will pick up and move in the middle of the night if you don't like what they do. Legislation thus far has only really protected us from companies that are already ethically responsible. But it will become more difficult to practice individualized customer service if privacy laws become too stringent. Companies will set their own standards based on what their customers expect and need. As a result, information-responsible companies will be the only ones customers will choose to do business with on an ongoing basis.

2. Managers will become more accountable for technology's use and success. Companies are becoming increasingly disillusioned with software that doesn't deliver the expected return on their investment. Organizations will demand more of those who implement and manage their solutions, making people more accountable, as opposed to the past, when the technology was to blame. Failure will become unacceptable and test-group ROI will be an up-front requirement.

3. Companies will redefine their offerings based on customers' needs. Many organizations still define themselves by the products they make -- even firms that are overtly trying to become customer centric. Over the next three years, we'll see a shakeout. More companies will move to the customer-based model as a means of survival, and will measure profitability based on customer value and share of customer, rather than just product sales.

4. Managing customers has greater value than managing software. You've heard us say many times that technology is an enabler, but companies are just now beginning to understand what this truly means. Managing customer relationships centers around the value of the customer base, not around installing pieces of software, such as email personalization. This change of thought is occurring in tiny, enlightened pockets, but there will be much greater acceptance of this business methodology over the next year.

5. End-user companies will push suppliers for more platform integrations with multi-faceted offerings. There will be a gradual competitive edge given to platform plays in CRM, as opposed to smaller point solutions that offer only pieces of the puzzle. Companies not only understand the value of front-channel and back-end integration, they know how to successfully deploy one-to-one initiatives. As this continues to become more apparent, businesses will push solutions providers for more enterprise platform integrations with multi-faceted offerings.

6. The balanced scorecard will take center stage. Metrics will increasingly tie into the corporate vision, mission and financials. While departments such as sales and the contact center will continue to have their own goals and metrics, enterprise-wide analysis on such things as total share of customer and customer value across the company will take a higher priority at many firms.

Finally, the operative customer strategy term for 2003 will be "momentum building." Companies will budget for and plan a strategy that invests in the training, enthusiasm and buy-in of every employee, partner and customer, across all divisions and departments. High-value customer relationships require a team effort, and everyone's participation will be vital to success. May you all have high-value customer relationships in 2003.

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