If you have been following us here for a while, you’ll know how important customer experience management is. In fact, we spent the whole month of March looking at it. Now, Gartner is taking our lead and underling the important of CXM now and for the coming years.

Enterprises Eye CRM

OK, so that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek; Gartner has been on the customer experience management case for a while and, in a recent global survey of CIOs by Gartner’s Executive Programs, CRM moved up from the 18th most important technology to No. 8.

Not the top spot yet, but given the response Gartner has received around the survey, it could well hit that spot in the coming years.

In addition to this, according to Gartner’s 2012 CEO Survey, CEO’s are citing CRM as the most important area of investment they will be making in IT over the next five years to improve business performance.

CRM Market

To put that in perspective, the worldwide CIO survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2011, and included 2,335 CIOs representing more than US$ 321 billion in CIO IT budgets and covering 37 industries across 45 countries.

And the Gartner CEO and senior business executive survey involved more than 220 CEOs in user organizations from more than 25 countries was conducted in November and December of 2011. Qualified organizations were those with annual revenue of US$ 500 million or more.

So the companies that are looking at investing in the next five years are companies that might already be classified as successful -- if you consider annual revenue of US$ 500 million successful, that is.

Effective leaders use technology to strengthen the customer experience regardless of the economic environment, and they see customers as the key factor in helping their business deliver growth and operational efficiency in 2012. They also understand that a new strategy is needed to embrace social and media trends,” said Jim Davies, research director at Gartner.

Social CRM

And this is another key finding in the research. CRM executives -- at least successful ones -- have to take "social" technology a lot more seriously than they have been doing in the past.

It has to move from just being another channel into being a whole new way of doing business, according to Gartner analyst Ed Thompson.

The research shows that, by 2014, enterprises that refuse to embrace social media will do as much damage to themselves as companies today do when they ignore emails and phone calls.

Our discussions with service providers and end users indicate that CRM services are shifting from a focus on point solution deployment cantered on application suites, to a ‘customer experience’ that brings together customer information, analytics, workflows, mobility and social CRM disciplines into a richer, multichannel access to capture the entire customer journey,” Thompson said.

While ignoring email may indeed be damaging, it is definitely satisfying. That aside, social media and CRM will shift the goalposts, Gartner says, in an industry that was already worth US$ 12 billion in 2011, up 13.5% from 2010, and one that is forecast to grow 7% in 2012.

CRM in the Cloud

And another element is also coming to bear creating an almost perfect story for those that insist on the "old" ways of doing business and technology -- that element is SaaS and the cloud.

Gartner says that a growing number of CRM providers are building revenue through SaaS offerings with 32% of all technologies sold in the CRM market in 2011 were being offered through SaaS, which is expected to grow by 16% again this year.

Gartner analysts added that a growing percentage of this revenue is accrued through SaaS and cloud computing. In 2011, SaaS accounted for 32% of the CRM software market and is expected to grow 16% in 2012.

The result: Providers are going to have to broaden their offerings to incorporate cloud computing, social CRM, digital media and mobility, get into bed with specialist vendors that can offer specific functionalities or go the way of the Dodo bird.

In fact, Gartner says that service provides that are still focusing on traditional on-premises CRM solutions at the moment will start losing out over the next two years to more agile providers.

Prepare for a lot more on this issue as Gartner gears up for its Customer Strategies and Technologies Summit in London, UK on June 11 and 12.