Live, from DC, it's the Gartner CRM Summit

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Intrepid reporter here, braving the DC streets to bring you the scoop on all that is the Gartner CRM Summit. So far, the check-in is painless, the coffee is hot, and the press room is well-equipped (though eerily quiet); yep, these people know their CRM stuff.

This morning, we kicked off with two keynotes: "Improving the Customer Experience," from Ed Thompson, research vice president at Gartner, and the 2008 Customer Awards and Users Choice Award Finalist. Confession time: I missed the first keynote because I got lost (DC is very confusing to drive through at 7 in the morning without coffee). I did, however, catch the second, wherein AT&T, EMI Music and Overstock.com -- finalists for the User's Choice Award -- presented their CRM strategies.

Everything about this second session highlighted the rapid changes taking place throughout the business community: globalization, increasing demand for real-time results, evolving media and technologies, and customers' expectations to be personally catered to.

Glenn Whol, senior marketing manager for AT&T, discussed AT&T's global growth, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and risk-taking on the employee side, and of tailoring messages for consumers in different corners of the world.

EMI Music also discussed a multi-country, segmented approach. Guillaume Pech-Gourg, head of consumer management for the record label, described how EMI started using Web forms on all its artist sites to capture consumer data in real time. It then used these data to create personalized marketing strategies for consumers, based on artists and music genres they liked, shopping habits, Web habits and demographics. In the future, Pech-Gourg said, the company wants to further integrate mobile, IM and other emerging technologies into its customer outreach efforts.

Overstock's speaker -- who was listed in the program as Stormy Simon but who may have actually been CEO Patrick Byrne -- told a simpler, but more harrowing tale. Overstock.com, growing quickly in its first 5 years of existence, soon outgrew its IT system. A massive upgrade was implemented, only to fail the company and send it into a tailspin.

Byrne(?) said the key to the company's rebound was in putting the toughest executive at the company in charge of customer care. Services that had been largely outsourced before were brought back in-house, and the company "rededicated itself to customer-centricity." In 2006, Overstock was ranked 4 in an NRF/AMEX customer satisfaction survey that just the year before it had failed to place in at all.

The end of the presentations gave Gartner a chance to show off its own embrace of the 21st century: attendees voted for the winner of the Users Choice award by text and e-mail.

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