In today’s economy, it is difficult to simply employ intuition and assumptions when trying to maximize the customer relationship. Data is required for informed and better decision making, but only if it is integrated and not locked into silos. For midsize businesses, gaining new customers and maximizing the value of existing customers are paramount. How you go about this is the challenge.
Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 9a)
CRM lets companies use data mining strategies and segmentation analysis to identify patterns in customer behaviors. Marketers with CRM are empowered and able to identify habits and anticipate future purchasing needs. Customer service agents are able to qualify a lead instantly and to proactively make recommendations regarding purchases. At the same time, checking data against address-correction databases, opt-out suppression files and do-not-call registries ensures the right customers are reached—and on their terms. The power of information generates results, moving a company from reactive to proactive decisions.
CRM solutions have been developed and deployed with the best of intentions: to help firms make more profitable sales and service decisions. Unfortunately, in some implementations the solutions over-promised and under delivered on the results, at high costs and with long lead times. These traditional CRM tools are outmoded in today’s dynamic, real-time global digital business environment. However, midsize firms now have the opportunity to take control by embracing and integrating advanced technology when deploying their CRM solutions. Modularity, cloud delivery and mobile enablement, coupled with analytics, data integration, collaboration and social media capabilities, ensure substantial benefits, reasonable costs and quick implementations that provide a bankable ROI.
Customer service enhancement, in the contact center and online, reinforces the benefits of this smarter approach to CRM with customers while enabling improved productivity. In addition, the smarter approach to CRM can deliver midsize companies other business value, including:
- The ability to understand and take advantage of the rich data the companies possess
- New insights into their customers, giving the company competitive advantages
- The agility to meet the demands of the customer to collaborate when and how they feel most comfortable engaging with the company.
Continued in Part 9b
Enterprises have also taken the lead on social media, in part because of greater customer brand awareness and consequently their focus on projecting and protecting it. Midsize companies are behind them as they are still trying to figure out this channel.
Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 8b)
Contact centers are key conduits for customer interactions in both B2C and B2B environments. They may represent the only opportunity for customers to interface with companies. Customers’ impressions of firms are often shaped by their experiences with self-service tools and live agents. Unfortunately, many companies often neglect their contact centers, treating them as cost centers rather than as strategic assets. To an extent, this is understandable: these operations are costly. Then again, losing dissatisfied customers is also expensive.
To lower costs, most firms have deployed IVR systems to divert customers from interacting with live agents, but too often these installations have been made with little regard to customer usability—with complex, hierarchical menu structures. Customers often experience long queues before reaching agents, as well as delays while agents toggle between apps. Often, information entered into the automated IVR must be repeated. Agents themselves may be poorly selected, trained and coached.
The ROI is there from contact center investments to address these issues and deliver a better customer-retaining-and-attracting customer experience. They enable the smarter approach to CRM by improving the customer experience while enhancing productivity. IVR improvements (including deploying speech recognition applications) encourage customers to stay in the automated channel. Web chat, when deployed properly, can provide highly personable and productive service. With it, an agent can handle multiple interactions at the same time. Skills-based routing to well-trained and managed agents permits high-quality, individualized service, while workforce management tools enable managers to efficiently schedule these employees. Agent performance optimization (APO) tools shorten calls, lower costs, and, more importantly, improve the overall customer experience, bolstering customer satisfaction and retention. Automated outbound notification tools give customers insight into important changes like fraud alerts or service delays.
Continued in Part 9
Improved CRM techniques enable business leaders to mine data for customer insights and present appealing offers in real time.
Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 8a)
In today’s economic environment, there are no new, big untapped markets of affluent consumers, businesses, governments or institutions. Consequently, business managers have to find ways to grab bigger wallet share from current customers—while they retain those customers—and/or go after competitors’ customers or expand into markets in other countries. Improved CRM techniques enable business leaders to mine data for customer insights and present appealing offers in real time.
Whereas many business leaders are working with their IT counterparts in midsize companies to consider embracing Cloud CRM solutions, overall they have been lagging behind small companies and enterprises in their current use of them. Moreover, the adoption of CRM solutions has been lower on their priority lists than data storage or database management applications. While enterprises have embraced CRM for B2B and B2C, midsize outfits have largely employed CRM solutions as B2B sales force automation applications. The chief reasons are their cost and complexity. Consumer-based CRM applications require high contact-center functionality, spread out over many more users (agents and supervisors), in order to interact with customers over multiple live and self-service inbound and outbound channels.
Continued in Part 8b
A smarter approach is one that seeks to resolve functional gaps in a company’s operational performance. It is an approach that focuses on customer-centric processes, including improved contact center, IVR and Web self-service; customerpermitted, proactive, outbound, multichannel notification; and, where there is an advantage to be gained, multiple language support.
Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 7b)
It also incorporates marketing, scripting and localization to serve global customers, with procedures for data collection and use. It identifies and targets specific metrics of performance so that the potential benefits of improved efficiency, productivity, and greater revenue can be projected as part of the justification for CRM. Lastly, it entails integration with other vital processes, including accounts receivable/billing/collections, ERP and shipping/receiving (i.e., supply chain management) to help serve, support, attract and keep customers from end to end.
The case for a smarter approach to CRM is not just about a return on investment (ROI) or a payback analysis; it is also about the opportunity costs of not implementing an effective CRM solution. For the marketing manager, how long can poor response rates to marketing initiatives be justified? For the customer service manager, how can conversion ratios be improved and call handling times be reduced in a tough economy? Companies seeking more functionality from their
current management systems can make the case for a CRM platform that can help close these functional and ROI gaps while expanding on performance capabilities.
The global economy is in slow or no-growth mode. The International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook predicts a lower than three percent rise in U.S. output through 2013. The European, Japanese and Canadian economies will also experience sluggish growth. The IMF warns of inflation risks and increased financial volatility in this environment. The world, and businesses, still look to the U.S. for growth.
Continued in Part 8