Know Thy Customer: How a CRM Upgrade Can Generate Consumer Insight

May 31, 2016

Article ImageToday's customers are always on the go, always plugged in, and always a click away from a lift to the airport or an Orange is the New Black marathon. With companies like Uber and Netflix on the rise, consumer expectations are higher than ever. Meanwhile, companies find their customer bases growing across countries and times zones, and they're struggling to deliver the frictionless experience their customers have come to demand. Worse still, many are relying on legacy technologies that can't cope with the layers of complexity built into today's business processes.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software that was supposed to improve customer engagement can actually be doing more harm than good. As employees spend their time managing disconnected CRM systems, their customers and prospects are getting left behind. This is an expensive oversight, considering that the acquisition of a new customer can be five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. That's why companies are looking for ways to upgrade their systems, their customer interactions, and most importantly their mindsets.

Records Management Past Weighing You Down?

The problem with traditional CRM systems is that they evolved out of inflexible data structures. Modern companies are bogged down by their records management past, dealing with static, duplicate, and often irrelevant data points, while managing piecemeal CRM systems that don't operate across departments and can't adapt to the company's ever-changing, ever-demanding customer base.

To engage today's customers, companies will need to revamp their CRM platforms so that they focus on the customer first. Of course, this is not just a technology problem. Businesses will need to reimagine their organizations from end-to-end, transforming their culture, their systems, and their inter-departmental functionality so they can deliver customer experiences that don't just meet customer expectations, but blow them away.

Does Your Company's Mindset Need an Upgrade?

While any company representative would tell you their customers come first, many don't even realize they prioritize short-term goals and status quo processes that keep them in their comfort zones. I'm thinking here of the "see what sticks" marketing strategies that make little effort to personalize content to the customers on the receiving end. These strategies include "batch-and-blast" email campaigns, and call centers that hurry their customers off the phone, pressured by their managers to increase productivity.

More customer interactions are not always better, and companies will have to first change their perspective to recognize they could be delivering a new kind of interaction: a highly personalized, quality one-to-one customer experience. Companies that make the most progress in customer loyalty are wholly focused on holistically transforming everything from their company culture to their KPIs to their workflow so they're all centered on what's best for their customer.

Breaking Free from Legacy Thinking

Indeed, the legacy CRM systems that fuel the "see what sticks" mindsets have been built to optimize efficiency, not dexterity. Dexterous CRM technology has the ability to adapt to shifting demographics, histories, and desires so each customer feels listened to rather than accosted by one-size-fits-all marketing campaigns. What today's companies need is a more evolved CRM system that has both the analytical and predictive brainpower to meet those in-the-moment customer expectations, and to forecast what they might be in the future. In this way, technology and predictive analytics can be applied to turn generalized marketing campaigns and cursory customer service calls into a much more personal, much more human interaction.

Everyone has had the maddening experience of calling a customer service center and getting passed from department to department. With each new contact, you have to reiterate all of your information - ID number, confirmation code, model number, etc. - just to be rerouted to a new person asking the same questions. This is not the fault of the customer service agents, who are doing their best with the tools they've been given. It's the fault of an old fashioned system that can't override department silos and can't provide the rich customer data needed to ascertain the caller's immediate needs. 

The Power of Context

Great customer service is realized at the intersection of real-time behavioral data and rich historical data, all based on the customer's past transactions, interactions, locations, and so on. These data points are synthesized through the power of predictive analytics to provide a meaningful picture of the customer's current needs. As the conversation unfolds, a great CRM system will capture the call and add it to the customer's case, increasing the relevancy of future interactions.

For example, when the customer calls in, the agent will be armed with a case of past issues and former conversations. Not only is this agent better prepared to anticipate the customer's needs, but can also gauge their frustration level and the possible risks and benefits of fulfilling their request and additionally offering a reward, discount or cross-sell or action that's right for that unique customer. 

Today's customers live in an on-demand world. They expect their interactions with enterprises to be as seamless as a one-on-one conversation. That means that customer data needs to be current, adaptive, and interactive. Relationships that are anchored in this kind of dynamic insight breed an atmosphere of mutual respect and customer loyalty. That loyalty, over time, results in a huge financial value for the enterprise. To achieve loyalty among future customers, companies will not only have to rely on sophisticated CRM platforms to carry out these complex predictive functions, they'll need to look inward to examine their current processes and to ask themselves if they really have been putting their customers first.  

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)