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Focus on the customer
Since its inception in the late 90s, the proponents and providers of CRM have been promising a new nirvana of customer centricity. Software platforms and social technologies promise to engage customers, educate them, analyze their buying behaviors, etc.
In today’s marketplace, the stakes are higher. So many transactions have transitioned to subscriptions, so getting and keeping relationships has much more value than previous, single transaction business models.
But what has CRM really done to make the customer’s experience better than ever?
In this report, we redefine customer relationships and share insights on how modern-day businesses can build long-lasting customer relationships and reach their business goals.
Gartner defines Customer Relationship Management as “the business strategy that optimizes revenue and profitability while promoting customer satisfaction and loyalty. CRM technologies enable strategy, and identify and manage customer relationships, in person or virtually. CRM software provides functionality to companies in four segments: sales, marketing, customer service and digital commerce.”
This definition of CRM does not place the ‘relationship’ at its core. While not inaccurate, it clearly considers the customers as something about which to strategize and optimize for profitability, rather than someone with whom to build a lifetime, personal relationship — arguably, the key to long-term business success.
Some critics say that Gartner’s clinical definition of CRM is the spirit in which most businesses to date have built their customer relationship management systems and processes, using technology as a substitute for the care and attention that every customer expects. Moving forward this will not be good enough.
The reason why Gartner’s definition falls short is because it ignores the technological, social, and economic forces that have forever changed customer behavior and customer interactions with brands and businesses. Here are a couple of examples:
Subscriptions vs transactions. Customer relationships have evolved from transaction-based model to subscriptions (think Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, etc.), which means that businesses have to foster meaningful ongoing relationships with customers, versus just winning them over for a one-time deal. Keep in mind that customers today have more alternatives at their fingertips than they had ever before — which brings us to the next point.
Switching brands. With a myriad of options and easy access, customers today can switch their product and service providers at the drop of a hat when they feel that their specific needs and expectations are not being met. Thanks to technology and what it has made possible, customer expectations are constantly rising, and there’s always a chance that someone else is offering a better, faster, more convenient, or cooler product or service. This shift in customer behavior means that you have to look beyond the obvious and understand customers and their needs at a granular level, anticipate their needs, and create highly personalized, meaningful moments with every interaction. And, in order to accomplish that, you need data.
Sales force automation technology does a great job of converting leads into sales. However, the availability of an ever-increasing number of higher quality alternatives and the ease with which to access them, are placing greater demands on enterprises to cultivate lasting relationships driven by customer needs rather than commissions. This means that the relationship part of CRM needs to address what happens after the money has been collected.
To fill this gap, use your CRM data to facilitate project delivery and improve customization. Project delivery involves tracking the customer engagement with products and services after the fact, i.e. after the sale is complete. In an enterprise sales context, this means looking at the timeline, customer satisfaction, trouble tickets, etc. and feed back into the sales cycle. This requires more than just a technology integration, but empowering sales staff with the processes and mindset to follow up after a commission check has been cut.
It can be challenging to create a highly personalized level of engagement across multiple touch-points in a customer relationship. The goal is to make every customer feel like they are the only one, whether there are tens or tens of thousands of them. But customer interactions tend to be orchestrated across multiple channels, such as sales calls, support requests, and project collaboration, via web, email, chat, text. Customers can get easily frustrated if they feel like they starting from scratch every time they engage with the brand.
Leading enterprises are starting to pursue a new style of engagement called moment marketing that engages customers across channels in a consistent and highly customized manner. The idea came from the mass consumer marketing space, but the concepts apply to enterprise engagements as well. The basic principle is to move from a predefined user journey or sales process to a style of engagement that matches a customer’s needs.
Quick sales are great for the bottom line in the short run, but are easy targets for upstart competitors. Longer lasting relationships require developing a far deeper appreciation of customers as individuals that goes beyond the traditional views of firmographics, demographics, and purchase history. Learn more about your customer, including:
All these insights, together, help businesses paint a clearer picture of who their customers truly are, allowing them to tailor more effective communication with their customers over their lifetime, ultimately forging stronger relationships.
This requires bringing in a more complete view of a contact’s communications history, key relationships, events and tasks, social profiles, sales opportunities, and project involvement. Enterprises can leverage this data to employ unique relationship graph engines and complex algorithms to automatically capture the links between contacts, organizations and the business relationships they share and use these insights to build detailed and multifaceted social profiles of their customers. In the long run, this kind of approach not only helps to build lasting business, but it also strengthens the bonds of professional engagement and nurtures customers for life.
Rethinking your entire customer philosophy — and aligning your business model, people, and operations to it — is a huge undertaking. Here’s a summary of our insights to get you started: