Bridging the gap between CRM and communication
28th Feb 2011
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Marlon Bowser looks at the importance of linking customer communications to the information gathered by CRM systems.
There is a CRM solution working at the heart of any successful organisation. Certainly, it is great to be able to gather and store lots of customer information, but its true worth lies in actually using the information, not just to understand your market better, but to communicate more effectively to retain and get maximum value from each and every customer.
CRM in isolation doesn’t ensure an organisation has the right strategy for customer interaction. We live in a fast moving world of 24x7 communications with more ways than ever before to talk to customers. Knowledge captured by your CRM solution needs to be harnessed and used dynamically to deliver highly tailored, targeted multi-channel marketing and customer service, every step of the way.
In fact, it is possible to use the information held within an existing CRM system to personalise each and every customer interaction. And by acknowledging customers as individuals and treating them accordingly, negative experiences can be avoided. Instead, positive emotions such as feeling valued and cared for can add to a positive experience and enhance loyalty.
The problem is that most CRM solutions are designed to capture and analyse information and ensure maximum efficiency in dealing with and managing customers. They are not designed to support direct interaction with customers. So while CRM systems can help to get things operationally right, they do not look at the wider issue of improving the whole customer experience. And these days, customers expect and demand that little bit more in their dealings with an organisation.
In reality, customer experience may be the single most important factor in achieving financial success. Brand loyalty is purely and simply the sum-total of all experiences served up by an organisation, and loyalty adds to bottom-line profit and sustained success.
Rather than expecting customers to fit around the way an organisation does business and communicates, these processes should be, where possible, automatically adapted to meet individual customer’s needs. Knowing how, when and why your customers want to interact with you and acting upon this information is extremely valuable. Having to tell a customer ‘the computer says no’ is simply not an option when they have asked what seems to them like a simple request; such as a ‘could you text me to remind me about my delivery’ or ‘please don’t call me’ email.
To get the most out of CRM data, there has to be a further link. It has to be opened up to all of the people and systems across your organisation that have any customer contact. But this can take a serious amount of time as well as money; and also presents significant operational challenges in terms of performance, governance and day-to-day control.
What’s needed is a secure and controlled environment that can make CRM data readily available to customer service, marketing and other business departments, on demand – in essence, agile CRM. By making CRM flexible and integrated with communications channels, new and improved business processes for improving customer interaction can be rapidly tested and operationally deployed, without the risk of disruption to existing systems.
Solutions step up to the mark
But now multichannel marketing and customer-service automation solutions are evolving to help to unlock the customer interaction potential of CRM, enabling a more personalised approach to customer service and marketing automation.
Interactive voice response (IVR), mobile text messaging (SMS) and email can be made more intelligent and personalised by using CRM data already held and also enable the acquisition of new data as part of a progressive strategy.
Valuable data is brought to the front-line of customer interaction, where it is actually needed to improve marketing, service and support on a day to day basis, making business functions more personalised. And importantly, value-added services can be implemented that improve the customer experience and increase loyalty.
For example, if a customer’s buying habits are known, then it does little good sitting in a back room CRM system; this information can be used to send alerts when a new relevant product is being launched or if there is a special offer on something they have bought in the past. These alerts could be sent via text, email, outbound voice etc. – depending on the customer preference data held on the system. These preferences may vary depending on the scenario; for instance, reminders about service calls or bill payments.
Similarly, by linking customer communications to CRM systems, inbound calls can be handled automatically with a personalised response. Speech-enabled IVR that actually makes the experience better is made possible, with dynamic content tailored to the caller, rather than flat generic 'press 123' menus. Calls are shorter and self-service containment rates are higher.
By unlocking this valuable CRM data and integrating it with all outbound and inbound customer communications, a business is able to dramatically improve its customer experience management. This will not only help to keep the customers satisfied, but will improve the reputation of the brand and grow the business – and everyone knows a good reputation is priceless.
Marlon Bowser is CEO at HTK.
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