Somewhere along the way, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) lost its focus. The systems originally named after the customer relationship gradually morphed into management reporting tools. The customer relationship touches nearly every department and division within an enterprise, but CRM systems became the exclusive domain of sales and marketing teams. Even within those organizations, CRM systems often have a limited use.
Recently, though, many businesses have awakened to the importance of the customer experience. They want to engage customers more effectively, and they need a detailed and comprehensive picture of the customer beyond the sales and marketing cycles to do it. As a result, they’re rethinking the role of CRM and how it can be a resource for every department and specialization that affects the customer experience.
Here are several best practices innovative companies are using to create a more customer-centric enterprise with a new generation of CRM systems.
Build customer-centricity into the CRM implementation strategy
The job of creating a CRM platform that engages customers at every touchpoint throughout the entire customer experience begins at the beginning. Too many companies make the mistake of simply implementing a CRM system over existing processes; effectively automating dysfunctional practices they used to perform manually. They assume CRM will make their enterprise more customer-centric by default without using the implementation process to rethink core assumptions about the customer experience.
A CRM implementation is an opportunity to weed out the faulty assumption that sales and marketing own the customer relationship. The implementation project must recognize, virtually every area within the enterprise plays a role in shaping and managing the customer relationship—and cultivating a rich customer experience requires processes that cross traditional enterprise boundaries and data silos. To achieve this, implementation teams should include representatives from support, service, operations, finance, and any other departments that rely on customer data or contribute to the customer experience. This can help eliminate the “not my department” mentality that makes it significantly harder for customers to do business with a company.
Use CRM to foster enterprise-wide collaboration
The customer’s experience is holistic, based on the sum total of interactions with a business. However, enterprises are typically arranged as silos — and CRM is widely seen as the system that belongs to the sales and marketing silos.
The reality is the bulk of the customer’s experience occurs after the sale, and the treatment they receive from departments other than sales and marketing is often a decisive factor in whether they will continue to do business with an organization. Used as a platform for post-sale collaboration, CRM can help overcome the fragmented, function-specific view of the customer relationship that can damage the quality of the experience. It can provide the fabled 360-degree view of the customer needed for the cross-department collaboration that’s essential to a rich, relevant, and evolving customer experience. It can also provide those teams and departments interacting with the customer post-sale the same insight and historical perspective needed to deliver a personalized experience.
Integration is so much more than a technical consideration. When CRM integrates with key systems such as an ERP, it can help ensure that the entire enterprise stays on the same page when it comes to customer care. Data on evolving scenarios such as a supply chain disruption or component shortage can be as valuable to sales, marketing, and support teams as it is to operations decision makers. Customer-facing teams can use that data to engage customers proactively and find solutions. Ideally, CRM systems will be tightly integrated with those operational systems used to manage any function that has a potential impact on the customer experience.
Siloed systems encourage the territorial mindset that makes it significantly harder to collaborate across enterprise boundaries — and a rich, relevant customer experience relies on that collaboration. In this era where the cost of switching providers continues to drop, an enterprise simply can’t afford a scenario where one area of the business isn’t aware of another’s interactions and history with a customer.
Be open to innovation
Companies that provide great customer experiences anticipate customer needs rather than react to them. They see what a customer will want before the customer even knows they want it. Being first to market with a new category of product or service can give customers the confidence that they’ve made the right choice to do business with a company that sets the agenda for an industry. At the same time, though, innovations can quickly become me-too offerings. Businesses have a much shorter time frame to differentiate themselves before an innovative product or business model becomes standard practice.
In the realm of the customer experience, one way market leaders distinguish themselves is through personalization. Today’s customers expect a rich experience that’s relevant to their needs and interests. Delivering on that demand for personalization requires real-time insight into customers—and anticipating needs before customers serve up sufficient data on their unique situations. This proactive approach is only possible through CRM solutions that offer advanced analytics and AI capabilities. Where flesh-and-blood analysts need significant volumes of data to find the patterns hidden in the background noise, AI can spot trends and probabilities with a minimal amount of input. It can help boost outcomes in surprising, sometimes counter intuitive ways that human intelligence simply can’t match — and it can do it quickly to keep a company ahead of customer demands and competitive pressures.
The takeaway: A richer customer experience requires a new breed of CRM solutions
In virtually every industry segment, businesses are betting on the value of providing more engaging, compelling experiences to customers. They’re discovering they can use next-generation CRM systems to help every customer-facing department access the same integrated source of data to ensure that customer care is proactive, consistent, and personalized — and reinvent the way their entire enterprise contributes to the customer experience.