CRM tools have revolutionized customer engagement

Changing customer habits and the use of technology have encouraged a whole new set of CRM tools that can provide faster access to information.

SQDM shares an article published by the TechTarget portal, highlighting customer engagement through social media and how to strengthen a CRM business strategy by paying attention to such channels.

Customer relationship management is certainly nothing new, and yet the rapid evolution of CRM presents the market with a sense of almost perpetual novelty.  Today’s CRM tools provide, by far, many more capabilities than traditional technologies, and include features that make them indispensable for both small and large businesses.

What is driving this growth in CRM?  For businesses, it’s the advent of mobile and cloud technologies-better tools for accessing information immediately make CRM a real-time necessity.  For customers, social media is rapidly expanding the role of the buyer in market evolution, product development, and the proliferation of effective marketing and sales channels.

Customer engagement strategies today

Increasingly, as social media opens up new ways to connect with existing and potential customers, it becomes more important to refresh customer engagement strategies – not just frequently, but constantly.

Managing customer relationships has become more complex in recent years – for no other reason than the amount of customer information to manage.  But more than that, it’s the customer who defines how the engagement takes place; customers rely on social media tools including Facebook and Twitter to expose their complaints and to pay good attention is up to the marketing and sales teams.

Technology and customer perception

The core of CRM is to create a more personal approach to attracting and retaining customers as you add big data that can more effectively represent the market as a whole.

The biggest shift recently has been towards a two-way customer engagement; not only coming up with a better understanding of the customer and a better plan for responding to their needs, but also opening up new channels of information.  This includes learning to listen to customers through social media, to know what is being said about a company’s services and products.

Technology has quickly made these channels reliable sources of brand awareness and new avenues of customer engagement, going beyond marketing and sales.  Mobile technology and cloud platforms make this new communication simple and seamless.  The challenge is to devise the best strategy to make it work.

How does CRM benefit customer involvement?

CRM tools do much more than add customer profiles and analyze buyer behavior.  Here are some of the latest customer engagement features:

Selective presentation of social media.  As attention spans are reduced in the Internet age, CRM empowers marketing teams to target the right customers in social media through a combination of analytics and demographic data.

Pre and post behaviours.  Social media monitoring can create a map of the path a customer has taken on the internet, illuminating not only their buying habits, but also their social profile.  This provides knowledge about what customers are interested in and what they think is important.

Two-way communication. Through social media, it is now possible to directly engage customers and prospects beyond the confines of the company – not only by listening to what they say to each other about the brand, but also by opening a door that allows for inferences about product development, improved customer service and peer-to-peer product support.

The evolutionary market of CRM tools

All these innovations are derived not from the CRM market as such, but from its response to changing customer habits and the use of technology.  The rapid evolution of CRM and the steady advance of new functionalities in CRM tools, represent the rapid adaptation to a growing participation that customers have online.

CRM tools keep pace with the evolution of social technology and expand at the same (or nearly the same) rate with every shift in consumer behavior in social media and technology, prompting corresponding improvements in technology and CRM methodology.  Without a doubt, today’s CRM tools look very different from traditional CRM management tools.

A quick look at traditional CRM

From the beginning, CRM has sought to improve a company’s means of identifying, attracting and retaining customers, as well as automating these processes as much as possible.  This includes generating new sales leads from marketing teams, scoring those leads and following up on those that look like good prospects to convert into sales.

Part of that task has included becoming more adept at fine-tuning-and correctly employing-demographic data to support the development of those leads.  The other part of that task includes cultivating the profiles of potential customers that provide knowledge-not just of their buying habits but an overview of their lifestyles, with the goal of knowing the customer’s needs so that you can determine how they may change over time.

Then comes the refinement of the sales processes to align them with that improved marketing effort, synchronizing sales with a highly accurate identification that allows to establish where the customer is within the cycle or path.  The concept of the pipeline is centered on the customer’s purchase cycle and allows for an individualized customer experience as well as broader opportunities for the sales team to intervene and resolve incidents.

Finally, there is the problem of retaining customers over the long term, which requires constant care of the relationship and permanently cultivating brand loyalty.  Turning a customer into a loyal one in the long term requires careful study of their buying habits, attention to their needs and articulated answers to their questions or requests, as well as early, personalized and effective resolution of their incidents.  Nurturing the relationship after marketing and sales have done their job is the real core of effective CRM – it is the most effective individual contribution to a positive customer experience.

As discussed above, these core CRM functions are now more complex and more flexible thanks to the ubiquity of social media and increased customer engagement.  Social CRM, which includes two-way customer engagement, listening to expressed brand sentiment and cultivating loyal customers as brand ambassadors, is taking CRM to new levels of effectiveness.

Cloud-based CRM is also rapidly advancing technology, as easy access to information is transforming traditional processes into real-time operations.  This adds a wealth of demographic data to customer activity, enabling analytical calculations that help companies plan their next steps.

Latest developments in CRM

Much “Behind-the-Scenes” development has improved CRM technology in recent years.  The growth is not obvious at first glance but it makes a big difference in the quality of the data that goes into the CRM process.  Analytics and big data drive the intelligence behind lead generation and engagement strategies and most major cloud platforms now offer artificial intelligence and built-in analysis tools, making these capabilities available to companies of all sizes.

Sales CRM and e-commerce are hybrid models that are rapidly emerging to improve transactional efficiency between websites.  Business CRM information can be integrated with e-commerce websites to capture relevant information about customer behavior, consolidating processes that were previously kept in silos-ordering, delivery and tracking, inventory, and sharing that information with peers.

The self-evolving Internet of Things has not been left behind; Gartner calls it one of the top five CRM engines, as it expands the information that defines a customer’s behavior in ways that improve predictive power and responsiveness.  The retail market will be able to respond at the individual level.  Marketers will adjust their messages to customers in real time and customer service will be able to get in touch before a service failure occurs.

Although the cloud is driving the evolution of CRM, on-premise options continue to be offered, with the advantage of better integration with legacy systems.  This is an important consideration for many organizations, as information from a CRM can be useful to the entire enterprise, even forming its own information core.  A solid on-premise implementation can serve as a cornerstone for reformulating in-house information management.

The CRM market today

Traditional CRM players have kept up with market developments, responding with new features and improvements to classic functionality.  Broader and more established platforms such as Salesforce Sales Cloud and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are cultivating social media functionality and expanding core CRM functions, while smaller platforms (SugarCRM, Zendesk and HubSpot) focus mainly on CRM functionality, such as marketing campaign management, flexible customer application integration and/or customer service improvement.

The leading market players are a healthy mix of large or small providers – some with monolithic platforms that respond to every conceivable need (at some cost), while others are more limited, but also more affordable.  Some platforms are on-premise, some in the cloud, some in both; many offer social CRM functionality, and the wide spectrum of cost models means there are options for businesses of all sizes.

CRM is mission critical in the modern business, for many obvious reasons and for others not so much.  The main one, of course, is that competitors are surely strengthening their CRM tools to improve their operation. Each company has its own needs and operational differences, so identifying whether a CRM can help, where it should be deployed, and how to use it is not easy.  A number of important questions must be answered in order to make such determinations.

Read the full article, here.

For more than 11 years, SQDM -Software Quality Driven Management- has advised a number of companies with professional consulting services on CRM and IT strategies.  SQDM is an official partner of leading manufacturers in the industry including Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle and AuraPortal.

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