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How to get the most out of CRM in 2011

How to get the most out of CRM in 2011

By James Clark, Principal - EU FS Industry Solutions, Pegasystems

Competition for consumer share of wallet and loyalty has become increasingly fierce over the past five years. As a result businesses are now looking to change the way they have traditionally interacted with their customers and engage in meaningful, valuable and ultimately profitable interactions.

At the centre of these interactions sit customer service operations. However, this requires a fundamental shift in how many businesses view the primary channel for customer interactions - the contact centre - from that of a cost centre to that of a revenue centre.

Here are five ways that marketers can get the most of CRM in 2011 to achieve tangible gains in the form of improving the relationship with the customer, reducing churn and increasing up selling opportunities:

Focus on decision-management capability

Imagine software that can predict how a customer will react – what service he will want to buy next; how much money he is willing to spend, or whether he is in fact planning to cancel his contract and move to one of your competitors. Your customer service representative would always be one step ahead of you customer: offering him a better deal, up selling at the right time, convincing him to try a different product and most importantly ensuring he does not leave.

Based on aggregated learnings from the entire customer base, as well as each individual customer, a centralised customer decision hub can anticipate how a conversation with the customer will develop. It can support the call centre representative to select the next best action when he is talking to a customer and prompt the CSR to offer the most relevant proposition to a customer. Delivering those decisions within context of your customers next interaction, instead of unwanted proactive communications, will deliver value to not only the customer relationship but also the business bottom line

Weave social media into your CRM strategy

People have always shared their experiences about an organisation within their social group, yet now through social networking our customers networks can be shared in so many more ways. People now share their thoughts and opinions and solicit others’ opinions, sometimes long before they ever communicate with an actual vendor. As consumers' preference for social media continues to grow, it must be considered a viable approach to increasing ROI and customer satisfaction.

CRM solutions should treat social media as another communication channel, proactively monitoring online communities for negative ‘conversations’, treating them as individual’s but also as a potential trend to facilitating responses before they reach critical mass. It’s also important to look at this direct communication channel as an opportunity, with sales teams empowered to engage with customers that represent an up sell opportunity or poached from a competitor.

However, no one is a social media expert and these conversations require a unique mindset to ensure the company doesn’t get “burned”. Once again, the decision management hub can incorporate best practice into this channel and learn to empower teams or individuals to maximise the value of these conversations.

Learn to love multiple communication channels

Faced with an increasingly time poor populace, customers want to interact with businesses on their own terms via multiple communication channels that suit them. We have seen each generation embrace many new communication media (SMS, Chat, social media to name a few) and this trend will only continue.  Previously these communications channels operated independently, each its own information silo and there was no way of providing consistent customer service experience or take advantage of knowledge collected.

CRM systems today deliver multichannel interaction management which offers a true 360 view of the customer and enables a smooth shift of the communication process from one channel to another. For example, if a customer has initiated an enquiry via email and is calling the CSR to follow up, the system will automatically pull out all relevant data, including his previous email enquiry, actions taken and an overview of the next steps. This not only delivers a seamless customer experience, but improves the call handling process and develops up selling opportunities.

Treat customers as individuals

Price is considered to be most influential factor when making a purchase and as a result a plethora of comparison sites have achieved success in recent few years. However, I would argue that the value offered by the product or service, of which price features heavily, is a more apt description. The ability to offer a personalised service should be a key consideration in any customer communication.

While in the past, call centres operated independent departments for platinum, gold or bronze customers, process driven CRM solutions today allow a service agent to differentiate between customers and offer a tailored customer service at no extra cost and within a single resource pool. By enabling more sensitive and effective customer segmentation, intelligent CRM technology provides an excellent opportunity for marketers to develop tailored packages and to offerings most relevant to their customers.

This approach drives offer development and creates excellent up selling opportunities, while offering great personalisation of service.

Predict marketing trends and customers behaviour

Data is your most valuable asset. It represents the entire history of your organisation and its interaction with your customers. The good, the bad and the ugly. Not only does it offer an excellent source of knowledge from which to learn from retroactively, but also to proactively reach out to each customer.

A few years ago marketing campaigns were based on grouping customers into large clusters and offering tailored propositions based on outdated data gathered from old legacy systems. Advanced next generation CRM technologies enable prediction modelling based on the data gathered for the customers.

These models allow the system to ‘determine’ which customers are likely to buy certain products based on previous behaviour and interactions, or to forecast which products would be most sought after.

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