Customer relationship management, or CRM, is a term used to encompass a wide variety of activities that companies undertake to build, maintain, and nurture trusting relationships between themselves and their customers.
This can include both direct interactions, such as marketing, sales, and customer service; or it can consist of indirect activities such as sales forecasting, development of buyer personas, and trend analysis.
CRM: OK, so what is it?
The term is often used to refer to the software (and providers) organizations use to manage and maintain these external customer relations. In recent years, major developments in the areas of AI, cloud computing and storage, and robotic process automation (RPA) have lead to huge strides being made in this sector of the software industry.
So with all that information at hand, just what is CRM? Well, it’s all of the above. Organizations have at their disposal the major technological advancements, as well as the old-school approach of human interactions and putting the customer first. The trick to staying ahead in today’s rapidly changing business climate is to be able to mix and match these approaches, to the benefit of both the company and the customer.
Bottom line, and why all this matters
Building a solid, trusting relationship with your customers is the best way to keep them delighted with your company, your product, and your service. This is how the best companies in the world keep their customers coming back (not to mention the word-of-mouth marketing potential!).
Why this should matter to you, no matter the size of your company:
- Polls are continuously showing that for customers, it’s all about the strength of a company’s support. Nearly 80% report having cancelled contracts due to poor customer service.
- Word of mouth marketing is huge. Gone are the days when you can just sell something and hope the customer goes away happy. They’ll let you know, and more importantly they’ll let all of their friends and family know. That goes for the positive, as well as the negative, experiences.
- It’s far less costly to keep an existing customer happy than it is to find and onboard a new one.
- The technology exists to automate large swaths of this process. So the marketing team can focus their energy and time on the real-time interactions that matter most, leaving the update emails and customer contacts to the software.
Ways to strengthen your company’s CRM: Technology
There are three areas to focus on when looking to strengthen your company’s CRM: transparency, responsiveness, and availability. No surprises here, technology can be a strong asset in each of these areas.
CRM software mostly comes with automation baked right in...it’s just up to you to configure it. These tools can be used to guide the customer through the majority of their buyer’s journey, leaving only exceptions or wildly divergent situations for someone to handle manually. Everything from initial contact and data collection through and including shipping notices can be handled by the software.
- When a new site visitor signs up for email updates, their contact information is captured and entered into your CRM, which then emails the customer a confirmation message.
- When a purchase is made, or a trouble ticket entered, regular update emails can be scheduled to alert the customer to either the status of their order, or where in the queue their ticket is along with an estimate of when they’ll see resolution.
- And when an order is shipped, the customer will receive detailed tracking information, automatically.
This is a brief example, of course, but it’s demonstrative of the level of transparency people expect from the companies they do business with. If any step is missed, or if they are not kept abreast of developments in their order/ticket, today’s customer has no problem jumping ship for a competitor who will keep them fully updated through the entire customer journey.
Chatbots, powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), are the next wave of automation to consider when it comes to improving your customer experience. These bots allow customers to open a chat conversation at any time, even outside of office hours, and potentially have their questions answered immediately. The AI behind the chat partner learns on the job, so the more of these interactions that are completed, the better the answers provided by the software will get. Chatbots won’t replace your customer service representatives; however, when it comes to augmenting their ability to respond immediately, or nearly, this technology can’t be beat.
As mentioned above regarding responsiveness, chatbots make 24 hour customer service possible, without the need to outsource to a call center around the globe, or employ overnight workers. With automation like this in place, your customers can log on and get help within moments, anytime. That level of availability is becoming a necessity in today’s global marketplace.
Automation is CRM’s best friend
The ability to automate more and more easily repeatable, rote tasks such as those outlined above is making it ever easier for companies to provide the level of customer service that the public is coming to expect. Built in automation in most commercial CRM solutions, and third-party software such as chatbots (which are increasingly available in ITSM ticketing systems) are leading the way toward a more sustainable customer service model.
Along with maintaining a robust presence on social media—so potential and existing customers alike can interact with a real person representing the brand in a consistent voice—this adds up to the always available, easily trusted retail partner that will excel in today’s market.
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