Does your CRM need a facelift for an omnichannel world?

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems have come a long way from being simple sales contact tracking tools. Today’s CRM systems need to marshal customer relationships across a myriad of contact points and channels – from online self-service to counter sales.

CRM systems need to be able to manage ever-more demanding customers with short attention spans and little time for slow or negative-sounding responses. A customer who feels let down can do damage using social channels and cumulative negativity can have a serious impact on the bottom line.

Omnichannel puts the customer first

The emphasis of any CRM system must be on the customer first and foremost. A company which doesn’t fully integrate its management of communications made across different media can’t maintain a consistent contact with its customer.

A multichannel approach alone is not enough, because there is a danger that as customers move between channels, information is lost. For example, this can happen if a customer’s online transactions or call center dialogue is not shared with a retail outlet – and it will contribute to a poor customer experience.

Smart companies know this and adopt an omnichannel approach. This is channel-agnostic, and its focus is on the ‘customer journey’. It really doesn’t care whether that journey is taken by the internet equivalent of car, bicycle, train or foot.

An omnichannel approach to understanding and reaching out to customers requires two things: a well-integrated and customer-focused back end, and an organizational structure that places customer communications front and center. This isn’t about ensuring every single communications possibility is covered, but about giving equal, integrated weight to those which are, and about ensuring data is captured and put to best use from every single interaction.

Many companies already use omnichannel communications to both help reduce costs and maintain customer-centric relationships, and the potential here is huge. Research from telecoms infrastructure provider AsiaInfo suggests European telcos could save up to $4.6bn by using omnichannel CRM systems.

The value of social CRM

The modern CRM system is about much more than just tracking purchases and responding to customers when they are disgruntled. It is about more than knowing characteristics like someone’s age and purchasing history.

When your company announces a new product or service via social media, a social CRM system can track its reception. Just because you make your first announcement on Twitter doesn’t mean all the reaction will stay there. People will mention it on Facebook and elsewhere – and an integrated platform will monitor widely.

Meanwhile relationships with individual customer are enhanced because the system is able to integrate communications across platforms. You have a full communications history with any customer in one place. Moreover, you can utilize multiple communications channels. So, when a customer tweets you, you can ‘direct message’ them back quickly. If they then email you, you can email them by return. 

You can take social CRM a step further by identifying ‘fans’ of individual products or your brand and leveraging their loyalty, even helping them become advocates on your behalf.

Marketing automation meets CRM

Marketing automation systems often exist separately from CRM systems, though data can be shared between them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The former, which focuses on process, can integrate with the latter, which focuses on the customer. Systems like Zoho CRM and Salesforce Pardot combine both CRM and marketing automation.

As marketing automation becomes more sophisticated, companies using CRM systems that can’t take advantage may find it is time for a facelift.

An eye on the future

Gartner has identified five growth areas which will spur the development of CRM into the future: increased use of social, increased use of mobile, the rise and rise of big data, movement to the cloud and the development of the Internet of Things.

Some of this spend will inevitably go on CRM. If it is to be money well spent, then the facelift may need to be accompanied by a repositioning of digital marketing front and center of the organization as part of a refocusing of companies around their customers.

Find out more about the digital customer experience from Orange Business.