What is your focus for a CRM solution? To store customer facts or to drive increased sales volume, improved customer experience and stronger communication? The financial returns or value to an organisation from a CRM solution depends entirely on action or engagement. Simply collecting customer facts, whilst interesting, delivers only a low value return. Real value is achieved when action is taken using the gathered facts to close a new deal, resolve a potential issue, etc.
So what prevents action being taken? In our view there are two reasons for this: people and connectivity. People because they are the ones that need to recognise a situation or an opportunity and take action to pursue it. Many lack the drive or proactive disposition necessary, which is a topic outside the scope of this blog. Connectivity since the facts gathered in typical CRM systems are a snapshot at a moment in time – assuming it is recorded in the first place. We need to be continually connected to the behaviour and actions of our customers (or partners, etc.). We require as a minimum:
- The emails sent back and forth within their contact record – not just the ones we record, but the critical ones as a minimum and ideally all of them;
- The calls we placed or received;
- The meetings we held; and
- The documents we sent or received.
The above list is generally supported by most CRM’s. Implementing connectivity to mail systems can solve most of the above (emails, calendars, contacts). Despite the availability of these connections, it is common for it not to be done well. It is however only part of the story. There is a lot of additional interaction occurring with the customer that we are often blind to. Examples include:
- Chat dialogue;
- Social posts;
- Website visits;
- Links clicked;
- Forms completed;
- email opens/forwards;
A recent study estimated the volume of this type of traffic to be 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily (there is a nice infographic contextualising this here). This is referred to as “big data” and whilst not all of it is relevant, some of it may be. Being able to integrate these interactions within the CRM and relate it to our contact or customer embellishes our view and adds to our understanding.
For example, imagine for a moment that we held a meeting with a customer to discuss a proposal recently. Shortly afterwards we are able to see that a document we sent confirming the offer was read and forwarded to the Group CEO. Subsequently we see that the CEO followed a link contained in the document, browses to the associated web page and proceeds to complete our form to download further information. This request was not received. We can see however that the form on our website, which is monitored by a customer experience tool to quantify abandonment, shows a 70% failure rate. We therefore take proactive steps to contact the customer and send through the additional information they may require.
If we rely solely on a CRM as a system of record and we do not have access to further interactions, we would send the document as before. However, we would receive no response and assuming we were proactive nonetheless we would place calls or send emails to ascertain the status. We might wait far longer to do this though giving the competition time to thwart our efforts.
So to summarise this comparison, CRM Systems generally fall into the category “systems of record”. They focus on record keeping and their primary purpose is to provide a base of data – customer data. They deliver information to a company’s staff to (hopefully) facilitate action. They are by definition internally focused. You most definitely require a CRM, but it really only acts as your database or store of information.
The alternative category is “systems of engagement”. Systems of engagement on the other hand are an evolutionary response to the amount of social conversation we now experience. They are a dynamic organism and provide us with far greater insight into the behaviour and actions of our relationships – customers, partners, etc.
Although many CRM solutions have extended beyond their original design to include connectivity to social platforms such as Twitter, Linkedin, etc., they have not truly become a system of engagement. Systems of engagement reach out and connect with many different touch points, encourage peer interactions and often leverage cloud technologies to provide the capabilities to enable those interactions.
Ask us more about how we assist clients with CRM solutions that are truly connected.
Most people would cite the latter although in practice the former is a more common outcome.