The right CRM can be a key tool in helping your business become more customer-centric, a major goal for businesses today.
Of course, every business owner has always known that without happy customers, no business can succeed. But over the last decade, there has been much more attention paid to having a customer-centric focus.
That’s being driven by several major business trends that are not going away.
The stakes are higher than before for companies that have dissatisfied customers. Customers today have more choices that are more readily available to them than at any other time.
If they don’t have a good experience with your business, they can find your competitors online very quickly.
Customer experience guru Adrian Swinscoe talks about these new business pressures here:
On top of that, if they don’t have a good experience with your brand, they can share that online to (lots of) people very easily.
Also, more and more businesses are becoming part of the so-called ‘subscription economy,’ meaning that losing an unhappy customer will lose you a lot of future revenue.
Perhaps the biggest and most famous advocate of customer-centric business culture is Jeff Bezos:
“If there’s one reason we have done better than of our peers in the Internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word-of-mouth is so very, very powerful.”
The downstream effect of Amazon’s focus on the customer is that the standards are raised for your business–your customers expect the kind of positive experience that Amazon regularly delivers.
The response is a major increase in focus on the customer experience, especially among leaders charting the technology courses of their businesses.
In fact, in 2016, the consulting firm Econsultancy published a report that included a survey of hundreds of business leaders. When asked about the most important features of a business culture in the digital age, the leading response was ‘customer-centric.’
The consulting firm Deloitte put together a report in 2014 entitled, Customer-Centricity: Embedding it into your Organization’s DNA.
The report starts by acknowledging that customer expectations about experience have changed:
Customer expectations and behaviours have changed dramatically over the past decade. Organisations are expected to meet customers’ needs and expectations at every interaction, in return for customer loyalty. The ability to deliver this depends on the extent to which ‘customer-centricity’ is embedded within every single person in your business.
So, What is Customer-Centric?
Within the consulting world, there’s lots of nuanced discussion and some argument about the definition(s) of ‘customer-centric.’
It doesn’t mean fulfilling every unique wish of every customer-no business can survive that way.
A good, workable definition is something along the lines of: an approach to business that actively prioritizes a good or great experience for valued customers and that puts in place systems to deliver and measure that experience.
Of course you want to identify who are your valued (that is, valuable) customers and focus your efforts on making them delighted.
In its report, Deloitte identifies six key components for making your business customer-centric:
- Visible customer-focused leadership
- Understanding your customer
- Design the experience
- Empower the front line
- Metrics that matter
- Engage the back office
- Feedback drives continuous improvement
The good news is that your CRM can help you with all of these goals.
Providing visible customer-focused leadership.
If you want to be a customer-focused leader, you need to have the data and insights to do it. There’s no way to change anything if you don’t know what’s happening.
Your CRM empowers you (and your team members) to see in detail how customer relationships and experiences are developing and growing from the beginning to the end. You can pull out reports and see the data aggregated and also dive in to the details of particular interactions.
With a CRM all of our your relationships are documented, empowering you to make decisions and prioritize specific goals and activities.
Design the experience.
The graph by Deloitte shows customer value plotted against different stages of the relationship. Throughout, there are different interactions-some generated by your business, some by your customers.
Your path of interactions may differ, of course. But the truth is, valuable customers follow fairly predictable paths from prospect to life-long customer–and those paths can be optimized.
Your CRM lets you plan out these paths and test improvements. When a prospect first reaches out, for instance, you can track where this lead came from in your CRM.
You can then have a pre-defined series of tasks (for instance qualifying and informational calls, collateral sharing and specific email templates) that are assigned to the person handling the lead.
Perhaps once the lead becomes a client (and you convert the lead to client status in your CRM), a new team member will join in the responsibility of handling the account. Again, you can have predefined activity sets in place in your CRM to make this efficient and make sure steps don’t get missed.
And what about those customer-initiated interactions? Your CRM makes sure that they’re integrated into your customer relationship records.
If a customer emails to ask about another service he’s interested in, you want a record of that in the system. Perhaps that initiates another series of pre-defined activities. Or requires another person on your team to get involved. With a CRM, the opportunity to grow your relationship isn’t overlooked because the email gets lost (or siloed) in someone’s inbox.
And the customer of course, gets a better experience by having their request receive a quick and appropriate response.
Empower the front line.
Did your VP have a phone call with a large prospect that called in the morning while your sales rep was on the road to an face-to-face meeting with that prospect?
How do you ensure your sales rep is going to know about that call when he arrives at the meeting? If everyone is using the same CRM, your sales rep checks the lead profile on his mobile phone before going into the meeting and sees the note on the call entered by the VP.
This doesn’t just apply to the sales process, of course. The same types of information gaps about customers are filled during the relationship, allowing for better services and support. And a better customer experience.
Metrics that matter
If you can’t measure it, you can’t change it. Are leads from you website converting at a significantly lower rate than leads that come from phone calls?
Your CRM reporting will let you know about this. Maybe there’s a missing step somewhere in the onboarding process for web leads. Perhaps you need to review that process and test different ideas and see how to improve the rates.
Engage the back office.
Just like with the sales and support staff on the front line, the back office needs to be in the loop as well to deliver truly great customer experiences.
A CRM becomes the backbone of a business’ various systems, allowing you to design flows that work for customers no matter what departments are required to participate. Do the clients at your real estate practice prefer receiving documents from your administrative support at a specific time in the house-buying process?
Having a single CRM system that has your back office looped in with your agents makes that not only possible, but easy and efficient to do.
Feedback drives continuous improvement.
Delivering great customer experiences requires continuous testing and improvements. The data and reports from your CRM allow you to examine what’s working and what’s not and to tweak processes.
There’s nothing more satisfying than discovering that sending out one piece of specific content at a certain point in the sales process improves conversion by 8%.
Or discovering that sending a simple birthday card to all clients each year increases customer satisfaction by 6%.
CRMs allow you to manage your relationships with your customers and take control of the experience they have doing business with you.