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CRM and Customer Experience

Ashok Dhiman, Director, Enterprise Customer Experience and Data Integration, The Hartford [NYSE: HIG]
Ashok Dhiman, Director, Enterprise Customer Experience and Data Integration, The Hartford [NYSE: HIG]

Ashok Dhiman, Director, Enterprise Customer Experience and Data Integration, The Hartford [NYSE: HIG]

CRM, as the name suggests is a set of tools and processes which helps a company manage their Customers, their ongoing relationship and communication with them effectively. It provides the sales, marketing and services teams in better understanding of their existing and potential customers so that they can align their products, services and communications with them accordingly.

In it’s very simple form CRM sits in-between the customer interactions with the company, people, brand, it’s products or services and combines/synthesizes that information with other data dimensions (financial, behavioral, social, operational and competition info). The information coming out from CRM tools and processes is then utilized to drive decisions which informs what better to offer our customers which in turn influences their decisions to engage with our brand, product and services. It’s a cyclic “continuous improvement” undertaking, which if done right provides bedrock for ongoing revenue and customer experience improvements for a given organization.

CRM covers a vast set of customer interactions, tools and processes, and have come a long way since its humble beginnings of being a tool just to centralize customer information and used by sales teams for lead management. Today CRM is used by marketing, customer experience, service, loyalty, social, product and strategy teams to get relevant information to drive their roadmap and strategy. The end goal of a CRM system is to use it effectively to drive revenue, customer experience, growth and retention.

 CRM tools continue to advance and taking on more functions - CRM teams should be open to adopt, change, innovate and continue to provide the needed insights to their respective organization 

CRM today is not just one team looking after a product and its output but a combination of multiple teams working across different parts of the organization collaborating together to utilize different insights from their CRM system to drive the bottom line and customer experience. Another big shift which has happened in CRM space in past decade has been to look customer touch points as journey. Customer engagements have shifted from transactional to be more interactive through social and multi-channels. Customers themselves have evolved and have moved beyond price and quality. They want to know where products are made, what the working conditions are, how materials are sourced, what environmental impacts are and how the customer experience is. Customers will pay more and stick with a specific company or brand if they find these attributes. These changes have pushed the CRM systems and processes to evolve and capture more information about customer behaviors and attitudes, apart from simple demographics and sales.

Those days are gone where a shop felt happy after the customers paid them and walked away. Today’s organizations need to have an ongoing pulse on their customers, even after sale has completed. A simple example of buying a refrigerator in store or ordering a computer online does not end at that transaction. We need to measure what customers thought of our communication with them post-sale, did we kept them informed through their preferred channel (email, phone, text)? Did we deliver the right item in right place at promised time? Did the product worked as intended after they started using it. All this information needs to be gathered in ethical way with permission from our customers so that CRM and supporting systems can take these additional data dimensions in to consideration when providing the insights to various internal teams.

One of the areas me and my team have spent time in last 7 years is measuring customer experience at each customer touch point, let be a purchase interaction or simple question asking about store timing. We measure customers’ experience as they traverse their journey with our people, products, brand and services. This information when used in tandem with financial, operational metrics and marketing data yields rich insights – some informing the tactical actions and some more strategic which helps in steering the ship in right direction mid and long term.

CRM and its supporting systems needs an organizational maturity, adoption and executive sponsorship which is essential to inculcate the culture which asks – “how will a specific action impact our customers’ experience”. Organizations need to go beyond just the business cases (inside out view) and also bring in the customer experience insights (outside in view) when they prioritize their product roadmap, services, communication and strategy.

I’d like to end with the future and importance of speed of insights and actions. It’s not just having CRM and supporting systems which get you the needed insights but how soon they can gather them and then how mature is the organization to act and take advantage of those insights. CRM tools continue to advance and taking on more functions - CRM teams should be open to adopt, change, innovate and continue to provide the needed insights. CRM has been, and will continue to be the key asset in delivering right customer experience, retain/gain customers and drive the company growth.

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