Solving the CRM Conundrum

Ann McGlinchey, VP of E-Commerce, Digital Marketing, CRM, Positive Promotions
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Ann McGlinchey, VP of E-Commerce, Digital Marketing, CRM, Positive Promotions

Ask a number of companies about their CRM programs and you’re sure to get a variety of answers. For many companies, CRM refers to their leads-to-sales technology. For others, it is the email marketing program. And for still others, it’s the call center. Now, more than ever before, it is imperative to define CRM as an umbrella strategy – encompassing people, process, content and technologies – to track and manage every customer touch point, resulting in better customer engagement.

  For B2B, the sales funnel is morphing to a world where customers research purchases and services online before engaging a salesperson  

Thanks to the digital world, the traditional sales processes are changing. For B2B, the sales funnel is morphing to a world where customers research purchases and services online before engaging a salesperson. For B2C, customers are going online to compare prices – whether purchasing online or showrooming in a brick and mortar store. Today, the customer is in control, demonstrating a need to put them at the heart of everything we do.

Unfortunately, many organizations still view CRM as one piece of the overall customer experience. This creates organizational silos and islands of information. I have personally experienced situations in my career where a customer complained that he received five emails from my company on the same day, each from a different brand. In another company, a customer complained that she was corresponding with customer service regarding a defective product, and a sales person was calling her at the same time to sell her more.

The challenge facing organizations today is the ability to harness all the customer touchpoints, both internal and external, to help employees understand their current relationship with the customer. Internal touchpoints are the easier of the two, because organizations presumably know what technologies are in place – customer databases, marketing and sales automation systems, call center applications, order entry systems, etc. Depending on the landscape, organizations can do hard integrations between these resources, use API calls to share information, or establish an enterprise-wide reporting platform to bring various data attributes together and tell the customer story in a meaningful way. Most likely, it would be a combination of all of the above.

The external touchpoints present a greater challenge. While we have the ability to track people throughout the web, we have no control over who keeps their cookies enabled. Nor do we have control over what social media platforms are influencing decisions because of their viral nature. The tremendous volume of data generated in the digital world is challenging enough. But the real challenge is deciding what data is noise and what data represents important information in understanding the customer.

Tackling these issues requires a first step to define CRM as it relates to your company, then build the people, business processes, content and technologies around that definition. In my opinion, the companies that view CRM as encompassing everything that surrounds the customer and supports the customer lifecycle – from prospecting to sales, to onboarding new customers, to retention and/or loyalty programs, to impeccable customer service, and engagement with timely and relevant content, where customers are – will be the most successful.

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