In a business landscape that grows to be more and more customer-centric by the day, instilling the right resources for establishing the very same is an essential for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Cloud support services have further fueled this trend, as cloud-based resources have become easier than ever to access, deploy and maintain. Add to this the proliferation of dedicated partnerships between cloud providers and businesses (such as that of an AWS partner, for example). This makes for a powerful combination that not only ensures business continuity, but also leverages customer satisfaction through a customer-first approach.
At the end of the day, attracting new customers and retaining existing ones are two cornerstones to any business, irrespective of industry, specialty or volume. With digital platforms spearheading competition, businesses are scrambling to make their mark. It’s hard to stand out, as a constant stream of noise brings in numerous competitors that are also vying for your customers’ attention. As limitless options flood your customers’ many communication channels, how can your brand distinguish itself from the rest?
While this is a question that has long since been considered by many a business leader, it has become all the more imperative as of now, thanks to aggressive competition brought on by today’s highly digitized world. While business and brand strategies are constantly revamped to serve the changing needs of customers across multiple geographies and budgets, these need the right backing to flourish. Enterprise software has always been at the forefront to augment business visions and objectives, but with so many options and technologies out there, it’s crucial to know what’s needed – and what’s suitable.
In the context of customer support and relationships, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software has long since proven to be a lynchpin for tying various customer-facing operations together. But it goes well beyond that. Today’s technologies also integrate with other business units to offer a holistic solution that unifies operations across the organization – and not just within the sales department, or related lines of business such as marketing. AI is another force entering this dynamic mix, as advancements such as Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) further heighten customer understanding in a programmatic manner.
Read on below to learn what CRMs are all about, and the many technologies that make this part of enterprise software tick today.
Short for Customer Relationship Management, CRM software enables stringent record-keeping of all customer data, while managing day-to-day activities such as inquiries. At its core, CRMs are built to ensure every customer’s data is securely stored in a proprietary system, while also allowing for quick and consistent retrieval from databases so that any activities can be logged to map trends and patterns better. What was once operated in a vacuum can now be connected to a larger, more unified system, such as an ERP; customer data from CRMs are popularly integrated with inter-departmental software such as marketing, accounting and supply chain, in order to eliminate silos during the typical customer lifecycle.
Forming part of a larger chain of business software, CRMs have also embraced the buzz brought on by Customer Experience (CX) to analyze sentiments and understand customer intents better. This has been a major boon for departments such as marketing, as product recommendations can be tailored to match customer desires at any given point in time – programmatically, that too. As a result, CRMs are now an integral front-facing component for sales teams across the modern business landscape, as they enable more than just basic record-keeping and activity logging.
Here are some popular features of CRM software:
Customer Experience (CX).
Today’s business focus has moved from basic customer support to multi-dimensional CX, as leaders realize the importance of offering a flawless customer journey for both brand new and long-term customers. Increased competition across digital platforms have rendered even the slightest loopholes and lags costly, as users feel no need to wait since alternative options are always round the corner to fall back on. With customer abandonment an all too common predicament nowadays, establishing flawless CX is key to attracting customers, engaging them – and keeping them.
The analytical capabilities of CRMs serve this purpose, as mapping trends across the spectrum can help your business identify what exactly customers want, when, where and why. This also extends over to how your business interacts with a customer; identifying which communication channels they prefer is key to reaching them at their highest convenience, while also being informed of what they may possibly be seeking for well ahead of time.
On a side note, CX also extends over to how your website and mobile application is designed; UI/UX will determine whether every interaction a user makes is simple, accessible and takes them one step closer to an objective that is valuable for both the user as well as your business. With customer journeys becoming increasingly complex thanks to an on-demand consumer landscape, as well as many third-party entities being involved in a typical transaction (think Uber Eats or Airbnb), CX is a challenging yet highly necessary component for any business.
Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).
As numerous communication channels become touch points for customers who are looking to reach your business, toggling between all these channels can be exhausting and error-prone, not to forget inefficient and costly. Maximizing the time and energy your sales team dedicates for attending to customers towards a more productive set of objectives can make a wealth of difference to your business. By eliminating busywork, you not only make work more streamlined for your team, but also empower them to focus on tasks that require their strategic competencies.
UCaaS is an advancement that creates seamlessness in terms of the various communication channels a business may have for its customers. Modern solutions offer a centralized console to manage all customer touch points, so teams need not depend on multiple disparate applications to keep track of all the sources a single customer would use to reach out. Whether a customer uses only one means of communication, or a combination, UCaaS providers cater towards centralizing all communication into one mainstream platform.
VoIP is a major constituent of UCaaS, and it can integrate telephony, contact centres as well as CRMs to deliver a complete customer management solution that shares data across the spectrum, to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Layered on top of established UCaaS systems, conversational AI features a set of new-age technologies that can gauge customer intent by tapping into behavioral patterns. It also includes chatbot and virtual assistant capabilities, which utilize AI and ML to take care of common customer queries, and therefore free human agents to tackle more complex issues. Self-service is a massive advantage that’s created by conversational AI, as programmatic interactions aren’t just for routine tasks, but for intricate ones too.
By having the technology gauge which means of communication your customers prefer, understanding their desires closely, recommending the right product sets and finally reporting on trends makes conversational AI go well beyond its core capabilities. In this current day and age where autonomy is highly emphasized upon, customers are further benefited from programmatic interactions provided through conversational AI, mainly because downtimes associated with waiting to connect to an agent are drastically reduced – while being delivered product recommendations that precisely match requirements.
As overwhelming as it can initially seem, choosing the right CRM software ultimately boils down to a few important factors. Just like any enterprise software, choosing the right one should be based on the unique requirements pertaining to your business. It might be easy to get tempted by the latest trends; while they are all well and good, they may be futile if your business eventually doesn’t use them.
In order to choose the right CRM software, begin by gathering key team members to conduct a business assessment. Remember to include members across the hierarchies, from those who will eventually use the system, to those who have the final say in purchasing any significant resources for your company. Start by asking questions such as:
While these are just some out of the many questions you can ask your team, they’ll be great starting points to get everyone talking. Based on the feedback gathered, you can now build a substantive scope which prospective CRM vendors can refer to in order to identify how they can meet your business’s unique needs. This will also give your team a benchmark in terms of what they should expect from a new and improved system, so the problems of today can finally be solved tomorrow.
Next, reach out to vendors with this scope at hand. Further shortlist based on who seems to be capable of offering some (if not all) the features and functionalities you need. Even if an otherwise trustworthy vendor doesn’t seem to have everything that you need, discussing whether they have the bandwidth to further customize in line with your budget can be something worthwhile to consider.
Don’t forget the time and effort it takes to deploy a new CRM; your team members will need some time to get accustomed to it, and all your data will have to be safely migrated as well. Discuss these variables with your vendor of choice too, so plans can be made well ahead in advance to mitigate any mishaps that could occur in due course of deployment and migration.
CX has taken today’s B2C landscape by storm – and for good reason. Customers are constantly connected to a multitude of digital and social platforms, while businesses are left to ensure they are seen and heard for maximum outreach. Software development in Sri Lanka and elsewhere has also been massively influenced by this on-demand culture; applications are now being developed to be as versatile and scalable as ever, so constantly evolving consumer demands can be catered to with as little downtime as possible.
CRMs are at the forefront of all things CX, owing to maintaining customer databases that can double up as powerhouses for robust analytics. While daily customer interactions and activities can be logged by agents, today’s cloud-based CRMs provide a unified, bird’s eye view of all happenings taking place by the customer, and by the second. UCaaS further fuels this, by integrating various communication channels (including VoIP) into a central system. AI, chatbots and virtual assistants are another fast-growing trend, as these capabilities take care of common inquiries while programmatically understanding customer intent to recommend suitable products and services.
All this in combination creates a strong customer management system that not only addresses every single inquiry approaching your business, but also increases conversion rates by reaching your customers with the right product recommendations, at the right time. Therefore, choosing the right CRM is a crucial decision for your business, as it can make all the difference between organized customer support, and multi-dimensional CX.