Beyond the technology: the real benefits of CRM

I know, I know. Everyone’s saying you need “to put your customers at the heart of your business”. Sounds good, right? I mean, who doesn’t want to put their customers first? (Low-cost airlines, look away now.)

And everyone’s telling you a CRM system is the way to go to achieve this. Companies like Salesforce, who specialise in this kind of technology, are shouting from the roof tops things like “CRM systems are known to improve customer retention, by as much as 27%”. Sounding even better, right?

Well, in theory… yes. But only if you look beyond the acronym, beyond the sales hype, beyond the technology – and start to really think about the actual business benefits you’re trying to achieve.

Otherwise you’ll end up thinking IT alone can solve your challenges and disappear down that rabbit hole of tech-for-tech’s-sake. You know, the one where you spend a small fortune on a system that’ll instantly make your customers love you, treble your sales, reduce inefficiencies by half (and put a person on Mars by 2020, negotiate a Brexit deal and stop climate change, before cooking your dinner)… A system that now sits at the edge and gets ignored or bypassed, because it doesn’t really do any of that stuff by itself.

The reality is, if you want to improve customer retention by 27%, you need to think about how you behave as an entire business in order to achieve your goals, and how technology can support you to get there.

Because only great people working in the right way can help you achieve targets like that – as long as they’re supported by the right systems giving them the right data as and when they need it. (And yes, this could well be Salesforce CRM.)

Salesforce themselves like to point to six so-called benefits of CRM. But these are not really business benefits. For the most part, they’re just features of the technology.

So, let’s take a quick look at each of them – but then think about the actual positive outcomes they can help you to deliver. Ready? Here goes…

1. Improved information organisation

That really shouldn’t be a goal in itself. Of course, it’s important, but what actually matters is how it helps you to save time. By ensuring your customer-facing employees have all the information they need at their fingertips, they do things like quickly help your customers who have a problem (instead of watching them head off to a more agile competitor), look at sales performance and react to trends faster than your rivals, and so on.

2. Enhanced communication

The whole world is about communication, so of course, you want to enhance it. But CRM can help your team to do it with less friction. For example, if they can see every communication you’ve had with a particular customer – whether it’s via email, Facebook or carrier pigeon – on a single screen that can be accessed from anywhere on any device, you’ll give them every chance of selling more to that person.

3. Improved customer service

Technology cannot improve your customer service. But people can – with the help of technology. By removing possible barriers to a positive customer experience, a good CRM system being used effectively by the right people can help to drive sales, reduce customer dissatisfaction and grow repeat business. After all, everyone knows it’s way easier and cheaper to retain customers than go out and find new ones.

4. Automation of everyday tasks

Quite simply, this saves time. Time is money. So automation saves you money. Automation itself should not be a goal for your business. But I’ll bet saving money is.

5. Greater efficiency for multiple teams

Or, as we like to call it: easy collaboration. The more collaborative your various teams are (just imagine it: sales sharing information with marketing, marketing working closely with customer service, everyone getting on the right side of finance, and so on), the more your customers will love you and won’t be annoyed by falling down a gap between various departments. After all, they don’t see you as ‘the sales team’, ‘the CX team’, or whatever. They just see your business as a single brand – and want a great experience in line with your brand’s promise, whoever they’re dealing with.

On top of this, collaboration should also mean crossing the boundaries outside your organisation – so your teams can work efficiently with partner organisations and communities (such as an external marketing agency).

6. Improved analytical data and reporting

There’s a saying in the world of data: garbage in, garbage out. That means that unless your customer information is accurate, any action you take as a consequence is a gamble. But a good CRM system can help to ensure the data you use to make key decisions is as close to the truth as possible – so it’s not about better data per se, it’s about making smarter business decisions.

What’s more, CRM can allow you to blend various data sets to reveal valuable insights (for example, comparing sales of a particular product to the weather, to help you understand the most effective times to boost your marketing).

Based on our experience at Cognition24, it really is worth taking time to think through how all of the above can apply to your business. Because you might as well pile up your cash in the garden and set light to it if you don’t install a system that’s properly aligned to your goals – and have well-managed, motivated employees who know where your company is headed, and are able to get the best out of the technology.

Then – and only then – can you truly reap the rewards of being a customer-first operation.


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