Business AnalyticsBy Bob Violino Print
Businesses have a huge opportunity to improve customer relationships, but failing to take a strategic approach to CRM can result in lost revenue and market share.
Another trend that’s helping organizations get the most out of customer
data and improve relationships is the growing use of business analytics, often
in conjunction with CRM systems.
“CRM solutions are most
associated with sales automation, service automation and marketing automation,”
says William Band, vice president and
principal analyst at Forrester Research, but adds that limiting CRM to
those functions is narrow and outdated.
“We see CRM
to be encompassing all those data-centric types of solutions, but also
including other sources of customer information,” such as order management
systems, e-commerce sites and social media, he says. “The explosion of
structured and unstructured customer data places a premium on robust business
intelligence and analytics capabilities around what do with that data. This
gives companies insights to interact with customers more effectively.”
customer information located in one central location rather than taking a
siloed approach continues to be an aspiration of many companies, although it
has been difficult to achieve, Band admits. “The data warehouse did plug a hole
and made it easier, but a lot of [organizations] have never been able to get
all the data in one place,” he says. “That’s still the vision, but people are
no longer thinking in terms of one system; it’s much more a matter of federated
data architectures being put in place.”
The idea of
“one version of the truth” when it comes to customer data makes sense for
organizations hoping to build stronger relations. Consolidated data spares
companies from service errors, so “interactions are done based on history and
custom notes that relate specifically to the customer,” Ross, of Web Marketing
Therapy, says. “In today's tech-savvy world, customers demand service and a personal
touch. Companies can't afford to be siloed and miss the service mark.”
In 2008, Cemex
USA, a provider of building materials in Houston, deployed a CRM system from
SAP to obtain a 360-degree view of its customers with a single point of contact
to enhance the customer experience. The system enables the company to
facilitate interactions, fulfill customer expectations on delivery performance
and provide reliable and on-time account information.
“If we had this information in several places, we would not be able to
provide best-in-class service to our customers across multiple channels and
departments,” says Ven Bontha, customer experience manager. “Today, we handle
order fulfillment on a 24-hour basis at a lower cost, at a high rate of
accuracy—99.97 percent for order-taking—by having a centralized operation with
a single point of contact.”
A consolidated customer data strategy has also worked well for
1-800-GOT-JUNK?, a junk-removal service provider based in Vancouver. The
company uses several tools to manage its customer relationships, including
SalesForce.com’s CRM offering, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Google
Analytics. “All these tools plug into our in-house BI [business intelligence] platform,
allowing us to roll up and report 'a single version of the truth’ to our
corporate, executive and franchisee business stakeholders,” says Scott
Rutherford, the firm’s director of technology.
Having accurate customer information readily available to users allows the company to better serve those customers. For example, on their way to a job or on the job site, the firm’s truck team members can access data from original customer sales calls to enhance their service provisioning with context about the customer’s needs, Rutherford says. “For customers who contacted our agents via Website chat, a transcript of the chat is also available in the same way,” he says.
created a system that allows conversations that its call center agents have
with customers to be uploaded within a proprietary booking system called JunkNet.
team members can now listen to the recording of the call prior to arriving at
the customer’s home or business,” says Michel Falcon, customer experience
coordinator. “This has proved to be valuable from a customer experience
perspective because we are able to continue the original conversation on-site,
understand the scope of the customers’ junk-related [needs] and build rapport
in a unique way.” For example, a truck team member can arrive with a birthday
card for a customer after learning through the call-recording program that the
customer’s birthday is on the day of the pickup.
program has helped improve the customer experience “because we are now better
prepared to help our customers’ unique situations,” Falcon says. “We have
experienced an increase in our customer loyalty rates, and our truck teams now
feel better prepared to perform their job.”
Another organization dedicated to improving the customer experience
through data gathering is Benchmark Assisted Living in Wellesley, Mass. The
company, which provides senior housing in the New England area, uses a platform
called Voice of the Customer (VOC) from Allegiance Software to gather customer
feedback from email, social media, phone calls, Web forms and other sources. It
manages the data via a cloud-based platform from Allegiance called Engage.
“Establishing and maintaining positive relationships with our clients
and their families is the lifeblood of what we do,” says Brenda Abbott-Shultz,
vice president of customer experience at Benchmark. “Therefore, investments in
those relationships have to be thoughtful and strategic.”
VOC, which Benchmark implemented in 2011 to replace a paper-based
process, enables the assisted living organization to
recognize and promote what is working well and to make timely, focused changes
when necessary, she says. Benchmark uses the platform to survey about 4,000
residents and 12,000 family members. The Web-based surveys determine how
residents are weathering the transition to assisted living and help assess whether
employees are anticipating and meeting all of their needs.
Every seven days, Benchmark analyzes comments from the various feedback
mechanisms and sends a report to the company’s senior team of managers in each
of the residential communities so they can make needed changes. It also
performs annual surveys of residents and families to measure overall customer
satisfaction and perceptions.
Feedback and survey results have led to operational changes that helped reduce the number of residents who leave the company’s housing within the first six months. From April to October 2011, move-outs due to dissatisfaction were 12 percent fewer than had been reported from April to October 2010. The company achieved a 143 percent ROI on the application in the first year, Abbott-Shultz says.
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