Business Analytics

By Bob Violino Print this article 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.

Business Analytics

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vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, but adds that limiting CRM to those functions is narrow and outdated.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.”

Having 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.”

Building Rapport

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.              

1-800-GOT-JUNK? created a system that allows conversations that its call center agents have with customers to be uploaded within a proprietary booking system called JunkNet.

“Our truck 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.

The call-recording 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.

This article was originally published on 2012-05-24
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