Digital, efficient, emotional: modern customer management
Published on 11/04/2021
Long-term stable customer relationships are crucial for the success of the company. It has long been about more than satisfying a current need. Companies have to get involved with each customer and look after them individually. This succeeds with holistic digital customer management - automated and personal at the same time.
No empty phrases, but a must: the focus is on the customer
It's a truism: B2B customers expect optimal all-round support from their suppliers or service partners, which goes beyond the actual provision of services. You assume that the focus is on the customer and, in addition to personal contact, you demand holistic, customized service. But beware! Business partners want personalised, contextual and relevant information at the right time, otherwise they quickly perceive contact as a nuisance. A lot runs digitally, from procurement and marketing activities to commercial transactions and after-sales services. This makes customer management more complex, but also gives companies the opportunity to use modern technologies such as artificial intelligence, data and predictive analytics or business intelligence to get a 360-degree view of the customer and to provide them with the right content at exactly the right time to inspire. Emotions, a certain entertainment value and now and then a pinch of humor should not be missing.
Knowing the customer like the back of his hand
It's about being exactly in the picture about what the customer really needs and where his interests lie. Of course, it is not possible for even the long-standing, experienced salesperson or service employee to know every corporate customer from A to Z. Fortunately, that's not even necessary. After all, there are enough digital contact points with the customer in everyday business, which generate correspondingly informative data. It is now standard to capture this data from the individual sources, such as websites, sales processes and customer contact centers in the CRM system, to save them in various formats and to link them together.
But that's not all. Machines or wearables connected via IoT can also supplement the knowledge of a customer's preferences and activities. Wearable gadgets in particular generate a large amount of location-based data. Once they have been recorded, analyzed and linked to existing information in the CRM system, the provider can derive products and services from them that are precisely tailored to the individual wishes of the customer. It is imperative to avoid that each department acts on its own. Long-term successful customer engagement can only succeed if all systems are seamlessly integrated with each other.
Together a powerful pair: CRM and ERP system
A powerful ERP system is a must in every large company. A CRM system is also in use in many companies – in 2019 it was already 43 percent. It is crucial that there is no outdated or incorrect data in the CRM system. You can easily eliminate this risk and at the same time minimize the effort for data maintenance for the user. Through a uniform data model of an ERP-CRM complete solution. So you no longer jump back and forth between two linked spheres, but move in just one data cosmos.
In addition, every employee who comes into contact with customers has direct access to information relevant to them from other areas. For example, the sales department can find out about the terms of payment and delivery for previous orders at the push of a button. Not to be forgotten: Good read and write rights management ensures that sensitive entries, such as master data, are not changed by unauthorized persons, especially since uniform access rules can be implemented more easily in an integrated ERP-CRM system than in two separate systems. The ERP-CRM complete solution also allows you to automate cross-system or cross-departmental processes and avoids interruptions in the workflow.
KI - the smart helper in customer service
According to a recent Bitkom study, 8 percent of companies are already using artificial intelligence (AI). More than two thirds of companies consider AI to be the most important future technology. The companies see the numerous advantages - from faster problem analysis and accelerated processes to lower resource consumption and the associated benefits for the environment. The reason: AI-based solutions succeed in linking and analyzing data from different source systems and in a wide variety of formats in a meaningful way and delivering the results of the data evaluation in real time - which far exceeds human capabilities. Its ability to handle enormous amounts of data and thus to recognize and extrapolate inherent patterns also gives AI the ability to derive fact-based forecasts from the recognized relationships.
A good predictive analytics solution can predict market trends, economic developments and human behavior very well. AI-based CRM activities lead to a better understanding of customers and accelerate sales cycles, especially in industries that are heavily driven by technical developments. Because the innovation friends of a company leaves numerous (data) traces and makes it particularly easy for the learning system to react proactively to needs in advance. Detailed, customer-specific information also enables personalized marketing campaigns, which in turn results in improved lead generation. The electronic marketer goes even further. He collects and analyzes the relevant information about what moves customers and how they judge the company's brands and products.
Look into the future with Business Intelligence (BI).
Both AI and BI are based on statistical evaluations. The key difference is that BI predictions are based on probabilistic models, while AI is about correlations, autonomous operations and, most importantly, machine learning. As long as a BI tool delivers meaningful, high-quality results for the respective business case, it often has an advantage over an AI application because of its longer learning process. For skeptics, this is about more than the time advantage of BI. They point out that you can't really control how the intelligent system learns and how exactly it converts the data into insights. Ergo: high-performance BI tools can be used well in customer relationship management. In addition to customer data, the BI system also records all interactions with the customer and thus creates a comprehensive picture of him. Additional, valuable information comes into the house if you request a rating from the customer after each interaction.
Above the clouds... one is mobile and safe
Many companies already host their CRM system in the cloud in order to benefit from the fundamental advantages of cloud applications. This includes, for example, that everyone in the company works with the same applications across locations, that the specialist staff of the cloud service provider takes care of the maintenance of the systems and their updates and that lower investment costs are incurred. The fact that installation and maintenance are no longer required also relieves the IT department in the company. On the other hand, it is easier to access a CRM system in the cloud with mobile devices than in the data center - an invaluable advantage, especially for field staff. If the biggest obstacle to a mobile CRM system in the past was concern about data security, a rethink has meanwhile set in here.
Because despite all concerns, data storage in the cloud is always even more secure than on-site at the company. Not least because certified cloud providers are much better protected against risks than is usually the case with on-premises data centers. After all, they too must comply with the statutory data protection guidelines. Since they are also aware of the reservations with regard to data protection, they take security issues very seriously - if only in their own business interest. This goes as far as stringent backup guidelines and clear data recovery plans. Not to be forgotten: Very few medium-sized companies afford their own IT security experts - quite apart from the fact that they are scarce on the job market. The cloud service provider, on the other hand, has no choice but to employ entire teams of security experts: they are part of its business model.
Never let the communication with the customer break off
Especially in difficult times, it is particularly important to inform and support customers promptly about developments that are relevant to them. This ensures that he masters the current challenges and maybe even emerges stronger from a crisis. But what to do if, as a company, you are struggling with the same adverse circumstances in a crisis situation like the current one, such as restricted mobility, a high level of sick leave among colleagues, restricted contact or interrupted supply chains?
The solution lies in a clever CRM concept that uses business intelligence to evaluate important data and make it usable, while at the same time relieving the currently particularly demanding employees in sales, marketing and sales of routine customer care tasks. This gives them the time for urgent tasks, such as working out solutions together with the customer. The solution to this are automation systems that carry out marketing campaigns or information campaigns quickly and cost-effectively.
Virtual assistants such as chatbots, which not only answer standard inquiries but are also getting better and better at answering even more complex inquiries thanks to machine learning, provide further relief. In addition, they can be contacted around the clock, with which the customer is often already satisfied in the first step. Exceptional situations are usually characterized by the fact that conditions change frequently and quickly. It is all the more important that the IT functions smoothly. The systems used should therefore work very reliably and deliver the required results at all times. Companies are therefore well advised to opt for a powerful, field-tested CRM system.
Top employees - the basis of every success
Technical support for data analysis and provision in the company is only one side of the coin. It goes without saying that competent and motivated employees are also required to work with the programs. The CRM, AI and BI systems used should also be widely accepted by the employees. As a user of the system, you must be able to work with it easily and in a process-oriented manner. Experience has shown that this succeeds when you are passionate about it yourself: employee engagement as the basis for customer engagement.
Error-free workflows are a basic requirement for this. The systems used must therefore work very reliably and deliver the required results. Employees will be able to take care of the customer with much more commitment if there is no frustration from IT problems. And if something goes wrong in the customer relationship, then this is usually not a motivation killer for the employee - provided the reasons are found and eliminated. All of this requires clever change management when introducing a CRM solution, regardless of how skeptical the new system is viewed. Both settings require an "onboarding" for the new technical environment.
Digitization and customer centricity - both are top priority
It is just as important as the know-how and motivation of the workforce that the company management promotes and supports all processes that professionalize digital customer management. It therefore makes sense that data analysts or CRM experts are directly connected to the C-suite. Customer engagement using data and predictive analytics should be a matter of course. And this applies to management as well as to the specialist departments, even if they have little or no direct customer contact.
Only when the management is aware of the power that emanates from the combination of data can digital analytics not only be set up as an internal tool by sales or marketing, but also implemented sustainably and holistically in the company. Because in order to be successful in the long term, there is no alternative. After all, various studies show that in the future it will not be the price or the brand that will determine the purchase decision, but the customer experience. And that can be tailored more specifically to the customer and his needs the better you know him.