Hearing the Voice of the Customer
The most valuable benefit of CRM is capturing and sharing insights into a company's customers.
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How well does the average company really know its customers? Admittedly, although individuals within firms may possess comprehensive knowledge about a given customer or small group of customers, enterprises as a whole do a less-than-stellar job of collecting and sharing those insights. That is starting to change, however, as innovations in CRM technology are poised to help any company do a more effective job of collecting insights into what customers see, read, and say. A new breed of Web analytics systems, for example, do far more than generate reports on page views and click-stream analysis, which tend to be historical in design, telling marketers what someone saw after the fact. But systems from such companies as New Channel and Eloqua allow marketers to understand what customers see as they see it. These systems also allow companies to define a set of rules to profile classes of prospects. The system then monitors users in real time as they traverse the firm's Web site, and if they fit a prospect model, a message is sent to a call center rep telling the rep that a potential customer is currently at the firm's site. The call center rep can then use the system to start a chat dialogue with the prospect. As the rep talks to the user, the system automatically records what the user saw, as well as the conversation with the rep. If the interaction turns into a real lead, the call center rep can then pass on a complete replay of the visit to the appropriate sales rep, giving salespeople much more detailed insight than simply a prospect's name and e-mail address. Another way new CRM tools are providing insights into what customers are really thinking is by tracking responses to information requests. Usually when a company gets an inquiry, a marketer puts together a fulfillment package and mails it to the prospect. What then happens to that information is a mystery. But systems from such vendors as iMedium allows a marketer or salesperson to easily assemble an information package to send to a prospect, generate a customized letter, and select and edit collateral such as product lists, reference stories, and spec sheets--all via the marketer or sales rep's e-mail. The power of the system then comes in to play. First, it monitors the status of the e-mail, and notifies the rep when a prospect opens it. The email contains links to the collateral, which is all on the vendor's Web site. The advantage is, once a user links to the site the system records what he saw, whether it be pricing information or competitive data or references. Reps armed with this type of knowledge into their customer's thinking have a significant edge on their competition. In addition, collecting this information over time provides marketing and product development with a whole new level of insight into trends in the marketplace. The Web is not the only place new CRM systems can give companies customer insight. Probably the single most valuable activity firms engage in with customers and prospects are face-to-face calls. The information gleaned during these meetings is invaluable, yet few companies do a good job of recording and sharing this knowledge. New types of CRM hardware, such as the Tablet PC, are helping to change that. The Tablet PC functions in the same manner as a PDA, but the screen is much bigger and the Tablet runs a full-function version of Windows. Back at the office it looks like a regular computer: screen, keyboard, mouse, DVD player, etc. On a sales call, the only thing the user needs is the flat-panel display. One insurance company we benchmarked loaded all of the forms its salespeople need to conduct a needs analysis with a prospect onto the Tablet PC. As agents query a prospective client, they record the customer feedback directly into the system using a pen stylist. Prior to using this system the reps would record customer notes in a spiral notebook; rarely did they retype their notes into the firm's CRM system after the meeting. Now when they return to the office from a call they simply drop their Tablet PCs into the docking station, and upload and synchronize the customer records. Anyone with the right level of access can then see all the details of what happened on that call. As we continue to integrate CRM technology into more of our marketing, sales, and support processes, we significantly increase the opportunity to gather the voice of the customer. CRM projects that focus on not just helping to better present information to prospects and clients, but also collect information, will soon find they have developed a repository of market intelligence that gives them a significant edge in developing the strategies and tactics to succeed in their marketplace.
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