ON THE SCENE—CRM Evolution: Relationships Are Just as Important as Intelligence

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While much of this year’s CRM Evolution conference in Washington focused on artificial intelligence and its significance in business relationships, deepening relationships with customers was another major theme. Like any relationship, customer interactions require a lot of work, and speakers approached the topic from a variety of angles.

Customer engagement is “the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer,” Paul Greenberg, managing principal at The 56 Group, told the audience during his keynote that kicked off the second day of the conference. “Engagement does not mean delighting the customer all the time,” he noted. “What we’re really looking to do with engagement is make sure that interactions with customers are good enough to make them want to continue to interact with you.”

“Customers want to be loyal to you. They don’t want to have to look for a new bank, for a new insurance company; they don’t want to have to look for a new doctor,” said Randi Busse, president of Workforce Development Group, during her session. “But we don’t necessarily roll out the red carpet and make it easy for them to remain loyal to us. If you want your customers to be brand advocates, you’ve got to act like it, and it starts with who you’re hiring and who you have representing your business…and how easy you’re making it for your employees to go above and beyond to delight customers.”

Busse strongly urged companies to remember that they’re not alone in competing for customers. “Your customers have choices, and the experience that you provide is often the only differentiator between you and your competition.”

She went on to outline seven components in turning customers into brand advocates: (1) treat customers like they are family; (2) be where your customers are; (3) solicit feedback and act on it; (4) make it easy for customers; (5) put yourself in your customers’ shoes; (6) provide a consistent human-to-human experience; and (7) provide a customized experience.

Later in the day, Rich Toohey, president at Resolvere Insights, said that for companies to keep customers coming back, they need to stop treating loyalty as just a transaction “when in fact, loyalty is an emotion.” Toohey went on to identify three types of loyalty: inertia-based loyalty, where a customer stays with a company because he would lose benefits by switching to another provider; mercenary-based loyalty, where discounts and rewards keep customers coming back; and true loyalty, where customers have an emotional bond with the company and its products. He also offered three recommendations for improving engagement: delivering a connected experience across physical and digital channels; empowering employees with appropriate tools, training, and measurements; and using customer information to make interactions more relevant.

“Software does not replace strategy,” added Michael Fauscette, chief research officer at G2 Crowd, during another session. Advising organizations not to neglect the human element in their customer relationships, he outlined the advantages of pairing analytics with a psychological understanding of customers’ individual preferences. “You can take analytics and psychometrics and combine them to get a behavioral model that lets you start to target in a much more micro-targeted way, because you can figure out what the person is looking for, when they’re looking for it, how they want it delivered, where they want their messages delivered…and how often,” he said. The combination of the two can determine a customer’s “tolerance for your delivery of content” as well as “the optimal way to deliver that content.” 

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