• July 27, 2020
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Coronavirus Shows the Value of CRM

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The CRM industry had an image problem for years. Failed deployments, a lack of executive buy-in and employee adoption, and unfulfilled promises from vendors left many companies seeking alternatives.

Then the coronavirus hit, and the business disruptions caused by the disease and the government response to it have generated renewed interest in and underscored the crucial role of CRM technology. Almost overnight, CRM technology became the sole way for companies to continue supporting employees now forced to work remotely, maintaining contact with customers and prospects who could no longer shop in stores, and handling a sharp spike in customer contact volume.

There’s no question that COVID-19 completely upended the way salespeople, marketers, customer service representatives, and their supervisors could do their jobs. It left salespeople unable to make customer site visits; marketers had to cancel large-scale corporate events; and contact center agents could no longer rely on coworkers and company experts down the hall to find the answers to customer inquiries.

Despite herculean efforts to respond to the crisis, early setbacks highlighted some long-standing systemic weaknesses. Legacy CRM systems that could no longer handle what was required of them delayed companies’ responses to customer concerns, sales forecasts went out the window, and most key revenue sources closed when businesses shut down.

The COVID-19 pandemic had far more impact than anyone could have foreseen, but now that the virus seems to be on the decline in some places and companies are starting to come back to life, the opportunities for the CRM industry couldn’t be better.

It is likely that consumers and employees alike will continue to fear in-person interactions, large gatherings, and even smaller meetings for some time to come. The quicker your business can get customers into and moving through the sales pipeline, the better.

And because customer-centricity is even more critical during times of crisis, it becomes even more essential to maintain positive relationships with each and every existing customer and to ensure that each customer is treated with understanding and empathy.

Newer, more digital CRM technologies allow companies to continue to work toward those goals without face-to-face customer contacts. Today’s CRM systems can help companies expand their reach and enable them to tailor their responses to each consumer. Elements like data capture, automation, segmentation, dynamic content, triggers, campaign journeys, and interest tracking allow them to target their audiences with much greater precision and ensure them that the right message is getting to the right person at the right time and via the right channel.

Even with reduced marketing budgets, newer CRM platforms give sales and marketing teams the opportunity to put a greater emphasis on unique, personalized touchpoints, to convert more leads into paying customers, and to add even more powerful touchpoints to an already expansive multichannel mix.

As we uncovered in the research for our second annual “CRM Top 100,” other customer service, marketing, and sales trends brought about by the coronavirus included a move toward cloud-based solutions; heightened awareness of security, data protections, and consumer privacy; a greater reliance on artificial intelligence and automation; more collaborative work environments; and the exploration of new digital channels like video, texting, screensharing, and podcasts. Email, text messaging, online chat, video, and collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have all seen dramatic upticks as well in the past few months since the pandemic began, and now that businesses and consumers have gotten used to them, they are not likely to go away.

Companies looking to not only weather this storm but also improve their entire outlook going forward will need to view this time of economic recovery as an opportunity to shift the way they do business. Every company will need to be more nimble, agile, responsive, attuned to customer needs and preferences, and ready to engage quickly, efficiently, and with greater impact.

CRM is now and will continue to be for the foreseeable future a crucial management tool that businesses can use to achieve more revenue and maximize the value of every customer interaction. Any company’s greatest asset is knowledge of its clientele, and with CRM, they can use this asset as the key differentiator to retain customers. It’s unfortunate that it took a worldwide pandemic for companies to realize this.

Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM. He can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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