• July 1, 2016
  • By Brent Leary, cofounder and partner, CRM Essentials

Three Customer Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2016 (and Beyond)

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The first half of the CRM industry conference season saw the usual suspects—the Internet of Things, customer journeys, mobile strategies—(rightly) receive a great deal of attention. But some more basic ideas have also come to the forefront, ones just as important to the success of any business moving forward.


At Oracle’s Modern Marketing Conference back in April, CEO Mark Hurd shared a few stats that illustrated how important customer satisfaction is to organizational success: In stagnant economies where corporate profits are growing faster than revenues, the growth is mostly due to “share shift” where a company is snagging more wallet share from current customers, and grabbing new customers from competitors. And the majority of that shift is due to providing customers with better service and experiences.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, brands with higher customer satisfaction scores have enjoyed as much as five times greater stock appreciations than the S&P 500 from 2000 to 2015. Whereas the old business model focused on building a widget, selling the widget, and then coming up with support for when people called about broken widgets, in today’s experience-driven economy, service has to be central to the business from the beginning. As more customers buy products by subscription instead of through individual transactions—with customers choosing access to products over owning them outright—experiences become as important as pricing and the products themselves. And one of the main drivers of great experiences is customer support.


We’ve seen how Uber has disrupted the taxi cab industry; Airbnb is doing the same with hospitality. In both cases, modern technology put new spins on traditional models to create experience-first business models that exploit issues consumers had with the old models. As with taxis, people have issues with the process of buying a used car, which is why Carvana has created a whole new experience around it.

Carvana reimagined the used-car buying experience by turning it into an online experience where one in five of its customers go from picking a car to selecting a delivery date and signing a contract in 20 minutes or less. If they live near Atlanta and prefer to pick it up, they can go to the used-car vending machine Carvana created and get a car like they were grabbing a coke.

Many people may not be ready for such a radical change. But it seems that more people are; Carvana has seen revenues grow from just under $5 million in 2013 to more than $140 million in 2015.


At first, CRM solutions were popular mostly with management, who could see what accounts reps were calling on, how often they were communicating with them, and what deals were in the pipeline. But the reps themselves didn’t see the benefit; they viewed CRM as a call reporting system that meant more work for them, with little in return.

But with the infusion of relationship intelligence, today’s CRM apps can automatically analyze the information input by users to provide guidance as to whom should be contacted, why, and how best to reach them. Receiving insights in real time based on transactional data, social data, email, and so on provides reps with more incentive to use CRM: If you can get insights as to when a customer may be ready to churn, or what may push a prospect to sign up, you have more reason to feed the system. And as digital interactions proliferate further, relationship intelligence will become a crucial piece to the engagement puzzle, one that reps will need to better connect with customers and prospects.

Whether we’re in a fast-growing economy or one that’s stalled, focusing on service and support is still foundational to success in the long run. And that foundation is key to delivering the kinds of customer experiences that can disrupt “business as usual” for something better. That something better can be identified more quickly with the right insights brought to your attention by a smarter CRM application.

Brent Leary is cofounder of CRM Essentials, an Atlanta-based advisory firm focused on small and midsize businesses. He is also the author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses.

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