Five Ways to Amplify Your CRM System

Businesses are always looking for ways to leverage their CRM systems and gain more insight and knowledge around their customers to help close sales. Traditionally, CRM has been a one-way channel, a way to dump information in about customers and who and what the firm knows so salespeople and customer service agents can reach out appropriately. But when integrated with the right customer engagement solutions, CRM systems turn into more of a customer communications channel, a way for customers to interact with companies on multiple platforms, research knowledgebases, and FAQs, post a question on Facebook or Twitter, and submit their inquiries, all giving sales and customer service agents a more complete view of the customer.   

Here are the five best ways to amplify your CRM system:

1.      Open a Two-Way Channel for Customer Interaction. Combining CRM with a combination of customer engagement solutions on multiple platforms, from your Web site to social media to community forums, allows for the sales and customer service agents to see the big picture: How and why are customers accessing your information, and what do they have to say about the experience? Companies must execute the expansion of CRM onto social media platforms with a firm strategy in mind. In order to develop a proactive CRM plan within platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, companies must research and address the following: 1.) what do customers want to receive from the companies they engage with, and 2.) what kind of interactions do customers value most? In a world where social media dominates, there are many opportunities to open two-way lines of communication across multiple social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and CRM needs to take advantage.

Search engines, such as Google and Bing, are popular channels where your customers can find your self-service knowledgebase content, but you want to make sure that you find a knowledgebase system that lets you auto-index your support content into these search engines. By indexing all of your data, or assets, into a knowledgebase, FAQs, and other online resources, which in turn get indexed into the search engines, your customer service initiatives will simultaneously improve your SEO initiatives, making it easier for your customers to find you.  

2.      Use Data Analytics to Make Informed Decisions. Making your CRM system more data rich opens up the possibilities for advanced analytics and metrics on customer data that ultimately enable smarter business decisions. These analytics provide insight into your customers that will inform salespeople as well as CSRs to drive sales and give customers the best service experience possible. By opening the window into your CRM system for data analysis, you can gain extremely useful insight such as: Your customer base grew by 200 percent while your inbound ticket volume remained constant; average resolution times improved by 80% last year; and customer loyalty tracking remained above 95 percent. Applying analytics to customer data allows your company to make real-time decisions based on feedback, levels of engagement, and satisfaction, increasing the bottom line for your company.

 3.      Let Customers Connect Through Your Resources. By providing them with a vast array of knowledgebases and FAQs, customers can mine their way through the databases and find their answers themselves. Customers are effortlessly engaging with your company through a self-serve type of service, while providing your company with valuable data on their customer service needs, purchase history, and future purchase intentions. Applying analytics to this information allows you to tailor each customer service experience and marketing promotion to match up to that customer's purchase history and previous customer service experience. Some types of information that data analytics can provide are: trending support issues, popular search terms, specific topics of interest, and overall sentiment. This valuable information can help you move from a reactive to a proactive sales mode, predicting what kind of information is most likely to be accessed by future customers, and offering unique cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

 4.      Communicate and Execute on a Clear CRM strategy. This needs to be understood throughout the organization all the way to the top. CRM is more than a tool. An organization may be mired in putting out fires or simply reacting to customers instead of putting together a comprehensive customer relationship strategy. Communicate internally the goals for customer relationships and for the CRM system. Everyone in the company should speak the same language about the importance of the customer and how customers will be treated. This means getting the right people involved and leveraging the software to build good relationships. Whether it's the support team or the account management team, the people helping your customers need to be using the CRM system to build those relationships.

 5.      Integrate Customer Data From All of Your Data Sources. Where are you already tracking customer data that is not available to the CRM? 360 degrees has been more of a tagline than a reality. You may already have information available to take dramatic steps in that direction. Knowledge management is essential to engaging and retaining customers, and all of your content from all data sources needs to be regularly updated and adapted to meet current and future customer needs, wherever they request the information, whether it's from your customer service software, mobile phone, Facebook, online community, or your Web site. All of these data sources need to be available for your CRM system to utilize.

By opening up a two-way communications channel for customers and your CRM system, it provides an enormous overview of what customers wants, accesses, and engaged in during their customer service experience. Running data analytics on this information is useful in many ways, but ultimately allows you to tailor your sales, marketing, and customer service experience uniquely to each customer in the future.

Duke Chung is co-founder and chairman of Parature, a Web-based customer service software company that serves about 20 million users.

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