Facilitating Robust Customer Retention and Cross Selling Capabilities with Data Mining and a CRM Software

CRM systems were once thought of as a customer relationship platform. Today, however, these systems have transformed into an intelligent system which can give valuable insights into customer retention and cross selling strategies. A CRM solution encompasses the entire organisation - people, systems, and corporate attitude.

Customers can no longer be viewed as just an individual entity, they must be seen as the unique collection of idioms and idiosyncrasies which control the buying behavior. CRM solutions available today allow a company to collect multiple points of data regarding their customers and prospects allowing an analysis of purchasing patterns and buying behavior using data marts and data mining.

Danger lurks, however, behind the analysis of the data provided by a CRM system - misinterpretation of customer data can lead to the phasing out of a profitable product, a misdirection of advertising and marketing dollars as well as the most critical - losing customers.

CRM solution is only as effective as the analytic interpretation of the data it takes in. Without structured analytical tools, the reports produced are no more than volumes of paper on an executive’s desk. With proper analysis the data can, however, be the strongest force in customer retention and corporate profitability.

Basic analysis should begin with a demographic synoptic of the customer base. By looking at the demographic pockets of profitability potential can be determined. Is this the right market for the product or should valuable dollars and time be spent elsewhere? Knowing the demographic applications for the product are key elements in the design of the marketing strategy and the CRM system can help identify those areas.

Census data and local government publications are often excellent resources for the demographic and economic data an analyst can use. This data should be entered into the CRM system. By understanding the current customer base the ability to increase market size is exponentially increased.

Repetition of purchase should be analyzed based on the demography and economic strata of the current customer base. Purchasing patterns can assist in a product moving along the life cycle from inception to maturity. It can also assist in identifying those products which require some alterations to bring them back to prior sales levels.

When a company understands its current customer base, they can begin to mine data of the overall population to increase sales. Increased sales are driven by knowing when and where to market the product. For example, the Chicago Illinois phonebook contains almost one and a half million names. Are all of these potential customers? Of course not! But, by using data mining to understand the demographic, economic and purchasing profile of the current customer base, the management can analyze who are most likely to purchase and become repeat customers.
A flexible and adaptable CRM solution can ensure new business strategies run smoothly using assignments, escalations, enforcement rules and more, to help increase customer retention and cross selling capabilities.

Banks and the ones they bank on : The Benefits of CRM in Banking

Sharing information accurately and quickly with customers is critical when handling financial products and services. An effective CRM banking solution ensures that customer information from multiple systems is secure and available in real-time for all permitted users. It can be accessed using any web-enabled device and displays all relevant customer information as per the logged-in user's role.

A popular quote by Bob Hope - "A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it!" Most consumers would agree with Hope’s sarcasm and even go one step further stating that the opposite is more likely as of the post-recession era. 

As an industry, Banking is galloping towards higher technological advancements; database tracking software, mobile banking and incorporating real-time intelligence at each micro-step of their banking operations. The post-recession period has changed the short term vision and long term targets for banks across the world, focusing on customer loyalty, service and integration of feedback loop. 

However, a true measure of the success of its recent ventures can be gauged by the following snippets of this “feedback loop”:

“I have spent an hour today and at times spent over 3 hours ‘on hold’ being transferred everywhere by untrained staff. How can a company like this function? This is so irritating. I have 10 accounts with them and I have to move from here.”

“My wife and I needed to draw on the "overdraft protection" on our checking account. A week later, my wife paid back the money ($4125.00) via computer at 8:30 AM. At 9:00 AM the same day, I visited the local branch and paid the same amount by check. As soon as we discovered this - that very afternoon - I went to the bank to request the refund. IT IS NOW ELEVEN DAYS, THEY STILL HAVE NOT RETURNED MY $4125.00, AND NO ONE CAN TELL ME WHERE IT IS!”

“I should've known better then to open an account here, when the lady at the branch acted as if I was a bother to her and was very unhelpful. The reps are rude and today a Tina Smith just made me decide to close this account all together. She actually yelled at me! I'm sure the supervisor I spoke to will do nothing, but DO NOT BANK WITH *******!!!”

CUSTOMER SERVICE in logical terms is merely about every action that can provide service to a consumer. Banking is particularly a service oriented industry, which technically means that banks earn their profits through a mono-focused vision to provide superior service to consumers. Inspite of technological advancements, consumers complain of rotten experiences with bank personnel, delay in getting help and a confusing system of operations.

Clearly, the 360 degree view encompassing customer experience with banks provides legitimate evidence of the fact that banks ARE NOT LISTENING to consumers. Providing momentary help and solving issues immediately belongs to the passive stage of hearing complaints. The need of the hour is customer relationship management to actively participate in understanding their specific service related needs and providing avenues of staging a memorable experience.

Summarizing, the customer service complaints on the websites of various successful and large banking companies, it is apparent that consumers are simply seeking some relief to their anxiety with respect to banking solutions. The recession brought about immense personal and financial insecurity, and individuals are merely suffering from a lack of trust. Building transparent operational services, and inculcating trust driven customer relationships can eventually lead to a loyal base of consumers. Working with these directives to build a strong foundation, banks can then tailor their investments into higher technology to eventually save consumers’ time and energy.

Focusing on customer service to match customer needs such as sharing product knowledge, reachability, rapport, issue resolution and post-purchase feedback can prevent churn. A consistent consumer base leads to higher returns on investment (ROI).

Customers rarely share their good experiences with customer service personnel, but always use sounding boards like social networks to share bad experiences and ridicule poorly performing customer facing departments. Banks need to induce a ‘back to basics’ focus using a CRM banking solution at every operational step to ensure effectiveness.

How to Increase User Adoption for your Sales Force Automation Solution

Recession is again looming in Europe and USA with a cascading effect on other countries. In these challenging times, knowing what the customer wants is critical for both retention and increased customer sales volumes. CRM solutions can effectively enhance your sales force's capabilities to understand customer needs and maximize returns.

The goal of every business is an increase in sales. If increased sales cannot be achieved, businesses face declining profits and in the wake of declining profits reduced work force requirements. Understanding customer needs and expectations is critical in both retention and increased sales volumes.

What can be done to increase volumes and prevent workforce reduction? The key is in knowing what the customer wants and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can be the key to this understanding.

Customer Relationship Management software, while it can be a boon for industries is often not effectively implemented. One reason for this lies is the sales force itself. Many sales representatives see CRM as beneficial to the company but not to them. The fear is that the decision making process and the knowledge of their customer base is somehow removed when a CRM system is brought on line.

What they do not see is the intrinsic time savings a CRM system brings to sales. Studies show that sales representatives spend only about thirty six (36%) percent of their time in actual selling* and the other sixty four (64%) on the follow up "busy work." If management can demonstrate the ability of the CRM system's activity automation, workspace management and template features to free them from the "busy work" and allow them more time for actual selling, they will influence the sales force in a more proactive manner.

For a CRM system to succeed in a company, it must be cross functional. Sales must see the benefit of CRM in the buying and management side of the business and not in isolation. If the sales force can be shown that the CRM system will reduce time in the supply chain, develop efficiencies in the manufacturing side and increase their time in the field, they will buy into the process. If any of these critical steps are neglected, the sales force will continue to operate in isolation from the balance of the process.

Critical to sales force buy-in is to involve the sales force early in the process. The "lack of representation" often leads to lack of confidence in the system. This is not to say the entire sales force needs be involved, but key representatives, respected peers if you will, need to be involved in all stages of the system’s development. Make use of the sales forces’ instinctive knowledge of the customer base. For example, if average call backs take place within two months the system should be designed to that time period for the call back. The system should be designed to support those who should be using it most. To increase CRM user adoption, the sales force must see the system as ‘their’ tool; not a management tool.

Screen and input fields' development should reside with the sales force in total. The day-to-day warriors of sales know what information is critical for them to close. If this information is accessible from anywhere they will be far more likely to use the system and abandon the spreadsheets and index cards they use today.

Building sales is the key to success, but building a true CRM solution that supports this function is key to optimizing sales. A CRM system is exactly that when designed with keeping the proper inputs and forward-thinking strategies of the sales force in mind.

9 Reasons SMEs should Implement Cloud CRM for Maximizing Profits

A CRM solution’s main objective is to help sales team convert prospects to customers and service teams to satisfy customers thereby increasing profitability of their organization through customer loyalty and cost-effective advocacy. This is achieved by aligning business processes, people and technology. With Cloud CRM solutions an organization can access and create leads, customers, contacts and partner information from anywhere in the world via the internet. This provides the capability to share the same set of business logic and information across different geographies at a relatively low cost than traditional client server CRM systems.

Customer relationship management is a critical strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, partners and sales prospects. The transparency offered by a CRM solution is further used to streamline existing processes by removing bottlenecks. Technology is used to automate and synchronize different requirements for effective sales interactions, marketing campaigns, customer service and technical support. Cloud CRM which is an easy-to-use solution with powerful analytics is becoming increasingly popular amongst businesses of all sizes.

Requirements On-Premise On-Cloud (SaaS)
Hardware Customer Managed Vendor Managed
Software Customer Managed. Expensive upfront license cost Vendor Managed. Generally Monthly/Quarterly subscription fees
Security Custmomer Managed Vendor Managed
Upgrade Expensive and difficult to implement Vendor Managed and automated. Generally at no extra cost
Backup and Disaster Custmomer Managed Vendor Managed
Implementation Minimum 4-6 weeks Generally 1-2 weeks
Application Access Restricted, client side installation needed Internet Browser
Application Maintenance Expensive, Involves considerable downtime Mostly automated with minimal downtime
In-house IT team Needs an expensive in-house team Not needed

Cloud CRM solution will help small and mid sized businesses to gain all the operational and short-term cost advantages of SaaS (Software as a Service) CRM like low cost of maintenance, limited IT personnel and to collate large volumes of customer information on a scalable, hassle free platform. Cloud platform also expedites implementation with zero capital upfront investment.

My Experience with CRM Solutions for Call Centers

Some years ago, I was working as a trainer and recruiter for a medium-sized call center in India. The outsourcing industry in Asia was booming and sales processes in particular were in every nook and cranny – agents were selling mobile and internet connections, insurance, credit cards and tons more. My part in the hiring process was to ensure that the right people were selected – pronunciation, grammar, stability and flexibility were tested for shortlisting hopeful candidates. The fortunate ones were asked to join in a couple of days and immediately started training with me – soft skills, culture and selling techniques.

My trainees were motivated to perform, the incentives per sale were high and there was a dinner coupon for a classy Italian restaurant for the top monthly performer. The basics were explained in detail and then after testing their knowledge, I moved on to the most crucial section – opening, pitching and closing a call. “Your CRM system interface is your best friend, keep the prospect’s information in front of you always! While the call is connecting - study their activity history and understand the right product for them before pitching. Use positive body language (no slouching, sitting on the floor or staring at the ceiling) and ensure to build rapport to increase the chances of closing a sale. The prospective customer will determine in the first thirty seconds of the call if he is interested in listening to you – maintain a professional tone to introduce yourself and the product you are selling…..” I explained. It was critical that they use the CRM solution's salesforce automation for lead information to optimize their effectiveness during the call and capture all related activities – this would ensure that after the call was assigned the relevant disposition and later dropped on another agent’s station, he could use the updated information to impress the prospective customer and most likely make a sale.

I was later given an opportunity to work for a global leader in pet food at a “boutique” call center, with a small team of talented individuals reporting to me. They were all knowledgeable about canines and had excellent soft skills. It was an outbound and inbound process for the generating sales and capturing requests or feedback.

For the company’s new venture in India, their marketing division had insisted on implementing a CRM solution for running campaigns to create leads and improve the conversion ratio. Kiosks, text messages, radio ads and online competitions were launched to invite feedback and ascertain the potential of their product and pinpoint the most relevant products. All the information generated was entered into the CRM through integration with external systems, importing Excel sheets and directly through the interface. What they knew already was made doubly clear – no pork and beef products for India. But, what they didn’t know until the end of their successful campaigns were the most popular breeds, how many families were pure vegetarian and the average expenditure per meal on pets. All the information from the campaigns was collated in real-time to generate reports for further analysis.

The call center agents were given access to a highly customized CRM solution which ensured critical information was highlighted for each customer, contact details were not available for DNC customers and details of their pets shared during the campaign was easily accessible. The company’s Sales Director wanted to ensure that the outbound calls made for the thousands of leads generated through their campaigns followed a call flow. The agents in my team were trained to use the call scripts within the CRM for all sales calls and assess the lead’s probability to buy based on the output from the automatic scoring engine. Their effectiveness increased – they could use a single interface for all their activities during a call, instead of switching between different applications for solutions, cases, requests and customer information.

In retrospect, I think the CRM software eliminated sleepless nights – for me, security of customer data was always the most critical factor. The validation widgets and customized interfaces ensured that information could only be created, viewed and edited by the assigned people. I had access to a 360 degree view of each prospect, customer and partner with real-time information on our inventory.

Making effective use of every second on a live call differentiates the wannabes from the talented agents, opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell after accurately addressing a customer's issues are usually successful. I believe, CRM solutions at call centres have provided unobtrusive assistance for optimal performance and helped to boost revenues.

The War for Talent: Is your Sales Manager Impeding your Progress?

If you are in sales, congratulations! Your profession is one of the most important contributors to any free market society and that should make you very proud. Selling makes the world go round. More specifically, selling makes the marketplace work. Where would the producers of goods and services be without sales people? They’d be sitting on their goods and services. You will agree with me that the best product doesn't always sell the most. Sales management plays a critical role in the growth of any organisation.

In my 32-years in sales, I have worked under quite a number of sales managers and I am sorry to say that very few were truly effective. In speaking to hundreds of sales people throughout my career, I have come to learn that a majority of sales people view their sales manager in a less than positive light. If a sales manager is not viewed by his or her sales team as contributor to their success then he or she is not doing their job and in fact, may be doing more harm than good. I would like to offer some insights and observations based on my years of experience as a salesman and a sales manager.

Anyone can do it 
Many people view sales management similar to coaching a School League Baseball Team. They figure if they played baseball well, then surely they can coach kids effectively. Many sales people feel the same way. If they can sell well then they can lead a sales team. Wrong in both instances! Success in sales does not automatically result in effective management skills and being able to play baseball doesn’t mean one knows how to teach it. Management is an acquired skill and one in which the learning process must be a never ending one. There are thousands of learning resources available on the Internet, in books and on DVD to enable one to learn effective sales management skills. Take advantage of them. In other words, learn your trade, don’t just assume it.

Controlling is not 'managing'
Many sales managers make the mistake of trying to enforce uniform behavior. This might be in the form of scripted sales presentations, minimum required client meetings per week, regimented training or group call out days. While this may satisfy the manager’s desire for control, it is actually a detriment to both morale and effectiveness.

No two sales people are alike and no two sales people sell alike. Any attempt to control the personal sales process stifles individuality and creativity. Joe is highly effective over the phone. Why demand that he have as many client meetings as Mary, particularly if his sales numbers are better than hers? Kate disdains powerpoint presentations and is more effective without them. Why insist that she use them? Bill learns more using online courses than he does in a classroom environment whereas Cindy is just the opposite.  

Effective sales managers encourage individuality and creativity. The most successful sales meetings that I have attended were those that encouraged sales people to share success stories and selling techniques. One example of a success story was how a salesman landed an appointment with a client with whom our organization had never managed to do business, let alone get a meeting. He mailed the purchasing manager a ticket to a local, minor league baseball game in a hand written envelope. Included was a note asking him to join him at the game as a way of introducing our organization. This creative, out of the box strategy resulted in a new customer who eventually became one of our largest clients.
I mentioned that I have only worked for “one”, truly effective Sales Manager. What made him so effective was his ability to come up with simple sales analogies that helped explain our products and services. I work in the Information Technology field and explaining your product/services can get pretty complicated. One such analogy my Sales Manager taught me years ago was a four lane highway to describe how data moves within a computer network. Another was comparing regular server maintenance to regular visits to the Doctor. “If you can form a picture in the client’s mind”, my Sales Manager said, “You will have a much easier time not only explaining our products and services but selling to them.” His ever-growing list of analogies was one of the best selling tools I have ever had.

Stay in the game
I love movies about salesmen and one of my favorites is ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’. Alec Baldwin plays an intimidating Sales Manager from a downtown office who screams at salesmen who legitimately complain about lousy leads, “I can go out there tonight with the materials you have and make myself $15,000!” I have watched this movie countless times and each time I hear this line I yell, “Then do it, or show me how to do it!” Being a sales manager doesn’t mean you know how to sell better than your sales people. It means you are in a position to provide them with tools for success that they might not otherwise have had. It is the Baldwin type manager that made me conclude that a Sales Manager should maintain a few accounts. It keeps him in the game, so to speak and makes it easier to relate to what his sales staff goes through on a daily basis. If Baldwin’s character was still out there knocking on doors, he would know a lousy lead when he sees one.

But, there has to be a system, right?Right, it is called ‘CRM’ or Customer Relationship Management, a software product that enables sales organizations to help prioritization, reporting and customer satisfaction. Sales teams can view all sales activity including forecasts, quotes, and sales scheduling. Detailed customer information is at the user’s fingertips. If a CRM software is not at the hub of your sales organization then you are depriving yourself and your sales force of the single most effective salesforce automation and management tool.

A final thought
When I was seven years old, my Father took me to work. The year was 1963. He worked for a large paint manufacturer in Manhattan. I can still see the line of salesmen’s’ desks against a very high wall. Above each desk was a large poster with the salesman’s sales numbers scribbled in various bright colors. My Father was one of these salesmen and he said to me, “They put us up against a wall, post our numbers and then police us to ensure we meet their targets,” he didn’t like it at all.

My Father went on to become the Sales Manager. The desks were moved away from the wall and partitions were placed between them, a CRM software was implemented. The sales numbers were no longer displayed, he kept them secret for each person and followed-up only when somebody consistently performed below expectations. He always told me that the best thing a Sales Manager can do is give his sales staff respect. No one has ever given me better advice.

7 Key Areas to Drive for Boosting Cross-selling

Cross selling is the art of alluring existing or potential customers with goods or services related to what they are already buying or planning to. Though cross-selling increases your sales on an average by 10 -20% or higher at no extra cost, it should be practiced in a tactful manner.

Drive the following seven key areas to improve cross-selling:
1. Understand Customer Requirements - 
‘Listen’ and try to get the most accurate information about what your customer wants, their preferences and answer the objections. Application of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) will be of great advantage. This effort alone adds to a better relationship with the customer and increases their confidence in you. Special care should be taken not to press or push them to the point that they become irate. Also, do not appear to be too ‘eager’. The customer should be convinced, or at least feel that his/ her needs are understood properly and will be suitably fulfilled. Never jump to conclusions or form assumptions - you might suggest ‘meat to a vegetarian’!

If all the related customer information is captured through a CRM software, it can be carefully studied to understand the best product for each customer and prospect. The reports and analytics generated will assist greatly in optimizing cross sell, up sell and other future opportunities.

2. Analyze Buying Patterns
Business Patterns are more relevant in the case of existing customers, though it can be determined for potential buyers using appropriate methods like surveys, questionnaires etc. and collating the results using marketing automation software during the campaign. This information will facilitate pinpointing the relevant audience and segments. Organize your existing information about customers to match the results of these analytics. Offering products from the same brand family to which the customer is loyal, will make the chances of succeeding in cross-selling far more probable.

Though every customer is important, using a CRM system, they can be classified according to value based on buying patterns. The business intelligence or analytics component of a CRM software can generate customer or prospect information to help you decide if they are potent enough to provide you high value business or relationships. Also, by studying a holistic view of each customer or prospect their proclivity to buy a product offering can be accessed. Re-segmentation or multi segmentation of customers is another benefit of CRM analytics.

3. Positioning & Packaging
Utilize your product knowledge and bundle the principal product with ‘relevant’ products. Well integrated positioning of the cross-sell products with the principal product entices a customer to purchase the combined offering.

Package all the related services as a product and offer. Align the cross-sell products with the customer’s necessity and explain the benefits. Always show the big picture when combining the cross-sell offers with the principal so that there is adequate clarity for customers. While using a brochure or similar material, ensure that it is a single sheet.

Apart from the most optimal positioning and packaging suggestions, a CRM solution can help identify alternate products for a particular set of requirements.

4. Timing
Time your cross-sell pitch in a way that the customer feels a sense of urgency. An offer for a discount with a limited timeline (offer ends in 3 days), or purchase amount based incentives (“Your current purchase is for $920, if your purchase amount is above $1000, you qualify for special discounts or gifts.”) is statistically proven to entice the customer to yield to the cross-sell pitch.

The ideal time to pitch for a cross sell can be pointed out by a CRM system, for e.g. as soon as a customer buys a book across the counter, the CRM software can display suggestions for other relevant titles, authors, magazines, events, etc. for the salesperson to offer.

5. Product Reviews & Intelligent Suggestions
If a customer is about to buy from you, offer him the top reviews and testimonials by existing users of the product. Suggestions based on customer requirement, behavior and the available variety of products will greatly improve success rates.

6. Pricing
Always offer three different pricing options with the middle one being your primary goal (for e.g. Option A - $750, Option B - $1000 and Option C - $1250). Avoid offering more than three options, it might confuse the customer. Do not make all your offers visible initially; keep some for negotiations too.

While negotiating for prices, a CRM software’s customer data pertaining to requirements and buying behaviors can greatly aid the sales personnel to offer the ‘best price’ to customers, leading to more win – win situations.

7. Training
It should always be an organizational initiative and not an individual one to cross sell. It is vital to train your sales personnel specifically on cross selling - an incorrectly deployed cross-sell effort often results in confusing customers, delays the sales cycle and in many cases prompts prospects to ask for discounts. Also, if not done appropriately it could put-off hesitant customers or those who come back at a later point of time.

There is no substitute for good customer service and along with some intelligent thinking the subtle art of cross selling can progressively generate unbelievable results. Ultimately, you must make the customer feel that they have made the most ‘beneficial’ choice.

A CRM solution provides you with a 360-degree view of each customer or prospect and relevant activities; this greatly assists in studying first hand information related to the aforementioned areas. It will help you optimize your sales - sell to the right customer with the appropriate offering at the correct time and price.