Benefits of Incorporating Social CRM in your Business Strategy

The modern day abstractionism of inferring a social media-centered association is what we could call yesteryear word-of-mouth publicity. Social media can catalyze almost anything in today’s world. Needless to say, expansion and amplification of a trade meant for the masses using this social media extensively. By definition, any web application that facilitates individually creating content sharing and exchange can be symbolized as another social media forum. The variety of these social media sites differ from the style of communication platforms they offer.

Implementing these concepts, the main idea of social CRM is to enhance the visibility of your business whilst individuals attempt to socialize with the globe. Though the interpretations of social CRM vary as per the outlook and viewpoint of dealings it is associated with, the bottom-line is to proactively connect to existing customers as well as prospective ones.

Social Media CRM
So what are the possibilities of this integration between your CRM and a social media platform? How can linking between any CRM and a social media network help? What would be the outcome of this integration?
  • Branding: Definitely in the case of expensive marketing, branding projects is a distinctive feature which purely exalts the product and your business. Your business product/ service can be made extremely exuberant by advertising and indulging in conversations through these platforms.
  • Product launch: Marketing of an existing/ emerging product gains recognition by up to 21% as compared to any other form of advertising. Counting the recent efficiency of these social media portals, better marketing and advertising figures can be achieved.
  • Feedback and suggestions: Since it is all about customer experience, social CRM can help a great deal to match customer desires and requirements on a real-time basis.
Discovering the implications of social CRM in the market, Gartner noted that 90% of current spending on social CRM is for B2C use, but that spending on B2B social CRM is growing faster than B2C, and will account for 30% of the market by 2015.

In addition to the above, a few common statistics for both B2C and B2B are outlined -
  • 25% of the regular internet users spend at least 1 hour of their time to socialize and update themselves
  • 41% of customers believe that companies should use social media tools to solicit feedback on products and services
  • 43% of consumers say that companies should use social networks to solve the customers’ problems
  • Only 7% of organizations understand the CRM value of social media
Brand Science Institute, European Perspective

    Social Media and B2C
    When speaking about B2C marketing, the adoption of social media in B2C marketing has already been discovered, recognized and executed. Although, specifically in this category, there is simply one staunch protocol- convert every viewer to a customer. The justified reason being the enormously large targeted viewers. Considering even the lesser-than-achievable conversion accuracy, many customers are achieved in the campaigns of B2C marketing. Citing another simplicity, the sky is the limit when by classifying this extreme number of users, different marketing techniques are applied.

    For example, through a populated networking site, one can achieve a group of users having a common interest in the sport “Soccer”. Thoughts such as pictures, autographs and memorabilia can be used as techniques to lure customers. Furthermore, various such tactics can be applied thus tagging it with a great deal product-centricity. Continuing on the present concept, the simple single step sales process can be regarded as the third-string in the interest of social CRM for B2Cs.

    Social Media and B2B
    Playing second fiddle, the supposition of B2B marketing leveraged by social CRM is pretty fragmented. Being reliant on social media in this confined category has never been an essential requirement, hence it hasn’t been very popular. Differing from B2C marketing, some challenging traits of B2B are:
    • It is Relationship-Driven 
    • Identifying decision makers 
    • Extensive Sales Cycle
    The inclusion of a social CRM solution in this category will not necessarily overcome these factors. As a matter of fact, it is easy to go wrong when you have social CRM in a B2B business. The most common case is the complexities involved in interactions using a social platform when there are multiple stakeholders involved in a B2B scenario.

    Finally, enunciating the two dominating elements which businesses should concentrate on for integrating social media CRM :
    • No less than an 'Intelligence' System:  In context to the deficiencies of B2B marketing, the structure or processes can’t be generalized to a handful of strategies as we do so easily in B2Cs. Social Media here can be used as a tool on the lines of data mining, helping discover those unknown analytical patterns in your trade.
    • Make the move from 'Listening' to 'Action': We by now know about B2Bs being relationship-driven. The essence here is to try and devise the “Actions” more than only communication used to achieve a better prospect-to-customer conversion rate, in order to compensate for the disadvantage of a meager target audience.
    For example, make the product/ service offerings of your business “branded” on any of the most happening social sites, be it Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Gain more recognition, a larger number of 'likes', creating various posts, updates, etc.

    The ideology in B2B marketing is more conservative in contrast to B2Cs. Nevertheless, in both cases, the advantages of incorporating social CRM are numerous. All spoken and read about can definitely be classified as generalized paraphernalia. Their precise advantages vary from organization to organization and how differently you have used the magic of social media.

    Using CRM in Real Estate to Stay Ahead of Competitors

    In today’s expeditious culture, coupled with an ever-evolving market and a well informed customer, Real Estate professionals face some major challenges in how to battle with this corollary in their volatile industry.

    Widespread exposure to technology – the internet in particular - has encouraged buyers, vendors and clients to demand detailed information and that too, within their desired time frames. In addition, the current scenario has made it a tricky task to attract, deal with, retain, and satisfy today’s customer in the real estate market. This is one industry where every single customer is different from another - varied backgrounds, economic conditions, needs, wants, and mindsets.

    As a result, there is a primary need for personalization and flexibility in order to cater to the diverse requirements of the assorted clientele. The best strategy to meet these challenges is to understand, build and manage a fundamentally strong and long term relationship with customers.

    Challenges faced by the Real Estate sector
    It is evident that the Real Estate industry needs Innovation in finding, segmenting, managing and finally satisfying customers. Finding cross-selling and up selling opportunities is another huge challenge.

    The Real Estate sector is growing fast across all directions making it much like a roller coaster ride. Forward looking companies are looking to gain a competitive advantage. The strategy with the biggest impact would be to identify what the most innovative differentiators are and nail them.

    A plethora of projects flooding the Real Estate Market gives the buyers a wide choice. In addition, the current working population has a better spending capacity. People who invest in property expect the best services and thorough professionalism from the developers. Distinguishing services is what customers look for and they do not mind paying a premium for the same.

    Additionally, the heterogeneous customers in this industry necessitate their segmentation into homogeneous groups. This is important to enable companies to design effective marketing campaigns and other strategies for the targeted groups, thus taking the best action in conversion of prospects to customers. The segregation also makes it simpler to effectively follow up and provide better after sales service.

    Given the current situation, it is vital that developers focus on selling ‘value’ rather than ‘commodity’. Every project stands apart from another in terms of location, features, price, services provided, after sales and so on. It is therefore important that the uniqueness of each project is highlighted and make evident why it is worth investing in a particular property. This has to be achieved by positioning the differentiators in a convincing manner. The smartest solution to all the above issues is most understandably a CRM solution.

    Importance of CRM in the real estate sector
    CRM for the Real Estate sector facilitates change, since it possesses the agility which is necessary to meet the changing customer and industry requirements. CRM increases customer loyalty and helps fulfill the informed customer’s expectations.

    CRM is defined as an approach that helps to transform as well as integrate people, business processes, functions and technology in order to optimize relationships with all types of customers that the organization comes in contact with. It helps real estate professionals become more productive and effective in managing prospects and customers. Sales and marketing functions are better managed and executed. Pathway and guidance in lead generation, lead management, and retention of existing customers is facilitated through a good CRM system.
    • Customer Segmentation: CRM solutions help in effective segmentation of the market. In turn segmentation allows companies to focus and cater to the particular preferences and needs of each group. Effective campaigning can also be carried out by targeting the selected groups, thus enabling a comprehensive approach in planning and budgeting. As opposed to targeting one big heterogeneous group, having smaller, specific groups would increase overall productivity & maximize ROI.
    • Effective Communication: CRM software provides companies with several tools and mechanisms needed for effective communication management with prospects, and allows structured sales process.
    • Manage Long Sales Cycles: Typical Real Estate sales life cycle (whether outright purchase or lease) involves several company – customer interactions. It becomes imperative that these interactions are tracked, analyzed, followed up and utilized effectively. Doing so helps in deciding the best plan of action to convert the lead to customer. Such data is sensitive and needs to be properly managed. CRM helps achieve this.
    • Property administration: This is a crucial step to automating sales process. A web-based site administration tool could make it easy to create and manage each property in the company’s portfolio, from basic address information to floor plans, upgrading of packages and status details of each unit in the property. 
    • Market Intelligence: CRM software helps to configure developments to precisely meet buyer needs, with real time information on locations, cost and availability. It can also be designed to provide real time pricing and inventory information, thus helping to optimize prices, maximize profits, and capture potential lost revenues. 
    • Document management:In the Real Estate industry this is elaborate and complex. CRM software's document creation and management tools make document handling and management easy, leading to better organizing of all kinds of important data. The system helps centralize documents vital to the real estate sales and closing process. Salespeople and other key users can then create contracts and other documents for each transaction. The most dramatic benefits are seen for companies operating multiple property sites.  
    CRM solutions in this industry will serve to improve service operations, increase up selling by capturing, tracking and resolving issues in a unified system. Order tracking and accuracy is also increased. Sales trends which are needed for enhanced decision making and planning are also made available. A thorough understanding of the complicated Real estate market, the alert competitor, the demanding & knowledgeable customer, is all made possible by a comprehensive CRM solution.

    The Real Estate sector is the touch point for millions of customers on an everyday basis, necessitating the need to develop and intelligently manage a large variety of customers who have a diversified set of requirements. Providing anything short of excellent customer understanding and service will cause failure. Therefore, it is mandatory that CRM solutions be included in the business process of the Real Estate industry to ensure that customer relationships are strengthened and maintained to ensure maximum profitability.

    New Trends in CRM Software that Will Make a Difference

    Enterprise Level Data Gathering, Transparently 
    Data is the currency of the information age. Those that have it and know how to manage it can do anything. Those without it, or those that flounder it away, are always struggling to stay in the game. Future CRM solutions will provide extensive data gathering mechanisms with zero change in end-user behavior. The data collection will be continuous and invisible – transparent – and immediately available for use.

    A major drawback in today’s CRM solutions is its lack of transparency with regards to data collection. For example, sales people need to interact with the system in order to maintain new leads or business partners after the fact - meaning after completing a sales call, the sales person needs to go back and record the event and its outcome. The same holds true for customer reps and/or service-related organizations that need to track customer interactions and behaviors. The process for capturing this data is manual (and quite tedious and time consuming for some) – it is not automatic. This is where future CRM tools will excel.

    Consider a new data collection paradigm where everything is logged, at all times, without the need to interact directly. All communication going from the enterprise to the customer base and vice versa passes through a common ‘CRM Black Box’ which logs everything:


    With the CRM Black Box paradigm, there is no need to change anyone’s behavior. The black box would do the data collection in real time and then present it back in a real-time context. For example, a sales call with the CRM Black Box in place:

    While the sales person is speaking to the customer, the CRM solution is updating a display to sales person – on a tablet, smart-phone, maybe even a new optical device embedded into the lens of the sales person’s glasses? Not only is CRM giving the sales person information to create a personal experience for the customer, CRM is also logging the interaction – positive or negative outcome, mood of the customer, date/time of interaction, topics that were discussed, etc. However, the sales person did not need to change his/her behavior. From the sales person’s perspective, a phone call simply took place while a few talking points were displayed back in real-time. The integration between the sales person and the CRM system is seamless, effortless, and useful, which in turn drives acceptance of the system.

    Getting a Real View of Customer Utility – CRM Data Intelligence
    A common tenant in economics is that people will naturally participate in an activity if it increases their utility. Hence, the goal of any business should be to increase the utility in its customer base. The challenge is to make this a personal experience for each customer and understand those utilities that are unique to any given customer. The next set of CRM tools will provide analytics and business intelligence features that can correctly guide businesses to drive customer utility into the stratosphere. Reports on future CRM platforms will be tailored instructions and checklists by which businesses can fine-tune operations, increase customer growth, cut costs, and increase sales growth.

    By integrating customer utility into the CRM reporting layer, imagine some possibilities of the types of reports that the next CRM tools can offer:
    • My happiest customers
    • My most annoyed customers
    • Customers that use the company website and prefer it
    • Customer that use the company website but would prefer to use the phone 
    • Customers that buy the least amount but call the service department the most
    • Customers I talk to the most, but don’t sell to much
    • Customers I never talk to, but sell to often
    The list is endless, there is no limit to the ways in which CRM data can be sliced and diced. Given all the elements that make up the enterprise landscapes of today’s businesses, CRM has the most upside potential. This is not due to the fact that fewer businesses use CRM, but because the foundation needed to create a truly great CRM solution is just now becoming a reality. Over time, CRM will tightly integrate into the ERP landscape and into the daily lives of consumers. 

    In a quiet and austere manner, CRM will find, catalogue, and report on every piece of information, behavioral quirk, or idiosyncrasy that drives customer behavior and preferences. Its presence will never be seen or felt, but its impact will be intense. Consumers will be amazed at how easily they can get exactly the right products and feel great doing it, and businesses will be amazed at how well they operate and how much their profits grow.

    5 Ways to Enhance Customer Experience in the Healthcare Industry

    Do you know a hospital where you can leave a voice message for patients, wishing them a speedy recovery? Did your hospital ever confuse you with somebody else because they hadn't implemented an effective CRM solution and hand you the wrong report? Have you ever been frustrated trying to find a phone number where you can inquire about a patient who is undergoing treatment? Are you used to getting reminders of your next health check-up schedule or your dad’s dialysis date? Did you ever feel anxious about not knowing your baby’s next vaccination date?
    Most of us have experienced these kind of situations in some point of our lives and felt frustrated and helpless. As a worried son or spouse or a friend we often face endless anxious hours trying to figure out the condition of a patient. This becomes particularly annoying when you are outside the four walls of a healthcare facility or even worse if you live abroad. Choosing a healthcare provider is often influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations and individual experiences can play a crucial role in determining a provider’s success in attracting patients.

    Is it a case for CRM?
    There are legal and ethical conflicts in using the word “Customer” for a patient. But for all practical purposes they are indeed the paying consumers of healthcare related services, and their satisfaction is the key to a provider’s business growth. It is time that healthcare consumers borrow concepts from the strategy of a successful CRM solution to demonstrate empathy, responsiveness and respect towards their consumers - who are incidentally patients and their family members or attendants. This little extra, which goes beyond clinical and administrative competence, can give them an opportunity to gain trust and loyalty of their patients.

    Improving emotional connections
    There are several steps which providers can take to bridge the gap between providing top of the line treatment and making every patient feel unique and special.

    Proactive managed care programs - Chronically ill patients usually visit a fixed healthcare facility for regular check-up and procedures. The scheduling of these is often not managed pro-actively by the provider. Reminders and preference based scheduling can go a long way in building lasting relationship with a patient. This holds true as well for patients subscribed to wellness programs, health screening programs and the ones who are expected for routine check-ups after a major surgery.

    Assigning a single point contact for family and attendants of In-Patients - Assigning a single contact phone number for admitted patients can go a long way in reducing the anxiety of family members. This number may be handled by agents who can perform multiple functions like keeping a message, connecting the nursing stuff or physician and providing billing information.

    Capture personal preferences and information on family members - In a typical Pharma CRM solutions certain personal information of patients like communication preferences, list of close family members, emergency contact and other demographic information may be captured. This would basically be an extension of the patient master with information stored specifically to facilitate personalized services.

    Communicate achievements, breakthrough cases and educational content - It is important to keep the patient in loop about the provider even when he or she is not undergoing any treatment. Typically breakthrough surgeries, new facilities and other educational contents may be shared based on the patient’s demographics and preferences.

    Capture the voice of patients - Capturing feedback from the patient and/or family members and managing their grievances is as relevant to healthcare as any other type of service. This would give the patients a sense of inclusiveness.

    The Way forward
    Imagine visiting a virtual information lobby on your iPad or smartphone to check the progress of your ailing father while working in another part of the world.

    Imagine being reminded of your next health screening date or your spouse’s next check-up schedule through a SMS. Imagine using your smartphone to check your new born child’s next vaccination date.

    This wish list can go on. Technologically, it is not a distant dream for smart healthcare providers to implement solutions that can dramatically improve their emotional connect with their patients.

    The forward looking providers would look for such innovations in the near future to establish a lasting emotional comfort in their consumers and eventually attract more patients through referrals and recommendations. Implementing an effective CRM solution will surpass everyone's expectations by facilitating new marketing strategies, better customer service, social media analytics and future proof customer strategies.

    Positive Customer Experience is the New Competitive Advantage

    With globalization of brands, internet penetration and social media platforms, it is important more than ever to improve the customer experience by delivering superior value propositions to survive and grow. When money is easy to come by and jobs aplenty, customers have larger disposable incomes which translate into more spending on goods and services. So, the tendency to forget and forgive a bad experience at a retailer or a restaurant is natural. However, when the economic conditions turn gloomy and the overall economic climate darkens, customers are less likely to overlook poor service and hence improving customer experience ought to be the central point of the business strategy.
    A research report published by the Harris Group has shown that 87% of the customers stopped dealing with businesses because of negative customer experiences. This figure is up from the 68% that was reported a couple of years ago. And for those who believe that during tough economic times, price is the only differentiating factor, the same survey found that more than half of the customers sampled (58%) indicated that they would still rank customer experience higher than other aspects of the value proposition and would be willing to pay more for superior customer experience.

    Further, improving customer experience often leads to customer retention and in good times as well as bad times, there is nothing like repeat business.

    Another report, by the famous consulting company, Forrester Research, has examined the relationship between customer experience and word of mouth and how they go hand in hand. For instance, customers are more likely to discuss bad experiences with their peers and colleagues than good ones. Next, the Gen Xers have been found to tell their peers about bad experiences more than any other age group. Considering the fact that Gen Xers are the generation that is now rising up the corporate ladder, businesses ought to pay heed to these findings which indicate that customer experience is paramount in furthering the interests of the business.

    A couple of points stand out in the preceding discussion a) Getting things right the first time and improving customer experience in the “first touch” lead to repeat business and better word of mouth publicity and b) bad experiences make customers “vote with their feet” and desist from doing business with the company. In both cases, the bottom line is the same: The customer is the King and Customer experience management is the way to score over the competition. When products and services go down the lifecycle towards commoditization, the differentiating factor that seals the sale is how well the customer has been treated and how well his or her needs were taken care of. Implementing an effective CRM solution at all customer touch points can prove to be critical in gaining a competitive advantage.

    Whether it is a booming economy or a gloomy economy, retaining customers and generating positive publicity are the goals to which all businesses aspire. And these objectives can only be met if the “customer touch points” are well oiled and the customers are left wanting for more.

    Social CRM Makes Marketing Strategies More Successful

    The old adage of product, price, place and promotion is rapidly changing in today’s fast paced marketing environment. Yes, you still need the right product at the right price, but place and promotion have changed dramatically. Where once promotion was limited to print and media (radio and television) and your market was your backyard, today promotion includes all forms of social media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more to follow and the market is the world. But how can a company integrate all of these new marketing channels?

    One method is through the integration of the social media platform and marketing efforts with CRM Solutions. Many CRM solution companies are also offering integrated social media CRM modules to address these needs. The integration of these systems provides the ability to transfer sales information between the marketing and sales departments enabling to increase campaign effectiveness and marketing investment can be enhanced.

    It is critical that the information between the marketing and sales teams is bi-directional. If, for example, if your company website has a “contact us” form the information provided in this form should appear to both marketing and sales teams. In turn, any information gathered or updated in the CRM solution about a customer should appear to the marketing team as well. It is equally important that the marketing team has a real time view of the leads and sales generated to be able to successfully segment and analyze the market for campaign development as well as the measurement of campaign effectiveness.

    While it would appear that these systems work well together in the traditional sense, they are also unique in their ability to track the social media presence of your customers. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for example are an excellent source for lead development – by data mining for those customers on these platforms it is possible to identify new leads through current customers’ contacts. These customers are most likely to know others similar to them and are an excellent source of lead generation for the sales units. By identifying in the marketing and CRM solution those clients who are influential on social media platforms, sales people have learned to identify prospects based on relationships to current customers.

    Increasing number of companies are looking to these new social media to advertise their current products. Using social networks can introduce a product or service to an entirely new audience of potential customers. Again, customers who are brought into the company basket through these channels need to be identified as such in both the marketing and CRM solutions.

    It is important to remember, that potential customers are using these outlets to look at your company as well. By posting articles on of interest on social media networks it is possible to attract customers who are already mining these sites for information. By tracking these posts in the social media CRM solution and marketing systems it is possible to analyze the effectiveness of these campaigns.

    Which brings us back to the product, price, place and promotion paradigm – company’s still need the right product at the right price but the place and promotion have expanded to the world!

    Customer Experience Management (CEM) is Now a Critical Part of CRM

    It’s obvious that technology is tightly integrating into our day-to-day lives. This trend will only continue, and accelerate. It’s almost to the point now where we don’t even notice this technological coupling much anymore. It’s simply expected that any device we use today will have a common set of features – like internet connectivity, access to social networking, audio/video capabilities, cloud access, or telephony.

    This is, of course, is self evident in the smart phone and mobile computing markets, but technology is also weaving itself into other areas of daily life: televisions, kitchen appliances, automobiles, furniture, even clothing. In the near future, most of our day-to-day devices and appliances will have a smart processor embedded and the ability to conform to our individual usage patterns. Imagine a coffee maker that turns itself on after it hears you shut off your alarm clock, or a refrigerator that automatically places your weekly grocery order – it’s pretty much a reality already.

    So, what does this high level of technological integration mean to businesses with respect to CRM? It means that we have access to new information sources about our customers. We have new methods of measuring not only customer preferences, but customer behaviour. We can get an accurate measure of customer utility. We can truly visualize the demand curve and use it as a tool to grow our business and stay ahead of the competition. It means that the sales process doesn’t end with a sales order. Customers become more than just individuals. Each customer becomes their own entity. Regardless of a customer’s size, magnitude, or order volume, we have the ability to treat each customer individually and uniquely to fit their specific tastes. CRM solutions change from being a front-end / upstream system, to a holistic, over arching process that has no beginning or end. In fact, it’s not CRM anymore, it’s something else that hasn’t truly been named yet, only described – Customer Experience Management (CEM). It’s the next evolution of CRM, and it’s not that far away.

    CEM differentiates itself from old CRM software in 3 ways:
    i) Scope
    ii) Longevity
    iii) Intent

    CEM is an all encompassing process in the enterprise. In fact, it reaches outside of the enterprise too. It’s not a process in the traditional sense – there is no formal beginning and end. It takes on a cyclic pattern where customers enter from any point and hopefully, never leave the circle.

    Today’s CRM systems can handle half of CEM’s scope – the stuff that happens within the enterprise. CRM is good at integrating with back-end systems, service organizations, and customer service, but it’s not that good at seeing outside the enterprise. That’s where CEM comes in. CEM can handle things that happen outside the enterprise – measuring customer usage, behavior patterns, and utility. CEM will take advantage of technological integrations and use those as data points, which will in turn feed back into the enterprise.

    Traditionally, CRM has an expiration date. Once the sale is closed and the products/services are delivered, there’s generally a limited amount of customer interaction. CEM is different, because there is no end. As far as CEM is concerned, it will try and stay in touch with customers forever – not necessarily through direct means, but through subtly and finesse. In the future, customers’ behavior and interaction with devices and networks will allow businesses to locate and track certain patterns and events. This type of data can flow back into the CEM system and be used to generate new leads or create opportunities for up or cross-selling. Since this is an automated process, you won’t have to lose touch with customers, even if their preferences change. At any point, if your customer’s needs or preferences come into alignment with your business’s product offerings, the CEM system will identify it and let you know. CEM never stops looking for ways to earn you more revenue.

    Customer experience management is not a ‘relationship’ management system; it’s an ‘experience’ management system. The intent of CEM is not to help you manage your customers, but instead, help your customers manage you. We’re talking about customer utility – what really makes your customer’s tick. How can you make their lives better? What can you do to make them come to you? That’s what CEM is trying to figure out. It’s the opposite approach of traditional CRM solutions. Instead of starting from inside the enterprise and working outwards, let’s start on the outside and figure out a path back in.

    If you are ever fortunate enough to travel to Las Vegas and win big – I mean really big, the casino will usually offer you a complimentary, museum-like suite. You’ll have a private pool with Jacuzzi, a five-star kitchen, a personal masseuse, and, your very own butler. The butler’s job is to make your time at the casino a better one. No matter the size, magnitude, difficulty, ridiculousness, futility, or even legality of your request, the butler will never raise his voice, will never say no, will never disappoint. He will smile and say “Of, course. Right Away!” And he will make sure that you know that his only purpose in life is to make yours better. Now implement the butler into a software application, and you have the future of CRM – Customer Experience Management. It’s not that far away.

    6 Factors to Consider when Evaluating Financial Services CRM

    Working in the financial sector gives your business the opportunity to provide services to many different types of people on a regular basis. Working with so many people and financial products can become confusing, you need a way to keep track of your interactions and advice offered. Because of this, many financial servcies companies use CRM solutions to avoid chaos and customer churn.

    Using CRM solutions is also a good way to help build relationships and promote customer loyalty. If you work in the financial sector, you have many different options to consider when it comes to choosing a CRM solution for your business.

    Before deciding which CRM software to implement, consider the size and scope of your business and the six following key factors-
    1. Does the CRM provide a 360 degree view of the customer? 
    2. Can it track buying behaviour? 
    3. Does it have intelligent marketing/ cross selling campaigns? 
    4. Can it generate customized auto alerts and reminders? 
    5. What are its collaboration capabilities? 
    6. Can it integrate with other systems?
    360 degree view of customers
    One of the first factors to look at is what type of information the CRM software can collect and display for each customers and is it easily accessible around the clock. Can the CRM solution display a holistic view of your customer to all the stakeholders allowing quick respone in crucial situations? When working in the financial sector, you may need to collect a large amount of information about each customer for compliance and also to better serve them. This information should be updated regularly and contain details of their most recent transactions. All CRM systems allow you to track basic personal information such as the customer’s name, phone number and address, but you need to track other vital information and analytics too, if you want to provide the best service. For example, in the financial services sector, you may need to keep track of conversations you have about specific investments, risk appetite and goals. Storing this information in your CRM software allows you to easily refer to it before offering ant advice and it also helps in cross-selling.

    Tracking buying behaviour
    Another feature that you may want to look for in a CRM solution for the financial sector is the ability to track customer decisions and activities. For example, if you sell investment products to your customers, you need to be able to keep track of what products each customer prefers and purchases. By tracking this information, you can develop a profile of each customer and figure out what types of investments they like. This way, when a new product becomes available, you can easily print out a list of customers that may be interested in it. Tracking the past decisions of your customers will give you an inclination of how they might be willing to invest in the future and the most appropriate product to offer.

    Intelligent marketing/cross selling campaigns
    Many CRM platforms allow you to customize marketing messages to your customers based on the information collected. For example, if your company is promoting a particular mutual fund, you can easily scan through all of your customers that are interested in bonds and mutual funds. You can also see which customers are looking for more investment opportunities, based on discussions that you have had in the past. At that point, the CRM system may be able to send out customized emails to each customer with the pertinent marketing messages using customized templates. Monthly newsletters related to the stock market and key trends can be sent to specific mailing lists too, using a mail blaster.

    After sending out marketing messages, it may also be beneficial to be able to track the recipients' responses to the message and have clarity regarding undelivered ones. Some CRM programs allow you to easily track this information using delivery reports and by generating alerts based on specific filter conditions. By studying this information, you can gauge how much interest the client has in the product that you offered in the marketing message and create follow-up tasks. Text message campaigns for time-bound offers can be created for instantly generating new leads and capturing their details through the CRM solution to ensure effective tracking and optimal conversions.

    Auto alerts and reminders
    When choosing a CRM solution for your financial services business, you also need to find one that generates reminders on the basis of configurable settings. One of the most important factors of being successful in the financial services industry is developing relationships with your customers. CRM today incorporates impressive social networking features to facilitate viewing profile information, comments and mutual friends. They will also remind you of important dates in the customer’s lives such as birthdays and anniversaries, this can go a long way towards helping you grow your relationships. Most CRM programs even integrate with automated mailing services to send birthday cards or other greetings to leads and customers. Customers like being remembered and enjoy the personalized touch.

    Getting reminders from your CRM program can also be beneficial when it comes to selling new products and services to your customers. In some cases, you may approach a customer about a particular product that you want to sell and he will tell you to check back in a month. At that point, you can input this information into your CRM program and set a reminder for the appropriate day and time. An alert can be set for a few hours before the scheduled discussion to ensure all related open activities are completed and you are equipped with up-to-date information to increase your chances of winning an opportunity. Most customers will be impressed that you remembered and are well informed, thereby being more receptive to your proposals.

    Collaboration between all stakeholders
    Depending on the size of your business, you may also need to be able to collaborate with multiple departments, partners and even customers. If the financial CRM solution offers the ability to allow multiple users to access and input information, this will increase synergy in the business and help to serve the customers in the most effiecient and effective manner.

    For instance, when someone from your company talks to a customer, they can take notes on the conversation and input that information into the CRM program. Then when someone else from contacts the same person, he will be able to see the content of the last conversation with that customer. By seeing this, the employee does not have to rehash old information that the customer has already been subjected to in the past. This will please the customer and save the company time overall.

    Ideal Business Size
    The size of your business also has an impact on what type of financial services CRM solution you should implement. Requirements of large organisations in terms of scalability, integration, processes are more complex and demanding than a small or a medium sized company. These depends on the number of users, products offered, geographic dispersion of teams etc. You should evaluate both cloud CRM (Saas CRM) and on premise CRM with an option to switch when needed based on an organization's needs.

    Integration with other systems
    Before choosing a financial services CRM solution for your financial services, you may also want to find out if it integrates with other programs that you currently use to store important customer and product related information. For example, if the CRM system allows you to integrate with MS Excel, MS Access, real-time stock market systems, etc. this can increase efficiency. If users have to use completely different programs and re-enter data - adoption will be low, buying the CRM program may not be worth the trouble.

    The ultimate goal of using financial services CRM solution is to increase customer loyalty and avoid churn in a competitive and crowded business environment. This software has the potential to improve the user experience by making the marketing and sales processes easier and more efficient. Because of this, it has the potential to keep your customers coming back for more. With most businesses, customers can get the same products you offer from a competitor. The reason they come back to you is because of the service you provide - accurate updates, market insights and timely advice.

    Regardless of which financial services CRM solution you choose, make sure the solution provider has good domain knowledge and the past experience of implementing in an organisation similar to yours in size and operations. You should also always check for references and tangible benefits for the CRM implementation.

    4 Ways to Enhance Loyalty Programs with CRM Software

    Loyalty – a noun defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a strong feeling of support or allegiance. But what makes a customer loyal to one store or brand and not to another? What turns a price shopper into a brand loyal customer? These questions, as well as others, can be answered using data from CRM solutions.

    History of loyalty programs
    Loyalty programs have been around since the 1950s when S&H Green Stamps began rewarding grocery store customers with small books that could be filled with stamps and then redeemed for appliances or other merchandise. The modern day loyalty program is attributed to American Airlines, who in 1981 began offering frequent traveler miles. This program was quickly duplicated by other airlines, hotels, car rental companies and credit cards. The hospitality industry has been in the forefront of loyalty programs since its inception in 1981.

    Retail loyalty programs came into existence when retailers began to realize they did not have a tool that allowed them to identify their best customers. They did not have a tool which would allow them to reward and encourage preferred behavior. In other words, they did not have the customer data bases they needed. The Center for Retail Management at Northwestern University sites that only 12 to 15% of customers are loyal to a single retailer, however, that small percentage of customers may generate between 55 and 70% of that retailer’s sales.

    In truth, many loyalty programs are developed with great intentions but with unclear objectives. While loyalty programs may have multiple purposes, the underlying objective must be the measurement of individual customers and their unique behavior. This behavioral information exceeds even the importance of having the customer shop at one particular retail outlet. The most basic benefit of a loyalty program is obtaining customer information. With this information a retail operation can acquire new customers with similar profiles, increase the lifetime value of a customer by increasing their spending patterns, retain current and high value customers plus shift customer spending to items with higher margins. In other words, by understanding the customer the profit mix can be improved and the churn rate lowered.

    Modern day loyalty programs
    The influx of loyalty programs, from reward points to cash back to even gold coins, now forces retailers and all other marketers to engage in loyalty marketing best practices. They must be able to recognize and react to changing lifestyles and changes in customer attitudes. In many markets loyalty programs are perceived not as a benefit but as an entitlement, which also means that the consumer is looking more for meaningful rewards. By understanding the consumer and their demographic and psychographic makeup the retailer can begin to develop those meaningful rewards. With CRM solutions this definition becomes less based on perception and more based on fact.

    In today’s markets, tangible or not, customers have more added choices than ever before. In today’s economy customers are more penny-wise than ever before. The combination of multiple choices and stringent spending increase the value of customer loyalty programs tenfold. Smart loyalty programs will understand their customers’ expectations and act upon not only tangent expectations but unmet expectations as well. So, how can a smart CRM solution help? CRM puts the customer in the center of the business. CRM provides a universal view of the customer – what they buy, when they buy, how they buy. By using a effective CRM solution, data the retailer can begin to recognize each customer and move them from being a transactional customer to a loyal customer.

    CRM solutions for effective loyalty management
    When using CRM solution for loyalty management, it must be considered to be not just a technology but a strategy for doing business. 

    Customer analysis
    The goal of any business is the acquisition, growth and retention of profitable customers. Through the analysis of data from the CRM solution the “profitable relationship” can be defined. It will enable the identification of what makes a repeat customer – what is the one distinguishing characteristic that repeat customers have and how can this be encouraged in other transactional customers? It is not just through the analysis of the repeat customers that CRM can be useful in developing the loyalty strategy, it is also through the analysis of transactional customers and analysis of loyal customers who leave. This analysis will enable the definition of what the customer wants and how they want it.

    Accurate data collection
    CRM solutions will also expedite the identification of life stages within the customer base. For example, according to the United States Census Bureau there are approximately 75 million baby boomers, CRM will hasten the identification of the unique and wealth generating population within the customer base and identify if this is the right base for the business.

    Intelligent customer segmentation
    CRM solutions will facilitate the definition of the customer experience. By defining what interactions are important to the customer, the experience can then be replicated for those customers the organization wishes to retain or grow. CRM enables the on-going evaluation of this experience and allows for the focus to shift to those areas most profitable for the organization and to reduce or revitalize those areas which are drawing down the profitability.

    Effective loyalty campaigns
    CRM also supports the marketing function – how customer communication is handled. With support of CRM solutions the customer can be spoken to at multiple levels and at all contact points with a standardise and consistent information. CRM empowers the staff to take responsibility for the retention and growth of customers through the personalization of interactions.

    To summarize, CRM allows the monitoring of the customer’s experience. It is through the understanding of this experience that companies will be able to grow their loyal customer base. The time has passed when “mystery shopping” and customer complaints drive changes. CRM solutions allow a customer centric environment which in turn leads to customer loyalty.

    5 Key Features that Enable CRM Solutions to Bridge the Gap Between Marketing and Sales Teams

    Marketing & Sales - Two sides of the same coin
    Traditionally, the two most important functions to drive revenue in any business organization are marketing and sales. In simple words, marketing is responsible for reaching out to prospects through effective branding and communication, sales teams are responsible for converting prospects to customers. These two functions are equally important and often feed on each other. This means operationally they often tend to trespass on each other’s territory. In a perfect world the synergy between these two functions can positively influence an organization’s future. However, does it happen in the real world?  
    Functional intersections & conflicts
    During my consulting stints with customers, I’ve heard some interesting perspectives in the executive corridors about these two functions. The marketing team often accuses the sales team of not doing enough to convert prospects from the pipelines created through their latest successful campaign. Sales guys complain about the quality of the pipeline and counter-accuse marketing for creating incorrect customer perception about their product or services. But the fact is they do depend on each other for meeting their individual goals, as well as the organization’s revenue target. There are several functional intersection points between them.
    • Product positioning - This is one of the major deliverables of the marketing team and a critical input for the sales strategy. Marketing management is responsible for the market research, competition analysis and takes input from their product design and engineering teams before deciding their target markets and customer demographics. Sales teams devise their strategy and allocate their budget and resources based on this.
    • Campaigns - Campaigns are organized by marketing teams to create positive perceptions about specific products and services, or short term special deals linked to seasons or festivals. Campaigns may be organized through audio visual adverts, special events or emerging platforms like social networking sites. The irony is, though campaigns are designed and executed by the marketing teams, their success is determined by the sales numbers in the target geography or demographics.
    • Market intelligence - Marketing teams often used modern age marketing management solutions for surveys and sophisticated statistical techniques to determine the performance of their current products or gather intelligence to accurately position their future products. However, they often ignore the internal 360 degree feedback loop aided by their last mile sales representatives. It is critical to listen to your customers, marketing teams need to collaborate with sales and establish processes to collect feedback from real customers.  
    CRM features that can enable fruitful collaborations
    How do organizations facilitate effective collaboration between their marketing and sales teams? There are no easy answers to this question. However, it surely needs finely tuned enterprise wide policies, processes and success metrics to avoid any conflict of interest between the teams. Some commonly available features of marketing management in a CRM solution can be of help to make this work at the tactical level while meeting the strategic objectives.
    • Marketing Campaign Management - The success of a campaign can be measured by its effect on the pipeline. This can easily be accomplished in a CRM solution by establishing a parent-child relationship between a campaign and the opportunities created as a result of that.
    • Opportunity Management – Similarly, the sales teams can become more effective in managing new opportunities by using the opportunity management feature found in most CRM solutions. This can help them optimize their resources by focusing on opportunities that are more likely to mature into sales.
    • Sales Process Management - Within the quote-to-cash cycle there are several service touch points that define the buying experience of customers. Looking up customer preferences like billing mode, shipping agents, etc. while serving them will enhance the customer experience manifold. On the flip side, this is also an opportunity to update the changes in customer preferences proactively after each buying cycle. Continuous fine tuning of the sales process can make the customers feel special - this improves loyalty. 
    • Collateral and Brand Management - Collateral like product brochures, web content, data sheets and white papers are generally driven by the marketing teams. It is imperative for the sales team to collaborate effectively during the collateral design process. This can be achieved by including representatives from the sales team as active contributors in the process. Co-owning the collateral will help the sales team’s members to connect with their customers better and improve chances of winning new customers. 
    • Activity Management - Any interaction with a customer outside the sales process is generally managed by a CRM solution - activity management. This can involve a customer complaint or a query about a new product. The sales team generally participates as users in these activities. The reports and analytics of activities linked to a specific customer or prospect can be effectively used by the marketing teams for analyzing the market response to their products and services.
    Final thoughts
    A carefully chosen CRM solution with smart marketing management features can enhance the exchange of useful information between marketing and sales teams and help bridge the gap. Involving representatives from both teams in intersecting processes will improve collaborations. With the right policies and strategies in place and effective CRM solutions, sales and marketing teams can present a unified view of the organization to their customers.

    3 Steps to Reduce Customer Churn

    Customer loyalty – once the watch word of industries has become somewhat arcane in the electronic age. With the advent of the internet and on-line sourcing, customers have a lot more choices and in turn have turned less loyal to a single supply source. Regardless of the type of service – financial servcies, manufacturing, retail and hospitality, organizations are finding that in addition to acquisition of new customers, whom they hope will become loyal, retention of customers has become critical. Organisations now want to slow the rate of churn within their customer base.

    Significant in the slowing of churn among the customer base is an understanding of the customer - why some customers stay, why some leave and even more important, why it is permissible to divest other customers from the brand.

    According to a survey conducted in March 2011 - churn has increased and customers are choosing newer brands based mainly on perception, convenience and customer experience.

    How can a CRM solution be used to create an effective retention model and reduce churn?
    Analyze the reason for customer churn
    First, organizations need to analyze the customer base by those who have left their organization for a competitor. Many times what moves a customer to a competitor isn’t always clear or understandable to the organization itself. Talking to the customers who have left – finding out what was the deciding factor and building that information into the CRM database can be the first step in putting an exit barrier in front of a valuable customer. In other words, don’t make the same mistake twice, understand what happened and prevent it from happening again.

    Understand who is a valuable customer
    Second, organizations need to understand who their most valuable customers are. There are mathematical measurements which CRM can apply to the customer profile. Products per customer, especially high margin products are just one measure. Measures of customer lifetime value, margin per customer and incremental revenue per customer are all critical factors in knowing who the customer is and the aggregate value in retention or dispersion of that customer. Knowing the lifetime value of a customer is projectable, based upon the data in the CRM base concerning the product basket the customer carries.

    This information can also be used to prospect the database for those customers on the verge of becoming “most valuable” and identify those “least valuable” to the organization. The allocation of resources to those most valuable or most likely to become a valued customer provides not only a reduced attrition rate but an improved apportionment of retention dollars.

    Communicate frequently with your customers
    Third, organizations need to communicate with their valued customers. Communication can be by phone, mail email or in person. In some cases, this contact may be significant enough to keep a customer from leaving the organization. The CRM solution data should track the frequency and method of communication as well as the success or failure of that interaction in retaining the customer. In some cases less may be more; the CRM data should also identify those customers who request little or no contact.

    These three principles – analyze, understand and communicate are the first steps in developing a retention model within the CRM solution data system. Application of these three principles to high valued customers will be the first step in understanding the segmentation of the organization's customer base along the positions of loyalty. It will enable the company to begin to identify those valued customers who are on the brink of leaving, allowing proactive churn management.

    5 Best Practices for Effective Implementation of CRM Strategies

    A well driven CRM strategy assists in enhancing the profitability from customers and boosting bottomline. It forms a foundation that helps to build businesses in an integrated manner and attains business goals systematically. At this point, it is critical to understand that there is no "Out-of-the-Box" CRM solution that is tailor-made to fit all the customer relationship management initiatives. Specific practices, that are suited to individual business situations are to be accessed in order to set the CRM strategy in the right direction.

    There exist a number of best practices that are widely acknowledged in a business process to adopt an effective and efficient CRM strategy that can drive your organization towards the desired goal. Most of these best practices are applicable even in the context of a sluggish, yet improving economy. Nevertheless, one needs to pay attention to these practices and recognise them as a critical part of any kind of CRM strategy plan. Top best practices for the implementation of a successful CRM strategy:

    Concentrate on strategy and practices
    CRM is all about the best practices implemented using appropriate tools. It is a known fact that in any CRM implementation the number of features actually used are not more than 50-60% of what is available in a CRM software. Hence, while evaluating it is critical to focus on your strategy and best practices you will need to implement the strategy. The software will only acts as an enabler. It is the practices that should drive the CRM software selection, rather than the software driving the practices.

    Understand the profile of your user groups, customers and design processes to implement the best practices with respect to your organisation. Now check if the CRM solution has the capability to help you implement those practices

    Gather accurate information relating to your customers
    It is very essential to design a CRM strategy that revolves around a thorough knowledge of your clients like:
    • Ascertaining who your most profitable customers are.
    • Acknowledging their present as well as future requirements and choices.
    • Investigating the factors which lead to their satisfaction.
    • Understanding the aspects which lead to your customers’ buying tendencies.
    By accessing this knowledge on customers, you can put in place the CRM strategy, in order to drive your processes in a very efficient manner and execute your strategy effectively. Also, it helps to ascertain that all your initiatives are dove-tailed and facilitate in enhancing the ROI.

    Practice-led Implementation for your CRM solution
    It is very important to have a strong CRM strategy, but when you pay no heed to proper implementation of your strategy, it may prove to be ineffective and all your best practices put through the CRM strategy can converge to a dead-end. In the process of implementing an efficient CRM solution, the ensuing aspects need special attention:
    • Effective planning and frequent revision of your processes is crucial to fit into the CRM strategy you adopt. 
    • A cost benefit analysis of your business processes can throw insight into the pitfalls in the business process. 
    • Effective interaction with the concerned teams on the varied issues and an ability to address them with agility. 
    • Evolving smart processes in a systematic manner to locate and tackle issues. 
    • Comprehending the changing business requirements and shifts that are needed to steer the business processes in the right path. 
    • Provide due recognition and acknowledge successful initiatives. 
    • Access regular feedback on your processes and try to modify your processes based on the feedback reports.
    Learning from failures and success to further drive business performance
    It is a common experience that some CRM initiatives may find success, while others may not. A sustained and upward trend in performance in a business can be accessed only through getting to know the mistakes committed and tracing back the indicators of success in your business processes. Such a learning experience can be gained through concentrating on the following aspects:
    • Understand the behaviour of the users in terms of their usage of the system. 
    • Quality of reports generated and their effectiveness in the decision making process. 
    • ROI of various intiatives. Measuring achievement v/s targets for those initiatives. 
    • Provide the correct data to the right users, on a timely basis, to enable them to take actions. 
    • Create a system on knowledge management for the benefit of the workforce and equip them with skills on decision making initiatives.
    User adoption is a critical factor
    In a competitive world, involving your employees in the company’s CRM initiatives could assist in the long term, in offering an added edge in booting the morale of the employees, which in turn augments their sense of responsibility. Change management is a pre-requisite for the effective execution of a CRM strategy. Ground level experience, clubbed with novel initiatives, will result in creating a effective practices that are to be brought into the fold of the CRM strategy. On the contrary, failing to do so can lead to the breakdown of the CRM strategy implemented. Some of the change management actions include:
    • A system to be introduced for communication and to interact with employees. 
    • Access employees’ feedback on the CRM system. 
    • Skill development through imparting training to employees. 
    • Gauging the performance of the company to check whether it is in line with the objectives and goals of the enterprise.
    Thorough user training is vital
    In a nutshell, any organisation that can create an effective CRM strategy and implement it with a high impact CRM solution can create a long term competitve advantage. Through adopting the best practices, it is a wise proposition to invest in a CRM strategy, notwithstanding the adverse economic conditions, this will help the business to sustain and grow profitability.