11 Ways to Effectively Use Customer Feedback

From customer service to product delivery, informative customer data lies at the crux of customer satisfaction. Customer feedback is the most direct and dependable source of customer data because it represents their perception of your products/ services. Companies receive customer feedback from multiple sources – over the phone, in-person, emails, surveys, online forums and much more. The high proliferation of online media has made the customer feedback go viral. Airing a concern or opinion about a product is no longer a tedious task for the user. The world has gone social and so has customer feedback. This changing environment rapidly affects the way businesses need to handle and respond to feedback from clients.

Customer feedback analysis can provide essential information and through comprehensive feedback reports and graphical representations. But, integrating this information with CRM systems can greatly enhance customer satisfaction in the following key ways:
  1. Measure customer satisfaction - CRM applications can save customer feedback over time to maintain records of customer satisfaction levels at different points of time. This helps build customer profiles and assess their experience with the product over the long term.
  2. Store customer information - Customer feedback can also offer crucial information about the consumer, including contact details, preferences, like and dislikes which aid the CRM process. This allows a better analysis of feedback in context to customer's background. 
  3. Quick and accurate analysis - CRM applications are instrumental in analyzing customer data to offer quick and actionable solutions. This means customer complaints can be addressed with ease and speed for maximum customer satisfaction.
  4. Quantify results - Most importantly, CRM applications offer a quantitative and qualitative value for customer satisfaction. This means that businesses can see in realistic terms how their product is being perceived and how this changes in the long run.
  5. Pinpoint recurring issues - Regular feedback offers a wealth of information for a CRM application. One can isolate the topics or issues which are most frequently mentioned and focus on these. Managers can also get aggregate statistics on customer satisfaction levels vis-à-vis certain products, features, etc.
  6. Quick turnaround time - Addressing feedback with immediate and practical solutions helps build a constant flow of communication with the customer which can help cement the relationship over time.
  7. Enrich customer information - CRM applications provide data to various business processes to aid decision-making. Customer feedback can further enhance this data and help every business operation achieve a personal connect with the consumers to enhance their performance.
  8. Co-create products and services - Collating feedback on products and services allows a close analysis of customer needs which facilitates optimization of products, services and campaigns. 
  9. Track feedback in real-time - Customers want to connect with their brands and they have the platform to do it today. As a business in today’s social landscape, it would be catastrophic to overlook this communication imperative with the customer. Companies must establish a technological structure whereby online customer feedback can be integrated with CRM systems to manage customer interactions - social CRM. This not only equips the different business processes with essential customer insights, but can also help track the user generated content about your product or brand.
  10. Holistic view of multiple channels - Tracking the multiple communication channels established between a company and its customers today is essential. An effective CRM solution provides a centralized repository where all feedback is delivered in real-time for analysis and immediate escalations are generated for show-stoppers. Using these details specialized campaigns can be created for each channel or existing strategies can be redesigned.
  11. Customized solutions - Managing customer feedback is not just about collecting it efficiently. It is crucial to respond effectively and efficiently while tracking these activities. This means offering actionable solutions, without delay. This can be achieved by channelling customer feedback to the concerned department(s) within the organization. An integrated CRM system will help assign the feedback based on its context to the right people so that a timely response or solution can be generated to address the customer. 
We all realize that customer feedback is a vital source of data which can augment customer relationship management. Businesses should isolate the details and tone of customer feedback from multiple channels to improve perception and product offerings, thereby gaining a strategic competitive advantage. Turning this customer generated information into a vital resource for your business is the key advantage of an effective CRM software.

4 Key Ways to Increase Customers' Trust

Bloomberg Businessweek Research Services' research asked high level management of multiple companies - What is your company’s top priority? The results were staggering - an overwhelming 80% of the respondents believed that establishing customer proximity and offering them differential experience was their top priority.

You speak with the top management of any company and they would passionately empathize with the results. Maintaining and augmenting customer relations is featuring on the regular task lists of company managers.

Behind the success of this endeavour, though, lies a seemingly naive yet strategically complex task – building trust. Human emotions lack the distinction between personal and professional life and tend to present themselves most innocuously. The building blocks of business and personal relationships are almost the same. Like one could have no personal relationship without trust, the same tends to be the case with business relations too. When companies want their customers to be loyal to them, they have to understand that the evident precursor to loyalty and strong relationships is 'trust'.

Let us take an example of an ecommerce Store. The store would be flawed if it believes that stocking the most desired products would do the trick for it. While it is essential to win customers, they wouldn’t purchase frequently unless they share a bond with the store. Given that they have to divulge their valuable information, is the store offering them the confidence to do so? With instances of data theft picking up in numbers, the customers are wary of sharing their personal information, especially such details as their credit/ debit card numbers, their address and others. What more? With limited time on hand, customers expect the store to do most of the homework on their behalf. Develop interesting schemes, customize offerings according to the customers’ past purchase record, provide buying suggestions and send regular updates about new stock. Such customer desire cuts across industries and professions. Wealth managers, IT companies, hospitals and all others have to adhere to customer guidelines or bow out of the industry.

While building trust, in the unprecedentedly competitive environment of the 21st century, might look like a daunting task; it is the root which can lead to the much envied competitive advantage. As customers trust businesses, they feel more satisfied and eventually patronize the company. This is something that can assist companies in fulfilling their long term objectives.
The most effective way to consistently increase customer trust is through customer relationship management (CRM). CRM solutions are mostly interpreted as software which help companies in capturing data. However, these solutions have a multitude of other functionalities which can be decoded by the ones who delve deeper. These solutions, in fact, can be a panacea in the hands of the marketers to augment and elevate customer loyalty and trust.
There are various facets of a company’s relationship with its customers that can deepen the level of trust. Following are some important ways in which a CRM solution can help enhance customer trust more emphatically.

Human touch: What one can simply not ignore is the human element of a business relationship. One can never have a relationship with what is lifeless and that is why one requires continuous customer engagement. The advent of social CRM has quite ardently attended to this element. Progressive companies are proactively engaging with customers with the help of social CRM. Not only are they initiating interactive competitions and floating schemes through the knowledge about their customers’ activity on the social media, they are even receiving more referrals and recommendations from the existing patrons of the company.

Customization: There are two models on which businesses work today:
1. Perceived Customization
2. Complete Customization
The former is about developing different options to make customers believe that their individuality is being attended to. The latter, on the contrary, is about customizing each offering as per the dynamics of the customer requirement. In both these cases, it is essential to be in possession of exhaustive customer information. A CRM solution would help you do that by generating insights about what customers have been demanding in the past and how their preferences have shaped over a period of time. With such information, companies can proactively offer customization to customers and prospects instead of waiting for the customers to ask for it. The former leads to more trust and more customers.

Individual interactions: Today's customers need to talk. They might contact a company's call centres. Live chatting on the website is the all new medium of customer interactions. With the help of a CRM solution, companies can keep track of a customer's previous interactions and increase efficiency by viewing it along with other related information. Customers grow increasingly irate when made to wait or provided the incorrect details, a CRM solution provides quick access to pertinent information.

Relevant offers: I recently bought a PS3 game and a novel by a renowned Indian author from an ecommerce store. Since then, I have been receiving offers and updates about similar games and books through my preferred channel with options to filter future recommendations. While I might not visit the e-store very frequently, these cross sell offers might encourage me to make a fresh purchase. What this infers is that the schemes should be relevant and tailored to the customer’s requirement using historical and current customer information. In addition, frequency of purchase and responses to various kinds of campaigns helps shortlist products with the best value for a particular individual.

An effective CRM software, hence, can assist a company in not only collecting the most pertinent data about its customers; it can also abet the process of trust building, which eventually leads to satisfaction and loyalty. What matters, though, is how effectively the CRM solution is utilized to optimize customer experience and lower churn.

11 Key Factors to Ensure CRM Success

Research conducted over the past 10 years exhibits startling figures for CRM implementations that did not bring about the expected outcomes. In North America, over 50% of CRM projects do not manage to meet their objectives – says a recent study.  In Europe, this figure touches a whopping 80%.

AMR Research projected an annual cost of almost 15 billion US dollars spent on Cloud CRM software's globally. Regardless of the spending, projects fail from time to time,  studies show that the CRM industry is still continuing to show a growth rate of 45% making the obvious indication that it is not the Customer Relationship Management ‘Professionals’ who are suffering, but it is the employees and customers who are falling prey to the web of bad and unsatisfactory systems.

Case Studies
1. Commercial mortgage company does not clearly identify CRM users
A leading organization specializing in real estate loans and proudly showcasing a mortgage portfolio of more than 1.5 billion US dollars had the best technology systems in place, which enabled them to build and expand business without unnecessary staff multiplications. Their up-to-date technological systems also helped keep their costs per loan decently below regular industry averages. 5 years after inception, the company decided to implement a CRM system. Surprisingly, it fell flat and never achieved its goal.

What went wrong?
The primary goal of the Cloud CRM software was to raise productivity, efficiency, automation, and quantum of borrower information available to staff at their call centers.

However, user goals were not paid attention to and the system failed to define who exactly the users would be in the first place. This turned out to be an expensive error.

The consultants hired decided to install an automated IVR system, where clients calling to gain loan information had to dial a certain number and punch in their account numbers. However, if they wished to talk to a live representative, the system assumed the user already knows which department to ask for. The consultants never cross checked whether the existing systems were aligned with the prevalent user experience. Also, the IVR responses from customers were not captured in the CRM software leading to fragmented customer data.

Almost ALL customers were hitting ‘0’ to get live assistance.

Unclear definition of the intended user’s objectives caused lost opportunities, wastage of financial resources and angry customers, resulting in customer attrition.

Poor service led to frustrated customers and finally to a loss of deals. Investments in the CRM system had reached a 7 figure mark, but real losses suffered were much more – since they were in the form of frustrated employees and customers, customer churn, trust lost, convincing customers to come back, and replacing bad systems. The cost of opportunities lost during the gestation period when faulty systems were being repaired, modified and replaced was another story altogether.

Not incorporating a user-centered design was the first mistake. This company had a diverse customer base with clients enquiring about loans ranging from $ 10,000 to $ 1 billion. Obviously, having a system which treated all users equally was a big blunder.

Secondly, task analysis to comprehend user tasks and mental models could have helped. Lastly, a small test run could have thrown light on the fact that most users prefer live interactions rather than engage in a conversation with the so-called state-of-the-art automated system. Only when the whole project went live was this clarity gained.

2. European media firm encounters low user adoption
A media firm in London attempted two complete CRM implementations but did not meet with success even once. Whenever meetings were held with the sales personnel to figure out reasons why CRM usage was close to nil, the sales people would present a long list of reasons, needs and wants; following which systems would be modified in accordance with the concerns they would express. However, even after repeated modifications, adjustments and further investments to train and develop the sales reps. their usage of the CRM system remained exactly the same as earlier - very low.

An in-depth analysis brought to surface two basic problems. The first was related to how complex the system itself was, due to which it was time consuming for the sales people to navigate from one record to another. Considering that a sales force's daily routine demands instant information and minimal non-core activities, the system was not quick enough to match up to their time bound requirements. As a result, it left them frustrated and led to a decline in usage.

The second problem was more deep rooted. On investigation it was discovered that the management had not spent enough time to correctly plan and understand what was fundamentally required from the system. This firm primarily needed to manage leads by tracking their progress through the sales process via a good sales process management system, but they instead ended up purchasing an unwieldy contact management database. As a result, no productive analytics were available on the sales process, and this obviously resulted in an unhappy buy-in from the sales team and no value addition for the management either.

Case Study Conclusions
Detailed investigations into why CRM systems fail bring to light a few crucial lessons. The first to keep in mind for companies is not to over buy a solution. It is often seen that simple and not-too-expensive SaaS solutions create more value if the actual users completely understand and adopt it, and are able to use it comfortably (Case 1).

The second vital teaching that comes to surface is that the management must have a clear idea about of the exact type of CRM system needed for the organization.

For companies having limited but stable and relatively static customer relationships, incorporating a contact management system with up-to-date data structure systems will be apt. But those companies whose primary objective is quick lead progression in the sales process will need a system where sales opportunities are right at the center of the system (Case 2).

11 critical factors to consider before a CRM implementation
It is a known fact that CRM success is elusive if the very basics are not in place. Even though a CRM solutions’ success is company specific and strongly connected to the overall objectives and CRM strategy employed, there are certain 'universally applicable' factors:
  • Disintegrated business models, poor planning, unclear objectives and business practices, improper management of projects; all these combined with cloudy CRM strategies will make successful CRM implementation a struggle.
  • Choosing the correct CRM vendor is often the area where companies make a blunder. It is critical to pick a vendor who not only provides a comprehensive solution but also thoroughly understands company requirements, objectives and plans, and incorporates all of it seamlessly into the solution provided.
  • Failure to align existing departments and their aims, processes and culture with the system and the desired project outcome leads to contradictions.
  • It is often seen that CRM initiatives are blindly handed over to the IT department because of the stereotypical thought process that CRM is just a ‘technological’ initiative. Not true. CRM implementation is, in fact, a massive business effort which needs top management backing from start to end.
  • An erroneous belief that CRM software is the same as actual Customer Relationship ‘Management’ creates execution issues. It is crucial to understand that the two are merely interrelated but not the same thing.
  • Organization collaboration, conviction in the CRM program, education and training is a must to ensure user buy-in; else the system will be infested with incorrect information and non adherence to schedules - ultimately leading to confusion and cost overruns.
  • Highly stable network platforms and secure hardware are must haves, especially in case of SaaS CRM solutions.
  • Excessive customization creates complications and leads to failure. For CRM systems to work, information capture must be simple and systems should display ease and flexibility in use. Also, existing/ old sporadic customer data must be transferred or converted for new systems to support the latest database architecture and thereby avoid strain and technical problems.
  • When companies do not conduct a pre-implementation evaluation of key objectives, pinpointing the contributory factors to either failure or success becomes impossible, leading to repeated failures.
  • Unclear metrics is a well-known cause for failure. The value of KPIs and ROI are deciding factors that should never be underestimated. It also makes sense to run a test project with clearly assigned metrics. This helps identify loopholes in the system, if any.
  • Last but not least, customers are often ignored in the entire CRM process. To ensure heightened customer satisfaction and value, they should be kept in the loop before, during and after implementation of a CRM solution.
To summarize
According to Gartner - Spending on CRM applications grew by more than 8% in 2010; but a subset called "social CRM," which represents only 5% of all CRM, grew at more than 50%.

Any company looking into implementing a new CRM system essentially needs bang on planning and implementation. Imparting necessary training to people will bring any possible disruptions down to a negligible figure, which can slowly be phased out.

The management needs to accurately analyze its organization and realistically focus on the components that sales personnel will comprehend, easily use, and gain maximum benefit and productivity from.

CRM systems should also have flexibility, and breathe and grow along with the company.

Also, bearing in mind that every business changes with time, breaking the entire project into manageable small components is wise, and running small test programs is sensible. However, the portion-wise roll out of the CRM solutions has to be done very carefully, because they are ultimately built in and around the larger end-to-end strategy.

Despite all the scary stories related to the high failure rates of CRM implementations, experts feel that that Cloud CRM Software does really work when combined with well defined objectives, correct planning, integration, and seamless execution. They believe that there are a lot of positive benefits (qualitative as well as quantitative) that are a direct outcome of smart CRM implementations.

To know more about Cloud CRM Software, visit: www.crmnext.com

3 Effective Ways to Optimize KOL Management

The pharmaceutical sector is an ever growing and innovative one. This multi-billion dollar industry is constantly trying to introduce new drugs with different combinations and under different brand names. Initially, when pharma companies came out with a new drug, they used to turn to patients and distribute samples to them so as to give them an opportunity to use these drugs. However, not being qualified enough to dispense these drugs on their own, this methodology of marketing came under fire and soon it was deemed unethical and heavily criticized. Pharma companies realized that if they wanted to sell a new drug in the highly competitive market of medicines, then, they would instead need to target those people that are legally authorized and have the knowledge to dispense drugs to the right patient at the right time. These are basically physicians and they form the group known as Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs. So now, instead of the ‘pull’ marketing that pharma companies were opting for, wherein they were pulling in customers to try out their drugs, their approach shifted towards ‘push’ marketing, wherein they narrowed down on physicians that could popularize their drug. As a KOL myself, this is my account of how a pharma company wished to use my expertise to help sell one of their newer drugs on the market and succeeded.

1. Finding reliable KOLs
The first step involved in this lengthy process for the pharma company was to find a reliable and trustworthy KOL. I had a flourishing dental practice in a suburb of Mumbai, with a steady flow of loyal patients. I also worked one shift in the dental unit of a well known hospital nearby, where I was the main dentist dabbling in various field including endodontics and extractions. Needless to say, these are fields where invariably, drugs must be prescribed so as to curb any inflammatory condition or swelling. Drugs are also often prescribed on a prophylactic basis prior to any invasive procedure.

Holistic view of a Key Opinion Leader
Recognizing my potential as a KOL due to my patient flow, the pharma company made use of sophisticated customer relationship management software, to shortlist my name. They approached me thereafter and gave me details regarding their new drug, its effects and contraindications and also gave me a batch of samples to dispatch to patients. Not only that, they also gave me a set of feedback forms so that I could review their drug depending on the patients' feedback. They took down my address and various other details. I was a bit skeptical at first as I’d been warned by my seniors and peers about scavenging and brutal pharma companies and their sales tactics. However, seeing how organized they were with their CRM for KOL management in place, I agreed to dispense their drug to any patient that was genuinely in need of it.

2. Regular follow-up with the KOLs
Once registered, the next important step for this company was to maintain a follow-up. After having dispatched the samples to me, the same sales representative kept coming back on a weekly basis like clockwork. He had my name down in his CRM software and so, at the same time every week, made it a point to come and drop by to give me more samples and collect the feedback forms that I’d filled, so that he could enter it in his system. This was just as important as finding and targeting a KOL because without a proper system in place to follow-up on the drug response, the entire process would fail.

3. Using Social Media to increase reach
My patients slowly gave me positive feedback on this drug and I myself was happy to see the results clinically. And the icing on the cake was that this drug was lower priced than the standard drug prescribed to treat swellings and inflammatory conditions. Thus, impressed with the feedback of my patients, I decided to further the news about this new and effective drug to my peers.

Physicians are usually not very tech savvy and hence, tend to underestimate the huge influence that social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter can have on a personal brand. It isn’t without a reason that these are among the top 5 most popular portals in the world. Thus, I wrote a note detailing my findings on the drug with pre and post operative pictures of my patients and tagged it to the page of the drug that had been created by the pharma company on Facebook. In no time, my friends started inquiring about this drug and eventually, word spread like wildfire.

This is merely a small account of how one pharma company managed to make full use of a single influential KOL in furthering the reach of their new drug in the market. Although there are few pharma companies that have realized the potential of CRM and KOL management in the marketing of new drugs and to sustain old ones, the smarter companies have already got a head start on this. KOL management holds the key to the future of pharmaceutical industries. In fact, the pharmaceutical sector is still recovering from the numerous mistakes it has made in the past. Due to the various scandals that even big names regularly get embroiled in, patient skepticism is at an all time high. Patients, quite understandably, prefer to use their good old, tried and tested drugs which they know work well on them. So, if a pharma company really wishes to create a trustworthy brand name, then, it needs to propagate its drugs with a multi-pronged strategy in place, and this will only be possible if its KOL management system is in its right place to begin with.

Does your Floor Staff Understand the Importance of Customer Experience?

On a lazy Sunday evening, I realized we’d run out of various essential household items. Having delayed a trip to the nearest supermarket for weeks, it was time to spring into action. The supermarket in question however, was shut for some reason and I was left wondering what to do. It suddenly occurred to me that I could go to the nearest Bazaar21 store (name changed), which was just across the street and procure the items I had on my list. This store is one of the leading retail chains in India, which has managed to survive in our country’s dubious market which is still dominated by your humble round-the-corner grocery stores. So surely, they must be doing something right? I walked a little further and reached the building that had the familiar blue and orange logo with its signature tagline of ‘Cheapest and best in India!’ below it.

On entering I saw many enticing offers on various items, especially in the food section. Once I was done buying all the necessary items from my checklist, I lazily picked up a few pampering toiletries and fattening biscuits as well. Happy to have saved some money on the offers, I proceeded to the billing counter after navigating my way through many families, each of which had brought along at least three generations of members. My happy tryst with this retail chain, however, was a short lived one - a nightmare awaited me!

As I finally reached the head of the long, snakelike line of customers waiting at the billing counter after a quarter of an hour, I was greeted by a bored cashier and an impatient bagging guy. Once the cashier was done, a bill of INR579 flashed on the small screen before me. He asked me whether I had a Bazaar21 card, to which I replied in the negative. I then handed him INR600, in the form of a crisp five hundred and a hundred note. He looked up and said he didn’t have change. As I was fumbling in my purse for change, he looked at me disinterestedly and pointed at the line of customers waiting behind me. I looked at him and informed him that I didn’t have any change either. Unconvinced, he pressed for change and I exasperatedly showed him my purse, which was loaded with hundred rupee notes but no coins.

He looked at the guy at the bagging counter and through this unsaid communication, the latter tore open my bag and started removing items that were oddly priced so that the total could come to a round figure. I was standing there shell shocked. This stranger was opening my bag and removing items as per his whims and fancies so that the total could reach a figure in a multiple of hundreds. I started protesting as he began removing various essential items that I needed, like paper towels. However, he indifferently kept at it till the bill reached a figure of INR500. Shocked and annoyed by now but not wanting to create a scene, I irately paid the amount and left. Meanwhile, seeing my treatment at the hands of the cashier and the bagging guy, the other customers in line got to business and started fishing for change in their pockets.

Clearly, Bazaar21 isn’t all that big on customer relationship management. It didn’t seem to matter to these people that not only were they losing customers due to their poor customer service skills; they were also losing business by returning oddly priced items back to their shelves. If you market yourselves with a tagline claiming to be ‘sasta’ (cheap) then surely, you should have some change in your cash register.

I did not want to create a scene, but at the same time, wanted to ensure that my complaint was heard. I looked around for a store manager with whom I could register my complaint and eventually reached the customer services desk. A lethargic employee was collecting forms from several of the people in front of me. In a highly competitive field like retailing, obviously, customer churn ensures failure and increasing losses. When I reached the counter, he mumbled, “Please fill in this form and post it”.

I was appalled to see that a retail chain that had become a household name across India was not equipped with a CRM solution to capture complaints and feedback. I looked at him and asked, “Don’t you have a CRM software to create, assign and escalate customer complaints or queries?” My query fell on deaf ears. Anyway, there was nothing he could do without a proper process in place.

Images of my round-the-corner grocery store with its helpful owner’s paan stained smile sailed through my mind as I dropped the form into a garbage bin and left. Even a small local store owner knew from experience that a positive customer experience ensured repeat purchases.

As I walked home devoid of the main items that I’d set out to buy, I was wondering what ever happened to the adage ‘Customer is king’? Which is when a voice in my head replied - "If the customer is king, then the salesperson can be the domineering, overbearing know-it-all queen."

8 Ways in Which Customer Information Empowers C-level Executives

CRM empowers C-Level executives
with a critical asset – information
The focus on 'customer experience' has added a whole new dimension to business operations. C-level executives are taking a harder look at customer feedback and data their companies receive and how these can help enhance their product offering. Customer data is not only crucial for maximizing customer satisfaction, but can also help uncover new opportunities and potential risks for a business. Top level executives need information which can drive decision-making to enhance the performance of a business across the various functions and departments. 

CRM software can equip decision-makers with all the vital information to realize the true potential of their business and market. However, to collate useful customer data, the following is vital:
  • High user adoption. 
  • Constant uptime.
  • User friendly interfaces with uniformity in terms, terminologies and customer related fields.
  • Removal of dead leads from data.
  • A single interface for customer facing teams to capture information.
  • The CRM solution should be flexible and customizable.
CRM systems can provide C-level executives with information to make key strategic decisions as follows:
  • Customer needs - Even in its simplest form, CRM offers information on what customers want. From new features or changes in a product to new products or modifications across the areas of product delivery, customer service, etc. Every aspect of a company’s product offering is vital – including customer-facing employees, packaging, post-sales and much more. Hence, information to back decisions regarding each of these aspects is important to sustain the business and help it grow. 
  • Customer perception - CRM applications can offer an all-encompassing knowledge of what the customers think of the brand, company, product, service, etc. Users can access this information across various metrics and in the words of the customers themselves. Hence, top level executives have real world information of how their product is being perceived in the market, which further aids decision making.
  • Pinpoint critical issues - One of the main advantages of CRM is its ability to highlight common grievances and complaints by the customer. This is customer information which must be tackled at the highest levels, especially if it is a grave area of concern across the market. It is crucial to handle customer issues from the c-levels to prevent them from turning into a crisis.
  • Marketing effectiveness - CRM can also help understand the impact of a brand’s marketing on customers. A major chunk of any organization’s budget is allocated to marketing and branding activities. It is essential for CEOs and CFOs to understand how efficiently this money is being spent and its ROI. By studying marketing effectiveness, they can take decisions on how to optimize these activities.
  • Identify reasons for churn - Every business aims to retain customers as well as attain new ones. But, customer churn is a constant challenge. Top level executives appreciate the importance of understanding why their business retains some customers and loses others. This information is not easy to come by, but a comprehensive CRM solution can offer the  required insights to ensure appropriate strategic as well as tactical decisions to bring back lost customers.
  • Competitor analysis - Executives can further find out how much their product is selling versus the competition. An efficient CRM system will also provide insights on why the product may be losing out to competition, facilitating redesign of business strategies.
  • Ensure readiness - CRM can analyse external forces as well, which may be influencing customer opinions and hence impacting the business or sales. By identifying such threats quickly, c-level executives can focus on mitigating these through proactive strategies.
  • Real-time updates - social CRM offers a unique insight through its ability to highlight new trends and ideas around a brand or sector. It can identify the emerging opinions and developments within particular customer segments. C-level executives can analyse this information to optimize existing strategies and customize campaigns.
CRM solutions are a critical tool to facilitate a company’s long-term strategy. Executives at the highest level take decisions to pave the direction of a business, these will impact the business not just today but even a decade or more later. From business policies to work philosophy, it is the C-level executives who form the core for a company’s development over the years. Hence, accurate and relevant information is crucial to aid decision-making at this level to ensure consistent and positive transformation over the years. CRM applications equip decision-makers with information to facilitate transformation.

5 Ways a CRM Solution can Optimize Campaign Effectiveness

The success of a  campaign is judged on the basis of the buzz it creates, volume of sales that follow and popularity with online communities. In today's connected world, marketing is more challenging - real-time inputs are a must to compete with other brands and prevent churn. Knowing everything 'required' about individuals/ organizations and a little more can ensure successful customer segmentation - allowing clarity for whom to target with which campaigns. 

While many CRM solutions are adopted on piecemeal basis by many companies (targeting individual departments); looking at the bigger picture, instead, seems to have generated additional gains for worldly-wise organizations.  These businesses have not attempted to revolutionize individual segments of marketing, but have instead integrated their entire department to the CRM solution.  In the process, not only have they managed to garner more hot leads but have also heralded significant improvements in various elements of their marketing campaigns.

An analysis of 5 ways CRM solutions can increase the effectiveness campaigns:

Email marketing campaigns that exude success: emails are one of the most engaging techniques of communicating with prospects and customers. However, there are chances of getting it all wrong. With the help of CRM solutions, though, marketing teams can send auto-populated personalized emails that can even mention the customer's cat in context to a campaign. Mailing lists can be created based on customer segments and further filtered for a specific email campaign. In addition, the CRM solution will demonstrate through real-time analytics where there is room for improvement.

Effective segmentation: most gurus of marketing believe that loyal customers are an asset to have, businesses have offered special treatment to customers who have purchased more frequently than the others.  However, a modern bone of contention has been that businesses spend more to 'retain' loyalty than they 'earn' from it!  An effective CRM solution will ensure all the relevant data required related to customers is captured as per a particular organization's segmentation strategy. Also, should the strategy change, new fields for customer information can be created through the CRM toolbox. This is the first step in efficiently and accurately creating customer segments. The holistic customer view can help measure a customer's profitability without missing out on others they might have influenced.  It becomes faster and easier to pinpoint those who deserve more focus and then create bespoke campaigns to match their interests.

The influence of social networks: social networking is progressively growing in popularity - Pinterest is the latest highly successful entrant in the crowded networking world. Some old fashioned marketers still believe the most important customers are those that buy the most. Often, individuals with a positive customer experience will encourage others to buy a specific brand (word-of-mouth marketing) and thereby vastly improve a brands popularity. Tracking these customers using social CRM and other CRM tools to analyse their opinions is also vital for creating optimal marketing strategies and maximizing customer advocacy. Social networks are also ideal for creating quick campaigns - tweeting that a superstar purchased your product will generate exponential growth in leads.

Effective activity management: most people have had the irritating experience of multiple tele-callers offering the same product in a single day. This lack of organizational coordination can dent the image of a company and sometimes increase customer churn.  It might not be the product offered through a new campaign, but, if a person is in the middle of a meeting or meal - he does not want to hear a sales pitch! A CRM solution's easy-to-use activity management and holistic customer view with varying read/ write permissions based on roles can ensure everybody is on the same page. Also, instantly adding a contact to your CRM software's DND (Do Not Disturb) list for a specific period or capturing a specific reason for not interacting with a customer will help redesign campaigns. 

Identifying products based on customer needs: With the help of the information that is available about customers and their purchase behaviour, marketers can identify and capture opportunities for cross selling and up selling products most suited to a person's needs.  In addition, using available customer information, specialist can identify the appropriate product and most relevant location to run a campaign. These products can be displayed to CRM users when interacting with leads and customers to facilitate offering the most suitable products and services across departments.

C-level executives are quickly realizing the value of effective marketing campaigns and their effect on generating larger volumes of hot leads through viral video campaigns, tweets or tailored offerings. An effective CRM solution is a cost-effective way to expedite connecting, tracking and monitoring customer needs to generate successful campaigns.

Optimizing CRM in Telecom with Data Mining

With over 700 million people using mobile phones across the country, India has fast emerged as the third largest telecom market in the world. The industry is facing tremendous competition today with the emergence of a number of vendors, each with unique brand propositions. In a market where the customer has no dearth of choices and the cost of switching over is minimal, a key strategy for companies to retain customers is through Customer Relationship Management. Within the ambit of CRM applications, data mining is very popular in the telecom industry. In many ways, this is a foundation for several of the core business processes in this sector.

Why use data mining for Telecom CRM?
Gaining a comprehensive view of the customer is one of the key benefits sought from data mining. The telecom industry is specifically customer-oriented.
  • From customer care to billing and online services, there are many touch points where an operator needs to connect with customers. These are not merely channels of communication but act as an extension of the brand and product itself.
  • When a customer logs on to the company website, he/she may be looking to pay bills, find an ideal data plan or track their usage. Hence, companies must understand such customer needs and requirements and cater to these in the most effective ways to retain clients and build loyalty.
  • Data mining can help them derive the consumer insights required to proactively engage and serve the customer.
  • A unique capability of data mining is to create compact consumer profiles based on their usage. Every call made over a telecom network gets recorded as a call record. These can give a comprehensive understanding of a customer’s usage habits and trends over a period of time. Such information is not only useful to customer care agents but is also instrumental in improving the service offer.
  • Operators can create better deals and plans by understanding how the customer uses their service.

Data mining for CRM in Telecom will provide following advantages: 

Customer Care (via phone and the company’s website)
  • Data mining can be used to create effective IVR menus and interactive websites. For example, clients often tend to have similar and repetitive queries. Data mining can help identify these so that vendors can build their customer care to answer these in the quickest and easiest ways.
  • Data mining equips customer care agents with the right information to handle queries and resolve issues with speed and accuracy. It is this tool which ensures that agents have client information such as billing history, usage, services availed and more, at the click of a button.
Sales Management
  • Data mining can help optimize sales channels by shortening sales cycles, identifying opportunities and aiding closure of deals.
  • Sales teams can be provided with valuable customer information to take them through the entire procedure of turning a prospect to a client.
  • Identification of sales opportunities is facilitated through an understanding of market trends, customer needs, competition and responses from different media channels, all brought about by applying data mining techniques.
  • Managers can also predict sales volumes by foreseeing demand and creating provisions for the same.
  • Complete records of all customer usage and interactions aids holistic management of the entire sales process.
  • Lastly, historical information can provide crucial customer insight to aid cross-selling and up-selling of products and services. 
  • Consumer profiles created through data mining can be used to plan highly targeted marketing campaigns. One of the most popular applications for data mining is in creating successful promotions. Special promotions such as calling circles, reduced rates to certain numbers or at certain times of the day, data and talk time packages and much more are especially created to attract prospective customers as well as increase loyalty and usage of current customers.
  • Customer call records can help classify the customer base into categories such as business, students, residential and much more. Each of these groups can then be targeted with different and specific marketing techniques.
  • Historical data can also help predict customer lapses. Once the company is aware of the possibility of a customer leaving, they can take the necessary steps to prevent this and retain the customer. This saves a lot of lost revenue as well as the additional costs of attracting new customers.

The applicability of data mining techniques within the telecom industry is wide and varied. From network reports to fraud detection, it can be applied across various business processes of any telecom company. Efficient data mining can help streamline core business processes to improve productivity and maintain profitability. But at the same time, telecom companies must be aware of and fully implement the privacy norms involved with handling such personal data. A lapse here can have a major bearing on the brand and its reputation, not to mention financial losses. In this quickly evolving and dynamic sector, telecom operators need to concentrate on a CRM solution that utilizes data mining to gain crucial competitive advantage for progressive growth.

Neha Kapoor