3 Easy Steps to Increase Upselling

'Upsell' is a marketing term for the practice of suggesting higher priced products or services to a customer who is considering a purchase. The most ubiquitous and basic example of up-sell is likely the grammatically incorrect yet oft-spoken, “Would you like to super-size that?"

In the fast paced and competitive environment of today’s markets, the need to achieve a greater share of wallet supports the need for up-sell to your current customer base.

1. Optimize activity management
Up-selling is used not only to increase profit, but, to build customer retention as well. Today’s customers are far savvier than a decade ago and require the personalized touch which CRM when utilized correctly can provide. An effective CRM system enables a company to conduct coherent management of their interactions with customers by capturing and collating related tasks, conversations and meetings. Some of these details are critical when suggesting products.

2. Increase customer retention and reduce costs
The proper use of a CRM system enables the fostering of customer relationships in a measured and methodical fashion. It provides a holistic picture about an individual customer and customers similar in purchasing patterns. It identifies and enhances the ability to upsell to customers by measuring what works and more importantly what doesn’t work. By measuring what does and does not work, the company has the opportunity to improve their communications with customers, enhance their product offerings and streamline the process.

While this holistic approach benefits the customer by providing an optimum product mix, it also benefits the company. The company now has the ability to reduce marketing and production costs by focusing resources on those items which produce the highest demand and provide the best opportunities for bundled up selling.

3. Ensure everyone is in the loop
By collecting data within the CRM system, customer information becomes accessible to all members of the sales staff across teams and geographies. This access to all customer communications and transactions allows anyone who 'touches' the customer to understand their needs and requirements. It also allows for the comparison of customer purchasing behavior. For example, the system can provide upsell opportunities based on the total customer base.

Using a CRM solution to enhance upselling
Customers today are constantly comparing products and searching for user generated feedback. The sales force knows their company's product line, but should also have a holistic view of prospective customers to ensure they are offering the best possible product after carefully understanding the customer's needs and expectations.
An effective CRM solution ensures certain key factors are highlighted or customer-centric suggestions are shared as alerts with logged-in users to increase win ratios using available information for each customer. Data mining tools can be used to match products with a customer segment most likely to purchase them using historical information. The most appropriate product options can then be displayed when a lead is created in the CRM system, thereby preventing the sales person from sharing a laundry list of products with prospective customers.

In addition, increasing the volume of sales by upselling products which are marginally costlier can also add to bottomline revenues and improve customer perceptions. Empowering call center agents with a CRM software which efficiently recommends products based on past purchase information will ensure more effective use of call time and larger call volumes.
As a CRM solution grows within a company, the actionable intelligence from the system becomes more powerful. It becomes easier for each of the service channels to pursue sales and marketing goals. By mining the information in the system, additional channels for pursuit of upselling can be achieved and new products can be introduced.

KOL Management Will Remain the Only Differentiator

The life of a pharmaceutical sales representative (SR) is not an easy one. An SR has to keep track of various Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), follow them around, regularly update them and most importantly, needs to meet drug sales target for the month consistently to survive in this field. However, what is most harrowing is that many sales reps, despite their best efforts, fail to meet their sales targets. Despite hounding the best KOLs around, encouraging drug sales figures evade them. There is only one explanation that can satisfy this unbalanced equation - they are not implementing vital steps required in the process of effective KOL management.

KOL management has been around for more than a decade now, but it is only recently that pharma companies are waking up to the need for it. There are a few basic and important steps that need to be followed when a person wishes to properly execute KOL management and extract the maximum benefits from it.

Why need KOL Management?
It’s a little known fact that the process of introduction of a new drug in the market is a lengthy, complicated and tedious one. As of today, less than 1 in 10 drugs that are tested in clinical human trials actually succeed in satisfying the stringent rules and regulations of drug authorities. Furthermore, according to Forbes, this process usually takes an average time of a couple of years and an average cost that can range from USD 4 billion to USD 11 billion. So, a pharma company incurring costs of this staggering amount to develop one new drug, will surely look to recover its costs in the form of sales. The sensible method to generate ROI (return on investment) would be to approach KOLs. The reason being rather than ridiculously overpricing new drugs and hoping that a handful of sales to gullible patients will help a company recover its costs, it makes more sense to instead modestly price the drug and then introduce it to a group of influential KOLs, so as to ensure that its sales reach a figure where the drug brings profits or at least manages to break even initially for the pharma company.

Need for KOLs challenged by few
KOL management has attracted a lot of unnecessary negative publicity recently owing to the smarmy and skewed views that have been scathingly presented by a few medical researchers, who claim that doctors and physicians are to be blamed for mindlessly plugging unnecessarily expensive drugs to their patients in return for ‘gifts and favours’ from pharma companies. While there is no denying that just as in any other field, there may be a handful of people involved in unscrupulous activities, till these accusations are proven; one cannot point a finger at pharma companies nor physicians. In fact, many well meaning physicians work hard to ensure that they educate their colleagues and patients about new drugs with fewer side effects that hit the market on a regular basis.

As mentioned above, without KOL management, the introduction of new drugs in the market will cease as pharma companies will simply be unable to afford the entire process of research and marketing for new drugs. It can therefore be said without a shade of doubt, that to properly introduce and ensure sales of a new and beneficial drugs in the market, pharma companies are left with no choice but to turn their attention to KOLs. Especially those whom are well informed, influential and have a trusting, undeterred patient flow.

KOL Management System
As pharma companies are slowly waking up to the need for KOL management, they need to figure out a way to ensure their entire process of KOL management is a smooth running venture. This can be effectively achieved with a successful CRM implementation. CRM software does not only help to channelize and effectively help in KOL management, but will also address many issues where KOL management fails, these include:
  1. Addressing the right KOL: Sales reps, despite being well informed regarding the composition, indications, contraindications and effects of a drug, often tend to indiscriminately approach clinicians with it. This leads to not only wastage of time but also irks many physicians who do not have the time nor bother to hear a new sales rep desperately trying to plug a drug. Thus, the first and most important step in KOL management is to address the right KOL. Drugs that are meant for patients suffering from kidney diseases should be shown by and addressed to nephrologists and general physicians only. A CRM database helps to enlist physicians according to their degrees, location, patient statistics, etc. Thus, having a comprehensive database regarding KOLs is the first step to a successful KOL management strategy. 
  2. Checking for Trends: Many a times, pharma companies do not tend to follow trends and enlist them in their software. Every drug has a certain ‘peak’ period which is an excellent time to address KOLs with it. For example, as the flu is more commonly seen in winter, pharma reps should make a listing wherein their priority is to plug flu related drugs at this time. If a certain strain of a bacteria or virus becomes endemic in a certain region, pharma companies should spring into action and address KOLs residing in that region to prescribe drugs that could help cure or act as prophylactic measures for this disease. Thus, having a CRM system in which trends and environmental factors influencing drug sales can be fed, helps to ensure more sales at the right time. 
  3. Feedback and Reports: Even a seasoned KOL is often apprehensive about prescribing a new drug that has hit the market, because if the drug fails or proves to cause more harm than good, his reputation goes for a toss. Thus, when approaching KOLs with a new drug, pharma companies need to be sure to keep a handy feedback system that tracks the reaction of each KOL. This will help decide if the drug is reaching its target group of patients or not and whether it is benefiting the general public or not. Feedback helps to gain an insight into the KOL and patient’s responses to drugs, which comes handy when drawing a yearly report on which drugs to continue marketing and manufacturing and which to pull out of the market. 
A survey was done in 2004, wherein, fifteen of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world were quizzed and they admitted that this is an industry that regularly spends a little less than one-third of its total marketing expenditures on KOLs alone. The magnanimity of this statement should make pharma companies wake up and realize that KOL management is the key to the future of pharma companies. With an effective CRM solutions in place, it will be easier to execute, strategise and ensure a high success rate for the entire process of KOL management, which will only translate into more profits for pharma companies and for the public in general.

4 Easy Ways to Deliver Great Customer Experience

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a critical function in optimizing a positive customer experience. Businesses must conceptualize what components will closely relate to their customer base and implement target points that will proactively handle the possible customer complaint. Our society, in the 21st century, is based on instant gratification. With Internet access to everything from business services to business products, customers are looking for immediate response and acknowledgement of their needs and issues and inevitably to associate themselves with businesses that will appreciate their patronage and go far and beyond to keep it.

1. Implement a reliable “Contact Us” process: customers that can reach your business quickly to get answers, direction and appeasement are more likely to utilize your company in the future, regardless, if they have had a negative experience.

2. Increase and monitor efficiency: Ensure that you set up a response time that will reflect your willingness to solve the issues in a timely manner. Customers that receive confirmation within 24-48 hours that their issues has been noted and is being handled are less likely to talk negatively regarding your business and whatever their issue may be.

3. Encourage advocacy: Understand that each customer is an extension of you business, a subcontractor of sorts. Word-of-mouth carries a lot of weight and your service or product becomes secondary to a testimonial on how you treated that customer.

4. Select customer-facing employees carefully: Have the right staff in place that can successfully deal with customers in a compassionate and empathetic manner, regardless of the situation.

Optimize customer strategy to increase loyalty
Looking at a business as it progresses through its positive encounters with its customers is one aspect of customer relationship management. How a member of a staff greets you as you enter their office, their politeness over the phone and whether or not they have incentives in place that will entice you into maintaining a relationship with them are all CRM practices that businesses engage in.

That positive reinforcement as a practice of customer relationship management often manifests itself as loyalty. That loyalty is two-fold. The business shows its loyalty to their customers as well as the customer showing their loyalty to the business. In this relationship dynamic the business shows its loyalty by providing incentives such as sales, discounts and possibly a point system process, often found in “key chain” reward cards.

This CRM tactic allows the business to track how often a customer is frequenting their establishment, while the customer is given discounts on services and products or possibly given the opportunity to build points for each dollar spent with a reward system that includes free items.

Transform customer perception
On the other side of the spectrum are the practices in place for those customers that for some reason have had negative experiences with a business. When a business has to react to a late delivery, product defects or even a 'business-to-customer' negative encounter, they are presented with opportunities to enforce a customer relationship strategy that will defuse the situation and still maintain that customer’s business. This type of relationship practice includes listening to the complaint, empathizing with the customer and providing solutions. The response shared allows the business to present itself in a positive and sympathetic manner, letting the customer know that their patronage has importance and is appreciated.

Today’s business market definitely revolves around both the “best customer” and “worst customer” scenarios. For all businesses, maintaining exemplary customer service for all customers will definitely be the difference in the longevity of a business as well as the long-term retention of their customers.

There are so many ways in which a business can retain loyal and profitable customers, provide them with exemplary products and services and offer them as many opportunities that they can to show their appreciation. As a business owner, it is critical to understand and practice CRM in order to successfully thrive in the business arena.

Optimize customer experience to avoid churn
As a starting point, there are a few key initiatives that work in maintaining positive relationships with customers. CRM revolves around the interaction between business and customer and communication.

Today, the key to customer relationship management that will optimize customer experience is definitely to understand that patience is no longer a virtue in the business world. More likely, the new mantra is “Time is of the essence”! Making your customer’s satisfaction number one priority is the key. CRM success should be a long term strategy with  a clear focus on customer-centered practices to retain customers and encourage advocacy.

Incorporating Customer Experience in your Bank's Customer Strategy

The inside of the bank was the size of a metro station, it was dotted with people making transactions or interacting with the staff. The snake-like queue meandered ahead of me and seemed never ending. I tried counting the heads – around 26 people, some with documents in their hands and others with cheques. I focused my eyes on a clock some feet away, watching the hand move every sixty seconds. The lady in the admissions office had said without empathy, “Ma'am, you must submit the bank draft and other documentation by 1 o'clock, otherwise, we will offer the seat to a student on the second list”.

I had shifted to this city three months ago with my family from a distant metro, it was imperative that I admit my son to one of the best schools here, but, it begun to look like just a dream. If I did not get the bank draft issued in the next twenty minutes from this bank and rush to the school with it - my son's admission to the city's most renowned school would be negated!

All the counters seemed to have endless lines of people hoping to wrap-up their work before the bank closed in about 45 minutes. I considered leaving the queue and asking for directions to a Platinum Customers' counter, but, felt that it might just lengthen the whole process if they did not have one for this branch, I would have to get back at the end of the growing queue again.
A sharp dressed person in a typical banker’s dark suit and tie caught my eye as he passed within a few feet. I reached for my cheque book and waved it impolitely close to his face. “Excuse me! I'm a Platinum Customer who urgently needs a bank draft - it's for my son’s school admission," I said loudly from the queue, people turned around to look at me. “This is my first visit to this branch and we shifted to this city recently, I really need this draft to be issued in fifteen minutes or the school will reject my form!"

I remember leaving the bank 11 minutes later with a smile from ear-to-ear. This was no ordinary bank, Mr. Dutt, as I found out later, quickly typed my name and account number which I shared with him into his mobile phone. A minute later, a voice at the other end of his phone verified I was the account holder with a few typical security questions. The agent asked me to hand over all the relevant details for the draft to Mr.Dutt after filling and signing the form a peon brought a few seconds later.
“Please wait in our lounge for a few minutes, we have already started the process of issuing a draft, I’ll just submit these documents and be back,” Mr.Dutt had said politely, collecting all the relevant details from me as directed by the agent on the phone.

As I drove to the school through several traffic jams, honking like a mad person, I couldn't help but appreciate how quickly the bank had acted by simply verifying I was a customer who had a long history with their bank and quickly informed the relevant department at the branch. They had coordinated between several employees to deliver my draft on time and ensure I leave with a positive experience, they knew this would be my 'first impression' of their services on a tense day.

Before I left the bank, Mr. Dutt had ensured me someone would call the following day to share details of the closest branch to my home and the office. Though, I insisted to always bank at this particular branch, "That won't be necessary, I'm confident I'll always prefer to visit your branch, thanks again for your excellent service. My son will start school from the 17th of next month.." I said smiling.

For any of my friends who read my Tweets the next day, they would agree I was mesmerized by the service I received after several hours of anxiety about the chances of my son being rejected by the new school. This was a bank that truly cared about 'customer experience management', the top management knew that though optimal customer relationship management was expensive and complex, it had robust long term benefits including customer loyalty and a progressive competitive advantage.

5 Factors to Consider when Selecting a Mobile CRM Solution for the Sales Team

Customers are looking for quicker responses, instant solutions to problems and prompt answers to queries.  While CRM solutions can unequivocally assist companies to achieve this objective, the limitation might arise when a part of the company’s staff does not have access to this office based software.

According to research by VDC, a third of a company’s staff is mobile.  This is quite a telling number and shows how employees are increasingly hitting the field rather than just staying inside their office. Another research that stitches this fact together was recently conducted by Nielsen.  As per the study’s findings, 50% of the total USA mobile market is captured by smart phones.  CRM solution companies have realized their clients’ need to access their software while on the field and are making use of the increased presence of smart phones to do the same.  In the face of diverse competition it is essential to meet customers face-to-face while staying informed about work related updates while travelling. CRM applications are available which can be accessed and updated through a smart phone or a tablet and this has heralded a bouquet of benefits to the system.

With mobile CRM, the sales force can benefit through any time and anywhere access to customer details and secure real-time sharing of information related to activities, deals, payments, contact details and more. Details can be shared of other leads and accounts for a particular territory with a member of the sales force when they are travelling.

Shane, a high level sales executive, has scheduled a meeting with an important customer in another state.  He accesses the centralized CRM data repository through his mobile CRM and studies the customer's entire history including past purchases and key contacts.  He suggests a few changes to his head office to appease the customer further and takes a cab to the customer’s office a few mile outside of his city.  Before entering the customer's office, Shane checks his mobile CRM for any new details and notices his colleague has shared details of the receptionist's name and social profile. Taking a mental note of the information, he speaks with Ms. Scarlett and impresses her with a ticket to her favourite band's concert, which he books from his phone. The successful rapport building encourages her to bring forward Shane's appointment and he can now pitch to Mr. Hailey before his competitors. The customer asks for a quick turnaround time, Shane discusses their prior track record and some similar past purchases. On the way back from his successful business trip, he updates the mobile CRM with a description of Mr. Hailey and the key elements of their discussion. Shane then creates a new opportunity and assigns new activities to his team who are in-sync through the CRM solution.

One of primary benefits of CRM solutions with a mobile platform is that data is shared securely without requiring telephonic conversations in crowded places or at a customer's office premises. Also, with access to mobile CRM, your sales force can continue to be dynamic without compromising on access to customer information through a secure platform. For example, if a meeting with a client will finish an hour earlier than expected in a foreign city, a colleague can immediately share details of other warm leads within a 5 Km radius with whom an appointment can be requested. 

While the benefits can be overwhelming, one has to be careful when selecting a customer relationship management solution with a mobile CRM application.  The following points should be given careful consideration:
Security: from a user and the organization's perspective, accessing and updating data should be secure. Depending on a user's role, the person should be given read/ write permission and visibility for other's records.
Compatibility: The software should be compatible with the existing systems at your organization.
Deployment: You should be able to deploy the software without extensive IT efforts and complications.
Ease-of-use: the mobile CRM interface and navigation should not be complicated and hinder quick access to information. The entire point of this solution is quick and easy access to customer and related information in unforeseen circumstances or without access to an internet enabled laptop or tablet.
Customizable interfaces: to ensure user friendliness, interfaces should be uncluttered and display only pertinent details for different levels of the hierarchy. To facilitate high adoption, the mobile CRM's layout should be customizable.

3 Ways to Maximize Email Campaign ROI

My career in fashion designing started shortly after completing a course at a reputed institution close to home. I was fortunate to be hired by a renowned boutique, Zhiro, which had stores at two key locations in Delhi. These were frequented by affluent customers from around the globe looking for trendy apparel, though most were resident and non-resident Indians. In a few short months, I had impressed my owner, Mr. Singh, with my skills at intuitive cross selling to customers after successfully building rapport with them. He showed his appreciation by allowing me to start designing my own range of ethnic garments for children with his in-house tailors and fabrics.

I worked with the tailors and craftsmen in the basement of Zhiro to create my first batch of garments - ethnic formals. My supervisor knew the best way to maximize sales and generate new customers was to connect with our target groups across India and abroad with photos and details of our latest range of formal wear, rather than wait for customers to visit our store or hear about us from a friend. We decided to run multiple email campaigns every year with Mr. Singh's consent.

Segmenting customers to target each with a relevant campaign
The challenge in running an effective email campaign was to segment customers so that our separate catalogues for Western, Indian and Indo-Western apparel could be sent to specific groups. Also, we needed to identify which customers had children to cut out the cost of printing and mailing our catalogue of the latest children’s clothes to those without kids. Our most reliable source of information was the visitor’s book and some visiting cards for addresses. We added a column to our Excel sheet for customer comments that were voluntarily shared like "looking forward to your ethnic winter collection," "my kids loved the waistcoats," "prices are too high for my budget" and so on. We used these remarks to filter our mailing lists based on customers' interests and preferences.

Over a period of several days we typed customer’s details onto our computer and created 4 mailing lists. Time was running short because the weather was changing and delaying the dispatch of our catalogue would mean our customer’s might shop at a competitor’s boutique and never know about our latest range of clothes.

Around a week after mailing our catalogue, we noticed a larger number of people visiting our stores, many of whom knew exactly what they wanted after browsing through the catalogue we sent them. This allowed me to make sales more quickly with knowledgeable or repeat customers and focus more time on converting window shoppers to first time customers.

Ensuring efficient capture of critical customer information
As our range of clothing changed with the seasons and the volume of customer information which we were pro-actively requesting was progressively increasing, we often spent several hours after closing the stores to create and update Excel sheets. Often before and after the clearance sale twice a year, we spent a couple of hours each day for a week to update or add customer details. I would have looked for a new job after the first year, if I hadn't realized how critical sending these catalogues to the right people was in increasing walk-ins and word-of-mouth advocacy. A larger number of sales by me meant a higher commission and the possibility of a promotion down the line.

One evening when cancelling an outing with a close friend, Nilofer, for the third time in a row because we were preparing to send our Spring Collection catalogue, she mentioned how the Cloud CRM software her organization had implemented was greatly reducing time on capturing customer details and sending information to them like newsletters and responses to queries. "Our CRM software dynamically creates mailing lists using preconfigured filter criteria and also facilitates sending auto-populated personalized messages to all our customers and partners. We also track correspondence from customers and ensure there are no overdue tasks related to anyone, if something is out of place, an alert or escalation is automatically generated” she said. "Also, everyone is accountable and users can make an extra effort to reach-out and track customers through multiple popular channels," Nilofer added, "I work more, but, I'm always home to feed my dog and water the plants on time!"

Maximizing campaign ROI without compromising on customer experience
A few weeks after my discussion with Nilofer, I had convinced Mr. Singh to implement a Cloud CRM software for all the sales and marketing employees after explaining the benefits of a 360 degree customer view, segmentation and demand forecasting. After reviewing several options, we shortlisted a CRM vendor who would implement a bespoke solution for our business needs within 45 days and we wouldn't need to invest in any additional hardware or IT personnel.

A year after the CRM implementation, Zhiro's sales volumes have increased and we have more time to focus on designing clothes and interacting with customers. We have now started emailing customers on a monthly basis and often use a mail blaster when sending the same content to all our customers at specified intervals. The CRM Software incorporates a personal touch to each message using an auto-populated template and also generates a list of undelivered messages for us to follow-up through an alternate channel.

My friend and I often look back and laugh at my days of stretched hours and chaotic work schedules while multi-tasking for sales and marketing at Zhiro. We're glad the CRM software delivered as expected and then some, it cut down overtime for everyone without affecting customer experience and improved our multi-channel campaigns to optimize our competitive advantage.

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

3 Fundamental Ways to Deliver Great Customer Service

I was sitting in a mall with my friend Natasha when she made a very funny request. She asked me to call her employer and ask her for the job offer that my friend had recently taken up. Unusual as this was, I called her employer and said “Hello ma’am, I saw your ad on the internet and was wondering if you are looking for an interior designer for your home? Oh, you've already got someone to do it? How do you like the designs? Okay, no problem, yes, I know that ad is quite old, but I just thought I’d try my luck. I'm glad you’re satisfied with your current interior designer. Have a nice day.” I kept the phone and saw that Natasha was grinning ear-to-ear. On probing, I realized what I initially thought to be a distasteful prank call was in fact a tactful technique my friend had used to gauge exactly what her employer thought of her. She said, that if her employer had any complaints, she would have definitely voiced them to me, as I was a third person. The fact that she didn't was proof that she was really happy and satisfied with my friend’s work.

In day to day business, we tend to ignore customer complaints that come our way. Complaints from people that have bought a product or have done business with you is the single most powerful tool you can possess to know exactly how well your business is doing. So, rather than writing off customer complaints as a reaction from a bunch of unruly people that have had a bad day, for any company to thrive, it needs to assess these complaints carefully. No amount of research and analysis or extensive pie charts will give you a  realistic and accurate account of how your business is doing, if complaint registration does not figure high up in your priority list.

There are many companies that have websites with a separate page of customer reviews, and for a good reason. This is an excellent strategy used by many tech-savvy companies to gain new customers, because nothing works better to convince a fist timer about a new product than a good review from a satisfied customer. At the same time, the contrary is just as true. Even in a long list of good reviews, if a single poor review flashes, it instantly casts a shadow of doubt in a potential buyer or clients’ mind. So, just like they say, ten good reviews usually usher in one good business deal and one bad review can drive away ten potential business opportunities. Therefore, rather than turning a deaf ear to complaints, companies should make a proactive effort to register them and then work towards solving them as well.

Many companies rely on a highly qualified team of professionals to give them details and insights of how well their business is doing, but no guy in a suit will be able to tell you how many times a customer irately walked out of your store due to long snakelike queues or rude salespersons. Many companies make efforts to launch new products or entice customers with exciting discount offers but to win over a spurned customer, these measures will fall flat. A company needs to not only register every customer’s complaint but should also try and solve it as quickly as possible, because a spurned customer that has been won over once again will become a truly loyal customer. And nothing works better to gain new customers than a loyal and satisfied one. So, how does a company go about ‘finding’ complaints? It’s simple. You need to use a sophisticated tool called customer relationship management system which ensures customer satisfaction and increases loyalty.

To register and address every complaint by giving it a high priority can only truly be executed if a proper customer relationship management system is in place. A CRM system not only collects information from customers but also fast tracks the process of solving the complaint at hand. This software enables you to optimize customer experience by responding to the customer immediately, which makes the customer feel they are truly valued in your business set up and that their opinion matters to you. Always ensure that your contact with a complaining customer is on a one-on-one basis, the last thing that a calling customer wants to do is wait at the end of a line for what seems like an eternity to register a complaint. A CRM system streamlines this entire process and makes it easier for you to register, address and even follow up on customer complaints using newer channels like social networking and SMS. Also, poorly handled complaints can be escalated or reassigned to specialists.

Every company realizes that for a business to succeed, a minimum amount of mistakes need to be made. Indeed, the learning curve is very short in the competitive field of business. Thus, the main curve that a business must strive for is the smile of a satisfied customer, and this can only be achieved if a proper CRM solution is ensuring complaints and customer comments are captured for a company round the clock through customers' preferred channels. Most critically, there is no point collating complaints and inviting feedback from customers, when no decisive action or changes are made based on common issues and bottlenecks throughout the organization. For forward thinking companies, an effective CRM software ensures that management from top down has clear visibility that processes and strategies are being carefully followed to optimize customer experience.

5 Reasons to Implement Automotive CRM for Maximizing Sales

Buying a new set of wheels is a love-hate process that often fills customers with unexpected fear and anxiety. CRM is the optimal solution and has not only become a bare necessity in this industry, but has also changed the means of customer interactions primarily for the industry’s own survival. Automotive CRM makes personnel management a breeze, optimizes lead proficiency and assists in developing an unbeatable competitive advantage.

A senior Gartner analyst (automotive practice) throws light on the fact that new vehicle profit margins are wafer thin. Additionally, in a growing multi-channel world, it has been discovered that customers are ultimately interested in the final product and don’t really care what kind of touch point was used to interact with car dealers.

This makes it essential for companies to ensure that the focus is not just on making a sale but to gain a loyal customer for life, in order to harness the massive potential pay-off in the long run. 

Senior executives in Price Waterhouse Coopers’ retail automotive operations department find that in the automotive industry, expenditures on marketing efforts touch almost 30%. To balance this out, it is vital to bring in excellent CRM and ward off bad sales.

CRM in the automotive industry is complex and despite its size, there are very few CRM software solutions which can be tailored to meet the industry’s specific needs. Vendors providing back-end management systems for dealers are not very quick in adding new CRM modules, thereby causing a dearth of definitive automotive CRM packages.

Traditionally, the distribution system of the automotive industry was such that the manufacturers and end customers were largely distanced. For most automotive manufacturers, their real customer was the 'dealer' and focus was on how to keep them happy. Once the vehicle reached the dealer and the OEMs’ dues were settled, the only interest that the manufacturers had was to ensure that the dealer succeeded in making a sale. Manufacturers are concerned with keeping their factories running, car production and shipping them - after which the final onus to sell the car is transferred to the dealer.

However, as progressing time gave birth to the much evolved customer; many manufacturers are today regretting having ever had this outlook. Having washed their hands off all proximity with the end customer, a large volume of customer related information was lost - customer preferences played a small role in vehicle manufacturing.

A senior analyst at Forrester Research points out that today cars are primarily built on a ‘push’ manufacturing prototype, making the transition to a completely customer centric / made-to-order philosophy quite tough. This is proven by the fact that when a customer walks into a showroom with a mental image of the exact car he/she wants to purchase, often, several compromises have to be made with regard to certain features or even something as basic as colour.

Capturing customer requirements efficiently
In order to achieve “The-CRM-built-car” there are two important steps which the industry needs to take forward. First of all, the manufacturing process flexibility has to be increased and secondly dealer-manufacturer integration must be improvised.

Another Forrester analyst suggests that during the manufacturing process, work like paint, seating or other last-minute-jobs can be delayed a little until exact customer preferences are conveyed. 

The biggest reason to concentrate on 'built to order' (BTO car models) is to do away with waste that occurs due to large left-over inventories. In an ideal automotive world, the manufacturer will start building the car only after getting specific orders from customers thereby leading to smart use of inventories and negligible wastage. This is the crux of CRM in the automotive industry - customer inputs kick start production.

Even though this may be resisted by dealers initially, a competent CRM will make life easier for dealers compared to the existing trial and error approach to inventory.

The idea is to have a fewer number of cars but more customized, thereby eliminating features or options that customers do not even want. There needs to be a shift from the stagnant mentality that quota fulfilment is more important than a satisfied customer. The ideal tagline for CRM in the automotive industry should be “Specify what you want and we will build it for you.”

Automotive Sales Teams and Customer Relationship Mapping
If sales reps believe strongly in the CRM system and can be convinced to work for the greater vertical good, they have the potential to bring in huge value to the customer and vendor relationship management process.
  • Foresee demand - The automotive industry faces an ongoing issue of accurate demand measurement, the solution to which is not just technological. Sometimes, certain options in cars are not even offered to customers, as a result of which gauging the demand for it is out of the question. Through a comprehensive CRM solution which incorporates social CRM, sales reps can make note of customer requirements/ interests and establish links between features and specific customer demands while simultaneously tracking competitors' offerings. This can then be put forth to the manufacturer for consideration. However, this is only effective with high user adoption. 
  • Track open activities - Customers often have strict preferences with regards to when they want to be contacted by sales people and often request pertinent written material/ reviews/ catalogues prior to further discussions or negotiations. This information and related tasks can be captured in the CRM system for each customer in the database, making it available through a central repository. In addition, escalation rules can be customized to ensure efficient follow-ups. 
  • Auto-populate campaign participants - Connections between customers and marketing programs can be established through an effective CRM solution - customer names can pop up against a particular marketing program or a specific segment can be suggested to optimize lead generation. 
  • Calculate ROI for new initiatives - Integrate with multiple systems and collate expenses and outcomes of various vendor/ dealer related marketing activities and incentives on a single CRM software to ensure accurate calculation of return on investment (ROI).
Achieving CRM Success in the automotive industryMarketing executives are discovering that mere implementation of a CRM system is not the only solution to woo, communicate with and retain customers. There is often a communication gap between customers and companies which IT systems alone cannot bridge. Studies reveal that auto company-customer interaction occurs about 1.5 times per annum which does not provide sufficient data to answer questions like which customer should receive what offer and product, when, etc. This brings forth a crucial fact – automotive companies need that approach to CRM that marketers and customers both can embrace with ease.

Automotive industry CRM programs must incorporate two vital principles in order to succeed –
1. Understanding purchase-cycle intimacy - A productive CRM system must dig deep into what drives the purchase decision before the purchase is made, and unlock real value by recognizing that different customers tread on different purchase paths.
2. Analyse ownership experience - Since different customers follow different paths of ownership, good CRM systems must establish a deep link to every individual’s ownership experience, their relationship with the automotive throughout the cycle of ownership. A single repository with details of all related purchases (services, AMC, insurance, accessories, etc.) and complaints will facilitate analytical insights and redesign of strategies to optimize customer experience.

For the above principles to work, it is necessary that sporadic technology programs be fused together in mutually complementary ways.

It is found that 65% of consumers make use of the internet at some point during the automotive purchase cycle. Interactive kiosks in dealer shops or venues like shopping malls are also becoming great mediums to engage customers. Web enabled systems also make it easily possible to capture crucial customer insights in the midst of the buying process. Internet activity is a fruitful path to achieve purchase cycle intimacy.

In the next few years..
CRM is going to elevate the future of the automotive industry. With properly implemented CRM initiatives, the future will encounter automotive web sites making adjustments according to customer profiles and preferences. It will also enhance companies’ abilities to achieve better purchase cycle intimacy when customer engagements move from the web into home entertainment hubs.

Successful automotive CRM systems will harness crucial customer feedback and data will flow back to dealers and manufacturers, thus enabling them to design the correct follow up campaigns to seal the gap between sales and marketing.

Good CRM means better multi-channel access and transparency with regard to offers, quotes and pricing. Tight dealer-manufacturer integration is also essential to avoid information overload and inconsistent customer details while collaboratively optimizing strategies and products.

Another critical factor for CRM success in the automotive industry is capturing a holistic picture of its leads, customers, partners and vendors. Social CRM is that tool which can be used across teams to sieve through comments and profiles thereby allowing careful and accurate analysis of new trends and customer expectations from Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and more.