How a CRM Solution Ensures the War for Talent does not Affect Performance

The 'war for talent' hinders recruiting and retaining talented employees in the face of growing competition from similar companies, what is the solution to growing attrition?

A company added a marketing expert to its payrolls ten years ago to collate and analyze existing customer information and design a product specific to customer requirements. Something that would be ideal for cross selling too. After the product was launched, it sold steadily for s few years and then suddenly nose-dived in popularity. The company was helpless, the marketing expert had left for a larger organization abroad, along with him all the information and analytics were gone. The company had no means to replicate their earlier success without knowing on the basis of what customer inputs the product had been designed. 

Every kind of organisation is under the inevitable pressure of ensuring profitable business interactions. Each interaction or each addition of any element should help a business in its commercial benefit. This is termed as ‘incrementalism’, which tends to be the most microscopic contributions, mediating business dynamics. Keeping a check on each of these minuscule factors is important. The significance lies in the following fact: Incrementalism in the course of business flow, tends to be composed of many elements. So, handling each of these many process inputs becomes a very cumbersome task unless it is ideally and tactfully controlled, maintained, utilized and retrieved at the time of need. Every individual input to this business flow is an intangible set of ‘intellect’. Any ‘intellect’ is always a treasure for the organisation’s coffers.
Using CRM solutions for unbiased knowledge sharing

The traffic of intellectual inflow needs a proper route of channelization. Let alone channelling it to a proper direction, it also requires a central repository, so that it can be controlled, tracked and exploited in order to help the business prosper. Unless that is done, incrementalism would culminate to utter pandemonium. Hence, CRM software is that key which can bring order from the chaos. It sets business relations, at each and every level, in close synchronization with each other, such that, incrementalism doesn't pose to be an impasse for business development. It not only acts as a storehouse for all forms of business decisions, transactions, customer profiles and relations, it also poses to be a solution in events of acute business crisis. It is a definitive ‘system’ that exactly caters to classify, arrange and use: 
• The details of opportunities across account types
• Its innumerable tie-ups
• Its products’ performance
• Product innovation
• Customer reactions and reviews
• Annual reports and turnover
• Prediction of market tendencies and demand
• Customer needs and expectations

What CRM software does is that, it keenly associates each of these aspects of a business in an intricate link, and also defines the plausible implications of these aspects, individually and collectively. A CRM solution’s utility is significant in the event of attrition.
  • Company’s ‘intellectual’ loss - the company can never foresee as to when and where it would require the specific intellectual expertise of a specific employee. 
  • Maintaining incremental development of a business process flow - every employee, contributes to this dynamism. Their contributions are not only crucial for the immediate project in concern (the project that employs their proficiency); their future demands are always an uncertainty. 
The complete and interactive interface of CRM solutions solves issues such as these in the blink of an eye. It is systematic and conjugative. It organizes an organisation’s resources and helps its growth and proliferation by virtue of logical incrementalism.

Business dynamics are subject to continuous evolution, it can be a challenging job for the CIO, the conjugation of each and every element that affects the business actively or passively should be monitored; which is a mammoth task. CRM software is the ‘new age solution’ to tackle this mammoth task in question.

3 Ways to Foster Customer Loyalty with a CRM Solution

The Informed Customer
Henry Ford once said that a customer could have a Model T in any colour they wanted, as long as it was black. In today’s market, Henry would have had a great deal of trouble convincing a customer that they had only a singular choice. Customers today are better informed and with this information they have radically changed their buying processes.

Paw Internet reported that in 2010, 58% of consumers regularly performed online research about products and services before considering purchasing. This means that your customer is better informed, not only about your product but about your competitor’s products as well.

1. Matching customer expectations
With information comes empowerment and it is becoming more central to everything that businesses do. The empowerment of the customer is driving the need for evolving CRM solutions.

Businesses need to be in tune with their customers and be able to deliver a stellar customer experience across channels - an experience which fosters loyalty and in turn produces more profitable customer relationships.

2. Breaking silos 
The availability of new and easily accessed information sources have significantly changed the customer’s buying process. Customers can research products and services through generic search engines and increasingly through the social networks available. While customers desire more information in making their decision, they also expect that the companies they deal with will have more information about them – regardless of how they interact with the company. They anticipate that the company will have the ability to customize responses to their inquiries and will provide that customization across any and all channels of contact.

While old CRM software captured basic contact with the customer, they also tended to retain that information in a silo form. Telephone customers were maintained and approached in a manner different from the face – to – face customer or the on-line customer. This “silo” application forces a customer to repeat information across multiple lines of contact.

The shift in a customer’s decision making process puts pressure on the company to become more responsive, to anticipate the changing needs of their customers and to provide relevant information, targeted marketing offers and consistently positive customer experiences.

3. Creating a holistic customer view
If a CRM solution is to be successful in today’s integrated market, it must be integrated as well. Today’s CRM software must combine traditional points of contact with information gleaned from social networks or other media the customer may use in their decision making process and it must make this information available across all points of customer entry.

Integrated CRM solutions also enable a company to engage the customer in conversations about wants and needs. They can identify problems more quickly and rectify them, retaining customers who may otherwise be lost. They have become more flexible, integrating with productivity tools such as email – enabling day to day activities to be captured and integrated into the customer profile.

Too often the trap of “as long as it’s black” comes back to haunt a company. Companies must be able to gather the information required to make decisions that positively impact both their customer relationship and their bottom line. Without integration even the best CRM solutions treat information in silo form, locking away critical information which could be used to build customer loyalty and enhance sales and service. The customer today is empowered by the information readily available to them, if this empowerment is ignored the chances are the company will be ignored as well.

How to Improve Channel Partner Performance with an Effective Partner Portal

Businesses who rely mainly on channel/indirect sales can make optimum use of a partner portal. These systems not only help the parent company find an ideal partner to sell one’s product/service, but also help monitor, manage, optimize and enhance their services. Post the cloud computing revolution, partner portals  have not only become 100% cloud based but also evolved for smartphones and tablets. Integration with the social media management department is but a natural transition.

5 key benefits of partner portals
In a nutshell, an effective partner portal can help integrate, improve and enhance its operations, customer relationships and marketing strategies. The advantages include:
1. Transparency for critical updates
2. Hand holding to ensure optimized performance
3. Ensure positive customer experience
4. 360 degree view of customers to all stakeholders
5. Real time graphs on performance of partners

Partner Portal for BFSI
In the BFSI sector,  relationships with partners are often as crucial as internal communication or customer relations. Therefore, the role of partner portals in this sector is often vital. For example, a financial institution will need real time data channels - banks, the domestic and international stock market, etc. How does one have an effective system in place without the risk of human error? Partner portals provide the ideal opportunity for such players to access actionable data that allows the perfect management of these crucial exchanges. Similarly, banks too can benefit from the secure and hassle free storage of data that a CRM solution's partner portal offer.

Partner Portals in the travel and tourism industry
The travel and tourism sector is one of the fastest evolving sectors in terms of technology. Firms have, in recent years, woken up to the massive potential that CRMs and partner portals have in this industry. Integrating travel portals with CRMs has worked quite effectively in the sector. However, the future is likely to see a higher degree of adaptation for partner portal solutions in the industry as larger firms often struggle to cope with their large network of hospitality chains, transport chains, travel agents, tour operators and event specialists. This industry has witnessed a steady growth over the decades and there are almost zero macroeconomic factors that can cause a slowdown.

Partner Portals for retail, manufacturing and distribution
In sectors such as manufacturing, vendor and partner relations play a direct role in the productivity of an organisation. A retailer who has loose back end integration will struggle to hold on to its market and similarly distributors need channels to run smoothly and effectively at all times. Partner portals that cater to these industries not just help in the integration process of the internal and external vendors/ resellers, but also help streamline the processes. As information travels from one partner to another or from the parent firm to the partners and vice-versa, these state of the art partner management solutions ensure a safe and secure interactive platform with an simple, user friendly interface that is aligned with the brand of the parent organisation.

Ensuring successful partner portal implementation
If you are a small business looking for organic growth, a partner portal could be the right choice to ensure effective collaborations and improve sales. However, before the implementation of this partner management automation solution, it is important for you to clearly communicate with your stakeholders, vendors and resellers. The purpose of the communication is to identify the gaps that may have caused loss of revenue or strained relationships in the past. A key factor to consider is how much customer  information should be visible to partners, this can be controlled by carefully customizing user interfaces to display only relevant fields and configuring filters for lead/ customer related information. Also, internal communication holds the key to effective implementation of such systems. Partners need to be aware of the nitty-gritties of the new software interface and also learn to strategize better with the data that they are provided. Insights provided through the newly integrated data should be actionable for the higher management, the sales and marketing teams as well as the base of the operations.

The simplicity of new age partner portals makes it easy for companies to keep a tab on vendors and their own cash flow better. Invoice generation, pricing details, signed agreements, customer history, loyalty marketing data and disputes can all be accommodated in an integrated manner, if the partner portal is within the CRM software. Apart from this, the customizable user layouts and tools offered by most CRM vendors today allow companies to integrate and differentiate according to their unique requirements.

For organisations that intend to stay ahead of competition with the help of stronger customer relationships, partner portals may be the only way ahead. For SMEs, the more effective and cost-efficient the integration of customer and partner relationship management, the higher the chances of carving a niche in the highly competitive global market.

Leveraging Big Data and CRM Software to Improve Marketing Strategies

I sometimes find myself singing jingles from yesteryear’s TV commercials, like "Hawkins ki seeti baji, khushboo hi khushboo udi..Mazedaar, lazzedaar….minton mein jhatpat pakaaye..Hawkins! Hawkins! Hawkins Pressure Cooker!" which was popular when I was in my teens. Most of the adverts these days don’t catch my attention and I doubt I”ll remember them in a few years. One of the reasons for this could be that on an average day I see so many advertisements while watching a reality show or the news, that the only ones I pay attention to are those that talk about the environment, unprivileged children and endangered species!

Almost everyone in my age group who watched the colour telecast of the Asian Games in India rolls their eyes when I mention a particular commercial's punchline from slightly after that period, then their eyes light up before they break out in loud laughter as the associated visuals and music enters their heads. Some of them were so influenced by these commercials those days that they stocked up the related product in the hope it would actually change their lives!

A majority of my favorite new ads are from a cookery channel I often watch late in the night while planning the next day's meals. This is because almost all the ads are related to the channel's theme - cookery and kitchens! Rarely do I see an ad for deodorants, paints or make up on this boutique channel - its viewers are simply not interested.

At a class reunion a few weeks ago, I found myself in the midst of friends working across the world in different professions. We were talking about popular music in the 80s - Duran Duran, Robert Palmer, Wham! and so on, we somehow ended up talking about what each one of us considered ‘outstanding’ advertisements and then the conversation progressed towards how almost around 50% of the population in major countries now owned smartphones and that TV sales has increased by only about 1% this year.

With a wide variety of new marketing channels like websites, blogs, YouTube, social networks and FM radio, advertisers can now create multiple specialized campaigns, though, there are so many factors to consider when identifying the optimal marketing strategy. A close friend talked about the pressure companies face when they pay over USD 3 million for a 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl broadcast, the match last year was watched by over 111 million people! 

Another friend added how his company’s marketing team had used data mining to create separate customer segments for each marketing channel using simple factors like sex, age group, religion, preferred media channel, income, etc. Customer information had been collected through their CRM solution from various sources through multi-channel integration from the website, SMS campaigns, social networks, call centers and a few other customer touchpoints. This large volume of customer information he called "Big Data" was then scientifically slice-and-diced to generate actionable intelligence related to customer segmentation, cross sell products and propensity to purchase new products. The results were shared with the marketing team to redesign their marketing strategy and identify the most appropriate channel for each of their campaigns. By the end of the exercise, their CMO had pinpointed which model, actor or sportsperson she wanted for each campaign to ensure it would catch the attention of a specific customer segment!
Customer segmentation for optimal marketing

I left the reunion party that night feeling a little dizzy thinking about the implications of having continually growing Big Data and an effective CRM solution which enabled leveraging this information to improve marketing performance. I realized a key factor in facilitating exponential growth would be to identify what questions to ask customers when they buy a product, share feedback, register a complaint or visit a store and use it to gain a clear understanding of their needs and expectations. In fact, with social networking sites, companies can make it easier for customers to share their opinions with a few clicks - like/ don't like/ I'm indifferent or share elaborate feedback, all of which will be collated and analyzed through social CRM!

4 Simple Ways Travel Portals can Use CRM Solution to Enhance Customer Experience

Travel Portals are big business and a successful way for travel agencies to maintain profitability in uncertain economic conditions. The U.S. travel association estimates over $240 billion is spent on traveling a year. The travel industry is not only growing but changing as well. Statistics show that people are definitely traveling more and in today’s technological environment the travel agent has changed from that brick and mortar storefront agency to online agencies and websites. With this dynamic in place, the senior management of a travel agency needs a clear and functional way to monitor their businesses activities.

Customer are now booking flights, making hotel reservations, renting cars or planning vacation adventures around the clock through web enabled devices. Travelers are heading to the internet to plan their next trip and make careful comparisons between prices, offers and freebies from myriad travel portals. Often, just a user-friendly interface for booking tickets or cash on delivery option make a critical difference in customer experience. 

Here are just a few examples of how CRM solutions will allow travel agencies to enhance the customer experience they offer and gain a better competitive advantage -

1. Holistic customer view - According to 'Traveler’s Use of Internet', out of 90 million Americans planning a trip, 76% used the Internet. With a CRM solution, travel companies can capture each one of these transactions along with details of related queries, complaints and feedback for each customer on a single application. These details can be viewed and updated securely through integration with external systems to ensure up-to-date information is readily available for logged-in users. In addition, a holistic customer view will enable call center agents to quickly build rapport and cross-sell/ up-sell with ease.
2. Future proof strategies - CRM software can collate customer responses for online surveys about their experience with their online agent, opinion on cost of the trip, whether or not they would use the travel agency again (with specific reasons), what their next travel destination might be, etc. These customer details can be sliced-and-diced to create reports and dashboards which will help optimize future marketing strategies and improve travel packages and services. For example, the CRM solution can help identify the most popular destination for teenagers during the Christmas break and their average expenditure. Using this actionable intelligence, new campaigns can be designed for this specific age category and published on select media channels.
3. Real-time dashboards - Customer Relationship Management tools can provide clear advantages for travel agencies. Monitoring how many customers are utilizing the website, analyzing how long their interaction takes as well as providing data on completed sales and the types of services that generate the most interaction online. Dashboards display real-time information to analyze data such as the number of individuals that are booking tickets, the number of resolved and open complaints, campaign ROI and various other key metrics.
4. SCRM and multi-channel campaigns - Social CRM (SCRM) facilitates not only monitoring social network user activity by capturing comments related to a company or brand but also allows travel agencies to improve customer perception by responding to queries and ensuring efficient follow-ups for new leads or complaints. With CRM solutions, marketing teams can create mobile, social media and website campaigns, which they can continually improve using customer feedback. Responses can be captured through the CRM software and automated personalized responses can be generated to increase lead conversions and promote customer advocacy.

CRM software will assist today’s travel agencies in determining whether of not they are providing the proper tools to their employees to design the specific analysis criteria that is pertinent. A successful CRM implementation can provide the necessary analysis for today’s travel agencies to progressively improve their e-commerce portals and online campaigns while simultaneously ensuring customer services teams can match customer expectations.