21st Century CRM and Customer Experience: Challenges and Benefits

The 21st century economy leaves no room for slowdown. Customers are moving at lightning speed – be it keeping pace with racing technologies, staying informed about everything that’s going on, or constantly demanding that transactions are executed at the speed of an eye blink. Obviously, 'lagging' translates directly to customer churn, which further escalates to bottom line damage. The big question is - how do organisations run in this crazy rat race and successfully retain their customers, when competitors are just a mouse click away?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the answer. New age CRM is a winning business strategy that leverages advanced technologies to cut to the 21st century business chase. Organisations across the globe are embracing CRM as a strategic approach to gain a competitive advantage. However, to accomplish the same, CRM activities must also move at whirlwind speed – including customer acquisition and retention in real time. This helps ensure that no matter how fierce the competition, organisations can fight it out with ease.

CRM 2.0
Web 2.0 technologies are making the internet world undergo a metamorphosis and turning it into an increasingly interactive medium. Web 2.0 basically means the progression from centralised to decentralised control of web interactions and information technology. With aspects like blogs, social networking and the likes, contemporary customers can identify exactly how their virtual experiences will shape up. The internet in general and social networks in particular are playing a key role in how customers communicate among themselves and with businesses, how they accept markets, what drives product selection, and what makes customers happy. Companies will naturally have lesser and lesser influence with the passage of time over both customer minds as well as wallets.

Clearly, Web 2.0 technologies will impact CRM too, given its ability to allow customers to feel empowered enough to execute a whole lot of independent activities and decisions.

The question is - do these technologies also possess the capability to direct the path to developing what can be called ‘CRM 2.0’? Though the answer is inclined towards the positive, reaching the destination will be revolutionary and take a lot of hard work and in-depth analysis.

When it comes to modern customer relationship management, the basic functions will still remain as crucial. Organisations, however, will specifically need to ensure that –

  • The prime focus remains on always providing the best customer experiences
  • Customer process management is effective
  • Cross channel integration is facilitated
  • Contact centre operations are robust and well monitored
  • Sales Force Automation (SFA) is made highly efficient
  • Marketing and campaign management activities produce tangible results

A major issue with CRM is that it is not a simple strategy that completely relies on technology alone, but the landscape is rather complex and punctured with pitfalls.

Growing customer knowledge and sophistication poses huge challenges before an organisation’s CRM efforts. This is because, today, customer empowerment and accessibility to information (including negative information) critically impacts the efficacy and receptiveness of CRM solutions. For example, if customers face trouble with issues like tech support, website usability, etc., there will be an immediate broadcast about the same across all the connected channels and communities. Even the smallest of CRM glitches get magnified tenfold, leading to massive, untold business losses. Other CRM functions are impacted too.

Cross channel integration is of prime importance. 21st century customers have literally grown up with mobile phones and are connected 24x7. Naturally, for such users, connecting from mobiles to websites to get live assistance from customer service representatives is a given, and so is the expectation of flawless support and service at any given point in time. Global, round-the-clock access to CRM software is what customers demand today. It can thus be inferred that new generation customers worldwide are largely conducting business and ‘staying connected’ at all hours from any corner in the world; due to which the expected high standard of customer service will also have to be provided.

Organisations therefore need to realise that to keep pace with contemporary customers, they will always have to stay on their toes and ensure that contact centre apps are synchronised with the web; and mobile phones, mobile apps, etc. are relevantly linked too. In short, a perfect blend of online and offline worlds should be impeccably achieved.

The biggest challenge for present day organisations is maintaining transparency without compromising security in the overall CRM software, which today’s customers demand. Even though enterprise platforms will remain in use as usual, a host of new applications will emerge, and so will additional demands to integrate them. Data churned out by Web 2.0 technologies and emerging new social networks will have to be incorporated within CRM 2.0 platforms. Further, these platforms will have hosted services and service-oriented architecture as their foundation; and co-existence with on-premise enterprise applications will be needed too.

In order to support and integrate new methodologies for web and mobile device interactions, several new peripheral applications will emerge. As far as enterprise application integration tools are concerned, they will become more powerful and comprehensive; while enabling seamless integration of disparate components. When this constant connectedness is floating around within the web space itself, data management and integration issues are simplified to a large extent. However, larger and more complex organisations require a great deal of coordination and integration work in their future CRM solutions.

The immediate question is whether CRM 2.0 will radically differ from existing CRM solutions. This may not be drastic, but, yes, a whole new set of distinct permutations, combinations and complexities will be part of CRM 2.0. Therefore, organisations will have to continue developing robust CRM capabilities and simultaneously living up to customers’ growing expectations.

The bottom-line is that organisations wanting to manage this tricky chasm will have to shelter as well as strengthen their core CRM capabilities and functions; and build solid foundations to support web 2.0 capabilities, further involving the integration of data sources and key functions as needed.

Why 21st century CRM strategies are the need of the hour
Studies say that acquiring a new customer is six to seven times costlier than retaining an existing one. It is also found that if adequate measures to retain customers are not taken, then roughly over five years, companies face a customer attrition rate of close to two times their total customer base. These statistics are a significant enough reason for organisations to employ 21st century CRM ideas and strategies, in order to successfully retain customers and lower costs.

Reasons to embrace contemporary Customer Relationship Management strategies:

New age CRM brings along with it the ability to design products and services in perfect sync with individual customer needs. Innovative customisation is the key. For example, a fashion house can send out customised mailers to clients based on the kind of clothing they purchased in the past. Further, when the store receives new collections, mails could be sent out accordingly, suggesting clothing ensembles. In most industries, customer loyalty is an important factor on which prices are based, and customisation in turn is one of the factors that foster loyalty.

Social Media
Social media is heavily impacting CRM solutions today. Customers’ interactions on social media websites can be tracked in real time and thereby relevant information can be gathered. Social media is also an excellent platform to gain new leads. This apart, customers can publicise their positive and negative views through social platforms in a matter of seconds. It is therefore, imperative for organisations to always ensure optimum customer service delivery. Any negative feedback or incorrect information that surfaces in marketplaces must be assessed and where applicable, corrected immediately.

Companies must infuse social media marketing into their overall CRM strategies, and understand how social media can serve as an instantaneous, valuable channel that facilitates better customer-company interactions and relationships.

Modern technology is changing how businesses interact with customers and gather data about them. The future of relationship marketing envisions marked improvements in the collection and analysis of customer information, and additional opportunities to tailor-make messages for specific target customers. New technologies are already equipped to segregate large volumes of data according to user type and their use of the web, in order to better understand customer habits and purchasing patterns. Marketing activities need to blend Web 2.0 techniques with campaign initiatives, and include social network data, blogs, etc. Technology will play an important role in the future of all CRM activities. 

New generation customers are not only far more “connected” to the companies they associate with, but, their expectations are also at an all time high. In today’s fast paced and competitive economy, the manner in which organisations engage with consumers is of pivotal importance. The internet is an important medium allowing organisations to better adapt to customer requirements. Therefore, offering options to customers that allow maximum flexibility is vital – whether it comes to online ordering, customising orders on the web, shipping to the customer’s doorstep, online feedback and reviews etc. Rampant use of the internet is giving new age CRM a whole new dimension.

It is of utmost importance that companies plan futuristic CRM strategies with immediate effect, in order to become truly relationship-centric and avoid any expensive repercussions.

Today’s modern and technology-driven environment makes it critical for CRM software to be in sync too. When implementing their CRM solutions, organisations need to focus on latest web-based technologies and opt for the right business tools that facilitate increased interactivity and self service for customers online. It is also necessary to comprehend the latest developments in the field and adopt a cohesive approach.

An in-depth understanding of the impacts of new technology, business and consumer updates in diverse vertical markets, and contributions of an improved and meteoric CRM software; can help organisations differentiate themselves in highly competitive markets.

'Modernity' is the currency of the 21st century, and those organisations that successfully keep pace with the ongoing CRM revolution will thrive for a lifetime.