3 Simple Steps to Generate Higher Revenues and Reduce Customer Churn in Healthcare Industry

Generate Higher Revenues and Reduce Customer Churn in Healthcare Industry
The healthcare sector is one of the largest in the world. Starting with primary healthcare dispensing centers, this sector has evolved to become a hugely profitable investment. With nearly every other business realizing the profit potential in healthcare, luxurious hospitals have mushroomed in almost every corner, leaving patients with umpteen choices. The competition is fierce and hospitals are investing more now than ever to ensure that patients are drawn to them rather than their competitors. However, top rated hospitals have more problems today than before due to factors such as fewer medical representatives, ever constrained budgets, competition from lower priced generic drugs, etc. Not to mention external factors such as recession that has had a negative impact on most sectors. Yet, optimists see such hurdles as opportunities rather than roadblocks! This is the right time for innovation - in the midst of monetary constraints, one can turn to more old school ideas. Using a cost-effective CRM software to connect with clients and patients in an attempt to find out and focus on what they want. Given below are three simple steps that marketing experts at healthcare institutes are turning to in these tough times to help ensure profitability and lower churn:

While people think of brands, focus on channels
When it comes to marketing, having your fingers in too many pies is actually a good thing! Most marketers nowadays harp on how one needs to focus on social media and the fact that merely flashy advertising doesn’t get the job done anymore. But, this is old news..The fact of the matter is that multi-channel marketing is the key to succeed in today’s world. Only a multi pronged attack through all the avenues available will do the job. Relying on word of mouth publicity is not enough and at the same time, simply waiting for social media followers with their 'likes' to increase is not enough either. What is really needed here is a holistic approach towards marketing:
  • Brand recognition: Whether it’s online, through social media, an informative website, or through simple medical education programs - ensure that your brand is making it’s presence felt at the right time. Also, ensure that the program is in sync with the target audience; there is no point in taking a free seminar on geriatric care when a crowd of young adults is expected to attend the event. In such cases, talking and educating attendees on topics such as sexual health and lifestyle diseases will prove to be a bigger crowd puller.
  • Consistency: Another point that needs to be kept in mind when going all out is consistency, but in moderation - one does not need to hog every source of media simultaneously. One needs to plan each event and make them complementary, like holding online lectures just before a free check up camp ensures success of the camp.
  • Timeliness: Be strategically smart by striking the right balance between investment and returns. Hold camps/lectures/social media campaigns at the right time. For example, holding an AIDS awareness campaign on World AIDS Day will be more effective than holding such a campaign on any other day.
Share the right message, at the right time
It is common knowledge that often marketers rope in film stars to promote their healthcare product in a bid to increase sales. However, a personal recommendation from an actual user always works best to convince a first timer to try out something new. The same message has a different level of impact depending on who is delivering it. Even the medium and manner in which it is delivered tends to make a difference. Thus, publishing the right kind of message through the right medium is as important as the content in the message. One-to-one information from a respected source when it comes to dispensing healthcare related information goes a long way - physicians, pharmacists and hospital staff dispensing positive healthcare information in the form of one-to-one programs or in groups works very well. These measures work far better than any online healthcare lectures, as it makes the entire experience more relatable and provides patients and their relatives a chance to question physicians and clear their doubts. Similarly, providing information in a positive way works much better; email campaigns detailing ways to live healthy and prevent lifestyle symptoms will have higher responses as against email campaigns that highlight symptoms or complications of a disease. Lastly, people tend to connect more with those that have been through a similar experience. Dispensing information through communities, like cancer support groups and group therapy sessions meets always strikes a chord. Fostering such relations in groups and communities helps to have a deeper impact as it makes the message more relatable.

Not providing half baked education
The patient of the 21st century is well informed - nowadays most have access to all kinds of information and so, when they discuss a disease, a doctor shouldn’t be startled, if they pose detailed questions regarding the symptoms and treatment plan. However, while there is a bright side to patients doing their homework (well informed patients are often more cooperative and accepting of the risks involved), there is also a huge downside. Many sources of medical information online are misleading, which has given rise to more myths than facts. A simple example would be that many patients feel cleaning their teeth renders them loose, or that a wisdom tooth extraction affects the eyesight. This is the reason why despite many sources of information being available, patient education is more important today than ever. Thus, educating patients with special emphasis on timely treatment and prevention measures tends to get rid of many misconceptions they may be harbouring. An easy way to reach patients is through the most common yet often forgotten middle man – pharmacists. Healthcare marketers tend to forget that pharmacists have an extremely wide reach and a quick good word put in by a pharmacist about a hospital will work wonders to convince a prospective patient. Similarly, convincing sales reps to not parrot out information, but instead, dispense it in an understandable way, that makes an impression is important too. Furthermore, one needs to understand the consumer and his preferred mode of communication. A tech savvy consumer can be targeted through emails and interactive videos, while others can be educated through lectures, camps and street plays.

Conclusively, it can be said that dispensing the right kind of information at the right time and through the right medium would really mean hitting the nail on the head. With the kind of competition brewing in the healthcare sector, marketers need to focus on targeting the right kind of audience with the right kind of information. Always remember that every person in the crowd is a potential healthcare stakeholder. Everyone needs to visit a hospital at least once and it’s up to healthcare marketers to ensure that the hospital in question is theirs - well equipped with a CRM software to keep the patient list growing and simultaneously identifying means to optimize their experience for better retention.

4 Steps to Building and Enhancing a CRM Strategy

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is undoubtedly a must-have in today’s business world. A holistic CRM solution can help organisations achieve competitive differentiation in several scenarios – when the market environment has matured, when products and services reach saturation point and face other competitive challenges, or when at the macro level, the economy is shrinking. In any, or all of these situations, organisations can gain an upper hand by distinguishing themselves and their offerings through the establishment of a solid, dynamic, insightful and intuitive relationship with their customer base. These relationships in turn can be built upon the foundation of an expansive range of CRM technologies and solutions.

Development, documentation and execution of an intelligible CRM strategy marks the starting point for any CRM solution to succeed. Even the most comprehensive, nearly perfect CRM solution will fail, if there is lack of clear direction and strategy to implement it. 'Strategy' identifies the core of the CRM solution, it helps create the blueprint as to how organizational objectives can be achieved. The crucial linkage between the ultimate vision of the CRM solution and the value it renders to organisations and customers is another aspect that strategy touches upon.

It is important to remember that a focused, fruitful CRM solution as well as its related strategy is something that every organisation most definitely requires. It may not always be necessary that only those companies that are struggling with wearisome product, market and/or economic conditions, or aiming to achieve operational excellence, or aspiring specifically to attain closer relationships with their customers, are the only ones who need to resort to CRM. It is almost a mandatory pathway to success for any and every organisation – struggling and excelling alike. The only difference lies in the kind of strategy adopted – which again explains how critically instrumental a CRM strategy is in the alignment of objectives and applicable CRM solutions.

An efficacious CRM strategy becomes the mentor that business organisations look up to, it assists in placing customers (instead of brands, products or geographies) at the epicentre of the organisation’s CRM plans, and thereby converts customers into real, lifetime assets.

Pathway to the perfect Customer Relationship Management strategy
Identifying target audiences

Customer classification, and definition of objectives in line with overall organisational goals
The aim of a CRM solution fluctuates in significance and gravity as per segmentation of the broad customer base. Naturally, the CRM strategy process begins with a formal segmentation of the diverse customer base on the basis of relevant customer traits like preferences, demographics, age, cultural background, etc. This is vital because it is these traits that dictate purchasing pa:tterns, loyalty and profitability. The next step is an in-depth analysis of the product and distribution mix required within the segregated customer segments spanning across different geographies and competitive scenarios. Also, the created customer segments must have their own set of unique and reflective goals, which should further be in tune with the overall goals and objectives of the organisation in a larger sense. All goals, be it of customer segments or of the organisation, must achieve the dual benefit of bringing enhanced value to customers while at the same time making sure that the organisation is also able to achieve its intangible and tangible targets.

Specific objectives of each customer segment differ. For some clusters, the main objective may be to improve loyalty and retention, for others it could be growing relationships through cross selling thereby also increasing revenues, and for some, the aim could be moving customers to more cost effective channels so that profitability can be increased. In order to make sure that these ‘segment specific’ objectives are well aligned with the organisation’s corporate goals, the value rendition of every customer segment should be in unity with the corporate objectives. If not, then the company could either redefine company goals, or not follow through with that particular customer segment.

It is crucial for CRM leaders and managers within the organisation to build an unambiguous governance structure to develop, manage, monitor and if and where necessary, amend the ongoing CRM strategy. All top executives must be closely involved in defining vision and strategy. Also, a highly driven CRM leader, segments managers for important customer segments, and designers from the functional areas of sales, marketing and customer service should be appointed by the organisation. Together, this empowered group of individuals can ascertain every employee at every level within the organisation is accredited to execute the strategy as and when required.

Real Time Analytics
Real time analytics
For every identified customer segment, appropriate metrics must be assigned with respect to customer acquisition, retention, satisfaction, loyalty, profitability, distribution and product mix, cross-selling, up-selling and so on. Following this, baseline targets must be established for each segment for the forthcoming year. Since, different customer segments have different characteristics and objectives, the identified metrics used for computation will also vary. Identification of relevant metrics also empowers CRM managers to gauge how successful (or unsuccessful) the customer segment managers have been in their respective accountabilities, specifically applicable to that particular segment that they have been assigned to.

Attune offerings and distribution channels with customer segments

Efficient customer segmentation
Efficient customer segmentation
Once goals are set and metrics are established for each customer cluster, the next step for organisations is to figure out the best product and channel mix which will aid in the achievement of those objectives and metrics. This involves remuneratively and competitively grouping the business’s range of offerings. Following this, a situation may sometimes arise where the organisation realises that they need fresh channels and products/services. In case of which, the necessary channels and/or products must be developed which are in harmony with customer needs, wants and preferences along with the value propositions that underpin the overall CRM strategy. The primary idea is to graduate from the traditional approach of positioning products and channels at the centre and working backwards to get customers to purchase the products or utilise the channels. Contemporary businesses are now moving on from product/channel-centricity to customer-centricity, by placing customers and customer segments at the heart of their plans, actions, business offerings and distribution channels. An ideal CRM strategy is therefore one which keeps customers (including segmentation and related metrics) at the centre, and re-arranges everything else keeping customers as the focal point.

Evaluation of existing CRM processes, tweaking where necessary
Pinpointing existing inaccuracies
Monitoring, evaluating, and if necessary, challenging the existing CRM processes is a critical requirement to verify that that the ongoing processes and practices are indeed aligned with the overall CRM strategies and goals. If deviations are discovered, it is imperative to amend, replace, rebuild or redefine the processes and practices so they are back on track.

Further, the strategy must be such that it is closely aligned and co-dependent with the individual functional processes of sales (including e-commerce and social media networks), marketing, distribution channel, and customer service processes. To illustrate, if the main focus of the CRM strategy is to expand market share, then the sales personnel can exercise higher agility in terms of pricing, being fully aware that profit margins could be adversely impacted for a short while. From a long-term perspective, these temporary adverse impacts should be withstood by the business to guarantee long term profitability.
It must also be remembered that raising questions against existing CRM software go beyond the implementation of solutions to meet the requirements of just one particular line-of-business (LOB), product division, region, etc. Solutions must apply to overall systems and the entire organisation in order to bring about substantial changes. Key CRM investments should constantly be monitored and challenged when necessary, to make sure that deviations (if any) are eliminated, and there is always an alignment with overall organisational goals and objectives. To assist in achieving the same, certain actions may be necessary – audits to understand how well equipped the business is to compute the value of customers - both actual and potential
  • Pinpoint exact customer infrastructure needed to drive pertinent CRM activities.
  • Define KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to evaluate and compare costs of sales and marketing campaigns, with short and long term value of acquired customers, and thereby justify costs.
  • Keep key business stakeholders in the loop by clearly communicating the CRM strategy
Building a CRM strategy comes with another huge challenge of managing the tactical CRM requirements of the various stakeholders spanned across the organisation, and the alignment of their requirements with corporate objectives. It very often happens that particular departments or LOBs with their own specific CRM needs may concentrate merely on the implementation of those strategic solutions which primarily cater to their requirements, irrespective of whether or not there is calibration with the CRM strategy at corporate and/or global levels.

An example could be of sales personnel, who insist on the application of CRM solutions that support lead management and forecasting for their department, but essential customer data which may be of assistance to the customer service department may not necessarily reflect back.

To combat this challenge, it is wise to start off by clearly communicating the CRM strategy and long-term vision to important stakeholders, especially those dealing with customer-facing responsibilities in the areas of marketing, sales (e-commerce and social), and customer support. Next, the overall corporate goals must be quantified, and appropriate explanations should be given to all stakeholders as to how the CRM strategy is in support and alignment with the organisational objectives. Following this, integration points need to be created to fuse key stakeholders’ (within the organisation) requirements with corporate objectives. This effective alignment is not necessarily brought about by specific technology solutions provided by hand-picked vendors, but it is rather generated by focusing on the key integration points between corporate customer data and applications, with state-of-the-art CRM solutions.

Summing up
Even the most outstanding CRM software is valueless without the right vision, direction and strategy. A thorough understanding of how the right CRM strategy can be formulated and thereafter followed through will hold the key to unrivalled success.

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?

Always a step ahead of competitors
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.

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.

10 CRM Software Features for Building a Strong Competitive Advantage through Customer's Trust

Customers all over the world are nowadays spoilt for choice. To book a flight, they will be besieged by options, discounts and offers with each airline vying for their attention! Even buying a simple pair of shoes puts them in a dilemma, as every brand not only offers variety in colours and types, but, also offers seasonal discounts. However, loyal customers that have had a good experience with one brand will be more inclined to buy again from the same brand, even if the price is slightly higher. So, what is it that makes customers come back and prove their loyalty over and over when it comes to brands? It’s the fact that they’ve developed a certain trust factor. They trust the brand to be worth the money they spend on it - sometimes waiting a long period of time for a delivery to get their hands on the item they chose. So, what is it that helps build this trust and why, at the end of it all, does this prove to be the deciding factor? Trust building is a long and never ending process, which is why, to stay a step ahead of the competition, one needs to put some conscious measures into place to make this happen.

Building a circle of trust with customers
Ensuring customer satisfaction through CRM success

Stay connected to customer needs
Ever noticed how the best companies always have websites that are updated nearly every day or at least once a week? There is really no reason for Google, a name synonymous with the Internet itself, to have a blog of its own, but, it does! There is a valid reason behind this strategic move - only updating a website when there are offers/ discounts, hardly does any good. Mobile shopping is the new mantra of Gen Next. The number of smartphone users is growing by 42% each year and of the one billion people that already own a smartphone - a whopping 87% have purchased an item online! Shopping online means one only one thing - the website needs to be so informative that a customer should feel they are in an actual brick and mortar store. Experts the world over are predicting that by the end of 2013, there will be as many sales of a product online as there will be of the same product through a store. Thus, making websites as informative as possible needs to become a priority for every business that’s out to make an enviable profit. So, write, inform, update blogs regularly and stay connected with customers at all times.

Respond and reciprocate immediately
Far more important than merely informing and updating customers is reciprocating to customers. Any kind of enquiry needs to be responded to immediately. The eagerness for the rate of response is directly related to higher chances of a sale. Always remember, service delayed is service denied. So, any kind of enquiry needs to be dealt with on a priority basis!

However, there is only one thing that needs to be dealt with on a higher priority basis than an enquiry, and that is a 'complaint'! A customer who is ignorant of a mild shortcoming in a product will not bother to put in time and effort in registering a complaint with a company. So, any customer that has made the effort of registering a complaint with the company must always be provided a resolution before anything else. 'Customer loyalty' is heavily dependent on this factor. An effective CRM software is the best way to handle complaints because this ensures that the complaint is registered and responded to at the earliest through expertly configured assignment and escalation rules. A customer spurned is not only a customer lost, but, is also a source of bad publicity for the brand. Like they say, if ten happy customers praise a brand, it will probably convert into one extra sale, but, one bad comment can drive away ten potential customers. This is a risk that no sensible business out to make a profit will take. So, with a successful CRM solution implemented, dealing with complaints will be streamlined through a quicker response time. What’s more, an effective CRM software will also be able to help a business in a wholesome manner by not only capturing complaints, but, also by storing data and details on previous and new interactions with each client across users. This helps to track social conversations or reported issues/ service requests from exactly the point they were last modified or related activities were initiated.

Personalize human interactions
A survey stated, one in four brand's telecommunication branches operated fully via a call centre and responded to emails via automated replies. There is nothing more humiliating and angering for a frustrated customer than having to deal with a machine and pre-recorded voices all the time. For this reason, businesses should always try to keep interactions with a customer as close to real as is humanly possible. If a grievance is not addressed properly, one should always call back in person to enquire and try to solve the grievance. Many smart companies follow the trend of wishing customers on their birthdays and anniversaries via text messages or at times even by sending a greeting card. This simple act goes a long way in establishing a long running relationship with the customer and it is the kind of attention that a customer is looking for.

Many companies also encourage their customers to interact with them on social media networks. Even the biggest names in the movie and music industries realize the potential of social media networks. They too use Twitter and Facebook to interact with their fans at a personal level and to get real-time feedback on their movies, songs, albums, performances, etc. Many companies are now waking up to the true potential of social media and the reach that it has. Maintaining an active profile on Facebook and Twitter will allow companies to not only get realistic feedbacks from customers but will also allow customers to have a voice of their own, which they know is being heard. Social media profiles too can easily be maintained and regularly updated with the help of a future-proof and flexible CRM software.

10 Key CRM software features to eliminate churn:
  • Online case and lead capture to CRM software for immediate follow-ups and reliable assignment of new records to specialists.
  • SLA Management for internal and external timelines with built-in escalations for overlooked records.
  • Track customer Tweets 24x7 across the globe.
  • Customer 360 degree view with real-time updates through multi-system integration and social media.
  • Automated responses to customer queries and complaints through multiple channels like email, SMS or social networks based on customer preferences. 
  • Auto-populated templates for personalized responses with specific customer's pertinent details.
  • Solutions repository for quickly responding to FAQs and typical queries using pre-approved resolutions.
  • Alert rules to ensure users abide by organizational strategies and policies.
  • Social chatting across users to stay in-the-loop and collaborate effectively.
  • Dashboards for a holistic view of performance across teams and territories.
Building trust may be a little like having a baby – the labour involved in it may seem painful and never ending; but, the satisfaction and joy at the end of the delivery is unmatchable! Ensuring customer satisfaction and the subsequent loyalty can be ensured through 'CRM success' - customer advocacy through word-of-mouth, lower churn and larger volumes of warm leads. So, the moral of the story, if a company does not spend an adequate amount of time building their circle of trust, rest assured, they’ll be back to square one - wasting their time trying to woo customers that aren’t going to stick with them till the end anyway!

9 Key Benefits of CRM for Hotels

The hospitality industry is encountering growing globalisation, particularly the wing of luxury hotels. Successfully building brand loyalty and maintaining long-term relationships with customers is therefore imperative to attract, retain and satisfy customers in the face of amplifying competition.

The hospitality industry in general and the hotel industry in particular are highly interactive and engaging – where customer-centricity literally forms the core of business relationships. It is mandatory that at any given time, an all round view of customers is maintained. Hotel industries worldwide are therefore constantly on the look-out for the most rewarding ways not only to meet but exceed customer expectations with every consequent experience. Cost effective, tenable, and of course customer centric plans and strategies are an absolute must to stay afloat in this industry’s competitive environment.

As economies and information technology infrastructures are progressing at breakneck speed, a whole range of opportunities are opening up for the hotel industry in terms of how connections can be established, maintained and ameliorated with both existing as well as prospective customers. This is precisely where the need for a comprehensive and prolific CRM software arises.

Meaningful customer-company interactions are facilitated by powerful customer relationship management software. CRM is an intelligent business model that enables collection, management, automation and synchronisation of scattered customer data and unites it with the indispensable organisational functions of sales, marketing and customer service. CRM systems infuse newer and fresher values into these functional areas by empowering hotels to use large pools of customer information to their best advantage.

For the hotel industry, success and profitability are dictated by the ability to continually acquire, retain and service their customers, and ensure that customers remain customers for life. Profitability here does not just meaning tangible outcomes like ROI and revenues, but the intangible success factors like goodwill and reputation count too. The biggest advantage that hotels gain by effectively applying a fecund CRM solution is the systematic tracking of varied customer activities ranging from enquiries, bookings, staying experiences, reviews and other feedback, which indicate their preferences and contentment levels. Consolidated, purposeful, flexible and versatile customer information repositories brought forth by CRM software are instrumental in service optimisation and progressive growth of the hotel industry.

9 ways in which CRM solutions enable hotels to offer top-notch customer experiences and gain a strong competitive advantag

I Central repository
CRM systems allow systematic collection and categorisation of fragmented customer information, as a result of which, rich customer information repositories are created. Further, as CRM systems enable relevant customer segmentation, databases for potential customers can also be effectively managed.
Example: Help Desk staff can view bookings for a single guest across hotel locations and ensure their preferences are known to other employees.

II Consolidated customer view
A productive CRM solution assists in capturing each customer interaction, transaction and experience with all the relevant, necessary, big and small details. Real-time customer information from multiple systems across geographies can be collated on a single window. This huge store of customer information can be viewed and updated from time to time by effectively integrating with external systems.
Analyze preferences with  a real-time 'Customer 360 Degree View'
Constant updates ensure that the systems contain upgraded and real-time information at any given point in time. Effective CRM software is characterised by pliable interfaces that help hotels collate unorganised and diffused business and customer data stemming from varied sources. As a result, analysis of scattered data based on a host of varying parameters is made possible.

Apart from this, a holistic customer view furnishes hotels with better and more opportunities to up-sell, cross-sell and build overall rapport.

III Customer information scrutiny
In the hotel industry, massive volumes of customer information are churned out on an everyday basis. Even though the collection, storage and management of such information in a central repository is very important, real value is actually generated when such information is correctly analysed to obtain an in-depth understanding about the factors that drive customers’ purchase and accommodation decisions. Structured data analysis translates to fruitful, profitable relationships. Elevating conversion rates and turning one time guests into customers for life is also what CRM systems successfully manage to promote. Further, making comparisons between the behavioural patterns of 'transactional' and 'potential' customers, and those customers who leave, aids hotels in formulating or redesigning sustainable loyalty strategies.

IV The right focus
The most valuable customer interactions are brought to light by CRM solutions and this information can then be replicated towards potential customers that hotels wish to either target, retain, or both. Constantly evaluating and relevantly applying gainful experiences is also enabled by CRM systems. 

In effect, hotels can reinvigorate those areas which adversely affect profits, and sharpen focus and attention on the most rewarding ones.

V Combating competition
Superlative, consistent service quality levels along with innovation is what will keep the hotel industry going and help battle competition with ease. To keep customers engaged, it is vital for hotels to offer a plethora of choices that provide greater value along with highest levels of customer satisfaction. 

Gaining a competitive advantage by providing appealing offers, discounts and packages at all times is important. Hotels must be capable of distinguishing themselves from competition by building a unique identity and generating higher brand loyalty. Reference to 'customers’ experiences' is instrumental in achieving the same. CRM software/ social CRM helps collate customer reviews and feedback, which in turn can be used to achieve these objectives.

VI Raising efficiencies, keeping customers updated
CRM systems are known for their immediate benefits of bringing about automation and eliminating non-core tasks. Automation further helps in faster, better, and wiser sales, marketing, promotion and advertising decisions and actions. CRM systems enable the creation of mail blasters, text message campaigns etc., through which, customers can be updated about happenings, events, special offers and packages. Reviews and feedback can also be invited.

VII Leveraging social platforms to promote brand presence
Hotels’ sales and marketing teams can leverage social CRM solutions to create mobile, web and social media campaigns, which in turn can be continually bettered and upgraded with ongoing, useful customer feedback. Monitoring customer activities and analysing customer feedback/reviews about the company and brand on various social networks is made possible by social CRM. It also ensures that hotels are well equipped to enhance customer experiences by always paying close attention to customers and resolving their queries and/or grievances at the earliest. Prompt follow up of new leads is also enabled thanks to social CRM. As a consequence, conversion rates are elevated and brand advocacy is boosted as well.

VIII Formulating futuristic strategies
CRM software collates responses, reviews and overall feedback that customers publish online about their collective hotel experiences. These details are sliced-and-diced, following which reports are generated and real time dashboards are created. Ongoing customer activity information is displayed in real time on these dashboards. These actionable insights can be used to enhance future products, services, packages, offers and overall communication. Future marketing strategies can be optimised, post which, new and better campaigns can be designed and consequently published on select media platforms.

IX Fostering loyalty
CRM solutions strengthen customer information handling in the right manner, and also facilitate customer-company interactions at multiple levels, touching all important contact points. A high degree of personalisation is introduced in customer interactions, thereby empowering hotels to achieve success in customer retention and loyalty.

Other thoughts
Customer Relationship Management is extremely critical in the hotel business. Superior amenities and facilities are no longer luxuries, but, have rather become common expectations among hotels’ clientele. Regular correspondence, email/ SMS campaigns, query responses, etc. should to be consistent and personalized.
It also helps streamline customer data to understand customers’ needs, preferences, behaviour, and satisfactorily address their complaints. Every single customer related issue can be monitored and tracked using an efficacious CRM system, and as a result, customer experiences can be redefined across hotels around the globe.

Outstanding customer relationship management is a requisite for all hoteliers who wish to sky rocket their way to success. A complete understanding and analysis of customers and their experiences will capacitate hotels to establish brand loyalty and operate in a truly customer-centric environment.

Wise implementation of CRM solutions offers actionable insights for forward thinking hotels to improve progressively and at the same time ascertain that customer facing teams live up to, and probably even exceed customer expectations. Lowering customer churn to close competitors while constantly improving customer experience will ensure growing customer advocacy and fruitful long term relationships.

5 Reasons Clear Sales Pipeline Visibility Increases Won Opportunities

You may have heard someone who is a bit cash-strapped say, “Money is a bit tight at the moment, but, I have a few things in the pipeline..” They are referring to either upcoming opportunities or jobs for which payment is expected in due course. So, while cash flow may currently be low, money will shortly flow out of that pipeline and into their pockets.

In the sales environment, the term ‘sales pipeline’ is a similar kind of concept. The sales force is constantly busy making contact with prospects, pursuing leads, sending proposals and closing deals – all these activities are continually flowing in and out of the pipeline.

The definition of a 'sales pipeline' is the organised presentation of data at various stages of the sales process used to track, analyse and forecast all sales opportunities. How this pipeline is managed is what is of critical importance to business revenue. A badly managed or ineffective pipeline will result in targets not being met and ultimately a loss of revenue.

Most CRM software includes a sales pipeline or opportunity management tool. Not all, however, are effective at clearly and easily showing the different stages of the pipeline, making it difficult to manage the pipeline. 

5 Reasons Clear Sales Pipeline Visibility Increases Won Opportunities
Sales forecast for real-time pipeline analysis
Pipeline visibility is the ability of a company to view real-time data in the pipeline that makes it easy for all departments in the company to see the progression of opportunities from first contact through to closing the deal. You can’t manage what you can’t see, so clear pipeline visibility is crucial in taking quick and tactical action, if there are blockages or bottlenecks in the pipeline.

Often companies are very good at historical data, i.e. reports and analytics about past opportunities and sales. Historical information is important in analysing problems and trends, but just as critical to the success of a business is real time customer and partner information. If past data is a rear-view mirror showing where things slid off the road, real-time data is a global positioning system showing precisely where things are now and the shortest route to your destination!

Five reasons sales pipeline visibility will help you close more deals

1. Provides real-time data for improved forecasting: Real-time data ensures a birds-eye view of sales across all stages, territories, products and teams. This includes new leads, how many prospects have been contacted, how many proposals and quotes have been generated, how many opportunities are in the pipeline, which prospects have a higher probability of buying , the total value of the pipeline and how many deals have been won.

This is helpful for three reasons:
i) A salesperson has instant information at hand showing where to focus his efforts and highlights the stalled/ stuck opportunities requiring attention. This means there will be less lost opportunities which translate into lost revenue.
ii) Up-to-date information means sales managers can more accurately predict whether targets for that quarter will be met.
iii) Avoids incorrect estimation of demand which can either have the production line manufacturing too much or ending up falling short.

2. Identifying the level of risk: Ideally, a sales pipeline should be smooth-flowing from one stage of the process to the next like identifying a new lead, first contact, meeting the prospect, sending a quote/ proposal, follow-up, closing the deal..Occasionally, opportunities stall and don’t move forward to the next stage. Without high sales pipeline visibility the salesperson may forget about it or not pick up that an opportunity is stuck. This impacts the entire sales process and the bottom line. Again, lost opportunities mean lost revenue and prosperity for competitors. The ability to get insight into problems in the pipeline means corrective action can be taken to get the process back on track. The salesperson can adjust their focus to customers needing attention or the sales manager can make an informed decision on where best to allocate a salespersons time.

A healthy pipeline shows that all opportunities are receiving attention at all stages of the sales cycle.

3. Managing multiple product lines and business units: In smaller companies, keeping track of the sales process is relatively simple. For bigger companies with multiple product lines or various business units, an efficient and intelligent CRM software solution is of utmost importance in order to manage the end-to-end sales process competently. In a large company without an efficient CRM software in place, hundreds of leads and sales opportunities could fall through the cracks.

With a sales force that is pursuing myriad leads and opportunities, each involving multiple steps to close a sale, managing the pipeline can become challenging. Time is limited – a sales person can only do so much in a day. This is when the pipeline helps the salesperson stay on top of his game by identifying the higher value opportunities to be pursued and locating bottlenecks in the pipeline.

4. Maintaining sales pace/ pipeline velocity: Pipeline velocity refers to the rate at which opportunities move through the sales process, from new leads to won deals. Every company wants opportunities to advance from one stage to the next fairly quickly - the faster the sales cycle progresses, the more deals that are closed and revenue is added to the bank.

Once a business has determined its ideal sales pace, identifying deals that have lost momentum and are off-pace becomes easier. This again means corrective action can be taken to get deals back on track.

5. Redeployment of the sales team: In all four points above, you see that the major benefits of sales pipeline visibility is an overview of the sales process, identifying problem areas and being able to facilitate efficient movement from one stage to the next.

Another way this is accomplished is by the sales manager having data at their fingertips on each salesperson’s progress - they will notice patterns emerging for each person. For instance, one salesperson may be very good at quickly pursuing leads, but neglects following-up regularly on deals already in the pipeline. Another rep may perform exceptionally well in certain territories and poorly in others.

In addition, salespeople are often in pursuit of closing deals quickly, sometimes to the detriment of prospecting that builds future revenue. The sales manager can monitor and address neglected prospecting activity that will have a negative effect on future sales.

Armed with this sort of information, the sales manager can make the call to reallocate the sales force across various territories based on their strengths in order to keep the sales cycle flowing smoothly and ensure the quarter’s targets are met.

In today’s fast-paced consumer world, customers are able to compare products and services with a touch of the button via the internet and their cellphones/ smartphones - this means customers have evolved to a level where they are much more demanding when it comes to service and quality. To survive, companies need to stay ahead of the game, have their finger on the pulse and react faster to changes in the market. To win over this new hybrid consumer, quick action and regular communication with a customer thinking of buying your product, could make the difference in them choosing you over your competitors.

Lastly, CRM software offers a variety of ways to study and enhance the sales pipeline - forecasts, dashboards, system and custom reports, graphical representations of key information, etc. An effective CRM solution ensures steps are incorporated in the business process and workflow to prevent deals from falling through using holistic customer details, big deal alerts, competitor mapping, activity management, escalation rules and automated non-core tasks.

Open Letter to Manufacturers, Retailers and Marketing Teams

A customer's opinion on CRM
Dear Brands,

This is an open letter to all brands, products and businesses from an earnest customer who is fed up of being treated like a child. Things may have been different a few years ago, but, the same redundant techniques do not work on me anymore. Now, I am too smart to fall for advertising gimmicks. Today, if you show me an ointment or a brand of tea that will reduce my waistline to half of its current measurement in two weeks, do not expect me to pick up the phone and call you. Similarly, if you do not respond to my repeated grievances, do not call me a month later asking me why I didn’t renew my subscription plan. Since, your marketing gurus seem to having a tough time guiding you in the right direction, let me take this opportunity to show you, as a customer using your product, what I really want.

Speed thrills but kills
Quick service is appreciable only if it’s not quick and bad service. Prompt responses to grievances is one of the most attractive features for any customer. However, if there are only repeated phone calls where a sugar coated voice keeps parroting “Your complaint has been logged. We will address it at our earliest convenience,” then, you are on your way downhill! Customers want quick responses, but, not at the cost of effective and efficient service. Thus, customers who receive advice and reassurance, more importantly - followed by action, are far more likely to spread the good word about your brand to their friends. On the contrary, service that is sub par, incompetent and rushed is nearly one in five times more likely to be the reason that a customer abandons a brand, rather than just "slow service".

You know how every time a kid asks his mom, “Which one of us is your favourite child?”, the mom always replies, “You, of course!” This is not the mother’s attempt to put down the other children or to lie to the one asking her this question; it is merely a way of making that child feel special. In a world of more than six billion people, when someone is made to feel special, it makes all the difference. Sending out a birthday card or even texting and wishing customers on their birthdays and anniversaries gives them reason enough to stick with you. If you are a small business, then, maintaining a relationship with your clients on a first name basis will work wonders for you, because, simply addressing a person by their name makes them feel special. Thus, personalizing gift items and giving each customer their due attention could easily translate into more business for you. Don’t believe me? Ask the waiters who increased their average tips by more than 23% by simply bringing a second serving of mints to their customers after the bill!

Unexpected offers and surprises
After working all day, trying to fit all the items into a pre-decided budget, is all in a day’s work for customers. However, when a special offer like 'free shipping' suddenly flashes on their screen, you can be rest assured that everyone that customer talks to that day will be told about how perfectly timed this offer was. Rather than flashing typical offers in the side bar of your website, you can instead personalize offers and give spontaneous discounts on items or shipping charges. The kind of joy a kid feels when he’s told by his mom that he can have the last cookie - that’s the kind of joy a spontaneous and well timed discount coupon gives to a customer.

Replicating Goodwill Sunday
A lot of families all over the world have a tradition of ‘Goodwill Sundays’ - where every Sunday they set out to do any good deed, like visiting an orphanage or helping out with a charity. Other people have a ‘good deed for the day’ tradition wherein they perform any one good deed each day, whether it’s as simple as helping someone cross the road or smiling at a distressed stranger. These are acts that go a long way in creating goodwill while costing nothing. Businesses realized that they could make use of such acts and so, some smart businesses started a tradition for 'random acts of kindness', like offering free cupcakes to customers on their Birthdays or placing 'free gift' cards next to cars that have a parking ticket. These small, simple and meaningful acts of kindness makes customers relate to the humane and non-profit oriented/ customer-centric side of a business. These are acts that they will talk about and remember for years to come. And all it takes is a little effort from motivated employees looking to truly make a difference in how their brand is perceived.

Tell it like a story
There is a reason why a simple but important lesson of life like “Be honest” is often taught for the first time to children through the story of the boy who cried wolf. Children love stories that have a moral at the end. And as old habits die hard, adults too love to hear stories rather than take direct orders. Thus, while selling, if a story can be woven into the sales pitch, there are better chances of gaining business. Narrating an incident about 'how a customer benefitted from your brand' or 'how your brand has come as far as it has', makes customers relate to you more than anything. However, be sure to be honest and not make tall claims while narrating your stories, because, the last thing a customer wants is to find out that they have been lied to the whole time.

Sell your strong point
When trying to sell a product, market a factor about it that customers actually care about. Do not market a hair oil product stating that it now comes in a ‘new and attractively designed bottle’ because once the oil is over, that bottle is going straight into the garbage bin even if it’s shaped like Brad Pitt’s behind. Similarly, do not tell me that yours is the highest selling biscuit brand in the world because if I don’t like how it tastes, I will not buy it even if everyone else will. Also, do not always highlight the low price factor compared to your competitors. That is a point that not only I but almost any sharp buyer will always notice on his own. Instead, draw attention to unlikely pointers like offers on collecting five packs or that your brand of biscuit not only tastes good but is lower in calories too. Drawing a customer’s attention to such points sets you apart. These are things that will stay with the customer in the midst of the mad rush where every brand is trying to focus exclusively on their low pricing. Similarly, focus on the enjoyment that your brand could offer to your customers. Let them feel that opening a can of your soda or eating your pack of chips is associated with them having a good time and creating happy memories. These tend to stick with customers more than small time savings that they accumulate on a regular basis.

Use irony
There is a lesser known marketing tactic among smart businesses called irony. For most buyers, price is the main factor that dictates whether or not they will buy a product. Quality, durability, style, etc. everything else comes next. So, how does a company selling luxury items tap into the middle and upper middle class? Solely targeting the upper class isn’t going to lead to a lot of sales. So, rather than making a self conscious buyer turn down a product because of the price, these brands associate their product with an act of kindness. An expensive teddy bear may come with a note that states 10% of the proceeds will go to a children’s charity. A set of luxurious bath oils that comes with a bar of soap saying ‘I love you mom’ engraved in it will probably sell more than a regular bath oils set. These are small tricks that brands use to take the attention away from their exorbitant price tags.

These are just a few pointers that I can think of right now that will help your brand stick. If you’ve reached a roadblock and your group of marketing gurus come up with nothing, perhaps it’s time to pay closer attention to what your customer wants - build a strong customer strategy supported with an effective CRM software. As you can tell, I am not asking for much. Good quality, quick service and focus on your USP (unique selling point) needs to be part of your modus operandi, if you wish to make me pay my hard earned money for your product. In the recession riddled world that we live in with cut throat competition, it’s the least you can do for me. So, if you think you have it in you, bring it on!

Yours sincerely,
A customer eager to stick with your brand, if you make it worth her while.