Forrester recently complied a list of its industry predictions and top 10 CRM trends for 2016, and while there are certainly new and innovative applications created every day that companies can leverage to enhance and supplement their CRM capability, interestingly, Forrester’s top three trends focused more on simply getting back to the basics—utilizing CRM to create a foundational building block for success, primarily by strengthening existing relationships and fostering more viable new ones.
Finding better and smarter ways to strengthen your company’s customer relationship management strategy doesn’t just help support stronger customer experiences in the short run. Rather, taking the time and making the investments required now to understand, engage, and connect with your audience can result in continual long-term business growth—the kind that leads to repeat business (driven by satisfied clients that happily give referrals), improved brand loyalty, and top-line growth and profit that continues to grow year after year. Let’s take a look at how companies can maximize the transformation:
- Customer experiences will become easier: As customers become more digitally connected, they are becoming more empowered. As such, the need to communicate with several persons through multiple channels before making a purchase is no longer just a cumbersome yet expected part of the customer journey—it’s a runaround that clients won’t—and shouldn’t have to—endure. To this end, self-service capabilities are increasingly sought out, lauded for their ability to make the purchase experience both quicker and more efficient. For example, according to a recent Forrester report, Business-to-Business (B2B) buyers prefer to self-educate rather than talk to a sales representative by a factor of three-to-one, and nearly 75 percent indicate that buying B2B products or services is easier done through a website rather than working through a sales rep. This type of thinking isn’t just limited to B2B personnel—another Forrester report cites that more than half of U.S. online adults will abandon their virtual shopping carts if they can’t find quick answers to their questions. Moving forward, successful companies will utilize CRM to engage customers in the omnichannel environments that they’re in—ensuring product/service information is readily accessible on all platforms and through all persons.
- Processes across the board will become more effective: What’s applicable for one prospect at one point in his or her customer journey will undoubtedly not work for all. To this end, CRM enables more effective customer experiences by allowing companies to deliver targeted and appropriate communications to customers on an individual basis, a capability driven by advanced analytics that help sales and service reps differentiate offerings based on client history, preference, tastes, and more. In addition to making the customer’s life more efficient, Forrester cites that CRM provides the process guidance that employees need, helping turn traditionally time-consuming, repetitive, manual tasks such as onboarding, loan processing, and incident management into scripted and automated ones that help users more easily navigate complex workflows.
- The customer experience will become more emotionally driven: Today, the customer relationship is more 1:1 than ever before, and isn’t solely centered on the transaction at the end. Rather, customers crave connection and one of the best ways companies can show they care is by positioning themselves as cognizant and aware of their interests, quickly identifying and remediating any areas of friction, and equipping personnel with the tools and technology they need to support such interactions. Forrester cites that not only does investing in client relationships boost satisfaction rates, it leads to significant economic value and should not be overlooked. To this end, regular review of client feedback is incredibly valuable—look at both structured and unstructured data (think chat transcripts, call notes/recordings, and even social media posts) cultivated by CRM and mine it for ways to boost the emotional connections established.
This year, it’s not about re-inventing the wheel—CRM has been, and will continue to be, a driving force in helping companies position themselves at the forefront of customer appreciation, retention, and engagement. The aim today is identifying the processes that can best benefit from this functionality, and purposefully leveraging the software to fill those gaps—building a stronger foundation, and a more sustainable future.
Leggett, Kate, “Forrester’s Top CRM Trends For 2016 And Beyond,” Forrester Blog, February 3, 2016, http://blogs.forrester.com/kate_leggett/16-02-03-forresters_top_crm_trends_for_2016_and_beyond.