Your local grocery store knows when you’ll run out of toothpaste. Your pharmacy sends you reminders to refill your prescription just before you run out. That friendly voice when you call your insurance company greets you by your first name without you even having to introduce yourself. The future that marketers have been drooling over for decades is officially here. Welcome to the post-CRM world.

Customer Relationship Management or CRM has grown from the oddball marketer’s science project to a full-fledged industry accounting for revenues upwards of $40 billion in 2017, according to Gartner’s research. From software companies that build hyper-specialized CRM software to sales teams that live and swear by their online Rolodex (a.k.a. the CRM platform) to marketers whose daily lives are dictated by the numbers their CRM platform spits out, Customer Relationship Management has never been as front and center of business as it is in 2018.

Businesses across the spectrum leverage the power of a sound CRM platform, whether in retail, technology, banking or manufacturing. Speaking of CRM platforms, Salesforce leads the pack with over a third of the market, followed by Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, and SAP.

They all have their special niches, some are great for B2B sales teams, while others excel at retail and e-commerce. But no matter the provider, every modern CRM platform has some fundamental features that are a must-have regardless of the industry you operate in.

Rich Customer Profiles

While CRM platforms have long been the system of record to capture, store and access customer contacts, only recently have they evolved into the full-fledged customer profiling tools that can yield marketing gold.

Besides basic information like name, address and contact details, CRM platforms that capture nuances like demographic information, anniversaries, birthdays, personal preferences, geolocation, click data, browsing history offer a company a wealth of insights about each customer helping them tailor custom offerings that resonate better with users. You don’t need me to point out how a rich, relevant customer experience ups the company’s chances of conversion and customer loyalty.

Money Metrics

Whether you’re building a segment of your most loyal customers or identifying prospects for an upcoming campaign, capturing financial data about your contacts is a necessary function of any CRM platform.

Financial data can take make forms, depending on the industry you work, the stage of your business cycle, and more. Transaction data, items or services last bought, discounts offered, coupon usage, transaction volume, average order volume are all critical aspects of customer information that impact key business decisions. A strong CRM platform will not just capture this information but draw insights from it like calculating Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) and Return on Investment.

Marketing Automation Options

The rise of CRM platforms has put the spotlight on communicating with customers in the most efficient means possible; backed with demographic, historical, predictive and prescriptive customer data.

In other words, communicating the right message, on the right channel, at the right time for every single customer is the goal. You wouldn’t want to send an iMessage to a Windows user now, would you?

Well, it turns out you can actually send an iMessage from a Windows PC, as per the techy folks at iGeeksBlog.

The point is, your CRM platform should leverage technology to ease and speed up communication with customers via the channel that customers are most comfortable using, instead of making you dig up custom technical solutions every time a customer has a problem.

The best CRM platforms out there offer not just a way to manage customer data and gain insights from it, they also offer options to communicate to your customers using that very data. This is a state of being that marketers have dreamt of for decades. Sophisticated CRM platforms that combine customer insights with the ability to communicate with customers have bridged that gap, offering personalized, relevant messaging tailor-made for each customer.

Salesforce CRM offers the whole nine yards in its own Marketing Cloud solution. Microsoft Dynamics uses a combination of its own capabilities and connects to Adobe Marketing Cloud to enable marketing functions like email, social media, content management, event management and more.

AI Recommendations

We all know that CRM platforms can crunch demographic and historical data to give customer insights. But historical data may not always be a good indicator of future customer behavior. This is especially true for businesses with long sales cycles and low volumes per customer.

A truly useful CRM platform is one that can offer strategic marketing recommendations based on predictive models and artificial intelligence. Such a platform ‘learns’ from various data sources – click behavior, user demographics, engagement with marketing communications, preferred communication channels and more – to intelligently plot next steps instead of expecting an exact repeat of past customer behavior. This is a closer approximation of customer behavior in the real world than leaning solely on historical data for making strategic business decisions.

Customer Service Module

Customer Service teams are the face of your company. A positive customer service experience helps improve the chances that a customer will come back and shop with you again. With smart homes, smart watches and smart everything else, customers have come to expect smart customer service as a bare minimum requirement from any business they deal with.

Arm your customer service team with as much customer-related information as possible, in a format that is easily accessible to enable a smooth experience each time a customer calls in. Typical information accessible by Customer Service includes basic profile information, transaction history, most recent purchase, the current plan the user is on, record of past issues reported, etc. A good CRM platform will offer a built-in CS module or at the very least offer APIs to connect to third-party customer service platforms for a seamless experience.

Set up roles in your organization for customer service team members to access specific data about your customers like transaction history, items bought, profile data, etc. to avoid leaking important business data and to protect your customers’ privacy.

In Closing

Modern CRM platforms come equipped with a lot more than these five fundamentals we discussed here. With each new feature, the cost of set up, training, and maintenance goes up exponentially. Make sure you identify your exact business needs, before investing in a platform that you’ll be stuck with for a few years at the very minimum. No matter how fancy the features may be, never forget, a CRM platform is only as good as its users.


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