Each day businesses struggle to understand exactly what their customers know about their organizations so they can deliver the right information to the right customer at the right time. But companies also have to ensure they balance the cost of doing business with the happiness of their customers.
To do that, these companies need more than CRM technology—they need
“What we’re seeing is more and more companies adopting the same CRM platform for sales, marketing and customer service, which means ‘I can link all of those things together.’ And they’re calling it CEM because CRM has always seemed somewhat limited before, for example, companies had something for sales, something for service,” said Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst at Nucleus Research.
Today, applications such as Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce make it much easier for the appropriate agents to get this holistic view of the customer, she said.
“[These applications allow] sales to see what service requests are coming in and to understand what’s going in their accounts. Service is not just being able to take incoming calls, but it monitors what’s coming in over the Web, on Twitter feeds, on communities -- both the ones that companies create themselves and the ones out there where customers are talking,” she said.
Wettemann added that it’s still early in terms of being able to link things together effectively. However, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce have invested in the tools so that companies can monitor those external sites to find out what’s being said about them, she said.
“More important than the technology is what [they] do with it,” she said. “For example, Comcast sending an automated response to someone who tweets about its horrible service is just as bad or worse than no response at all. Companies need to think about more thoughtful ways to respond when they see that customers are talking about them.”
Kate Leggett, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., said customers don’t want to go to a company’s website and see a phone number, then a chat box, then an email link and then a Web self-service site that are all disconnected.
“The customer could get a chat agent who may not understand what interactions he’s had over the phone or over email,” Leggett said. “What you want is a site that ties all these channels together and offers these communication channels to customers based on who they are, the business that they’re in and the type of issues that they have.”
Businesses have to understand what the customer is interested in based on the searches the customer has done on the website—something Leggett called “personalized proactive contextual service.”
“You want to offer multiple communication channels to your customer and you want to tie them all together so a customer can start an interaction on one communication channel and move it to the next and not have to start the conversation again,” Leggett said.
And companies should offer communication channels based on how their customers want to interact with them.
“For financial services, perhaps customers don’t want to interact over Twitter or Facebook, but if you’re a retail shop that caters to 16-year-olds, you may want to have a Facebook page where you can do customer service off your Facebook page,” she said.
In addition to being familiar with their demographics, on the back end companies have to ensure they have a universal customer service record so they can understand all the interactions a customer has had with them, Leggett added.
“Companies have to understand who the customer is and what has happened in the past in order to deliver good service, and they have to make that information available to the agents in the contact center,” Leggett said. “You can’t have these silos of communication channels. You also have to understand that each communication channel has a cost associated with it. Some are high cost, some are low cost and what a company is trying to do is balance the cost of doing business with how happy their customers are.”
Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret Inc., said while CRM is focused data—with “pure CRM” focused on transactional data (e.g.,, how much has a customer bought)—CEM software is focused more on the intangible experiential aspect.
“The CEM experience data is going to cover what the user experience is like—where did they click on the website? What did they like? What did they not like?” Krigsman said. “CEM is looking at it from the point of view of the customer. The company has to figure out how to use the technology to manage that information from all the various channels.”
Businesses need to gather and aggregate the information about what the customers are doing in those different channels, and then use this information for marketing purposes, he said.
“They want to determine which of their customers matter more than the others. One way to segment that is to ask which customers buy from them,” Krigsman said. “Then the company needs tools to aggregate this type of data and collate it with its own database and determine who’s actually influential online, because there may be other metrics that matter aside from who’s buying what or how much they’re spending.”
John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research for the Technology Services Industry Association, said companies finally understand how important it is to do this on the support side. Marketing has long understood it, he added.
“We’re seeing technical support and consumer support getting a lot more sophisticated and using analytics,” he said. “They’re trying to get smarter about what types of customers are asking what types of questions, because that helps them build proactive support and knowledge base content and self-service initiatives as well as prioritize changes to the product.”