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Six must-have CRM data analytics features

If companies want to thrive in today's economy, stellar customer service and customer experience are nonnegotiable.

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Reda Chouffani

And increasingly, companies are exploiting customer data to improve customer relationships and offer insight into purchasing behavior and customer intelligence.

Today's CRM data analytics capabilities go beyond the data points collected concerning the number of email messages sent to customers and the number of calls and quotes; new CRM analytics tools extend beyond the boundaries of customer relationship management to identify customer purchasing behavior and customer sentiment.

Six must-have CRM data analytics features

Consider the following capabilities as critical for a CRM platform.

1. Meaningful insights and reporting. In today's highly competitive landscape, the sales staff has to work closely with clients. As they stay in contact with customers, it is important to have easy access to client snapshots of recent activities and purchasing. This information must be meaningful and easy to get to provide a high-level overview of the account, including everything from recent sales to feedback scores and recent issues.

2. Holistic approach to clients and their needs. In some cases, data can reveal client needs, and predicting the next order is simply a report away. This is where CRM analytics can be powerful through proper external connectivity to additional data sources such as social media, purchasing history, product trends, news releases and more. It provides new avenues and suggests what client needs will be before even the client sees the need.

3. Integration and need for external data feed. The Internet contains a wealth of information that continues to expand. Client information is being sold electronically. Consumer reactions to brands, stock trends and market forecasts are adding valuable information to CRM platforms that you can use to stay up to date on client needs and sentiment concerning your or a competitor's product.

4. Predictive modeling. With the maturity of big data and analytics, systems today can leverage existing data and identify customers' future needs before they even know it. By integrating these capabilities into a CRM, the system can assist sales teams in identifying opportunities. CRM applications are also becoming more helpful as they provide insight into products that are well-suited to the customer and that can justify them adequately. This is powerful because it shows clients that their needs are considered ahead of time.

5. Interactions can be made everywhere. When managing customer relationships in today's Internet of Things, many have recognized that there are a lot of ways to interact with customers. In some cases, organizations reach out to clients via newsletters, email campaigns, social media, forums and other avenues, but to respond appropriately to what interests clients have, CRM systems must be able to integrate with services to ensure feedback and tracking on what was clicked, viewed and visited. This allows a sales team to re-engage with clients and understand their interests.

6. Timely response. When it comes to working on opportunities, timing is everything. Some of today's Web tools can tell you which products a customer wants and what other customers are saying about products -- from pricing to quality to customer service. Detecting and reacting to these events is critical. CRM systems must be able to integrate with external end points from your company website to reputation management entities to process incoming feedback quickly to ensure quick response and centralize and relate that information to clients. The result is a history of client feedback and sentiment that's maintained under one system.

CRM systems will continue to change and benefit from the technology innovation available to them. Big data and cloud services are huge enablers thus far and powerful tools for sales and marketing teams, but there are still the areas where more data mining and analytics will introduce even more valuable insight. As more systems go to the cloud, and other online services open up and offer helpful data concerning clients, CRM analytics will expand and gather greater steam.

This was first published in February 2014

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