The importance of Customer Relationship Management in today's digital age

By Sudheer Prabhu, Chief Information Officer, Fullerton India Credit Company Limited

Technological advancements in mobile phones today, have taken customer experience to a different level. In the financial sector, emergence of new-age analytics, new devices and technology as well as social media interactions have helped in delivering a superior customer experience.Gone are the days when customer relationship was restricted only to the brick and mortar level.Today customers want the same kind of personalized services even across digital platforms like internet banking and mobile banking. This is where Customer Relationship Management (CRM) plays an important role, as it helps in deepening the relationship with customers and facilitates the delivery of a seamless customer experience across the platforms.

Along with deepening customer relationships, CRM also helps in reducing costs and enhancing productivity and profitability in business. An ideal CRM system is a centralized collection of all data sources within the organisation which presents a 360 degree real-time view of customer information. Usually an organization consists of various departments which predominantly have access to customer’s information either directly or indirectly. A CRM system compiles this information centrally, examines it and then makes it accessible across departments.

The CRM process starts with identifying a customer and maintaining all the corresponding details in the CRM system, which is also called a Prospect.

Customer Relationship Management is the most efficient approach in creating and maintaining customer relationships. It not only serves as an important business tool but also helps in developing a strong personal bond with customers. Once this personal and emotional linkage is built, it is easy for an organization to identify with the actual needs of the customer, thus helping serve the customer in a better way. Installing a CRM system can help in channeling new ways of marketing and business in an efficient manner. Hence in today’s business era, it is recommended that organizations have a full-fledged operational CRM system to cope with evolving business needs.

Trends in CRM
Traditionally, inputs are first fed into the CRM system by the sales and marketing team. Contact centres gather data through calls made through past history of the customers. However with the advent of social media platforms, CRM system providers are forced to upgrade their offerings to include new features that cater to customers who are engaged on these platforms.

Social CRM refers to businesses engaging with customers directly through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media presents an open forum for customers to share experiences with a brand, whether they're voicing their grievances, promoting products or complimenting services.

To add value to customer interactions on social media, businesses use various tools that monitor social conversations, from specific mentions of a brand to the frequency of keywords used, to determine their target audience and the platforms they use. Other tools are designed to analyze social media feedback and address customer queries and issues. Companies are interested in capturing sentiments such as a customer's likelihood of recommending their products and the customer's overall satisfaction, in order to develop marketing and service strategies accordingly. Today, organisationstry to integrate social CRM data with other customer data obtained from sales or marketing departments in order to get a single view of the customer.

Mobile CRM, or CRM applications built for smartphones and tablets are becoming a must-have for sales representatives and marketing professionals who want to access customer information, with the usage of GPS and voice recognition capabilities, when they are not physically in their offices.

CRM challenges
For all of the advancements in CRM technology, without proper management, a CRM system can become little more than a glorified database where customer information is stored. Data sets need to be connected, distributed and organized so that users can easily access the information they need.

Companies also struggle to achieve a "single view of the customer," where many different data sets can be seamlessly accessed and organized in a single dashboard or interface to create one view of the customer’s account. Challenges arise when customer data is segregated into several separate systems or when data is complicated by duplicate or outdated information that slows down and hampers the business process. These problems can lead to a decline in customer experience due to long wait times during phone calls, improper handling of technical support cases and other issues.

Studies show that customers, particularly millennials, are increasingly dissatisfied with the contact center experience. They demand multiple avenues of communication with a company and expect a seamless interaction across many different channels, the most popular of which tend to be web chat, mobile apps and social media. The main challenge of a CRM system is delivering a cross-channel customer experience that is consistent and reliable.

Conclusion
CRM is a great tool/system to manage and deepen relationships with customers. However the implementation of this system in terms of its design will play a crucial role in determining its success. Besides the traditional way of inputting data by sales, CRM systems now integrate well with social media platforms; providing a 360 degree view of the company’s customers.

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