CRM for sales and service: The potential and the pitfalls

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If you’re a sales rep or customer service agent, there’s a good chance you don’t expect much from your CRM in terms of doing your job. You need insight and data to help customers and to provide the personalized experience they expect today, but CRM likely doesn’t deliver.

Nearly ubiquitous, CRM technologies have been on the market for more than 25 years. Initially intended as productivity boosters to help companies drive revenue, many have morphed into complex management tools. For sellers and other front-line employees, CRM often is more of an administrative time sink than a helpful aid.

SAP recently hosted a webinar on CRM for sales and service that featured Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Kate Leggett.

“CRM has a lot of potential, but it’s not living up to its promise,” Leggett said during the webinar.

With customer engagement so important – especially now in the pandemic – this has to change. COVID-19 has dramatically impacted consumer behavior and the way they engage with businesses, forcing many organizations to ramp up their digital operations in a hurry. Front-line sellers and customer service agents need to be equipped to provide a customer experience that meets today’s increased needs and heightened expectations.

CRM for sales and service: A sorry state

The 2019 Forrester Data Business Technographics Global Business Workplace Benchmark Survey revealed a startling lack of confidence in CRM technology among users.

“Users aren’t satisfied with the state of their CRM technology,” Leggett said on the recent SAP webinar. “Close to 40% of sellers don’t feel they have the right technology to do their job.”

CRM technologies have evolved into highly complex platforms loaded with features for specific purposes, making them hard to use. The Forrester survey showed that 43% of users aren’t satisfied with the level of ease of use of their company’s technology.

Over the years, CRM has evolved into a tactical solution used by individual departments to manage their business objectives rather than a strategic solution to facilitate exceptional customer experience, Leggett said in the webinar.

“We hear over and over that CRM is a management tool that doesn’t help front-line employees deliver personalized customer experience,” she said.

The power of good customer experience

Organizations can’t afford to run CRM this way when customer expectations continue to rise. With applications that make it easy to buy groceries online, order takeout, and access entertainment, consumers have become accustomed to getting what they need quickly on any device with a high degree of personalization.

“If you can’t deliver these experiences that customers expect, they’ll walk away and take their business elsewhere,” Leggett said in the webinar.

When employees have tools that improve their workday and empower them with insight and data to deliver great customer experience, the payoff is huge. Customers who feel good about doing business with your company will be more loyal.

According to Forrester, brands that excel in customer experience increase revenue at twice the rate of brands that don’t. “In every industry that we have data on, there’s a correlation between customer experience and topline revenue,” Leggett said.

For example, a one-point improvement in what the research firm calls its CX Index score translates to $58.51 in annual incremental revenue per customer for an automaker, according to Forrester’s 2019 report, “How Customer Experience Drives Business Growth.”

COVID-19 impact

As more people flock to the internet to buy essentials and conduct business like banking while under quarantine, customer experience has become even more of a priority.

In the spring, many customer service organizations saw the number of inquiries skyrocket, from airlines flooded with cancellation requests to banks inundated with calls for financial assistance. Disasters like earthquakes are something many companies prepare for; a pandemic isn’t usually on the list, which led to some poor CX, Leggett said in the webinar. For a lot of organizations, the crisis has forced a crash course in core digital transformation.

Now, more than ever, companies need flexibility. “It’s being able to change your business processes, maybe on a dime,” Leggett said. “It’s being able to do the right thing for your customer with the full understanding of who they are and where they are in their journey.”

A better CRM for sales and service

For CRM to provide this critical flexibility and facilitate excellent customer experience, the technology needs to evolve in a few ways.

  1. First off, organizations need to view CRM as a strategic solution that enables them to support the customer throughout their lifecycle, rather than a tactical investment to manage departmental goals.
  2. To provide highly personalized and contextualized customer experience, sellers and customer service agents need a unified view of the customer that provides ample data and insight.
  3. CRM technology must provide this complete view with adaptable, role-based workflows so they employees can fully support customers, Leggett said.

Leggett envisions CRM evolving into a strategic platform that allows companies to be agile and innovative to support customers’ changing behaviors.

When sellers and customer service agents have a CRM that makes their jobs easier, they’ll be more engaged, productive, and in a position to fuel great customer experiences. Satisfied customers will come back for more.

When CRM serves everyone – the customer, the seller, the customer service agent, and management — it becomes a truly powerful tool for building brand loyalty and achieving corporate goals.

Learn more about the future of CRM for sales and service HERE.

Join us at SAP Customer Experience LIVE 2020! 

Marcia Savage
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Marcia Savage

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