Outstanding Customer Experiences Are the Future of CRM

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Outstanding Customer Experiences Are the Future of CRM

By Lorenzo Vasino - 02/15/2021

Retail success is all about engaging customers, but the pandemic has changed the game forever. And, in truth, it has only accelerated a set of trends already in play.

In the recent past, businesses have reached out to their customers using single- or multichannel comms — such as email and SMS — powered by simple customer relationship management (CRM) software. This affords minimal personalization, and rarely excites the customer, so businesses have begun to take a more advanced approach.

Customer relationship engagement is like a human relationship; we don’t want the bare minimum. We want to be engaged, surprised and delighted, otherwise we may start looking elsewhere for those aspects.

Businesses have traditionally competed on products and price, but these days, “customer experience” is a determining factor for where and how people shop. Brands can no longer tell customers what to think about their product; they have to prove it to earn the purchase. And they have to continue to prove the value day after day, year after year, to retain them, or the customer has many more places to vent and choices to switch service, provider or product.

Customers are coming to expect a seamless, rewarding retail experience, both online and in-person, and to provide this, businesses must reframe their approach to CRM, recognizing that it is but one important element of a bigger picture. Modern relationship management is all about combining together data, both structured and unstructured, from multiple sources, to create unique, personalized experiences that keep customers coming back for more.

Improving customer experience

To effectively shape customer behavior, businesses need to know more about them than just their name and email address. By leveraging richer data, including sentiment, behavioral, locational, and purchase history, among other types, businesses can ensure that they are providing the best possible experience to every customer at every touchpoint.

Sportswear brand Under Armour is currently undergoing a digital transformation that includes a complete overhaul of the company’s CRM software to better support customers in both identifying and purchasing the right products and achieving their fitness goals. Combining their new e-commerce capabilities with their sponsored apps for dieting and running and even smart shoes, among plenty of other channels, enables them to build a detailed picture of each customer well beyond the purchase.

Paul Fipps, chief digital officer at Under Armour admits, “The combination of the physical and digital creates an immersive consumer experience that furthers our mission ‘Under Armour makes you better.’ Customers who subscribe shop with us more and receive greater value over their lifetime.”

Gap is another example of a retailer that has recently overhauled its loyalty program and its underlying CRM software to better reward customers and bring the online and in-store experience closer together. Just in time for the holiday season, customers will be able to access their reward points at the checkout of any of its brands, in any store as well as online — a more convenient experience for the customer and an opportunity for the retailer to reconcile online and offline data.

Up-to-date CRM also makes it simple for a business to adapt rapidly when the market changes. Burger King, for instance, determined that customers were less inclined to eat in-store due to the pandemic and so attempted to attract them back with a bargain $2 snack box offer. The enticing deal was exclusive to the chain’s app, so the restaurant was simultaneously dictating the channel, compelling customers to sign up if they hadn’t already and creating a positive first impression of ordering via the mobile interface.

Obstacles

These retailers are pushing the customer experience envelope and are masters at data analysis and usage. Data is key to creating great customer experiences, but it isn’t without its own challenges.

Data fragmentation — often due to collecting too much unhelpful data or allowing data to languish in silos — remains a major issue for many businesses. Businesses must implement proper data strategy and governance if they are to successfully transform the business and the way it uses CRM software to interact with customers. 

At every point where a business interacts with customer data — from collection to standardization, transformation, integration and activation — it must have robust policies in place and adequate tools to turn data into value. This demands more than simply adopting a new customer data platform; businesses must see this as a chance to fully overhaul the way the organization operates as part of a larger digital transformation program.

Customer experience is the future

For many businesses, impersonal CRM software is the main driver behind their large, disjointed efforts to reach out to customers and shape their behavior. However, in a rapidly changing environment, with many customers stuck at home looking for engagement, retailers who want to survive and profit need to embrace digital transformation and use data to deliver positive experiences to customers at every opportunity.

 Lorenzo Vasino is chief growth officer of Paragon DCX.

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