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When CRM is no longer enough when communicating with your customers

Analytics powers the ability to better communicate with your customer, improves the customer experience, and ensures you remain profitable 

Johannesburg, South Africa  (31 Oct. 2011)  – Keeping customers happy informed and engaged is the age-old problem facing marketers. Couple that with the myriad of new communication channels now available and it can be a complete headache.

According to Andreas Heiz, Customer Intelligence Leader Middle East & Africa, at SAS Institute, in order for marketers to better 'market' to and engage with customers they need to first break down their business intentions before making strategic plans to approach the customer.

"You need to carefully define what you want to do as a business and what you hope to achieve, outside of just making money," states Heiz. "Lets look at the basics, most people want to win customers, retain them, maximise the value of the outbound and inbound conversations with them at every touch point, as well as minimise risk to the business and then optimise the company's goals. Whether that is to sell more units, engage more sales tools or optimise the value chain."

But in order to achieve the above there are some basic business rules that need to be taken into consideration. Looking at the market, as it now stands, we can see that the CRM manager of the past has been replaced with the CEM or Customer Experience Manager. This person is armed with the task of acknowledging and embracing changing market indicators and factors such as economic climate, buying patterns, customer loyalty challenges and ever evolving customer touch points.

"The notion that loyalty is given is gone, customers investigate the products they want and need themselves, they no longer just call one service provider and settle on a service from them because they are loyal to the brand," adds Heiz. "What this translates to, for the marketer, is that promotions and engagement is now less about selling and more about interaction. Bearing in mind that social media is fuelling this decision making process as well.

"Yes it makes it more difficult for us. We need to be cognisant of the fact that we can't lump people into the same cookie jar or genre anymore – everyone and everyone's needs truly are unique. And the customer will do his best to find and source what best suits his desires."

The bottom line in this evolving paradigm is that everyone today, no matter how much we want to believe that it is connected, is in fact disconnected. Customers approach everything through different channels, from the web to a face-to-face interaction, and each of these channels often provide and promote a different message.

What one needs to aim towards is streamlining the message from these interactions, into a single voice or message. One that communicates one offering, one service, one product with standard features – the experience needs to be the same no matter the channel.

"This is easier said than done as the existing solutions available today simply cannot keep up. They all offer the information we need, but they do so by way of independent silos of customer data that are not linked, and from which we cannot pull or extract the full potential of the data they house," warns Heiz.

"Today we do a lot of historical data analysis which for the most part is static, we do a predictive model today but use it for 30 days and in that time the market changes. The critical thing that all marketers need to acknowledge and embrace is that analytical models need to be kept up to date and they need to be refreshed constantly. Today marketers suffer from betting the farm on best guess decisions that are not interactive, this needs to morph into an engagement model where every conversation with a customer needs to be dynamic, and not scripted."

Research conducted by the Loyalty Effect highlights that 33% of companies are experiencing higher costs to sell services and retain customers. This indicates that a lot of time and resource is being thrown at the customer engagement model with no guarantee for success. Heiz says that customers who accept that they need to have a natural conversation with their clients are currently the most successful, particularly those that embrace and leverage real-time decision-making.

"Don't fall into the trap of focussing on the needs of your product managers or sales people. Traditionally the manager who shouts the loudest gets what he is asking for and the emphasis on the customer is lost," says Heiz. "Look at the data for the facts, rely on your business model for the answers and go back to what you want to achieve as a business, only then will you be servicing your customer and not your product manager."

According to Heiz the model and approach is not difficult, you need a brain or analytics engine, to collect and analyse the information at hand. On the one hand we have our customer needs that come to us through different channels, on the other side there are the business objectives and the two don't often match. So we need to strike a balance and we can do this by creating mini business cases for every customer, that deliver on the CMO's mandate and keep the CFO happy at the same time.

"Marketing is not based on clairvoyance, it is a science that relies on tools such as marketing optimisation, customer engagement models, analytics and real-time decision-making," states Heiz. "It is based on the notion of a corporate cockpit that navigates through customer information by way of planning, monitoring, simulation and control. We need to use technology to enable us to see where we are going and how what we do impacts the customer.

"We need to optimise the decisions we take and we can do this by collecting information from data systems, optimising it, and then acting on it by sending an email or engaging through a phone call. Once we have interacted with the customer we can visualise the experience and draw conclusions from it by analysing and monitoring its success. As a business you need to change from being an oil tanker to a jet plane – you need to move quickly and be agile. You will only achieve this by investing time and thought into the decisions you make about customers. It is that, or be content to sit at a roadblock and let your competitors pass you by," ends Heiz.

Andreas will be presenting his viewpoints and customer success stories at a Customer Intelligence event in South Africa on the 3rd of November 2011. 

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