Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms are typically used by sales professionals to manage a brand’s relationships and interactions with its current and potential customers. The CRMs of today have evolved to the point that they are better able to manage the relationships a brand has with its customers through the entire customer lifetime. This article will look at 4 ways a CRM can be used to improve the customer experience.

“Customer experience by definition relates to every interaction a customer has with your company, as they progress from unknown website visitor to full happy customer for life. CRM should be looked upon as the technical backbone to help manage this entire journey,” explained Tony Kavanagh, CMO at Insightly.

The Different Types of CRMs

There are three types of CRMs: Operational, analytical, and collaborative. While all CRM share some core functionality, the primary roles of each are different.

  • Operational CRM: These streamline and automate sales, marketing, and service processes. The role of operational CRMs is to generate leads and convert them into contacts, while at the same time capturing all details. Operational CRMs also help to provide service throughout the customer lifecycle.
  • Analytical CRM: Their main role is the analysis of customer data that has been collected from various touchpoints in the customer journey. Analytical CRMs help brands to make more informed decisions, enable the marketing department to evaluate the effectiveness of its campaigns, the sales teams to increase sales, and the customer service department to improve the quality and efficiency of support.
  • Collaborative CRM: These enable a brand to share its customer information between departments such as sales, HR, marketing, IT, customer service, and others. Collaborative CRMs enable all the departments in a business to share the same goal, which is to improve customer service, increase customer loyalty, and acquire new customers.

CRM Core Functionality

There are three functions that are common to all CRM platforms. Contact management is used to store contact information including names, phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, and social media accounts in a searchable database. Interaction tracking is used to input notes and track customer interaction history in order to document conversations with specific customers. Lead management enables brands to manage the process of converting prospects into leads (potential customers) by identifying, scoring, and moving them through the sales funnel. Additional CRM functionality may include:

  • Email marketing integration and templates
  • AI-based decisioning
  • Workflow automation
  • 3rd party integration support
  • Reporting/dashboard and Analytics
  • Sales forecasting
  • Live chat
  • Conversational AI chatbot
  • Call center integration
  • Document management
  • Sales pipeline management
  • Mobile CRM
  • Quote and proposal management
  • REST API support
  • Social media management

Related Article: What's the Difference Between a CRM and a CDP? And Why You Should Care

CRMs Allow Brands to Form Better Relationships With Customers

Many CRMs provide the ability to send automated emails to customers, for instance, after a predetermined number of days past the customer’s last purchase from a brand. This enables a brand to remain in touch with a customer through personalized emails that deliver relevant content, offers, coupons, seasonal promotions, and incentives.

Customizable email templates can be triggered to be delivered based on events, such as purchases (thank you for your order), product inquiries (you asked about this product), shopping cart abandonment (we noticed you left several items in your cart), customer service calls (we hope we were able to solve your problem) and more.

CMSWire spoke with Tom Huberty, CEO of Huberty Performance Learning, LLC, about how CRMs help brands build better relationships with customers. “Any retail business can use the CRM to create WOW moments between the sales visits. In any ‘relationship’ selling situation, the sales consultants are not only selling the correct product or service, they are finding information that can be housed in the CRM for future reference.” Huberty said that the information helps brands strengthen the relationship between the business and the customer, and through the CRM’s automated digital nudges, can facilitate personal touches such as sending a card to the customer on their birthday.

A CRM Can Improve Customer Service

CRMs provide instant access to every interaction that the customer has had with a brand, including chat history, purchase history, and customer service tickets. This enables customer service support staff to instantly pull up the customer’s details while they are interacting with them.

The support staff will know exactly who they are speaking to from the moment they take a call because the customer’s phone number is associated with their name. They are able to greet the customer by name, and know the customer’s most recent purchases, so if the customer needs additional information on a product, the support staff will be able to instantly pull up detailed information on it. The CRM facilitates a 360-degree holistic view of each customer that provides all the information that has been obtained about a customer from their initial contact with a brand, and allows a brand to stay in touch with customers so it can continually evaluate their level of satisfaction with the brand.

Learning Opportunities

Brad Birnbaum, founder & CEO of Kustomer, said that by using a CRM, brands are able to see a huge difference in the quality and efficiency of their customer service efforts. “Customer-focused businesses like many of the direct-to-consumer brands are moving to modern CRM platforms that provide a complete view of the customer, guided self-service, and the ability to engage across all communications and social channels.” Today’s customer expects to be treated as an individual, not a source of income, and it takes a customer-centric approach to live up to customer expectations. “To meet high customer expectations and deliver the type of experiences modern buyers demand, you have to shift the focus from solving a problem and closing a ticket to serving the whole customer,” Birnbaum said.

Faster Response Time

A study by AutoDeal on sales conversion revealed that dealers who responded in 6 hours or less on average saw a 40% improvement in their conversion rate. Dealers who responded in an hour or less were 48% more likely to close a sale. When it comes to customer service inquiries, a report by CRM provider SuperOffice indicated that 31.2% of customers surveyed expect a response in one hour or less, and 11.3% expect a response in less than 15 minutes.

Many CRMs are using AI and process automation to identify customer sentiment through analytics, and facilitate more rapid responses to customer service inquiries and even social media posts. Kustomer, a customer service CRM, is able to intercept issues and complaints on social media that threaten a brand’s reputation. Brands are able to instantly respond to customer complaints and eradicate customer pain points before they can cause damage. Birnbaum told CMSWire that when it comes to customer service, timeliness is everything. “Our research shows that 77% of customers expect problems to be solved immediately upon contacting customer service and more than 70% will abandon a purchase if they have a bad customer service experience.”

According to Matt Strazza, SVP of Global Sales at Deltek, CRMs can help to speed up response times. Strazza said that the move to a fully remote workforce has brought with it an increased focus on delivering a seamless customer experience. It’s also forced teams to become widely separated, causing silo fatigue, which has increased the time it takes to accomplish tasks and approve processes since all employees are working individually, even though they are still part of a team. “Due to this, customer relationships are harder to maintain, and finding leads takes longer. A CRM can help scout and vet leads, and it can interpret if they’re credible faster than the siloed review process would.” Because CRM platforms can be accessed remotely, they facilitate a faster response time for sales, marketing, and customer service inquiries.

Personalize Customer Communications

By studying customer demographics, online browsing behaviors, purchasing habits, and social interactions, CRMs facilitate customer segmentation to a finer degree, which allows a brand to better determine how it approaches each customer. By looking at a customer’s past interactions with a brand, a CRM enables a brand to direct a personalized message to the customer via the customer’s preferred channel, whether it is email, social media, or voice communication.

CRMs are typically associated with brands that operate online, but CRMs are not just for online businesses. Brick-and-mortar businesses are using CRMs to improve their customer’s experiences as well as to create a strong emotional connection with their customers. Huberty, who advises clients in the automotive dealership industry, spoke about how he has used a CRM to improve the customer experience with personalization and create an emotional connection between a brand and its customers. "When the CRM is linked to the service advisor's tablet in the service drive, the customers can be greeted by name even before they step out of their vehicles. When contacted during the service follow-up call, customers remember that 'WOW' moment because it is so rare,” Huberty related.

Final Thoughts

Many brands are currently using a CRM to drive sales, but CRMs can be a valuable tool for improving the customer experience as well. The CRM can be used to form better relationships with customers, improve customer service, facilitate a faster response time, and personalize customer communications, improving the customer journey across all touchpoints.