Customers prefer businesses that they can trust and, as we all know, trust is earned not given. Customer trust is dependent on a business’ ability to act in authentic, empathetic, and reliable ways. In other words, a customer’s trust and loyalty are earned by appealing to them in a manner that is more than transactional. It can’t solely be about profit, nor convenience, speed, or ease of purchase. Customers want to see the “human face” of an organisation and be treated as individuals – not just consumers.
One of the ways in which organisations can achieve this is by implementing CRM technology and adopting CRM processes. However, this is easier said than done. Channel shift and CRM integration are complex issues that require a great deal of thought, preparation, and expertise if they’re to be managed well. Here, we take a look at 5 best practice rules to ensure you get the integration process right the first time.
- Ensure your Chief Information Officer (CIO) is prepared to oversee the process
- Develop with a specific user end-goal in mind
- Make use of a sandbox environment and stress test
- Agree to a timeline for integration
- Ongoing support and maintenance is essential
There is an argument to be made that the CIO’s principal role is no longer managing information technology. Instead, they should be overseeing the integration of information from a diverse array of sources into a system that can be understood and managed by a business and its employees.
This reflects the current state of the digital landscape. More than ever before, businesses receive data and information from everywhere and anywhere. The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to make every object a data-collector and all of this information has to be filtered through a system that allows a business to track it, understand it, and make use of it.
CRM is one of the tools that allows us to do that. It allows businesses to manage the customer data acquired across various communication channels, track the customer as they move between channels, and present this information in a comprehensible manner to employees. However, effective CRM integration depends on those at the top understanding what the process requires and having the expertise, experience, and ability to oversee it.
As with all complex technology projects, a large number of employees and teams typically come together to collaborate on CRM integration. There’s also a fair amount of technical vocabulary and the use of abstract concepts that may not be native to all of the teams’ areas of expertise. Finally, it’s tempting to focus on what CRM integration can do at the back-end, for employees, rather than customers.
These three factors mean there’s always a possibility that the project’s goals will become confused. While diversity of expertise is a strength, all individuals involved must pull in the same direction.
In order to focus the integration team and provide it with a definite purpose, it’s often useful to work towards specific end-goals based on the user experience. Rather than having a target that stipulates that a business wants their employees to be able to do x or y, start with the customer. We want the customer to be able to do x, so we need our employees to be able to do y. A strict customer-centric approach ensures that your CRM integration positively impacts on the customer experience, not just the ease with which your employees can access information.
Anyone previously involved in a large-scale integration process will understand the importance of stress testing and the value of being able to make tweaks in a sandbox environment. The testing process for CRM integration needs to be both intensive and extensive. This is for two principal reasons.
First, the launch of new CRM technology needs to occur as seamlessly as possible. Any downtime or issues with the integration can cause enormous reputational damage and harm a business’ relationship with important and loyal customers. Second, an organisation needs to ensure that the CRM technology meets its intended purpose.
Once integrated and taken live, it becomes a great deal harder to overhaul the software, whereas sandbox testing is the perfect environment in which to make tweaks and improvements. During this process, the developers and those who are to use the CRM technology need to work together closely, in order to ensure that it meets the needs of both customers and employees.
All organisations will have a date at which they would ideally take their CRM platform live. This end date is important, but it is not enough on its own. All teams involved should agree upon a step-by-step timeline for the process. Not only does this provide additional details as to how the process will develop, it also equips organisations with a means of measuring its progress. Rather than arriving at the end of the process and discovering that the project is not on track and delays are likely, organisations can establish whether they’re ahead or behind schedule at routine intervals.
Finally, integration does not end when the project goes live. In fact, it’s only just beginning. With a project as complex and far-reaching as CRM integration, there’s a need to provide considerable ongoing support and maintenance. Not everything will be perfect from the first moment and needs change with time, too. An efficient CRM integration project will make arrangements to ensure the technology is well supported long into the future. After all, this an expensive investment that needs to deliver seamless and reliable service if it’s to justify the resources it has required and provide a greatly improved customer experience.
When it comes to channel shift and CRM integration, there’s an awful lot of factors to consider. The omnichannel approach is not just about the seamless movement of customers between channels, it also depends on the free movement and intelligent management of data in those channels. While CRM technology facilitates this management, its successful integration poses a considerable challenge. By following the 5 best practice rules listed above, this challenge will become more manageable and easier to overcome.
Have a question or want further information on channel shift and CRM integration? Our expert team have been providing customer contact solutions for over 25 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line.