Moving forward I believe successful companies will positively differentiate themselves versus the competition by providing an outstanding customer experience. Zappos started the trend online and Amazon was smart enough to acquire them and learn from them. Ritz Carlton continues to lead the way in the brick and mortar world.
The key to providing a great customer experience is by giving everyone in your company a 360-degree view of the customer - their wants, their needs, what they've bought from you in the past, what they've returned, what questions they've asked, what issues they've had.
In order to provide this holistic view of the customer, you need a customer relationship management (CRM) database that captures this information and lets your employees access it in real-time.
The benefits are myriad:
- It's a great central repository for all of your customer data that all of your employees can access and update across all devices.
- All team members can see what actions have taken place with a particular customer in the past and know what actions need to take place in the future based on your sales process and customer relationship management process.
- All team members can see all of the interactions with the clients enabling them to provide more relevant help thereby making the customers' lives simpler and easier.
- Your CRM can be integrated with calendars and marketing automation software for appropriate follow-up after the sale or lead nurturing marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads.
- The CRM provides real-time metrics so you can see where prospects and customers are in the sales, post-sales follow-up, or problem/resolution cycle.
- You can scale your business in an organized way. In order to do so, everyone needs to be encouraged to keep the data clean and up to date.
Having worked with a number of companies over the course of my career, it's interesting to see the lack of emphasis put on the CRM, its adoption and use, and the cleanliness of the data, given that it is a keystone to providing an outstanding customer experience.