It was one of the worst professional meetings ever. While working as a senior executive at a major software company and discussing digital strategy for a client’s company, the client asked me a simple question: “What about my brick-and-mortar stores?” There was no answer to give. There was nothing in the outlined strategy to address the brick-and-mortar side of his business.
His question got the wheels turning. Customers don’t make distinctions between the real and the virtual. The customer sees companies as single entities. They don’t care about whatever silos, divisions, or departments might get in the way. Customers expect a positive, uniform experience. They expect the company’s left hand to know what the right hand is doing. There needed to be a way to carry all of the information about the customer gleaned from the web over to the brick and mortar side, and vice versa, so the company could have a complete view of the customer’s journey with it. There needed to be a way to bridge the digital with the physical.
The Need To Bridge The Physical And The Digital
Many businesses started out as brick-and-mortar and evolved into having an online presence. So, it’s common for companies to have one platform to handle the physical stores while another to handle online. Things got more complicated when online ubiquity went from desktop to laptop to mobile devices. Companies went from taking online orders to building full-fledged online stores and hiring separate online teams. It was as if companies ended up creating second, separate businesses that worked alongside their brick-and-mortar operations. And, with that change came all the usual complexities.
Meanwhile, one thing stayed the same: Customers didn’t duplicate themselves. More importantly, customers want and expect businesses to act as one, singular entity each time they engage with it.
One Customer. One CRM. One World.
CRMs developed out of a need to manage the sales funnel. Even today, most CRM platforms are not equipped to fully bridge the physical and digital worlds. Quite simply, the “relationship” is missing from customer relationship management. To that end, Forrester Research and McKinsey & Company report that only 10% of all CRM implementations are considered successful.
To fully succeed in this current environment, a business must put the customer at the center of all business activities and create a cohesive, consistent customer experience. Customer-driven CRMs are the platforms that can help a company achieve true omnichannel — or a seamless experience for the customer across all available shopping channels.
Charting The Customer Lifecycle
To achieve a seamless omnichannel environment, a company must first map a customer’s journey with the brand. Meaning, at every step along the path a customer takes with a company, the information about the customer’s preferences and interactions with the company should be recorded and measured, regardless of channel or source. That information should be made available throughout the company, so no matter how the customer next engages, whether it be via the website, over the phone, or in person, the company and its personnel have the customers’ profiles available to best answer their questions or meet their needs.
This process of learning about the customer lets the company recognize him or her across each and every channel, both digital and physical. The company can then respond dynamically to the customer, in real-time, and offer a tiered-level of service based on the depth of the customer relationship. Customer engagements can be tracked over time, so companies can learn how they are performing with each individual customer and in the aggregate. The tracking of this data also sheds light on how individual employees are doing with customers — and allows companies to understand how customer experience is impacting financial performance. As companies move forward, using a customer experience-driven CRM to understand all the ways customers touch a business, and being able to connect those engagements with financial performance, will be critical for sustained success.
The strength of a business is tied directly to the strength of the relationship between the business and its customers. The good news is companies today can connect with customers in more ways and with more frequency than ever before. The challenge for businesses is to create a consistent, high-level, customized experience, no matter how the customer is touching the brand. With the force of new technologies coming available, this customer centric world is not so far off.
David Trice is Co-Founder and CEO of Engage.CX, the leading experience-driven CRM for enterprise. Prior to launching Engage.CX, Trice was VP of CRM at Oracle, where he led the launch of Oracle’s Fusion CRM.