Why Customer Relationship Management Improves Digital Transformation | BizTech Magazine

Through podcasts, books, research, talks and Twitter conversations, these are the influential voices all small business IT professionals should be listening to right now.

Mike Rapplean is vice president of east territory commercial sales for CDW.

Mike Rapplean is vice president of east territory commercial sales for CDW.

As someone who has conversations with businesses about digital transformation every day, I hear one question come up more than any other: Where do we start?

It’s a deceptively difficult question to answer. Every business has needs that the right technology solutions can help address, but organizations must set priorities. Digital transformation is a journey that should begin with a destination in mind. It’s about leveraging technology to reach strategic business goals, not deploying digital solutions for their own sake.

To help leaders envision where the business is trying to reach, I advise them to think carefully about what their customers are asking of them. How do customers want to communicate with the business today and in the future?

What kind of customer experiences are they looking for that they’re not currently receiving? What more can the sales and fulfillment teams do to exceed customer expectations?

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That’s where the conversation sometimes gets tricky. Many businesses are operating with too little data about their customers and are filling in the gaps with assumptions and hunches. The truth is that the more you know about your customers, the better you can serve them.

You can’t plot a successful digital transformation without good intelligence on your customers, and many organizations don’t have that.

Take personal finance, for example. Only 1 in 5 consumers say their financial institution did a thorough job of helping prepare them for economic uncertainty, according to a Salesforce report. That’s even as 42 percent of them are feeling less financially secure than a year ago.

DISCOVER: How customer relationship management tech can help your organization grow.

So, are banks and other financial institutions meeting the needs of consumers? Apparently not.

To truly understand the specific desires of its customers, a business should invest in a sophisticated customer relationship management solution.

CRM is software to manage all of an organization’s business relationships, capturing data from the very first contact with a prospect all the way through the entire customer lifecycle. The data gathered by such systems is a rich reservoir of insights about customer needs, wishes and preferences.

Meanwhile, as businesses grow, they get more complex, with additional products, service offerings and staff. CRM is a communication linchpin in well-run organizations, ensuring that workers from different parts of the business can quickly see what’s been happening with a particular customer or prospect so that their needs can be met seamlessly regardless of any internal change.

The percentage of customers who say they are feeling less financially secure than a year ago.

How can CRM inform a well-executed digital transformation? Using CRM in our own business, we find that it delivers insights into the types of projects that our customers are investing in, which in turn helps us determine where to deploy our own technology resources.

Recognizing the value that they deliver, most businesses have deployed CRM systems to some degree. But CRM is only the technology component of the classic, “people, process, technology” trifecta that drives businesses forward. Any customer interaction that takes places outside the CRM is an interaction lost to history: It doesn’t add to the organization’s canon of insights about that customer.

My sense is that many businesses are falling short of full CRM adoption. The good news is that this is a very solvable problem: Mandate CRM use for all appropriate employees and hold people accountable for compliance. Those who do will find they can better leverage the data they generate, informing opportunities to delight customers and lighting the path for their digital transformation plans.

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