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How can CRM help businesses plan for the future?

Planning in advance is one of the greatest challenges that modern businesses face. The pace of change that is common across many industries nowadays can generate a host of opportunities for those who are well-prepared; however, it also means that assessing how situations are going to develop is harder than it ever was in the past – which could be where CRM comes in.

What makes this muddled situation even more frustrating for business leaders is that it can often feel as if the holy grail of accurate, predictive forecasting is almost within reach, only to see it fall at the final hurdle due to poor implementation or a lack of analytics talent within an organisation.

The recent hype around big data provides a salutary example. IT experts have suggested that the more information created by consumers, the easier it will become to track their attitudes towards particular products and services.

To an extent, this has proven to be true, with a further expansion in data levels anticipated over the coming years as the ‘internet of things’ becomes more popular and widespread.

However, the reality is that many companies do not have the capacity, the nous or even the technology needed to sift through vast amounts of information in order to find the insight buried in it like the needle in the hay.

CRM can help, but only if it is utilised correctly. Here, Redspire posits some ways in which businesses can take advantage of their CRM system to produce behavioural or analytic insights into their customer base.

Big data integration – is it a must?

As I alluded to above, the enormous cloud of hot air surrounding the big data market is undeniably slightly wearisome but it does not mean that the sector has nothing to offer – far from it.

Instead, businesses need to ensure that they do not buy into the hype surrounding data analytics and instead take a calm, cool-headed look at how they can make it work for their business.

With CRM systems, it’s often best to start simple and then build up your functionality as your team becomes more proficient with utilising the software, so I certainly wouldn’t describe big data integration as a must.

However, if you already have a relatively mature CRM process in place or feel confident that your tech experts are up to scratch when it comes to predictive analysis, integrating big data with customer relationship management can offer undeniable benefits.

The convergence of big data and CRM

Speaking last year, GlaxoSmithKline’s customer relationship management consultant James Parker encouraged firms to invest in big data immediately or risk being left behind.

“There are even larger data sets today [than 10 years ago] and although consumer behaviour is best monitored by the marketing department, the benefits are to the rest of the business,” he explained.

He is among a host of CRM experts who have recognised that the large amounts of information now available to them is making it easier than ever before to use the software to produce accurate behavioural models.

Think of the process as being like making a painting – if you only have two colours of paint, you’re necessarily limited in how life-like a portrayal you can create. Big data has opened up the full palette of shades to analysts, who can now use CRM to produce extremely detailed predictive images.

Benchmarking

Vital indicators such as customer sentiment, retention and cost vs revenue per service call can all be benchmarked through your CRM software – you can then store this information for as long as necessary to gain a clear idea of how well each area is performing, possibly in relation to rival firms or the industry standards.

When obvious trends begin to emerge through this process, firms will be able to take action to improve parts of their operation they know are underperforming, ultimately making any investment that needs to be carried out more efficient.

Multichannel customer awareness

Along with big data, one of the most commonly-identified trends in marketing technology over the last 12 months has been multichannel; that is, the need to engage with customers through a variety of platforms while maintaining parity of voice and tone.

This is challenging, as is tracking the success (or otherwise) of campaigns when they take place across many different channels.

Dealing with all customer touch points means integrating a great deal of information into CRM software, which can be difficult at first – however, this will generally become easier once the necessary functions have been isolated and staff are aware of all the processes they need to go through to input the data effectively.

And the benefits from doing so can be huge, particularly as multichannel marketing continues to go from strength to strength.

CRM: Not a panacea

Ultimately, predictive analysis is somewhat like the holy grail mentioned above, in that it is almost certainly never going to be an exact science.

Economic factors, shifting consumer attitudes and other issues will always mean that firms can find their situation changing unexpectedly.

However, integrating big data analysis with CRM can ensure they are reasonably well-prepared for at least some of the fluctuations that can take place, especially when it comes to areas they can control to some extent such as their own customer base.

This shouldn’t lead to complacency, but instead it should help to make marketers and business leaders aware of any potential hurdles coming up and give them the chance to plan a strategy for vaulting them.

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Rick Lyle

Rick Lyle

IT Consultant at Redspire
With full professional certification in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Rick brings 12 years of solid project delivery experience and first class service to Redspire’s clients. Rick is responsible for leading our customer’s projects.
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