In a down economy, customers expect more for their hard-earned cash – more value, more service and more attention. In response, savvy businesses are being more frugal with their spending, putting their money into areas that improve sales, enhance customer service or help them gain operational efficiencies. Companies that stay current with technology improvements and invest in customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to better understand and serve their customers will capture greater market share now and have a competitive advantage when the economy bounces back.
The Value of Relationships
“Consumers are trimming their spending at the moment with many people feeling the pinch of the global slow down,” says Nathalie Ing, customer intelligence business lead at SAS Institute South Africa. “With a change in budget comes a change in buying habits. Consumers are better informed and are seeking greater value with less tolerance for irrelevant marketing messages and bad service levels.”
She recommends an approach increasingly based on value derived through the relationship with the customer. A critical differentiator will be to provide quality, relevant and accurate messages at the very point of contact, in realtime, with your customers.
“Customer loyalty can be achieved through the power of analytics: being able to gain more specific understanding of what your customers want through accurate segmentation, propensity analysis, lifetime value and customer profitability for example, to drive the efficiency of marketing campaigns. By targeting the right customer with the next best conversation or offer at the right time, reduced marketing budgets can be spent with precision,” adds Ing.
Converting leads to customers
The lead conversion black hole has long been the cause of dispute between marketing and sales teams. The challenge is to achieve what everyone wants: improved sales revenues through qualified leads. “There are many best practices you can tailor within your CRM solution which will guide people to process leads consistently and quickly to move them along the sales pipeline,” says Vivek Thomas, Maximizer MD, EMEA. “By using a lead or task module within a CRM system, the call-to-action items automatically appear for the appropriate member of the team and next steps and deadlines are clearly identified.”
Additionally, a standard list of lead qualification questions by customer to assess budget, authority, need, and timeline will help representatives understand and define customer needs. Whether a lead stems from a trade show, or direct mail, not all leads are ready to buy right away so it’s critical to standardise and update your lead status.
“It is important to stay in touch with organisations by building the following up tactics into your CRM system,” says Thomas. “To do this, segment and target your communications and intersperse them with actions such as event invitations, webcasts and seminars.” To ensure leads are followed up and passed through the lead cycle in a timely manner, you can use your CRM solution to monitor the timeframe in which tasks are completed by establishing system alerts for an effective follow-up process. “This is where a CRM solution plays a vital role in the success or failure of a marketing campaign for your business,” Thomas adds.
Cost-cutting is not enough
Jeremy Waterman, MD of Softline Accpac, agrees that CRM is an invaluable partner in this economic storm. Cost reduction on its own, he says, isn’t going to steer a business safely through the slump; you need to also look closely at how to safeguard revenues and profitability, starting with your customer base.
“Companies have seen a rapid decline in cash flow as a result of slowing customer demand and evaporating lines of credit,” says Waterman. “There has been a sudden rush to cut spending, and while this has been understandable it’s simply not enough. Without looking closely at how to protect revenues, you’re just delaying the inevitable: more painful cost reductions and the very real possibility of sliding into an irrevocable decline.” Selling more to existing customers may be the first priority during a downturn, but the important task of acquiring new customers cannot be overlooked. Selling to new prospects, however, is generally regarded as being five to ten times more costly than selling to an existing customer, so improving sales and marketing efficiency will be vital for growing your customer numbers during the downturn. “CRM, and the latest generation of CRM products have an important role to play in this regard. In times of recession, CRM solutions can allow you to extend the reach and effectiveness of your new business sales and marketing programmes through ongoing process improvements, productivity enhancements and significant cost savings,” Waterman says.
Beat the downturn
Waterman explains that in a downturn, CRM enables you to:
- Grow your revenue share within your existing customer base
- Understand the true cross-sell and up-sell opportunity of every one of your customers in order to maximise the profitability of every relationship
- Dramatically reduce your cost-per-lead by delivering highly targeted marketing communications to specific customers or segments
- Cut the amount of time and cost it takes to resolve service issues without compromising an exceptional service experience that keeps your customers loyal
- Provide decentralised empowerment to your customer-facing staff in a way that will drive their productivity and effectiveness while still retaining central control over headline resource, performance and budget management
- Capture new businesses at a far lower cost-of-sale than was possible previously
- Lower your cost-of-sale by always ensuring that your sales team is focused on the opportunities that are most likely to close
- Dramatically reduce cost-per-lead by delivering highly targeted and consistent marketing messages to specific prospects or market segments
- Introduce marketing accountability, so you can ensure that you are getting the right level of return from every marketing rand you spend
- Ensure consistent processes are followed, with clear key performance indicators which create solid discipline and greater predictability for sales and service personnel
- Strip administration out of your organisation, so there’s less paperwork, errors and task repetition, and less cost as a result
- Provide decentralised empowerment to your business development staff in a way that will drive their productivity and effectiveness while still retaining central control over headline resource, performance and budget management
“In a downturn, CRM should not be viewed as a discretionary initiative; it is now an operational and financial imperative for all SMEs. It allows you to leverage opportunities and proactively grow your revenue share through highly focused business development programmes which replace sporadic interaction with true customer lifecycle management. CRM, therefore, helps you deliver exceptional and personalised service consistently to your customers during challenging times,” Waterman adds.
Answer that call – contact centre solutions for SMBs
For the smaller business, CRM begins with the basics. If you don’t have a full-time person to answer the phone, you’re losing business. Work With Me offers a simple service that diverts incoming calls from your line to its office. When a call is received, the system recognises the number which has been dialled and immediately launches your details onto the computer screen. Work With Me agents answer the call in your company name and either transfer the call to you or take a message that is SMSed to you along with the caller’s details. The service operates from 8:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday. In addition, any information received via your allocated fax number and email address will be received by the contact centre and forwarded to you.
Incorporating CRM into your organisation
- If you use popular software solutions like MS Outlook, choose CRM and contact management solutions that can easily be integrated. Embedded small business CRM software applications add value to Outlook in many ways:
- Enhanced sales, service and marketing functionality
- Improved email functionality
- Shared Outlook address book across the network
- Shared Outlook tasks and calendars
- Improved record features and management
- Industrial strength database for better performance
You can capture customer emails with a single click and with this capability you and your sales team can associate correspondence to the appropriate contact, account or opportunity for sales activity tracking.
Having an integrated solution means no synchronisation process is required; there are no external database hassles, and no problems when you work offline. Every contact you make, every activity you perform, every task you assign is automatically available in Outlook.
Choose an integrated sales, marketing, customer support and call centre automation solution that is Internet and WAP enabled, providing users with access anytime, anywhere via a web browser or wireless device. These are designed to integrate seamlessly with other business software and back office applications, providing you with a holistic view of each customer. They allow your users access to vital customer, partner and related transactional data. Full integration to other business-critical solutions used every day, such as accounting software and proprietary systems, ensure that your CRM solution is a portal to all the data and applications you count on to help you manage your business.
For more information on CRM and call centre solutions, contact these companies:
- SAS Institute, +27 11 713 3400, www.sas.com/solutions/CRM
- Softline Accpac, +27 11 304 2000, www.accpac.co.za
- Work With Me, +27 861 82 5566, www.workwithme.co.za
- Integrat, +27 861 222 767, www.integrat.co.za
- Maximizer Software, +27 11 275 0116, www.maximizer.co.za
- Fusion Software, +27 11 646 3805, www.fusionsoftware.co.za