I’d wager that I’m not alone in feeling a slight sense of trepidation upon being handed a wine list in front of a table full of guests. For me, the situation awakens a long-lost uncertainty, once associated with challenges such as buying the ’right’ clothes in your early teens or making conversation with a member of the opposite sex.
So more often than not, I chicken out and pass up the decision to the waiter or sommelier. A brief Q&A session later and I’m guaranteed no shame or cock-ups, a more expensive bottle or two on the bill than I would have otherwise chosen. Good service, knowledge shared, a win-win-win for me, my guests and the restaurant.
It’s the aspect of knowledge sharing and good service that matters most in these situations, and to my mind, it is the same with CRM. The most knowledgeable sommelier is no help to me unless they pick up on my uncertainty, know when to engage, give advice and close the deal in a manner that reassures and gives me sense of joy. Isn’t this also why we seek product reviews from those who have gone before, wherever they may be found?
There are many brands out there that know the names of their prospects, enquirers, customers, ex-customers (and probably anyone else who has ever breathed). They’ve probably kept careful records of previous encounters and purchases, enhancing insights with third-party data. But unless the knowledge gained can be used at the appropriate point in the customer experience – the punters’ choice of time and channel, their individual point in the customer journey – there is little point in having a stockpile of data. Cracking how to manage engagement and service, in real-time, at an individual level, across an ever-increasing range of channels, is what differentiates those who really can deliver an optimised customer experience from the many with excellent products and an investment in ’CRM technology’.
Getting this right isn’t an easy thing to achieve, especially if your organisation has a raft of different products, services, offers and engagement channels. Just documenting how to respond to each particular customer action can result in thousands of different offers and rules. It’s a bit like playing strategic board games such as chess or backgammon: anticipating and responding takes planning, knowledge and a willingness to continually refine your approach.
And then there is executing the solution: the market isn’t flooded with tools that can be programmed with all these rules, to execute in real-time across a raft of channels and at an individual level. But this is what the consumer demands.
From trials within our group we know that this experience-driven approach works for both brands and consumers, and with some surprising results. A telecoms operator reduced outbound communications by 65%, costs by over 70%, but increased sales and customer satisfaction indicators. It’s a knowledge-driven world alright: but only if you can use it at an individual level and in real-time to improve relationships and service.