5 common CRM mistakes and how to avoid them

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Despite all the advancement in CRM technology, many customers still endure bad experiences every day: wrong information, clueless customer service and a sense that their business isn’t valued. How does this happen? Don’t blame the technology, blame the implementation.

I’ve spent 20 years leveraging technology to improve customer experiences. In that time I’ve seen a lot of missteps in CRM implementation — great CRM technologies that don’t live up to their potential. Here are the five missteps I see the most often.

1. Building one dimensional customer profiles based on stereotypes

Creating a CRM system’s content strategy based on inauthentic demographic stereotypes is a fast track to alienating your customers. Take millennials as an example. They are the largest generation spanning every geography and socio-economic class, and yet many marketers often focus on the urban, tech-obsessed, coffee-sipping hipster. Building a relationship on such a stereotype creates a hollow foundation. Customers will sense it, and you will miss an opportunity to truly connect.

Ask, “Do I understand my customers across all dimensions?”

A CRM system should know who the customer really is (i.e. their specific wants and needs) and leverage pivotal data to create a comprehensive customer composite. But be careful. Don’t just create two or three personas across generational divides and call it a success. Develop a multitude of profiles across dimensions, time and transactions to map their interactions and attitudes. After doing so, companies can use this information to push a content strategy that speaks to the heart of what each customer is looking for in their chosen goods or services.

2. Documenting past actions rather than predicting future ones

If you are looking at the past behavior of your customers only, you’re missing half the picture. The true power of a data-driven CRM system is its ability to understand what your customers are likely to do next. This allows you to anticipate need and deepen the relationship.

To begin predicting customers’ next step, ask “What do my customers’ actions today say about what they will do tomorrow?”

To answer this and create action from it, don’t just set key performance indicators. Build key predictive indicators into the system. Aggregate customer data to study their choices and extrapolate behavior.

As an example, Amazon uses customer data on purchases to be predictive. The company sees what customers have bought previously and uses that information to suggest similar products, ones that are even being bought by friends. And it works. Because these product suggestions are based on the customer’s behavior and preferences, then the company isn’t selling, it’s helping.

3. Forgetting about your employees.

Helping customers starts with helpful employees. We have to ensure that CRM implementation aligns with how employees actually carry out their customer-facing activities.

To avoid stalling an employee’s momentum, which in turn could lead to customer dissatisfaction, ask: “What does a day in their life look like, and how can we better enable them to do their jobs?”

Employees need accurate, real-time data from their CRM system to target customers and build relationships. Yet, many systems are set up to manage sales quotas t. A CRM system should be the go-to-tool for customer teams within large enterprises. The system should contain customer data in a way that has acclimated to the employees daily and hourly needs, enabling them to succeed.

CRM’s should focus on the customer through the employees’ eyes and the sales quota will come.

4. Building a CRM system with tunnel vision

Streams of customer data are flowing into your organization, from sales to fulfillment to account management and from front office to back office. How much of it is making it into your customer view? Before you can aggregate and virtualize your data, you need to first understand where the data is, and of that data which pieces are relevant and to whom.

Reach out beyond the sales or marketing organizations to understand the who, what and where of the customer data you currently have. Then ask, “who else needs this data?” Access to timely data on the customer impacts every part of the organization, not just sales and service.

5. Losing sight of the big picture

It’s easy to get caught up in the problem you’re trying to solve today. You need to automate your sales force to increase sales efficiency, better track leads, leverage customer data to cross and upsell. But if you focus your CRM system only on the tactical short-term needs, you run the risk of missing the big-picture goals of your organization.

Before embarking on a CRM journey, ask yourself, “who does your organization want to be? What role do your customers play in being that organization? What kind of customer data and metrics do you need? What are your goals for the customer relationship? Is capturing email addresses enough or should the goal be loftier than that?”

Keys for success

While these 5 mistakes are common, they are also easily avoided if you step back from the technology discussion and take the time to understand your customers, your employees and yourself.

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