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If you’re spearheading a new CRM project within your organization, it’s important to remember you are not on an island. Your colleagues, presented the right amount of information, will likely be interested as well because everyone has something to gain from it.

In fact, “selling” project internally is critically important. If you don’t do this your whole CRM initiative will face an uphill battle right from the beginning.

There are some tried and tested outcomes that you can aim for when you first get started with a new CRM platform. It always helps to see see fast and tangible results to help get your CRM off to a great start.

These goals are designed to get a number of departments involved and motivated early on in the process, and they form a backbone to develop an organization-wide CRM strategy.

1) Help Sales to acquire new customers

New customers are something that no business would turn down. CRM is great for shaping sales behavior – giving salespeople tools, processes and information to boost their performance and win rate.

CRM helps salespeople prioritize opportunities and think smarter about working their pipelines – it’s about using a qualification process. Simple and effective!

2) Help Account Management  boost revenue with customers

One of the most important things you can do with CRM is more deeply understand your customers so you can better anticipate and serve their needs.

Getting account management features set-up from the start brings customer information together in a digestible way so you can profile customers and help account managers plan their cross-sell / up-sell activities.

3) Help Marketing to engage more effectively

CRM helps you understand your audiences and engage with them meaningfully. It can also measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

By measuring marketing effectiveness, CRM can form a closed-loop system that lets you track responses and attribute leads to specific campaigns – even when engaging offline.

4) Enable effective, efficient customer service

Streamlining customer service and giving agents better support reduces costs and boosts customer satisfaction.

Customer service reps can can tackle inquiries quickly and independently when they’re supported with the right tools, workflows and information in CRM.

5) Provide business intelligence that lets everyone act on fast

Practically everyone in an organization benefits from being able to monitor and measure performance. CRM helps you keep an eye on anything that’s meaningful, from headline figures to granular detail.

By setting up dashboards looking at leading indicators and how they affect outcome goals, helps you improve as an organization.

A sure sign of maturity is the habit of questioning ourselves to see if we could be doing things better. When we take the time to answer important questions we start to see problems and opportunities we didn’t even know we had. As custodian of your organization’s customer experience strategy, you should always be questioning how and why you orchestrate CRM.

It’s accepted today that CRM is so much more than technology – it’s the fabric connecting the entire organization, creating an information-rich landscape through which the customer moves. So as CRM professionals the questions we ask ourselves must probe well beyond technology.

If you’re not asking yourself some key questions about strategy, people and processes it’s a sign you’ve got work to do, to drive your CRM to the next level of maturity.

Let’s look at 10 questions to get you thinking!

1. What does CRM really mean to your organization?

CRM tends to mean different things to different people across an organization. How can everyone in the organization get behind the real idea of CRM – and your customer experience strategy – if there’s no shared vision?

So, you’ll need to define and communicate your vision for customer experience and why it’s important to the organization. This helps everyone using the CRM to understand what part they play in making your vision a reality.

Everyone using CRM will have their own preferences, agendas and points of view. It’s important to openly address these, and hold them up against the organization’s goals so that CRM decisions are inclusive, transparent and objective.

If everyone understands that offering a better customer experience is what shapes your brand and determines success, and also knows what’s valuable to customers and can deliver it, then your CRM is in full swing.

But, if people don’t have this unified understanding of CRM, we find the opposite: various departments and roles interact with customers differently. There’s no cohesive approach and organizational idiosyncrasies are exposed to the outside world. This leads to an inconsistent experience for customers who end up dealing with silo’d individuals and departments, not one unified organization.

2.   Does everyone agree what CRM success looks like?

In a football (soccer from my American readers) match, every player understands the team’s ultimate aim: to score goals. They have their individualized view and their own role to play, but they all work towards the same thing. Success is clear, measurable and shared.

CRM success is also about common goals. But, success also needs to be measured at various levels and in ways that are meaningful to various people and areas in your organization.

If you don’t create a shared definition of CRM success, you won’t be able to identify improvements and show ROI, so your CRM investment will start to look like a black hole with no clear view of the value it’s delivering.

To meaningfully measure CRM success, consider these three angles:

Commercial: Sales are an obvious measure. But it can be a long time between the start of a CRM initiative and its end result, so you can look at leading indicators along the way. For example, the number of subscription renewals allows you to estimate revenue. Or, you can look at the margins for one-off sales as a predictor for final profit impact.

Customer-centric: Using measures like Net Promoter Scores, you can take a look at customer satisfaction levels before and after your CRM initiatives.

Operational: You can look at day-to-day performance measures like time to answer, time to resolve, first contact resolution, number of calls made or received, call length and pipeline size. These are all inward facing, but if they’re improving, so will overall business performance.

3.   Are you thinking more about your customers or yourself?

Someone who goes to the hardware store isn’t just wanting to buy tools, they want an outcome – a hole in the wall, a new door or a more vibrant color in the living room. Your customers are also trying to get something done, and you should help them to do it. Focusing on customer needs and outcomes is the main characteristic of customer-focused organizations.

The Three Es of customer experience[i] tell us that engagement needs to be easy, effective and enjoyable. If it’s not clear to all departments and individuals what your strategy is and how it relates to their interaction with customers, they’ll be going in different directions and often working at cross purposes. This means discontinuity for the customer. Their experience won’t be easy, effective or enjoyable and they’ll go elsewhere.

So, your CRM strategy should be based on what your customers ultimately want and how your organization is going to help them get it. With this bigger picture in view, you can provide clarity and motivation to every customer-facing employee to get behind your strategy.

 4.   How do you talk about CRM internally?

“The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” —George Bernard Shaw

A big part of successful CRM transformation is about communicating the CRM strategy and explaining changes and new processes. If communication isn’t clear or sufficient, or if leaders assume that everyone will “just get it,” people won’t buy into change and they’ll actively or passively resist it. This is why many CRM solutions don’t gain traction with users, and fail.

You should craft frequent and meaningful communication to help every employee connect their role with the CRM and organizational strategies. Clearly explain how people can personally create a better customer experience and why this is critical to the organization’s success.

5.   Is your CRM aligned with the mission and vision?

Your organization’s vision and mission statements clarify where it’s aiming in future and what it’s doing today, to get there. They’re designed to foster collaboration and reinforce the values every employee should work to. Your CRM goals and success criteria should map directly to the clear points of your mission and vision.

Without clarifying how your CRM goals support your mission and vision, you risk individual or departmental goals superseding them. This prevents collaboration and fosters a silo mentality which will end up creating a disjointed customer experience.

6.   Do your leaders share your CRM vision?

CRM is not software run by one department; it’s an organization-wide strategy for customer engagement. Those best positioned to lead something across all departments are senior executives. When your leaders share and advocate your CRM vision, it shows all employees that CRM is a critical part of the organization and its success.

If leaders don’t actively support customer-focussed initiatives, there’s little motivation for employees to do so. And if CRM is driven by one department, others usually feel marginalized or irritated.

7.   Do you understand the whole customer buying process?

It’s common to fixate on individual elements of the buying process, like what happens when customers buy, install or unpack a product. But unless you consider the entire buying process, each individual or department starts thinking of only their interaction with the customer and the organization ends up delivering a fragmented experience.

So you must also understand what happens before and after these individual moments.

Mapping out a customer buying process means connecting up all related touchpoints. You should highlight interactions that start long before direct contact and show how the customer journey extends well beyond that point.

8.   Does the way you sell match the way your customers buy?

Many organizations have some form of selling methodology, formal or informal. Often the CRM is configured to support this sales methodology, using industry terms like ‘marketing qualified lead’ and ‘prospect’ and ‘opportunity.’ However, this is inward-focussed and it causes us to lose touch with who our customers really are and what they’re thinking.

The underlying requirement for great CRM is personalization, which is really quite the opposite of objectifying customers in terms of internal sales language and methodology.

In truth, a customer is never a “qualified lead” – they’re actually “interested” or “researching.” Using real language that pertains to the customer will help you – and everyone else in your organization – understand them better.

9.   Do your people use CRM because they have to, or want to?

It takes honest introspection to get to the root of a question like this.

If people don’t understand why they should change, they’ll resist. Your CRM project will fail if the software and its processes aren’t adopted. Conversely, if the people interacting with customers see CRM as helpful and valuable they’ll use it, and your organization will perform better.

There are a few reasons why people resist change or don’t think using CRM is important. Perhaps they don’t understand the consequences of not changing. Maybe they don’t see how new processes can make a customer’s life easier or why this is even important. They might not understand how CRM can specifically help them. Or it’s possible that they just don’t have the right training to use the system.

When employees don’t adopt CRM there are two key risks: that you don’t get any data into the CRM at all, even with threats. Even worse is you get “garbage” data as people just plough through processes to appear compliant.

10. Do employees actively use CRM?

It’s easy to set up CRM as just software or just a data collection system, but this fails to provide meaning to its users – they won’t understand the benefit to them, to customers or to the organization. This means they’ll have little motivation to use CRM.

Well-constructed CRM enables you to shape behaviors and get people working together to support your organization’s mission and vision. It can prompt people in any department to ask the right questions, talk the right language and add value to customers at every stage. But this all depends on people buying into CRM and using it actively.

So what does CRM maturity look like?

The answers to all these questions center around the idea that well-designed CRM is much more than just technology run by one department.

CRM should gather and utilize customer information from multiple sources. It should streamline customer interactions based on employee roles, and it should drive the right behaviors to deliver excellent experience.

All customer touchpoints across the entire buying process need to be coordinated through CRM so the customer’s journey isn’t disjointed. Also, of course CRM needs to provide customer insight and recommendations back to the organization, based on data intelligence.

A mature approach covering strategy, people and processes will see you using CRM to create a truly customer-centric culture across your organization, enabling every employee to play their part in delivering excellent experience during every customer interaction.

[i] Forrester’s “Three E’s of Customer Experience” are Effectiveness, Ease and Emotion

Online business is gearing up for an exciting leap forward over the next five years as artificial intelligence really starts to take a run at some big hurdles in the online selling arena.

Our top business technology brands have been focussing on AI for a while now, and we’re becoming familiar with bots like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa. But what are the practical improvements we can expect in the near future?

Enterprise SaaS company Flamingo, supported by SugarCRM, recently led a survey that highlighted how the market is ready on all sides to embrace artificial intelligence online.

Send more Chatbots!

On the consumer side, just over three quarters of people surveyed said they’re comfortable using chatbots and think they would improve the online experience. It follows on the business side, 73% said chatbots are relevant and almost 60% are seriously considering using chatbots within the next five years.

So customers are already expecting to engage with AI as part of their experience. Customer experience is ultimately about loyalty and profitability – so it’s good to see that two out of three people surveyed said their customer experience program objectives align with their organizational mission. But how exactly do chatbots fit into the customer experience story?
robot-customer-service

 

What’s a bot to do?

One of the most vexing problems today is that potential shoppers frequently abandon online purchases or applications at some point in the process. A whopping 60% of consumers surveyed said they’ve done so in the last three months. So it’s clear that businesses aren’t successfully guiding even half of their potential customers through the online buying process.

There’s light at the end of this tunnel though. 77% of consumers say immediate online help would increase their likelihood of completing transactions, and 85% of businesses say it would improve online sales conversation rates.

So online AI should be well-received, but chatbot interaction has to be meaningful. Without meaningful help, potential customers will simply leave.

This is what the next generation of chatbots will tackle. They won’t just spit out pre-determined answers to customer questions, they’ll also examine customer and employee interactions over time to offer increasingly meaningful guidance.

Flamingo is already developing just such a chatbot called Rosie. According to Flamingo, “Rosie is knowledgeable and responsive, she is able to guide customers through any problem, and she learns as she goes.”

SugarCRM has also announced that its intelligent digital assistant named Candace is currently in development. Candace is, in part, being designed to remove the need for people to insert, add and modify information in their CRM manually. It will bring in data from outside sources to enhance the view of the customer and will call out important insights and make recommendations.

For now, we’ll need to compromise a little; with the next wave of chatbots there’s likely to be a practical approach where a human can be called in immediately if a shopper poses a difficult question – great news for the one fifth of consumers who are not happy with chatbots because they can’t always answer everything.

The question of just how “human” chatbots should be is still on the table: male or female? Young or old? Friendly and polite or just knowledgeable? There are some hints at general preferences but perhaps each brand should decide for itself, based on what’s best for their audiences – which makes it critical to understand exactly who customers are and what they want.

Flamingo’s survey shows there’s a growing appetite for meaningful AI from both consumers and businesses. Getting AI integrated with existing business systems and CRM is critical if businesses want to take customer experience to the next level with this new human-shaped technology.

The Flamingo Customer Experience Inc survey report is called “Conversational Commerce and ChatBots: Business & Consumer Usage and Attitudes (Nov 2016)”. The survey was conducted by Fifth Quadrant and sponsored by SugarCRM.

If you are interested in a copy of the full report, drop me an email at vmikhail@sugarcrm.com

 

Business models and entire industries are being disrupted by new technologies as digital transformation forces organizations to reassess how they adapt and provide their customers with value into the future.

One key theme that has emerged during this time of disruption is a big obstacle to making the transition from product-focused to customer-focused is often changing business culture. Changing employee behavior is more difficult than redesigning products and services or implementing new technology. However, the failure to  consider the impact of organizational change will undermine any other investment.

Using CRM Technology to Drive Cultural Change

The often unrealized potential benefit of CRM technology is that it can be a very effective way of driving organizational change.

Customer-facing employees using a CRM will spend many hours per day on the system in order to be more effective in their daily job duties. A flexible CRM system supports and reinforces the behaviors you need in order to succeed in achieving your desired future state.

What Culture do I Need?

Organizational culture is as unique as the customers you serve and the products and services you provide. But, there are some fundamental principles that can apply to any organization.

Recognizing and Valuing Customers

Your customers are people who want to be recognized, respected and valued as individuals and as customers.

One of the major obstacles facing employees trying to be more customer-centric is access to accurate information. Modern CRM provides the opportunity to consolidate information from multiple sources and provide a single view of the customer; providing a way of “hearing,” understanding and relating to each individual customer.

Data about customers can be gathered from all of your information systems, including digital channels like online orders, the website, social media and more, and then combined with information from human channels when a person speaks to a customer on the phone.

Customer-centric culture starts with understanding who a business’ customers are, and CRM that helps employees see the full view of their customers underpins this.

Building Trust

Customer loyalty and trust go hand-in-hand, and the behaviors for building trust are fairly universal.

Keeping Promises

One of the quickest ways to destroy trust is to break a promise, even if it’s trivial commitments like, “someone will get back to you in 24 hours.” CRM technology can help employees learn to keep promises by reminding users of commitments and deadlines, and escalating urgent activities and tasks to ensure promises are kept.

Being Responsive

Trust is built by organizations being consistently responsive to customers, especially when there are questions or issues. CRM tools provide the opportunity to give your customer-facing staff the tools and information required to answer enquiries and address issues quickly.

Being Proactive

Having a single view of the customer, with all relevant information in one place, will allow your customer-facing staff (and automation systems) the ability to anticipate the needs of customers and proactively address them, rather than waiting for the customer to initiate contact.

Knowledgeable People

As anyone who has ever called customer service knows, it’s a joy (and a mild surprise) to speak with someone who is knowledgeable and helpful.  But knowledge about what you are selling is only part of the picture. The picture isn’t complete without being similarly knowledgeable about the customer, their needs and wants and previous history with the organization.

Having Time for Customers

Mobile Workforce

Mobile technology has changed the way we work, and provided the opportunity to free employees from their desks to spend more time where their customers are.

Automation

The process of automating otherwise frustrating and time-consuming administrative efforts provides another opportunity for a quick win. Automation only works when the data being collected and the supporting “what do I do with this data” processes are in alignment. When this occurs, the benefits of automation positively reinforce new business processes.

Listening to Customers

When a CRM system pulls customer data together across the customer’s whole journey, it invariably crosses departmental boundaries and makes it easier for marketing, sales, and post-sales teams to collaborate. This transparency will help highlight where things are working and where there is room for improvement.

The process of configuring the CRM forces teams to consider where the departmental boundaries should be, and what the optimal approach for process handoff should be. The new processes become embodied and reinforced by the CRM system, quickly defining the new normal. This works especially well when the early phases of the CRM project focus on those high-profile challenges facing two teams who need to work more closely together.

Measuring what’s working

CRM can provide transparency into what’s working and what’s not by measuring the organization at three different levels; business outcomes such as revenue or profit, customer metrics such as net promoter score, and operational indicators such as time to resolution on customer enquiries.
Constantly monitoring performance keeps the organization focused on the change that was envisioned, identifying the areas that are working and the areas that need more challenge. Getting the measures right, creates a constant reminder of the new processes, making it part of “the way we do things around here”.

Incremental improvement

A CRM that is flexible enough to continue to evolve and improve without huge re-implementation costs will help support a “culture of innovation”.

Encouraging the organization to continually improve the information system will also drive constant innovation in business processes, and ultimately the exercise of change itself will become part of the organizational culture.

However, the contrary outcome is that a big, complex, and inflexible CRM reduces the ability of the organization to innovate and adapt to changing customer demands.

Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture

Culture can be defined as behavior and shared values among a group of people, who then pass those values on to new members. An ideal CRM will support this normalization of behavior by providing reporting and transparency into who is effectively following the new ways of doing things, and highlighting those exceptions as and when they occur.

Standardizing this approach provides the opportunity to tighten the feedback loop so that deviations from accepted practice are identified quickly, immediately, or even prevent the deviation from occurring in the first place.

A flexible CRM system, appropriately configured, can entrench a pattern of delivering great customer experiences into your organizational culture.

The scientific method is an elegant one – always experimenting in the pursuit of the truth and accepting that new facts overturn previous belief. Our experiences shape and builds our understanding, and and it’s critical to never assume we know everything.

Great marketing is borne of this mindset. Best practices, judgment, and instinct guide marketing strategy, but what sets makes it great is the practice of experimenting, observing, analyzing and breaking new ground.

If you’re a Marketer today, and you’re not thinking this way, it’s time to reflect on whether you’re doing your best.

Marketing must be transformational

Your organization might be failing because it’s not responding to changes in your marketplace. And, you might not even know it.

Unless you acknowledge that marketing needs to adopt an inquiring and observational mindset in order to identify and lead business transformation, then you’re missing a huge opportunity – for you and for your organization.

We’ve seen some spectacular failures where brands just haven’t responded to change quickly enough; Borders and Blockbusters have become sad case studies in failure. And, we’ve seen others like Amazon and Uber who have not only responded to new customer preferences, but been forward-thinking enough to shape them. So what about your organization? How can you make sure it’s a master of change, not a slave to it?

Understand and experiment based on holistic observation

Be brave enough to keep asking questions about your customers and your organization, and develop the means to answer them. Stay close to your customers – understanding what they want and why, what they’re doing, when and how.

This isn’t a new idea. But there are modern approaches that provide new insight, about customers, and opening up a whole new line of understanding. It has the potential to keep us right on the pulse of change so we can tell the organization how to respond.

What exactly is this new method?

SugarCRM recently partnered with Telsyte to talk with 255 CMOs in Australian & New Zealand about how they’re getting closer to customers and shaping business transformation based on their observations.

From those results, we produced a report for marketing leaders entitled “Digital Leaders Use Customer Journey Maps to Guide Business Transformation.”

The paper looks at the value of personas and customer journey maps in relation to business transformation, and some of the practical steps to implementing them.

About half the Marketing leaders said:

“Our team promotes an understanding of the customer across the organization, helping to shape its entire approach to business transformation.”

Are you in this half?

 

We can all picture a swan gliding calmly over still waters. As business people, most of us can’t help thinking of those two legs beneath, paddling tirelessly, navigating currents, rocks, weeds and the odd pinching crab.

In the business world, you need to paddle hard to be a swan these days. Consumers’ expectations of always-on, mobile-friendly digital services are crossing industry boundaries so that it’s not good enough to just be better than your direct competitors. Instead, your business is being compared with the best customer experience in every industry. If it’s too complicated to get something done on a small screen with tiny keys, then your customers go elsewhere.

Further, every industry is at risk of disruption by new digital-native entrants, whose business models are designed with a customer-centric digital strategy first, and who move with an agility that established businesses struggle to match.

Customer Experience

In the past, “customer experience” has been something you could bolt onto a business, but in this age of the customer, the customer experience goes to the heart of every business model.

Analyst group Forrester refers to the three E’s of customer experience; Was the experience effective in achieving the outcome the customer desired? Was the experience easy to complete? Was it enjoyable; or at least leave the customer in as good a mood as when they started?

Even if your business provides an effective service to historically loyal customers, if your competitors can provide a similar service that is easier and more enjoyable, then you are at risk of losing that loyalty.

The burden of complexity must sit somewhere

How do you make experiences easy and enjoyable? Unfortunately, it is often the case that the easier it looks for the customer, the harder your company needs to paddle under to the water to deliver the great experience.

Every business has to have structure and departments; it is why we often refer to companies as “organizations”. However, the particular idiosyncrasies of your organizational structure are not the customer’s problems. Customers don’t need to know that a particular interaction crosses three departments. The burden of this complexity shouldn’t be pushed onto the customer. They don’t care.

So how can you manage this complexity?

There was a time where the answer was to buy a fully integrated application that crossed all business functions. Unfortunately, the reality is that IT systems evolve at different rates; ERP systems that manage finances and warehouses evolve more slowly than CRM and Marketing Automation systems, and new social media management tools are released each week.

As a result, a fully integrated suite is likely to be really good in one area but result in a whole lot of compromises in others. These compromises may impact aspects of the customer journey today, or reduce your agility by preventing you from changing components in the future.

Best practice today involves favoring agility over efficiency. A highly efficient system that restricts your company’s ability to adapt to rapidly changing customer demand will ultimately cost you dearly. “Orchestrating” information systems so they share data through loosely coupled web-services or middleware layers provides the ability to deliver great a customer experience, and easily replace any individual technology component that starts to play out of tune.

No-one is an expert any more – make data driven decisions

It used to be that 25 years experience in an industry would make you an expert on how your customers behave. Now, customer behavior is changing so fast that you it’s dangerous to rely on these long-held “gut-feeling” type opinions.

Today we’re awash in data. Use what data you have, or start to gather the evidence you need to make decisions. When you’re unsure, run experiments; test ideas. Resist hubris, and be humble enough to accept that the accepted wisdom may no longer be true.

Understand Customers

Ultimately it is the customer that matters to every business. If you want to understand your customers, you need to embrace complexity and turn it to your advantage, use your Customer Relationship Management system to consolidate information and surface new insight. Who are your ideal customers of the future and why? What motivates them, what will their journeys look like, and how can you redesign your business to deliver the best customer experience?

Be the swan. Use technology and insight to focus on all the right questions, and create elegant, simple answers. Your customers will thank you for it.

 

 

(Editor’s note: this post was originally published by Business Insider Australia)

Buyers always want the best customer experience and so sellers must constantly reassess what the new “best” means, and transform themselves to deliver it. This is more important than ever for businesses competing in a buzzing, digitized market.

This is why leaders understand the importance of business change, and their long-term strategies cater for experimentation and innovation. But innovation isn’t one-size-fits-all for every area of the business, so what does it mean for marketers?

From a strategic perspective, the more marketing looks at the business from the outside, the more it can help to transform it from the inside. A brilliant way to get externally-focussed like this is to actually “become” the customer.

You can do this by creating a true-to-life, virtualized world of customers and their journeys through the business. While this sounds lofty, it’s possible with the right technology and by using a practical step-by-step approach.

Telsyte and SugarCRM recently produced a report for marketing leaders, titled “Digital Leaders Use Customer Journey Maps to Guide Business Transformation” It draws on feedback from 255 CMOs surveyed in the 2015 Australian and New Zealand Digital marketer Study.

Just over half the marketing leaders said, “Our team promotes an understanding of the customer across the organization, helping to shape its entire approach to business transformation.” Six common themes stood out:

  1. Predict and embrace change

There’s no doubt that change is happening – fast and merciless – as we watch some brands like Uber and Amazon thrive while others like Blockbuster and Borders have collapsed. A common thread is the way these brands respond to changes in customer preferences – to what ‘the best customer experience’ looks like. Some embrace the new best, while others seem to keep doing what they’ve always done and stagnate themselves into irrelevance.

Businesses need a logical and intelligent way to understand and engage with their markets, to constantly figure out what they need to change and why.

Marketing can help to identify and respond to change by creating virtual world of customer types and the interactions they have with the business. This system, which is based on real-world customer behaviors, tells the business what ‘best’ means to any customer at any point. It’s based on customer journey maps populated with customer personas.

  1. Define your customers with personas

You can think of a persona as “a fictional individual that represents a group of people with similar needs and behaviors, and aims to bring this group to life.”

Consider, as an example, the imaginary persona of ‘Brian’. First you create a short story of his current situation based on the information you have, and then distill this into a fact-based profile that shows exactly what’s important to him. This is powerful stuff, and now marketing can creatively engage with Brian, and anyone in the business who has contact with him can help to deliver Brian’s own specific idea of ‘best customer experience.’

The information you use to build personas can come from a number of sources – perhaps it’s anecdotal, gleaned from people around the business who have contact with Brian. Or maybe it’s a set of facts taken from a survey that Brian completed.

Don’t despair if you think you don’t have the budget to create personas. You can start simply by creating ‘assumption personas’ based on whatever insight you can gather from around the business. You can hone these personas every time you come by qualitative insight from observation, direct contact or formal research.

Looking at customer data over time will allow you to make new judgements too, like “most people matching Brian’s profile tend to abandon a website if they can’t work out how to navigate it right away.”

  1. Use your persons to build a customer journey

Now you have a set of personas, it’s time to see how they interact with your business. Customer journey maps put the personas into real-world context by visually modelling the steps the customer follows as they find, buy, use or talk about what you’re selling.

By going alongside the customer as they take a journey through your business, you can see what’s important, when and why. You can identify points where the business isn’t providing exactly what the customer wants, or where things are inconsistent and confusing, and help those areas to make changes. By shaping the ‘best’ journey like this, you can guide the customer to their final destination and make the whole experience something that sets you apart.

You can engage user experience designers to create detailed customer journey maps for you, but if you don’t have budget to set aside you can start by sketching them out yourself. Try running workshops around the business with individuals and teams who have contact with customers who can give you relevant insight. You can improve and build on your maps with information you glean from your ongoing marketing activities.

Whichever way you choose to develop your maps, be sure to make them relevant and useable. Startlingly, a huge 45% of organizations surveyed said they do have customer journey maps but rarely use them.

So what makes a customer journey map useable? It should clearly highlight information that various parts of the business can use to shape the customer experience at their points of contact. You might want to list a clear set of steps and label which departments are responsible for the experience at each step.

There are a number of ways to visually present your customer journey maps, each with its own advantages and limitations. Whatever you choose, be sure that the people who need to use your maps understand their value and how to use them.

If you’re keeping your maps up to date, you’ll quickly see when customer preferences and behaviors are changing. And if the business is actively using your maps, it can quickly respond to this change. This is a key enabler for successful digital business transformation.

  1. Make personas and customer journeys work in the real world

Your personas and customer journey maps will most likely be created and updated with both qualitative and quantitative data captured from multiple sources. Bringing data together like this is easiest with a modern CRM software. A best-in-class CRM integrates with other systems and forms a unifying backbone for both sharing and gathering customer information across every part of the organization.

Once your personas and customer journey maps are created, people in direct contact with customers need to easily match customers to a persona, to see where they are in their journeys and act accordingly.

The key word here “easy.” For most businesses, their customers’ journeys are messy and complex. Maps make sense of them, and when they’re made available via the CRM throughout the business, orchestrating great customer journeys – and evolving with change – becomes much easier.

  1. Create a culture of customer experience

The point of having personas and customer journey maps is to support customer-centered decision-making across the business. Once you’ve created your personas and maps, and then made them accessible and easy to use, the next challenge is to motivate people to actually go ahead and use them.

When you work with colleagues to build your maps, you should explain what you’re doing and why. It’s vital to get the whole organization excited about understanding the customer, as well as changing as a business when customer preferences change.

Share the vision that everyone has a role to play in providing the best customer experience and thereby contributing directly to the success of the business. Creating and owning customer journeys together is a great way to get everyone behind this shared vision.

It’s important convey that personas and journey maps evolve over time, so everyone’s ongoing participation is crucial for them to be a powerful business transformation tool.

  1. Nurturing innovation

So back to the idea of business innovation; imagine if marketing can suggest innovations that will be guaranteed to deliver more value and better customer experiences than  ever before. By using a CRM to bring customer personas and journey maps alive across the business, marketing can offer exactly this.

Like with any business investment, you’ll need to demonstrate the value of CRM-enabled personas and journey maps. Once you’ve got these practices in place, you’ll be in a position to measure not just marketing performance but also the contribution of every area that touches the customer journey.

You’ll be able to demonstrate how changes based on customer insight are directly impacting customer satisfaction, performance and profitability.

Something so valuable to the business should be worth further investment so you can develop and deliver more, and keep marketing in the center of business transformation.

To find out what other marketing leaders are doing with customer journey mapping, and get some pointers on how to put it in place, get yourself a copy of the report.