Archives For Customer Experience

We are in the era of digital disruption and it’s not just about companies like Uber and Airbnb. Organizations in every industry, because of the ridiculously fast pace of technology innovation, are dealing with disruption. They must develop digital transformation strategies that focus on utilizing new technologies and business models to more effectively engage with customers at every touchpoint.

Furthermore, there is clear evidence that companies that embrace digital transformation and offer a superior customer experiences are outperforming their competition in terms of attaining and retaining customers.

Today’s customers are more empowered than ever before. With almost unlimited information about your company (and your competitors) at their fingertips, it is paramount to deliver an extraordinary customer experience. To accomplish this, you need to understand and map out the customer journey. On top of that, you need to operationalize it. In our latest post disruption series post, SugarCRM’s Martin Schneider talks with Kristian af Sandeberg, the CEO at Addoptify. Addoptify delivers best-practice plug-in solutions that helps organizations bridge internal efficiency with customer centricity. Martin and Kristian discuss Addoptify’s Customer Journey Plugin for Sugar, and how visualizing and operationalizing the customer journey will increase user adoption of Sugar and drive more business.

 

 

Analyst reports can be very valuable tools when making a software purchase decision. Analysts pour over tons of details, product roadmaps, and talk to several partners and customers of the products they review.

However, G2 Crowd does it a bit different – their rankings come 100% from users like you. The peer-review concept is gaining steam, and SugarCRM is proud that its users are so satisfied with Sugar the product that they drove us into the Leader quadrant in G2 Crowd’s latest rendering of its midmarket Grid for CRM.

Best_CRM_Software_in_2017___G2_Crowd

Again, this ranking comes from nearly 150 satisfied Sugar users – and nothing else. G2 allows site visitors to peruse thousands of reviews from real, verified users. So, we’re especially proud of this honor.

If you’re a mid-sized company looking for a CRM partner, don’t take our word for it, ask the satisfied reviewers at G2 Crowd.

You may have heard, United Airlines failed in a big way yesterday. Here’s what happened: the airline barred two teenage girls from boarding and required a child to change clothes after a gate agent decided the leggings they were wearing were inappropriate. That set off waves of anger on social media, with users criticizing what they called an intrusive, sexist policy.

The airline has been in PR damage control mode ever since, while still oddly defending their decision. They noted that teenagers were “pass riders,” meaning they are relatives or friends of United employees and held to a different dress code standard than regular passengers – who are allowed to wear leggings.

So, while the gate agent might have been technically correct in enforcing policy – how is this sound business strategy? Air travel is an incredibly competitive industry, which means the customer experience is what determines success and failure. Customers are more than willing to jump to a competitor if you don’t provide the best possible experience. In this case, United’s competitors smell blood in the water:

 

Customer-facing employees need to feel empowered to provide a best-in-class experience for customers. Yes, rules and policies are in place for reason, but there are also reasons employees at airlines and hotels are given latitude to make things just a little better for individual customers (without harming the experience of others) when they have a chance. In fact, it’s a key strategy to build brand loyalty and the success of the organization depends on it.

Finally, if we are that concerned about what people wear on a flight, let’s start with this guy.

robocopRemember when SaaS CRM companies needed to build their own multi-tenant architectures to bring their CRM to market? And how they needed to maintain expensive and unwieldy architectures that took focus away from actual product development? And how the cost and complexity of said proprietary architectures was passed along to the customer to maintain revenue goals?

Oh wait. That’s still going on with companies like Salesforce.

But, even Salesforce has finally admitted that CRM vendors should not also be cloud infrastructure providers anymore. The company’s recent partnership announcement with Amazon tells us all we need to know. Salesforce needs to focus on innovation, since its core product is old and the cost of maintaining the underlying delivery and development infrastructure itself is proving costly.

So, why is Salesforce potentially repeating past mistakes by trying to create a proprietary AI product for CRM?

Let me explain. What I see brewing with Salesforce’s Einstein concept is a hodge-podge of Wave analytics, generic machine learning (pieced together by several small pocket acquisitions), SalesforceIQ, and elements of Data.com – all components of Salesforce’s portfolio. In short, Salesforce is building yet another proprietary stack in AI.

By “owning” the entire stack, one could argue the profits (as noted, something perennially eluding Salesforce) can be much higher. But at what cost? By instead focusing on integrating industry standards and expert-AI platforms into its tools – a CRM provider can have more flexibility and be able to keep up with the rapid pace of change.

Today, companies like IBM with Watson, and Amazon with its AI platforms are opening these up to software manufacturers as a service. These companies have both the deep pockets and expertise to offer broad and even focused AI-tools for CRM usage scenarios – without CRM vendors having to do much if any heavy lifting.

Here at SugarCRM, we are taking a “best of breed” approach for a number of reasons. One, it will speed our time to market to leverage pre-built, highly scalable and proven AI toolsets and platforms. And, of course, the cost to bring AI-powered CRM offerings to our prospects and customers will be lower, which we can pass on to the user and remain a value-driver for our partners and customers.

And again, by leveraging larger platforms and standards, we will be more nimble than those building hulking masses of analytics engines, giant data warehouses, etc. We will be able to quickly hone our offerings to adhere to market demands, without having to re-architect massive purpose-driven AI stacks.

In short, it is becoming clear to me that AI is an arms race – and categories like CRM should not be trying to reinvent the wheel. Just as with cloud delivery – when you integrate and build upon expert, proven strategies – you can cut costs, speed time to market, and focus on building exceptional customer experiences.

 

Today, SugarCRM is pleased to announce it has signed a deal with TrustSphere to bring its relationship analytics technology into the Sugar Platform. With relationship analytics, every customer-facing professional can easily tap into their colleague’s knowledge and interactions with their prospects and customers before reaching out to them. Relationship analytics is typically most effective in large organizations with long sales cycles that involved multiple handoffs between employees. Having said that, here’s a very simple (SuperBowl week) scenario about how it works:

Let’s say I work in the sales department for the New England Patriots and have just been assigned a batch of renewal opportunities. My goal is to reach out to corporate customers to engage with them about renewing their luxury box contracts for next season. What better time to reach out than Super Week right? I send an enthusiastic email to the first contact on my list to establish a relationship, only to have him sternly tell me he’d already emailed with my colleague Vijay about his list of preferences multiple times during the season.

None of this information was in my CRM. Wouldn’t it have been nice to know Vijay had already established a relationship with the contact before reaching out? I could have used Vijay’s knowledge to become more efficient and would have saved myself some embarrassment. Not to mention the experience would have been much better for the customer.

Relationship analytics allows CRM users to leverage their most valuable asset – the “Collective Relationship Network.” Relationship Analytics for Sugar solution will dig out the relationships between your employees in the entire organization and your customers. The solution scans email headers to find previously hidden and untapped insights (see the example above), which are seamlessly integrated into Sugar. These customer insights improve sales performance, reduce customer churn and accelerate the new employee onboarding process.

This partnership makes TrustSphere’s Relationship Analytics a complementary solution designed to work seamlessly within Sugar. The user will gain valuable insight without ever having to leave the CRM. Relationship Analytics for Sugar is priced at $20 per user per month. It integrates with popular email systems like Microsoft Exchange and Office 365, Lotus Domino and Gmail for business. It is available with all Sugar editions and supports both SaaS and on premise deployments.

Visionary marketers are quickly progressing beyond simple process automation for demand generation and nurturing programs. The reason is that the buying process is no longer simple. The selling/buying cycle is complex, with many players and personas. Both sales and marketing are about revenue and performance, make no mistake.  In order to accomplish sales and marketing targets (artificial or not), the marketing and sales teams need to work in concert; beyond simple (aka fluffy) collaboration. It is time to focus on people.

To be successful, your organizational selling processes need align with the customer decision cycle. The marketing team needs to transition from pure demand generation to becoming masters of customer engagement, helping the sales folks along the way. The selling process should focus on shepherding buyers through their buying journey. The strategy should not be to move a mass of buyers through a process optimized for management reporting. Instead, the strategy needs to design an efficient process optimized to take a qualified lead and make that lead an engaged, profitable customer. And, once the process is perfected…rinse and repeat.

Taking Stock of the Current State

The proliferation of customers’ digital touchpoints has accelerated requests for and the flow of information, especially in complex business-to-business decision cycles. Furthermore, organizations continue to struggle to predict where prospects will go to look for information. This unknown is causing marketers to do a bit of hair pulling. The idea of determining the right “marketing mix”’ feels a bit too much like a finger in the air strategy when trying to keep up with the vast array of possible touchpoints, along the customer journey.

Marketing and sales need to align their strategies and coordinate communications; both content and timing of message. In many organizations, the most apt descriptor for the relationship between marketing and sales is “frenemies”. Further, being in marketing is often like being an athletic trainer and never knowing if your athlete won the race. The marketing team has limited visibility into leads after they became “sales qualified” and are handed off to the sales team. This lack of insight prevents marketing decision-makers from testing campaign effectiveness or determining why something did or did not work.

Overcoming a Few (relationship) Obstacles

The relationship, at all levels, between sales and marketing is one of the most important relationships within any organization. This bond is personally critical to both the CMO and VP of Sales. The key point of friction is that marketers are focused campaigns and nurturing, while sales folks are focused on the deal and the only metric that matters is revenue. One team is looking at something built for the masses, while another is focused on an individual.

Sales and marketing processes are built with an eye on internal efficiency. However, sales processes need to be reshaped, and should also include an external focus towards the customer buying journey. This is most evident in how success is currently measured in many organizations; monthly and quarterly goals, such as: lead conversion, number of sales qualified leads and likelihood to close (by some artificial percentage).

The Path Forward

It is time to focus on positive customer outcomes and define organizational goals that support and even reshape marketing practices to drive effective customer engagement. This is about customers, not products, features or solutions. Work hard to balance pushing customers towards the next step and make sure you understand where they are in their buying journey. Once you understand where they are in the process, the right information can easily be shared. Context is a critical element within the buying journey. Customers need care and feeding – the right information, at the right time, on the right device.

We are no longer in the information age, we are in the age of customer centricity, customer focus and customer engagement. In order to succeed, the sales and marketing organizations need to match the selling process with the buyer’s journey. Yes, this is about customer acquisition and revenue generation, but it is also about lifetime value and establishing lasting company/customer relationships. Many factors have come together that extend marketing’s role much further into the selling process; even through the very end. Marketing is accountable for content creation, but they cannot do it alone, the sales team needs to come along for the ride! Marketeers and marketing leadership need to collaborate with sales folk and sales leadership to design and build a lead management process that makes sense to all players. Organizational alignment around the buyer journey is critical to success – hard stop.

After aligning goals and objectives within the team, the next logical step is to be do aligned on the processes required to support the customer journey. In the next post within the series, the focus will be on process improvement and efficiency.

Introduction

By 2020, customer experience will outweigh the importance of price and product. Are you investing enough in building relationship with a customer?

This is the first in a new blog series on the role of customer relationships and how Relationship Analytics can improve your key sales and business metrics.

Complex B2B Sales and Customer Relationship

There is a common notion that once you have developed a superior product or service with a strong value prop, you don’t need to invest a whole lot in the sales process. It’s the whole “good products sell themselves” fallacy. Top performing B2B sales leaders and reps don’t buy into this myth, they know very well that going into a deal and simply showcasing a badass demo or offering lower prices than the competition are not good enough to close. This is true especially for B2Bs with a complex sales model.

B2Bs win by building relationships. A relationship based sales approach is not easy, but it is what sets winning companies apart from competitors. In fact, a Gallup study shows that a typical B2B company has optimal relationship with just one in five of its customers. But those fully engaged customers deliver a 23% premium over average customers in share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth.

Let us look at sales scenarios where relationship building has far better returns than other commonly used sales approaches and tactics; or even worse, the absence of sales systems and process.

Often, sales reps rely on cold calling. But stats from various studies clearly suggest that this may not be effective use of the sales leader’s budget or the sales rep’s time. Consider that only 1% of cold calls result in meetings. Or that a staggering 90% of B2B decision makers don’t respond to cold sales outreach. 84% of B2B leaders start their individual buying journeys with referrals. Nearly 3 out of 4 business execs say that they prefer to work with sales professionals who were referred by someone they know.

These stats all mean that sales teams must evolve how they engage with prospects. On the flip side, buyers expect consistent engagement during their journey.

Relationships play a crucial role even with your existing customers. A concerted effort to build relationships improves the lifetime value of your customers – better subscription renewal rates, more referrals, customer advocacy and higher conversions in upsell or cross-sell scenarios.

CRM and Relationship Analytics

Now that we have reiterated the value of customer relationships, you may be asking, “isn’t my CRM meant to help me with relationship building? Especially, when the CRM acronym stands for Customer Relationship Management!” (A fair point).

As a sales leader, you know the effectiveness of a CRM system depends on the quality, accuracy and integrity of your prospect and customer data. At the same time, you want your sales members to focus on sales activities and spend minimal time on CRM data entry or CRM administrative tasks. As a result, CRM data can become incomplete from time-to-time.

Enter a Relationship Analytics solution. Imagine having a software app that will dig out the relationships between your employees in the entire organization and your customers. It doesn’t stop there. The software then automatically enters that relationship data and insights into the CRM system. We will share more details in the next post of the “Building Solid Relationships with Customers” blog series.

CRM is a foundation tool for sales. A Relationship Analytics solution will extend and enhance your core CRM system.

Summary

In this post, we talked about why you need to invest in building customer relationships and a sneak preview of Relationship Analytics. In the next post, we will share more details of an out-of-the-box Relationship Analytics solution for Sugar.