This is the first blog in our CRM series with Ryan McGuire, a CRM/Analytics thought leader and expert (full bio below). Look out for his next post on The Future of CRM.
Customer service has historically been treated as a cost center, while marketing is a revenue generator. The two departments typically have little to do with each other in an organizational chart. However, the customer may engage with a brand through both customer service and marketing during their journey. It’s refreshing to see this flawed thinking slowly changing as companies start to realize that customer service and marketing are inextricably linked. A frustrating customer experience–for example, difficulty returning an item–can result in fewer future purchases, a poor review (possibly on several websites), unfavorable social media posts, and complaints to friends and family that turn other potential customers off from a brand. In contrast, a great service experience may encourage future purchases and turn the customer into a brand advocate in all the same areas. Marketers should take action based on an understanding of individual customer service interactions, just as customer service teams should be aware of specific marketing promotions and activities when dealing with a customer issue or inbound inquiry.
The disconnect between customer service and marketing on the org chart sometimes also carries over into technology stacks. The CRM system should ideally be the technological link between the two functions, but it often only makes the situation worse by reinforcing siloed thinking. Below are the main reasons why CRM is often a blocker of customer service and marketing unity and more refined treatment of the customer.
Incomplete View of the Customer Journey
Despite the first letter in CRM standing for “customer,” generally CRM systems have been designed around companies and their processes–NOT customers. Most marketing teams use CRM systems to drive segmentation and list building for their campaigns and to store customer attributes such as demographics. However, many of these campaigns are invisible to the rest of the organization. When a customer contacts a call center to get an issue resolved, typically, the agent will be able to see basic information about the person, like their transaction history, address, payment, etc. However, they don’t typically see any of the marketing communications the customer has received.
From the other side, let’s say a customer purchases an item as a result of a direct mail campaign, finds it unsatisfactory, and then writes a negative tweet about your brand on social media. Perhaps your customer service team’s social media coordinator will reach out to her, but will that information ever make its way into the CRM system where marketing will see it? Likely not. If it did, you could send her a promotional code and personal note with her next catalog to make up for her troubles with her first purchase. If the comment was positive, the marketing team could use that information to drive additional purchases, referrals, or complimentary reviews.
Although CRM provides the capability to do personalized, behavior-based marketing, almost no one is actually doing it yet because the dots between marketing and pre/post-purchase support are not connected. As a result, most companies are still just one step down from mass marketing via broad-based personas and segments, and many opportunities to meaningfully influence the customer journey are lost. Effectively, many of the capabilities of the expensive CRM platform are also rendered useless.
Lack of ROI and Lifetime Value Visibility
There is often a disconnect between what customers say and what they actually do. Yet many companies ask consumers one time how they prefer to be contacted, and they set it and forget it in the CRM. Rarely are those selections ever analyzed down the road to see which channels are actually more effective for reaching the consumer and sparking a conversion. A customer might have said they want to receive a brand’s catalog via mail, but never place a single order as a result. One look at their activity would show that promotional emails have been successful in converting them, meaning there is an opportunity to realize savings on expensive printing costs by focusing on email. If a company can understand the ROI of each communication, it can begin to prioritize marketing investments by individual.
Many marketing decisions are also made based on demographics or response to promotions without consideration of the burden the customer places on support. For example- a customer may place several large orders per month, so marketing marks them as a “platinum” member and lavishes them with perks. However, if marketers could see the support history on that same customer they might learn that she complains about and returns items almost as quickly as she receives them, placing an expensive burden on the call center that actually makes her a lower-value customer. Companies need to be armed with visibility into all points of the customer journey to understand what their needs are, as well as their lifetime value. Companies would then be able to provide exceptional, personalized service to high-value customers and perhaps spend a little less time on those lower-value customers that might unnecessarily take up valuable resources for both marketing and support.
While many newer technologies built with integrations in mind can play nicely with CRM systems, the same is not usually true of large, legacy enterprise systems like call center or ERP platforms. It can be a nightmare to bring those systems together because they were designed to stand alone. (Salesforce is one exception: the call center app within their service cloud was designed specifically to work with the main platform.) When using multiple systems, many times there is no “master customer record” so many attributes are called the same thing in different places and it can be hard to bring them all together for analysis.
Why doesn’t everyone just use the CRM system so integration is not necessary, and both marketing and customer support have the same view? That would be ideal, but most CRM systems today have not been designed for call center agents to use. And, if configuration is possible it is often rejected in the planning stages because of the necessary work and expense to get it done. Until a truly customer-centric platform is designed for this purpose, companies will continue struggling to connect the dots of the customer journey through technology.
Most brands are not utilizing their CRM systems to full capacity because of data challenges. The powerful combination of marketing and customer service data could lead to true personalization based on meaningful attributes like purchase patterns, preferences, support interactions, and post-purchase behaviors. Instead, marketers often end up defaulting to the lowest common denominator for customer communications because they are terrified to get personalization wrong. So you see a proliferation of first-level personalization, such as using a first name in an email salutation, or slightly more advanced product retargeting based on purchase history. However, without going beyond transactions you make errors like assuming someone is a baseball fan after they ordered a glove and bat for their nephew. If the marketing team had visibility into the fact that the customer checked “This order is a gift,” perhaps they could use that information to tailor future communications more effectively.
Despite the rapidly expanding capabilities of CRM systems, there are still many limitations in using them across the full customer journey. All interactions, from sales and marketing to support, need to be taken into account. In my next post for this series I’ll talk about where CRMs need to go and how the best business leaders will, in the future, address the challenges discussed here.
About Ryan McGuire
Ryan McGuire is a CRM/Analytics thought leader and expert who helps companies be more relevant to their customers by driving customer retention and loyalty. Ryan has held increasingly senior CRM and Analytics roles within global brands such as Carter’s | OshKosh, and Lenscrafters/Sunglass Hut, as well as with agencies such as 84.51 (formerly dunnhumbyUSA). During his tenure at these organizations he developed and drove customer engagement strategies, enabled topline sales growth, optimized CRM spend across channels, and maximized ROI on significant customer investments.