In today’s challenging economy and ultra-competitive marketplace, businesses simply can’t afford customer churn; retention, engagement and overall experience are more important than ever. That’s why business leaders are increasingly adopting and integrating the latest customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise feedback management (EFM) applications to achieve a more thorough understanding of their customer base. While CRM tells the business executive “what” customers have done, EFM uncovers “why” customers act a certain way.
Readers of CRM Buyer likely have a full understanding of the value CRM software provides in gathering and organizing customer data, including purchasing history, preferences and other trends. But what may not be as widely understood today is the complimentary role EFM can play. The powerful combination of CRM and EFM helps identify the business operations responsible for creating the highest levels of customer satisfaction and generating the greatest revenue. Additionally, EFM applications can be a critical early warning system, alerting you to any situation in which a customer is less than happy, providing valuable time to remedy the situation and save the customer relationship.
EFM applications trace their roots back to paper surveys, which evolved to diskette-based survey delivery and finally to online, Internet-based survey software. This evolution was driven by the shortcomings of the ad-hoc, one-off manner in which organizations historically used surveys. Too often, one division inside a company would be ignorant of the survey efforts being undertaken by another division. The result was an over-sampling of customers; the creation of silos of information, with various departments unaware of the existence of valuable customer data in the possession of other departments; an inability to correlate employee performance with customer satisfaction; and the total lack of integration between survey data and other business application data, such as that delivered by CRM software.
The good news is that, increasingly, customer-centric organizations are recognizing the shortcomings of this segregated approach. These organizations are implementing EFM applications and integrating those with CRM software, consolidating customer account data with survey data in a central repository accessible by appropriate users from across the enterprise, creating a more in-depth, 360 degree view of the customer than was ever possible before.
Picking Customers’ Brains
For example, it’s well known that the telecommunications marketplace is an ultra-competitive one, with service providers investing billions of dollars to create the most technologically advanced infrastructure for tens of millions of subscribers. With such massive investments on the line, and customer loyalty a critical concern, many providers have implemented and integrated EFM software. EFM plays a pivotal role throughout the service delivery chain by allowing the provider to understand the customer mindset at every touch point: sales, marketing, support and administration. Capturing actionable insight whenever the customer is touched fuels smarter marketing decisions, more informed product development and continual process improvements.
As EFM is a relatively new application category, it’s important to identify attributes of the optimum software offerings. First of all, the right EFM platform will make it easy to get started, providing survey templates, question/answer libraries, pre-populated customer information (from the CRM software) and more. Following survey creation, the software should allow the user to schedule and automatically send out survey invitations as well as reminders to survey participants, maximizing responses without requiring additional time and effort. The better EFM software will allow for the creation of event triggers, automatically sending a customer survey whenever a pre-defined criterion is met. For example, a survey can be ‘triggered’ and deployed automatically by a customer’s interaction with the help desk, or any other part of the business for that matter.
Advanced EFM applications will provide role-based licensing, with user roles defining varying levels of access to survey development, deployment and data analysis. Better EFM applications should also include sophisticated data analysis and reporting, delivering information in whatever format is most valuable to the end user. All application functionality should be simple to use, with full power available by simply pointing and clicking a mouse. And, of course, the right solution provider will offer a library of application programming interfaces (APIs) for straightforward integration into existing business systems, such as CRM platforms.
EFM solution providers generally offer their software as either an installed application or Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Both deployment options have their advantages. The hosted model offers a lower total cost of ownership, requiring minimal IT resources and no additional hardware at the customer site; while the installed option provides complete in-house control of the application and data.
To recap, the effective integration of CRM and EFM will allow a business to make better strategic and tactical decisions, strengthen customer loyalty, constantly improve business processes and identify business trends earlier.
Customer-centric organizations are better equipped than ever as software providers offer applications that make it possible to understand customers more thoroughly than ever before. If done properly, CRM and EFM give the right people the right access to the right information, enabling greater levels of customer satisfaction than ever.
James Martin is chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Inquisite with over 27 years of experience in software, sales and finance. Jim manages investor relations and assists in corporate strategy and business development.