It’s time we finally let marketing, sales and service work together

A close up of an elephant's eye.
James Frampton is SVP and general manager EMEA at SugarCRM.

It’s time we address the elephant in the room and finally let marketing, sales, and service work together. The industry has been talking about customer experience (CX) for over three decades, yet, and I’m sorry to report this, most of these teams are still working in silos, failing to share customer data in insights with each other and ultimately failing the customer themselves.

Putting the problem into perspective, SugarCRM’s recent research found that half of sales leaders admit that they cannot access customer data across marketing, sales, and service systems, leaving customer-facing team members without a clear picture of their customers.

This means their sales reps are only spending 54% of their time selling. This is having a knock-on effect with customer churn, with over half (56%) reporting their customer churn increased in the last 12 months and almost half (48%) not knowing why customers churned! Ultimately, this is costing mid-market companies an average of £3.9M per year each.

These findings should serve as a wake-up call for companies relying on the market-leading incumbents in CRM with software that is tuned to steady-state and known customer behaviours. In a world where technology was supposed to make the customer experience easier to manage, 53% of sales leaders are fatigued and frustrated with the CRM admin burden placed on their sales teams. These high-maintenance platforms constantly require manual feeding, which is only adding to the problem.

Removing the barriers

It’s time then, that we let the information silos fall, say goodbye to spreadsheet city and release the data out of hiding – for the good of the customer, the industry and the organisation. We need to create a world where companies cultivate customers for life by anticipating and fulfilling needs before customers realise they have them. We need to be more preventative and less reactive.

But, how can your CRM systems possibly predict the future when it doesn’t even know what your customer did last year? Innovative technologies such as AI have huge potential, but they cannot work miracles. They require good, up to date information in order to make accurate predictions. And with 83% of companies surveyed expecting to increase the use of AI technology to augment more of their existing CRM processes in the next 24 months, this investment could be entirely wasted if the data plugged into it is unclean.

By uniting customer data, and identifying and filling any gaps, whilst pairing it with the right technology, business leaders can improve retention, increase revenue, and gain more predictable business outcomes.

Looking to the future

But, with 48% of sales professionals out there believing their CRM systems are unfit for purpose, I appreciate that this is easier said than done. Especially as CRM systems are often deeply ingrained within a company’s wider systems and processes. With this in mind, here are three key focus points to improving systems and uniting marketing, sales and services for the ultimate goal of improving the customer experience and subsequently improving revenue:

1. No blind spots – There’s nothing worse for a customer than having to start over again each time they touch base with your organisation. Instead of being limited to piecemeal views of the customer, often siloed across the organisation, organisations need to be able to instantly see all the relevant information about their customer, including the past, present, and even future (with predictive insights), to create that long-term relationship. So many CRM systems are unable to look back on a customer’s history – it’s crazy. It’s time to take a sledgehammer to the walls that divide and hold data back. Remove those blind spots.

2. No busy work – You need to be able to automatically capture customer data and present it safely and securely in context to everyone who needs it. As I’ve previously mentioned, sales, marketing and customer services staff are having to manually enter endless customer details, which is taking them away from doing their jobs. It’s also opening you up to human error. It’s time we let technology do the heavy lifting, not the other way round.

3. No roadblocks – Each business is unique and so are your customer needs, so why let a generic solution get between them? Instead of settling for a standard ‘out of the box’ solution with all the standard limitations of not knowing how an individual business or even industry works, organisations need to mould a solution around their needs and workflows. Once upon a time, this would have been prohibitively costly, but not any more.

Only by having the right technology in place that unites marketing, sales and service, and letting it do the work rather than time-poor and frustrated staff, can organisations deliver the types of high definition experiences (HD-CX) customers are craving. The reward is great, and the risk of not doing so is even greater. It’s time to pull down those divides, end 30+ years of lip service and finally unite under the banner of customer experience once and for all.

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