How do you leverage your CRM?

When it comes to modern sales and marketing practices, there is always room for improvement. And starting with the CRM is always the best place to start, but it’s also the hardest. After all, keeping up with the upkeep and maintaining a clean CRM is anything but easy.

The first challenge usually falls somewhere between building good habits and building even better corporate culture. The human element in defining the processes and measurable aspects of CRM management can be trying; however, with a basis of measurable habits, sales and marketing can immediately improve. The best way to start: take the human element into consideration when building the processes and categories and make sure workflow isn’t complicated or oddly robotic.

If you can define processes, working with people and not against them, the battle is half over. Then, of course, there is the other half—the data itself. Aside from the dumping ground that can represent many CRMs out there, the greater question to ask is what does the data represent for the company and, more importantly, for the customer or potential customer?

As we cross the gap into what is now considered modern customer engagement, having well defined and clean customer data is the lifeblood of the modern company—especially as it pertains to retail. And, like any vertical market, retail is just as susceptible to data challenges.

Where we see this most is in customer / prospect data, also known as single-user-profile data as it relates to shopper credentials and persona information. The new gold standard for all retailers is to have a single view of the customer as a single person, and not multiple variations of that person as data records housed in the CRM.

For instance, as shoppers we have all been there. We use a particular version of our name for our in-store rewards cards and programs: first initial only, or maybe middle name. Then we use a gmail address to sign up for the retailer’s mobile app, then perhaps we use Facebook to login into the e-commerce site, too much for too little.

This scenario creates two distinct challenges: for the retailer—though it may all be the same person in “real life”—that customer represents three people in the CRM due to the disparate data used in each instance; and for the customer, there is no real way to personalize offers and experiences due to the lack of consistency through different channels.

So, how does it get fixed? The concept is this: connect simply. By implementing an engagement strategy that enables customers and potential customers to be recognized across any and all platforms and channels—online, in-app, and in-store—the data becomes a true single-user-profile. When done properly, the online and in-app digital channels become seamless as they pertain to login credentials, and therefore becoming even more seamless in being able to indicate customer preferences, and more.

Then, of course, there is the in-store aspect. If the person’s mobile and online presence is the same, the in-store experience can leverage those channels to create the same highly personalized experience in-store, and vice versa. When all purchases are captured across all three channels, and all three speak to one another as one comprehensive data source, in-store staff can easily implement clienteling and concierge-like interactions, creating a personalized experience for the customer. And, simultaneously, that experience can then extend back to online and in-app after the customer leaves the store to continue the relationship in that highly personalized manner.

By implementing the single-user-profile approach, it comes full circle back to the beginning of good habits and good corporate culture. When clean and usable data is easily created by the customer, creating that same data is simple for the company’s team members as they know the scope and intent of the data to be used and how it should be inputted and managed.

In all, the new world of customer engagement is here. And I have no doubt that retailers are ready to embrace the change. The greater question becomes: Is your CRM ready? Are you willing to make it ready?