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You don’t need magic to anticipate your customers’ needs, just the right tech

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By James Frampton, Senior Vice President and General Manager EMEA, SugarCRM

Knowing what your customers need before they do. Isn’t that the holy grail for almost, if not every, business leader? Arthur C. Clarke famously said that “magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet.” but when it comes to anticipating and fulfilling customer needs before they even realise they have them, we don’t need magic, or even science, we just need the right technology.

The ultimate goal is to create a world where companies cultivate customers for life by anticipating and fulfilling needs before these customers realise they have them. In the end, we want more preventative action and less corrective action. But how can businesses predict the future when the majority of their CRM systems don’t even know what their customer did last year?

For many people, the boundary between customer experience (CX) and CRM is blurry. It’s understandable, since both deal with how customers interact with a business and make sure they are satisfied. However, there are some important differences between the two.

CRM is the set of marketing, sales, and customer service processes and technologies used to understand your customers. CRM systems help automate customer-facing processes, track customer interactions, and provide a comprehensive record of customer information and status.

CX is an outcome and the result of a company’s efforts to engage with its customers. Customer experience is the sum total of all interactions a customer has with a company and its services. CX can be good or bad. CRM has a profound effect on customers’ perceptions of their experiences with a company.

Poor CRM’s damage to the customer experience

Unfortunately, 48% of sales professionals believe that their CRM systems are unfit for purpose, while customer churn is costing mid-market companies an average of £3.9M per year each, SugarCRM’s recent CRM and Sales Impact Report found.

One of the fundamental reasons for this is an admin burden placed on sales teams, which is taking them away from customer-facing activities. Sugar’s research found that 50% 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.

In fact, sales reps are only spending 54% of their time selling, which has led to over half (56%) reported their customer churn increased in the last 12 months, with 57% of respondents having trouble predicting when customers would churn and almost half (48%) not knowing why customers churned.

This admin burden, combined with a gap in customer data and poor technology is costing millions of pounds in churn and is preventing business leaders from acquiring the intelligence they need to make both vital strategic and tactical decisions. Companies need to close these data gaps to improve retention, increase revenue, and gain more predictable business outcomes.

Finding a better path

CRM systems are often deeply ingrained within a company’s wider systems and processes, so knowing where to start can be difficult. After all, if it was such an easy fix, there wouldn’t be 48% of sales professionals out there believing their systems are unfit for purpose.

Finding a better path involves building a more rounded view of the customer, reducing manual work and creating a more tailored solution that works for your individual organisation. With this in mind, here are three key considerations to help you interrogate and improve your systems and ultimately your customer’s experience:

  1. No blind spots – Instead of being limited to piecemeal views of the customer, often siloed across the organisation, you need to be able to instantly see all the relevant information about your customer, including the past, present, and even future (with predictive insights). There’s nothing worse for a customer than having to start over again each time they touch base with your organisation. From a business point of view, you want to see the full picture of that person, to create that long-term relationship. So many CRM systems are unable to look back on a customer’s history – it’s crazy. Look at how you can take a sledgehammer to the walls that divide and hold your data back. Remove those blind spots.
  2. No busy work – 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. You need to be able to automatically capture data and present it in context to everyone who needs it.
  3. No roadblocks – Instead of settling for a standard ‘out of the box’ solution with all the standard limitations of not knowing how your business or even your industry works, you need to build a solution around your needs and workflows. Once upon a time, this would have been prohibitively costly, but not any more. Your business is unique and so are your customer needs, so why let a generic solution get between you?

Organisations need a clear and unified view of the customer to squash the status quo, make the hard things easier and deliver a high definition customer experience (HD-CX). Advanced technology such as Artificial Intelligence is now making accurate predictions on the future wants, needs and behaviours of customers, but only if the right foundations are there. AI cannot work miracles and feeding it poor, piecemeal or out of date data will yield similarly imprecise results. Only by having the right technology in place, and letting it do the work, can we really understand and deliver what customers want before they do. It’s not magic or science, it’s just common sense.

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