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Elevate Customer Relationship Management with These Smart CX Strategies

Customer Relationship Management
Photo credit: Valerii Apetroaiei - stock.adobe.com

In an age of fierce competition and increasingly tight margins, the quality of your customer relationships is the ultimate differentiator.  

When many other companies sell the same products and services as you — and at similar price points, no less — the only way to stay ahead is to compete on customer experience and forge strong connections with your clients or shoppers.  

This reason alone is why small businesses need to invest in robust customer relationship management (CRM) initiatives and tools. The right strategies and systems will enable you to engage your customers effectively, win new business and cultivate long-term loyalty.  

But First, Recognize CX is a Company-Wide Responsibility 

A cutting-edge CRM tool alone won’t bolster your customer relationships. Before investing in technology, ensure you have a solid foundation to launch your customer experience (CX) and loyalty initiatives.  

The first step to doing that is to recognize that CX is the responsibility of your entire organization — and all team members.  

“The biggest challenge [in CX today] is that leaders of companies don’t recognize that every single employee is involved in the customer experience at some level,” said customer service speaker and author Shep Hyken.  “It’s a company-wide thing that’s part of the culture,”  

Hyken shared that businesses should map the customer journey and determine how various teams come into play. Be sure to look at your organization as a whole and empower all employees to adopt a CX mindset, even if they don’t have customer-facing roles. After all, teams working in the backend (e.g., billing or invoicing) can tremendously impact the customer experience despite not engaging with buyers directly. 

“Everybody’s involved,” Hyken said. “Show them what their responsibility is and how it impacts the customer experience.” 

Experience Your Brand Firsthand 

Another effective way to map the customer journey and identify areas of friction is to have firsthand experiences with your brand.  

“We have to take a step back and realize that from where we sit as business owners, the viewpoint is exactly the opposite from the viewpoint of our customers,” said CX expert and author Dan Gingiss.  

As such, you must “become a customer of your own business.” 

What does this look like in practice? That depends. If you have a physical storefront, this could involve walking around your shop and evaluating the layout, cleanliness and overall ambiance. If you’re an online business, go through your website. How fast does it load? How easy is it to do things like recover a lost password? 

Taking these steps,  helps you uncover subtleties that significantly impact your customers’ experience, according to Gingiss. 

“My viewpoint on customer experience is that it’s a series of little things, and it’s an endless series, so you have to enjoy the journey,” he added. “If we look at the little things, we’ll find that they really add up to big things over time.” 

Mapping the customer journey and understanding their experiences will give you a strong foundation for improvement. Once you know these things, you can pinpoint the tools and solutions you need to create the ideal customer experience. 

Choose a CRM That Covers Most (if Not All) of Your Needs 

Already have a clear understanding of the customer journey? The next step is to equip your business with tools to help you successfully implement your CX strategy. 

This is where your CRM comes in. 

Now, the “right” CRM for your business depends on your needs. As Hyken pointed out, “Companies have different reasons and ways of operating, and CRMs can do different things.” 

For instance, some businesses may prioritize lead gen, while others focus on enhancing post-purchase support. As such, their CRM needs will vary considerably. But no matter what type of business you have, Hyken recommends choosing a CRM with most — if not all — of your CX needs in one platform. “Find the solution that offers you a way to minimize multiple programs,” he explained. 

Rather than having a CRM just for tracking customers and another one for support tickets, aim to have one platform for everything. If this isn’t possible, choose programs and solutions that easily integrate so you can connect your systems together.  

Select a CRM with the Right Data Capabilities 

Annette Franz, Founder and CEO at CX Journey, said it best: “Data is at the heart of designing and delivering a great customer experience, and technology facilitates and supports the experience customers expect.” 

Beyond features and integrations, ensure that your CRM can surface the information you need to serve your customers better. This doesn’t necessarily mean choosing the solution that can collect the most data. Instead, it’s about finding a CRM that can deliver the information and insights that matter most, so you’re not collecting data just for the sake of it.  

“One of the things companies make a mistake of is they collect more data than they could ever possibly use,” Gingiss said.  “The frustrating part from a customer perspective is when we know a company has the data, but they don’t use it.” 

Before adopting a CRM solution, ensure you have a clear data strategy in place. What information do you need to collect, and how will you use it to improve the customer experience?  

“When you can answer those questions, you can find the right technology for your business,” Gingiss explalined. “Maybe you do need a thousand data points on each one of your customers for your business to work well. If that’s the case, then you’ll need a very different solution than if all you need is their birthday.” 

Choose a CRM That Works Across Channels 

Modern consumers connect with brands on various platforms, and businesses must keep pace by engaging with customers on multiple touch points.  

Simply put, having an omnichannel CX strategy is a must. 

“The omnichannel approach is becoming the norm rather than the exception,” said Jobin John, business head at the digital marketing agency Egochi. “Businesses now understand that customers interact through multiple channels, and their CRM strategies need to be consistent across all of them.” 

In other words, you need the ability to meet your customers where they are. Do you interact with them in-store? What about online and mobile? Whatever the case, see that their experience remains consistent across all channels.  

The right CRM solution can, of course, help you do this. Prioritize platforms that have multi-channel capabilities, such as email and SMS marketing, in-store clienteling features and seamless social media integration. 

Cultivate Great Customer Relationships 

We’ve all heard the saying that relationships take work, and the ones you have with your customers are no exception. A successful CX strategy takes ongoing effort. You need to nurture your customer relationships and consistently convey your value. 

This is easily doable with the right CRM system. Several platforms have built-in (or integrated) customer communication tools and automations that allow you to touch base and connect with customers depending on where they are in their journey.  

You can set up automations like: 

  • Welcome messages for new customers 
  • Customer appreciation messages that you send to your VIPs 
  • Re-engagement campaigns for those who haven’t purchased from you in a while 
  • Birthday messages celebrating each customer’s special day  
  • Milestone reminders, such as the anniversary of their first purchase  
  • Feedback requests that help you improve your products and services based on customer input 

The right CRM combined with these thoughtful automations will enable you to stay top of mind and foster lasting customer relationships. 

When it Comes to Personalization, Balance Technology and the Human Touch 

Personalization is essential to any strong CX strategy. After all, there’s nothing like genuine and personalized touches that make customers feel seen, understood and valued. 

As a small business, you actually have a leg up here, according to Gingiss.  

“One of the nice things about small businesses is that you don’t have a million clients,” Gingiss explained. “You can get to know each one of them on an individual level. Are they married? Do they have kids? What are they interested in? All of these are things we can know about our customers and then do something with.” 

Of course, as you scale, individual personalization may not be feasible. In this case, Gingiss recommends finding strategic ways to infuse personal touches. For example, you may not be able to write a personalized note for every order, but you could choose to do it for just a handful of customers.  

You can also use technology to streamline your personalization efforts. According to Jenny Thompson, Senior Director of Product at Intuit Mailchimp, AI can be particularly handy in this area.  

“For small businesses that wear many hats and have smaller budgets to dedicate to marketing, it’s critical to invest in a platform that allows them to create personalized content (no matter the size of their audience), gives them access to automation and AI tools and can reach customers across different channels,” Thompson explained. She cited a Forrester survey conducted on behalf of Mailchimp, which found that nearly 90% marketers recognize that they need AI to be competitive. However, just 50% of respondents know how.  

“This means AI can’t just be an afterthought — nor can it be just an add-on, which requires marketers to create yet another login and learn yet another platform,” said Thompson. “Marketing platforms with built-in AI tools help SMBs deliver more relevant content faster so that marketers don’t need to generate text via an external tool and drag and drop the copy into their email.” 

Bringing it all Together 

CRM is more than just a tool. It serves as the backbone of your customer engagement and relationship-building efforts. That’s why finding the right solution — and optimizing it for your business — is so important.  

By following the tips and expert advice provided by these CX experts, you can bolster your CRM and drive business results.

Elevate Customer Relationship Management with These Smart CX Strategies

by | Oct 18, 2023

Customer Relationship Management

In an age of fierce competition and increasingly tight margins, the quality of your customer relationships is the ultimate differentiator.  

When many other companies sell the same products and services as you — and at similar price points, no less — the only way to stay ahead is to compete on customer experience and forge strong connections with your clients or shoppers.  

This reason alone is why small businesses need to invest in robust customer relationship management (CRM) initiatives and tools. The right strategies and systems will enable you to engage your customers effectively, win new business and cultivate long-term loyalty.  

But First, Recognize CX is a Company-Wide Responsibility 

A cutting-edge CRM tool alone won’t bolster your customer relationships. Before investing in technology, ensure you have a solid foundation to launch your customer experience (CX) and loyalty initiatives.  

The first step to doing that is to recognize that CX is the responsibility of your entire organization — and all team members.  

“The biggest challenge [in CX today] is that leaders of companies don’t recognize that every single employee is involved in the customer experience at some level,” said customer service speaker and author Shep Hyken.  “It’s a company-wide thing that’s part of the culture,”  

Hyken shared that businesses should map the customer journey and determine how various teams come into play. Be sure to look at your organization as a whole and empower all employees to adopt a CX mindset, even if they don’t have customer-facing roles. After all, teams working in the backend (e.g., billing or invoicing) can tremendously impact the customer experience despite not engaging with buyers directly. 

“Everybody’s involved,” Hyken said. “Show them what their responsibility is and how it impacts the customer experience.” 

Experience Your Brand Firsthand 

Another effective way to map the customer journey and identify areas of friction is to have firsthand experiences with your brand.  

“We have to take a step back and realize that from where we sit as business owners, the viewpoint is exactly the opposite from the viewpoint of our customers,” said CX expert and author Dan Gingiss.  

As such, you must “become a customer of your own business.” 

What does this look like in practice? That depends. If you have a physical storefront, this could involve walking around your shop and evaluating the layout, cleanliness and overall ambiance. If you’re an online business, go through your website. How fast does it load? How easy is it to do things like recover a lost password? 

Taking these steps,  helps you uncover subtleties that significantly impact your customers’ experience, according to Gingiss. 

“My viewpoint on customer experience is that it’s a series of little things, and it’s an endless series, so you have to enjoy the journey,” he added. “If we look at the little things, we’ll find that they really add up to big things over time.” 

Mapping the customer journey and understanding their experiences will give you a strong foundation for improvement. Once you know these things, you can pinpoint the tools and solutions you need to create the ideal customer experience. 

Choose a CRM That Covers Most (if Not All) of Your Needs 

Already have a clear understanding of the customer journey? The next step is to equip your business with tools to help you successfully implement your CX strategy. 

This is where your CRM comes in. 

Now, the “right” CRM for your business depends on your needs. As Hyken pointed out, “Companies have different reasons and ways of operating, and CRMs can do different things.” 

For instance, some businesses may prioritize lead gen, while others focus on enhancing post-purchase support. As such, their CRM needs will vary considerably. But no matter what type of business you have, Hyken recommends choosing a CRM with most — if not all — of your CX needs in one platform. “Find the solution that offers you a way to minimize multiple programs,” he explained. 

Rather than having a CRM just for tracking customers and another one for support tickets, aim to have one platform for everything. If this isn’t possible, choose programs and solutions that easily integrate so you can connect your systems together.  

Select a CRM with the Right Data Capabilities 

Annette Franz, Founder and CEO at CX Journey, said it best: “Data is at the heart of designing and delivering a great customer experience, and technology facilitates and supports the experience customers expect.” 

Beyond features and integrations, ensure that your CRM can surface the information you need to serve your customers better. This doesn’t necessarily mean choosing the solution that can collect the most data. Instead, it’s about finding a CRM that can deliver the information and insights that matter most, so you’re not collecting data just for the sake of it.  

“One of the things companies make a mistake of is they collect more data than they could ever possibly use,” Gingiss said.  “The frustrating part from a customer perspective is when we know a company has the data, but they don’t use it.” 

Before adopting a CRM solution, ensure you have a clear data strategy in place. What information do you need to collect, and how will you use it to improve the customer experience?  

“When you can answer those questions, you can find the right technology for your business,” Gingiss explalined. “Maybe you do need a thousand data points on each one of your customers for your business to work well. If that’s the case, then you’ll need a very different solution than if all you need is their birthday.” 

Choose a CRM That Works Across Channels 

Modern consumers connect with brands on various platforms, and businesses must keep pace by engaging with customers on multiple touch points.  

Simply put, having an omnichannel CX strategy is a must. 

“The omnichannel approach is becoming the norm rather than the exception,” said Jobin John, business head at the digital marketing agency Egochi. “Businesses now understand that customers interact through multiple channels, and their CRM strategies need to be consistent across all of them.” 

In other words, you need the ability to meet your customers where they are. Do you interact with them in-store? What about online and mobile? Whatever the case, see that their experience remains consistent across all channels.  

The right CRM solution can, of course, help you do this. Prioritize platforms that have multi-channel capabilities, such as email and SMS marketing, in-store clienteling features and seamless social media integration. 

Cultivate Great Customer Relationships 

We’ve all heard the saying that relationships take work, and the ones you have with your customers are no exception. A successful CX strategy takes ongoing effort. You need to nurture your customer relationships and consistently convey your value. 

This is easily doable with the right CRM system. Several platforms have built-in (or integrated) customer communication tools and automations that allow you to touch base and connect with customers depending on where they are in their journey.  

You can set up automations like: 

  • Welcome messages for new customers 
  • Customer appreciation messages that you send to your VIPs 
  • Re-engagement campaigns for those who haven’t purchased from you in a while 
  • Birthday messages celebrating each customer’s special day  
  • Milestone reminders, such as the anniversary of their first purchase  
  • Feedback requests that help you improve your products and services based on customer input 

The right CRM combined with these thoughtful automations will enable you to stay top of mind and foster lasting customer relationships. 

When it Comes to Personalization, Balance Technology and the Human Touch 

Personalization is essential to any strong CX strategy. After all, there’s nothing like genuine and personalized touches that make customers feel seen, understood and valued. 

As a small business, you actually have a leg up here, according to Gingiss.  

“One of the nice things about small businesses is that you don’t have a million clients,” Gingiss explained. “You can get to know each one of them on an individual level. Are they married? Do they have kids? What are they interested in? All of these are things we can know about our customers and then do something with.” 

Of course, as you scale, individual personalization may not be feasible. In this case, Gingiss recommends finding strategic ways to infuse personal touches. For example, you may not be able to write a personalized note for every order, but you could choose to do it for just a handful of customers.  

You can also use technology to streamline your personalization efforts. According to Jenny Thompson, Senior Director of Product at Intuit Mailchimp, AI can be particularly handy in this area.  

“For small businesses that wear many hats and have smaller budgets to dedicate to marketing, it’s critical to invest in a platform that allows them to create personalized content (no matter the size of their audience), gives them access to automation and AI tools and can reach customers across different channels,” Thompson explained. She cited a Forrester survey conducted on behalf of Mailchimp, which found that nearly 90% marketers recognize that they need AI to be competitive. However, just 50% of respondents know how.  

“This means AI can’t just be an afterthought — nor can it be just an add-on, which requires marketers to create yet another login and learn yet another platform,” said Thompson. “Marketing platforms with built-in AI tools help SMBs deliver more relevant content faster so that marketers don’t need to generate text via an external tool and drag and drop the copy into their email.” 

Bringing it all Together 

CRM is more than just a tool. It serves as the backbone of your customer engagement and relationship-building efforts. That’s why finding the right solution — and optimizing it for your business — is so important.  

By following the tips and expert advice provided by these CX experts, you can bolster your CRM and drive business results.