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With a black swan event changing the face of business, and indeed our daily lives, almost overnight, there’s a lot that’s been out of business leaders’ hands over the last twelve months. During times of uncertainty, it’s important to double down on the areas you can control and ensure your customer service and experience is as refined as possible. Many industries have seen their growth curtailed, and with that, customer retention becomes critical to survival. Companies with a leaky bucket and no pipeline will quickly fold.  Written By James Frampton, SVP and General Manager EMEA at SugarCRM

Experience sits at the heart of loyalty, underpinned by technology and the proper use of customer data. Customers need to be met with empathy, where they are, and with the exact services and products that they want. The pandemic has accelerated many technologies and CX trends, including the continued rise of self-service and increasing digital transformation, as more of our economy has been forced online.

However, many businesses weren’t ready for this shift and didn’t have the systems or technology in place to deal with the increased importance placed on the customer journey. In fact, in SugarCRM’s recent CRM and Sales Impact Report, nearly half (48%) of sales professionals stated the CRM technology they have in place is unfit for purpose, inevitably leading to crucial loss of customer data, a distorted customer journey, and critically, lost revenue.

Technology First

The effect technology has on customer experience is hard to ignore – in a world driven by convenience and speed, technology plays a pivotal role in ensuring consumers can access products or services, quickly and easily. However, if these systems aren’t fit for purpose, consumers will go elsewhere. 58% of those surveyed stated their CX technology systems are costing them revenue, which in the current climate is simply staggering.

Businesses are now facing a ‘customer relationship crisis’, held back and let down by sub-standard systems. CX and CRM technology is fundamental to business success, providing the foundations for companies to not just survive, but thrive, and when used effectively can ultimately drive engagement and deliver a customer journey that nurtures brand loyalty. Yet, many businesses are selling themselves short, by either not equipping themselves with sufficient data about their customers, or their journey, or not utilising this data properly.

Businesses must provide a service that drives confidence, and inspires customers to return, and reliable systems are central to that. To flourish, salespeople need to be equipped with the tools to work effectively, yet 53% of sales leaders are fatigued and frustrated with the CRM admin burden placed on their sales teams, which is taking them away from customer-facing activities. In fact, the research found that sales reps are only spending 54% of their time selling. These findings are incredibly worrying and place an even greater burden on businesses trying to remain competitive.

Bridging the data gap

We live in a world where data is king. Everything we do is driven and affected by it, yet businesses are still allowing key gaps in their data to affect their processes and delivery of a great customer experience. This issue is with both the CRM system itself and the quality of data contained within. 43% of professionals claim that their CX technology is too complex, unintuitive, and not user-friendly, damaging the quality of customer experience. This is compounded by the fact that a third of respondents indicate frustration over critical customer data that is incomplete, incorrect, or inaccurate.

To stay competitive and drive improvement and change, businesses must look to consolidate their processes across all sales touch-points. Nearly three quarters (74%) of business leaders recognise this need to consolidate information as a key driver to success, offering a holistic view of customer data across the entire organisation. However, there is still progress to be made, as half (50%) of those surveyed state they are unable to access the same view of customer data across marketing, sales, and service, leaving front line staff with an inaccurate view of customers. It is this lack of consolidation and holistic approach which allows customers to fall through the cracks.

By ensuring systems are married up and incorporating a complete historical record of every change event in the customer journey, organisations can create a high-definition customer experience (HD-CX) that not only allows them to track but crucially, provide their customer with a seamless journey. By unlocking this potential, businesses can have a direct impact on their customer lifeline value, allow them to identify and eliminate churn, positively impact their sales and all-important bottom line.

Everything is different now and the increased pressure placed on the customer experience is just one-way businesses are having to learn to adapt to our changing world. The pandemic has brought about many societal shifts and customer expectations are just one area that has been significantly affected. Now, more than ever, businesses cannot afford to stand still. As history has proven time again, it’s those that adapt which will survive. Those that fail to connect with their customers will no.

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