One day, around 3800 B.C. (about 6000 years ago), King X (see the trivia at the end of this article) of the Babylonians asked his advisors for an estimate number of people, livestock, and quantities of butter, honey, milk, wool and vegetables. The guy had a plan!
Fast forward several generations to the Roman empire, and the word ‘census’ appears, from the Latin word ‘censere’, which translates roughly to ‘estimate’.
In more recent times, the idea has been adopted at various levels. Salespeople are the ones to talk to about this. Their entire livelihood revolves around the people they know, the people they make contact with, and the people they sell their products or services to. And they’ve user various types of lists, to track all that. They held their lists close to their heart, as they realized the value of that information. But it’s been challenging from various perspectives.
Let’s look at an organization and their customers. You can relate that to the old Babylonian empire if you want. It’s the constituents that pay taxes, just represented by customers buying your products or services.
The value for the Organization
A mid-2018 study published by Forbes HERE shows that only 34% of organizations have the capability to present a holistic view of their customers. Ok, we’re roughly two years later, things might have slightly improved, but we’re still far from perfect.
What is the challenge you might wonder?
Data Residency is one of the biggest challenges. Organizations have data siloes in various places. The Marketing engine chugs along, generating Leads, based on a set of customer data. This could include existing and potential new customers. The Customer Service obviously has the data on their existing customers, however accurate that data is. Sales has and maintains their own set of data, with some overlap with both Marketing and Customer Service. But who’s got the master record, the most up to date information on the customer?
Things become more complicated with organizations made of subsidiaries, or working with vendors.
The value for the Salesperson
Imagine a scenario:
You’re a salesperson for XYZ Inc. You are on your way to your best customer, name it ABC, to meet with their Acquisitions Manager, a Mrs. Jane Smith. You’ve done business with them in the past, and they are a good customer. They buy in bulk, and pay on time. Great relationship there.
As you start your pitch to Jane, she abruptly stops you and states: yes, yes, we will need an additional 59 units of your product, but first we need the issues on the last batch we purchased resolved. We are really struggling here.
You have no visibility into what Customer Support does, you were not aware of the currently outstanding issues, and are totally unprepared to handle the situation and close the sale at this time.
While you’re managing your own customer data in a silo, afraid that anyone else could potentially “steal” your leads, you do not have a complete picture of the customer.
Furthermore, Mrs. Smith might come back and say: “You know, I just talked yesterday to your colleague, a Ben something, can’t remember, we bought all we needed through him.”
While you maintain your customer list in private, your customer ABC has ended-up on Ben something’s list and he closed the sale.
Wouldn’t it have been ideal for you to know all this before walking into an embarrassing situation?
The value for the Customer Support Agent
And since we’re looking at scenarios, look at this one:
Our gold customer, ABC, reports several issues with the DEF18 line of products they have acquired. We are engaging the technical team to try to identify the issue. There is a common pattern here, so it must be something wrong with our products, but the technical team is struggling to provide a solution.
On one of our discussion with the customer, Mr. Stein states that they want to take advantage of a promotion he received to upgrade all DEF18 units to DEF19 units. “With a history of issues on the DEF18 line, we wants to take advantage of the 40% discount” he sais. He asks for an RMA.
Discount? Promotion? What? Where is this coming from? Now I’ve got to go chase who knows who to figure out what Mr. Stein is talking about. And then, if this all turns out to be true, find someone in Sales to look at this opportunity. Argh, there goes my case resolution rate for the day, while I’ve got to chase all this.
The value for Marketing
Yet again another scenario:
The Marketing Manager comes to you and sais: I want to run a campaign to all existing customers using our DEF18 line of products. I know we had some issues with the quality, and we need to be proactive in trying to move these customers to the new and improved DEF19 line. We will offer them a promotional upgrade price for the month of December. The customers with reported issues will get a 40% discount, while all others will get 30%.
Now, does your marketing data has any information on who has bough what products? That’s typically in sales. Do you have information on issues reported and which customers reported the most issues? That’s in Service.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have all that?
All these scenarios, as basic as they are presented, are yet too common. They will present in slightly different manner, but they have one thing in common:
Siloes of data are not beneficial for anyone. A central data hub can help with all these aspects. Providing visibility into what’s going on across the entire organization with relation to a customer is essential.
The reality is oftentimes more challenging. Yes, obviously, centralizing data in a CRM system will help with some aspects, but it’s not the holy grail. There will always be multiple data hubs in your organization. Some of them are the customer data hub (your CRM), company data hub (employee information, but could they also be customers?), possibly a reference data hub, maybe another analytics hub structuring data in a slightly different manner for faster aggregation across large number of records, and others.
We’re looking at a two stepped approach:
1. Define and build your data hubs as needed by your organization
2. Integrate these data hubs for best value
But you’re not done here. If you’ve hit the nail on the head and you’ve created the perfect system, how long will this system remain perfect? As your business evolves, so should these systems.
This is a continuously iterative process, where you now can measure and optimize, make tweaks as needed, and try to predict the next big change.
Trivia questions: Who was the King X of Babylonians who ordered the first known census? Leave a comment with his name by replying below!
Let’s talk about the value of CRM for your organization!
And if you don’t have one in place yet, just pick a low cost option first and see the results for yourself. As your organization becomes more savvy and you start identifying the use cases where you need a set of functionality, then consider whether you continue with your initial choice or upgrade/migrate to a higher tier offering.
For that particular scenario, I have put together a set of low cost packages to start with. Contact me for more info!