Engineering: leader della Digital Transformation

CRM - Customer Relationship Management

Five questions to...
Elisa Fontana

The senior consultant of our CRM & CX Consulting Service talks about how digitalisation is changing the relationship between companies and customers. Looking at the 2021 Observatory, she is also able to assess the health of CRM in Italy.

1.

AT A TIME WHEN DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IS MOVING AT A VERY FAST PACE AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES ARE EVOLVING MORE AND MORE RAPIDLY, WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CRM IN COMPANY INNOVATION?

While digital transformation in companies is certainly driven by the search for greater efficiency and innovation throughout the entire corporate ecosystem, the growing digitalisation of the customers themselves is an increasingly important driver. When dealing with brands, these customers expect high reaction speeds, personalised experiences, and omnichannel interactions.

CRM represents an essential technology to support digital developments in the customer/company relationship. On one hand, it allows companies to manage the customer journey, i.e. the customer's touchpoints with the brand, providing an understanding of the growing multi-channel and omnichannel system. On the other hand, it allows them to maintain all the business processes that relate to the customer base, understanding their experiences and level of satisfaction and generating information and knowledge of the market.

CRM is therefore a central part of digital innovation in terms of Marketing, Customer & Field Service, Sales, Post-Sales and e-Commerce processes, ensuring efficiency, automation, traceability, and monitoring of KPIs. In essence, it allows companies to manage their real assets and customer data.
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2.

ONE OF THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF CRM IS TO MANAGE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN COMPANIES AND CUSTOMERS (EXISTING AND POTENTIAL). TO MAXIMISE THE POTENTIAL OF CRM SOFTWARE, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO USE DATA CORRECTLY AND EFFICIENTLY? IS THERE SUCH A THING AS "DATA-DRIVEN CRM"?

Data is the fuel that powers CRM. Without data, a CRM system cannot get off the ground or guide companies through the customer journey. So yes, CRM is certainly data-driven, but it must be rooted in a data-driven corporate culture.

To get a 360° view of their customers, companies need to meet two conditions:
  1. the data must be entered, updated and enhanced by users; this condition should never be taken for granted, as, without the backing of a data culture, the company may fail to feed the CRM system with valuable information
  2. the company systems that collect information about the customers must be integrated with the CRM system, feeding it with a data set that is strategically important for both users with an operational role and management, allowing them to monitor the KPIs relating to processes and business performance.

The potential and value of CRM become clear when "the data begins to speak" and management "listens to it" to make objective, not subjective, decisions. These decisions are based on an analytics model that is predictive rather than descriptive.

Advanced Analytics and Artificial Intelligence technologies have, and will continue to have, a significant impact on brands' ability to control the quality of the Customer Experience. As Galileo Galilei said: "Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so". This challenge can be overcome through an advanced and intelligent use of data.

3.

THE DATA FROM THE NEW EDITION OF THE OBSERVATORY CRM, WHICH MONITORS THE EVOLUTION OF CRM IN ITALY EVERY YEAR, WILL BE RELEASED IN JANUARY. YOU LAUNCHED THE OBSERVATORY AND HAVE FOLLOWED THE EMERGING TRENDS FROM THE OUTSET. CAN YOU EXPLAIN SOME EARLY RESULTS FROM THE 2021 SURVEY AND DESCRIBE THE PICTURE THEY PAINT OF CRM?

First of all, this year saw a high level of participation from Italian managers: almost 400 companies have responded to the 2021 Observatory so far, and this has allowed us to obtain some very statistically significant insights. The convergence between CRM and innovative technologies that help enable the digital transformation of organisations is becoming increasingly evident, representing the focus of this year's research. 64% of companies have undertaken the digital transformation of the customer/company relationship, prioritising sales and marketing processes. The 3 main technologies that have been introduced to foster innovation and digitalisation in relational processes are CRM, e-commerce and marketing automation; however, there is also a marked interest in technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things) and artificial intelligence, which are the first two solutions that the panel of respondents is considering implementing.

Interestingly, although CRM is now a mature technology, its penetration is also increasing this year: almost 85% of companies use it or are in the process of implementing it. In fact, CRM has been established as a stable area of business within the corporate organisational structure. In the 2020 Observatory, for the first time, a greater maturity on the business side emerged; this year, the early data shows that things have continued along the same lines. CRM is still an unconsolidated area for over 30% of respondents, and corporate culture and adoption are identified as the two levers to improve its effectiveness.

I can't say much more at the moment because the results are not yet definitive. We will present them in February during the final event held by Engineering, partner of the Observatory since 2020, together with C-Direct Consulting, which has been carrying out the research since 2015.
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4.

WHAT ARE THE 3 FUNDAMENTAL STEPS TO ENSURE THAT A CRM PROJECT IS TRULY EFFECTIVE AND GENERATES VALUE FOR A COMPANY?

1. Defining a sound strategy; 2. Making suitable technological choices for the architecture of information systems and the operational needs of business processes; 3. Developing a change management plan. Based on our experience, these are the 3 essential steps to get a CRM project off the ground and obtain the expected value.

Upstream of technological developments and decisions, it is necessary to share the proposed strategy with the main stakeholders, defining the objectives and priorities, the project scope and roadmap, the relevant relational processes, as well as the organisational and cultural aspects that are required to foster the change that a new technology requires. To define a sound CRM strategy, you need skills, a broad vision, and leadership. Companies often lack the necessary skills, and therefore rely on expert CRM consultants to guide the organisation towards the most appropriate business and technological choices.

The second step is to choose the solution that is most aligned with the business, budget and IT needs. It is always preferable to choose a market solution and a reliable technological partner with extensive previous experience that encompasses complex projects. The most delicate part of this phase is the integration of the CRM system with the company's systems, allowing it to be fed with strategically and operationally relevant data for process management.

The third step is to establish a change management path to support the company employees who will use the system, facilitating its adoption. Essential elements here are the training of company staff and the identification of levers and messages to overcome obstacles to the adoption of CRM, sharing both operational and strategic benefits to secure its place as an everyday tool.

5.

IN THE NOT-SO-DISTANT FUTURE, THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY WILL BE A FAR MORE DIGITAL AND OMNICHANNEL CONCEPT: WHAT ROLE CAN AND MUST CRM PLAY IN THE DIGITALISATION THAT IS REVOLUTIONISING THE B2C WORLD?

CRM is one of today's most important technologies, serving as both a customer database and a process management platform to manage customer relationships and interactions, both B2C and B2B. However, the explosion of digital channels is highlighting the need to integrate CRM software with other platforms that allow brands to react quickly to changes in the customer journey.

Application solutions are therefore emerging that can be integrated with CRM to facilitate the digital transformation of the customer/company relationship. They can be used to provide an improved, increasingly integrated and personalised customer experience, as well as to leverage data analysis to monitor process efficiency and improve customer satisfaction by anticipating needs and behaviours.

Each business area has specific application solutions that can be integrated with the CRM system to expand its features and capabilities. However, great care must be taken to avoid creating ecosystems characterised by organisational silos (a common pitfall) or technological silos. Only a partner with strong interdisciplinary skills in both business and applications can guide companies towards an innovative and data-driven digital customer experience, allowing them to adapt quickly to changes in the customer journey.
Elisa Fontana

Elisa Fontana

Graduated in Economics and Commerce and with an MBA in IT and Telecommunications, Elisa has over 18 years of experience in the CRM and Customer Experience area gained both in international companies, with the role of CRM Manager, and in consulting for mediumlarge companies.

In Engineering, she follows strategic projects on the main technological platforms on the market.

Elisa is one of the authors of the Instant Paper "CRM".

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marketing@eng.it
Tel. (+39) 06-87591