The ‘new normal’ of customer relationships

March 09, 2021

That the corona pandemic has immensely accelerated digitization is a fact known in every nook and corner these days. Processes, working methods and approaches that were laughed off as visionary utopias of the future a year ago are now deeply anchored in our everyday lives and secure the continued existence of our economy. But the wheel of digital advancement does not stand still and keeps demanding further innovations. Because one thing is clear – the world the way we knew it before this insidious virus will never exist the same way again. Too deeply have the measures affected the firmly established processes and triggered a digitization tsunami, which has also brought positive aspects to light.

One area that presents companies with an extreme challenge during this crisis is that of customer relationships. Traditional, successful and intimate – and sorely missed after 12 months of isolation – is interpersonal contact. Oh, how we long for a plain meeting room, cup of coffee in hand and dry box cookies within reach, to discuss the small and large issues of the business world with our familiar counterparts. But mourning past times is of no help, so let’s look ahead and examine the versatile alternatives to personal contacts that are now showing us a new and perhaps more attractive and adapted customer relationship management.

A CRM system is the technological heart that supports a company’s interactions with its customers. If the function of one of the vital arteries is impaired, the entire organism can be restored with the help of a bypass. This means that bridges are being built in existing systems, i.e. additional connections that create further opportunities in new and existing structures. These cross-connections harness the advantages of established mechanisms and combine them with new lifelines. This means expanding existing relationships with customers to include new channels, and thereby maintaining a healthy and functional system. The new normal of customer experience becomes a maxim in the use of specialized areas along the customer journey. This sounds complicated, costly and resource-intensive at first, but is it really? Are there solutions that accompany or actively support this digital journey?

Advancing digitization is coupled with an increase in data volumes, and especially when dealing with prospects and customers this is extremely important. After all, intelligent analysis, also when combined with data from back-office systems, can generate information for an individualized approach that is specifically interesting for the addressee. Although this does not completely replace the exchange of information in a personal conversation, it does convey a far more comprehensive picture of the partner’s wishes, problems and requirements. This analytical part of a CRM system can be intensified even further by using artificial intelligence (AI). AI has the ability to automatically recognize future behavioral structures from vast amounts of data and consequently provide decision support for strategic goal definitions. The results lead to an individual and situation-specific approach throughout the entire customer journey. This increase in efficiency along the process chain translates into a reduction of acquisition costs, while at the same time intensifying the customer relationship and thus increasing sales in the long term.

For the support of existing customers, interlocking the back office systems in a way that is anchored in the operative CRM is of enormous advantage. The information the company has about the customer is comprehensive – from lead generation to services, the customer-specific tasks and business transactions in sales, marketing and service are supported. The central element is a holistic and consistent supply of information that integrates and synchronizes all customer touchpoints. Knowledge is power – this applies both to the customer relationship itself and, in a special way, to customer development. After all, information transparency promotes upselling, which is still the most beautiful form of sales work.

Looking beyond the horizon of a CRM that traditionally focuses on the customer-related areas of marketing, sales and service opens up additional opportunities for intensifying customer relationships. Collaborative CRM incorporates other company divisions as well as partners, suppliers and service providers into the processes, and thus sets new standards for optimized and comprehensive customer care along the entire value chain. Intelligent tools combined with innovative technologies network interactions across company boundaries in real time. Using different communication channels, the customer is provided with the desired and supplementary information immediately, which leads to a sustained increase in customer retention. These measures result in an optimization of process costs, media use and process speed – an aspect that in the area of customer relationship management is now more in demand than ever.

Customer relationship is vaulted into a higher dimension with digitization. The requirements have changed – no, better – have increased in scope and complexity. Technical solutions for dealing with these issues are available, however, for a company the difficulty lies in choosing the right one from the multitude of tools that meets the requirements of today as well as of tomorrow, as well as of the day after tomorrow. But this is not all: The pulse of the CRM system can be felt in all areas of the company, sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker. This means that detailed knowledge is required not only in the customer relationship, but in the extended fields of relationship management, so that ultimately, profitable processes and structures can be used effectively. The new normal of customer relationships is already more normal than new.

Author: Sabine Rudolf

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