Building personalized conversations at scale with customers is a tricky business. You need a rich ecosystem, accurate data, and the right mindset. On top of that, you should get familiar with your customers personally: what works for them, what doesn’t, and how they prefer to communicate.
These are the challenges that Manuel Breschi, a man who treats Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as an exact science and subjective art, is on a mission to tackle. He has spent his entire career trying to find the most effective ways of connecting with customers. And he’s not going to stop any time soon.
- CRM technology through the ages
- How new players reinvented the game?
- The importance of the consumer lifecycle
- The omnichannel era: customer communications in 2021
- 3 tips to providing customer-centered conversations
- Listen and learn
- How Typeform is reinventing customer communications?
- Lessons learned
- Who is Manuel Breschi?
CRM technology through the ages
In the beginning, CRM technology consisted of bespoke, custom-built applications, processes, and excel files. It was a bit of a mess.
Thomas Siebel, an American businessman, technologist, and author realized that in most cases, every organization had the same building blocks (marketing, sales, support, etc.) while facing fundamentally similar challenges. He was aware that different industries and companies had various processes, but the fundamental challenges were the same.
As an executive at Oracle, Siebel proposed the idea of creating enterprise software applications tailored for marketing, sales, and customer service functions, but the Oracle management declined his proposal. However, he created the first generation of CRM platforms and started his own company – Siebel Systems. He clearly did something right. After all, the man’s a billionaire.
How new players reinvented the game
Salesforce came along and you could move everything over to the cloud. This enables you to get closer to the web and the world of consumers at the same time. The data model and functionality remained the same but moved to the cloud making it easier to roll out and scale.
In 2009, McKinsey changed the discussion by putting the emphasis on the post-purchase experience to drive loyalty. They started looking at consumer moments and lifecycle stages.
The generation of platforms coming out is going in the right direction. Companies like Segment, mParticle and Braze focus their entire operating model on structuring and building automated communications processes around the customer’s behavior in real-time. That’s huge.
However, in B2B SaaS, even if you listen to your customers, your customers are traditional enterprises working with older models. There is a real gap there. B2B SaaS businesses are too focused on the users instead of the people experiencing the service. The focus in these companies is too much around the business and traditional business processes.
The importance of the consumer lifecycle
In 2009, McKinsey made the next great leap forward with its consumer decision journey framework to list out how, why and when consumers make vital decisions during their lifecycle.
This was revolutionary—it changed the rules of the discussions by emphasizing the post-purchase experience to drive long-term loyalty instead of merely attracting one-time, one-off purchases.
It basically opened the door for the rapid explosion of data-centricity that we’ve experienced in the years since.
The omnichannel era: customer communications in 2021
We’ve entered the omnichannel era. There are more channels than ever before, meaning customer communication is now a 24/7/365 activity. This is fantastic—but it can make things very difficult to manage. Fortunately, companies now realize that they have to collaborate if they want to step up to the challenge.
The main challenge is that most customers haven’t caught up because they are still traditional enterprises working with older models. There’s a huge gap here—B2B SaaS businesses are still too focused on the users (i.e., the businesses they serve) instead of the end-users that are actually experiencing the service.
Consumer experience is the key. It’s why people still love going to a farmer’s market, for example—they love the personal experience of chatting away to market vendors and asking how their day is going or being remembered from last time. Modern businesses can really learn from this.
To personalize your conversations, you need to know more about your target audience. If you only collect their information at specific lifecycle moments, you don’t get the full picture – data augmentation tools get you halfway, but they don’t complete the picture.
3 tips to providing customer-centered conversations
Conversations are the future of the customer experience. Sure, the systems and processes that drive the world may have changed, but consumers still want a good old-fashioned brick-and-mortar-type experience. They want a relationship, a connection, and a continuing conversation.
The question is: How do you do it?
Conversations need to be bi-directional, but most conversational software isn’t particularly effective because businesses have a limited pool of data at their disposal.
There are three key rules that companies must follow to enable customer-centered conversations:
1. Take a holistic approach
To provide personalized conversations, you need to collect tons of information about the customer from every lifecycle stage. Imagine that you have a portrait of every customer—you want to be repainting it, in real-time, to capture their idiosyncrasies better.
2. Put the customer first
Place the customer in the driving seat. This has untold benefits—both for you and the customer. Don’t just have a pop-up automaton. Start the conversation, allow the customer to start talking, and make sure you’re listening.
3. Connect your ecosystem
This is so obvious, but it can’t be overstated enough. It’s only through connecting to the entire ecosystem of your enterprise that you can finely hone your user experiences and make the most effective data-driven decisions.
There’s so much work to do—but of course, that’s part of the fun!
Listen and learn
Customer communications is an ever-evolving field, with new trends and technologies reinventing the landscape on a continual basis. But there’s one element that’s not going to disappear any time soon: listening and learning. You need to have genuine two-way conversations with your customers, listening to what they have to say, and learning how you can help.
With technology like Typeform, businesses can move away from data-mining for its sake and instead transition towards having genuine conversations with their clients. The future is exciting—both for customers and companies alike.
How Typeform is reinventing customer communications
Typeform is an online program that offers very flexible, customized forms for every sort of situation to help companies have meaningful conversations with their customers. We’re a web-based survey tool that makes the process of sharing and collecting information easy, conversational, and dare I say, quite fun. It’s an entirely personalized process – something like a build-it-yourself platform. We have more than 100K customers and 90% of them are based in the US.
The secret to its success? You don’t have to write a single line of code.
Firstly, companies that use Typeform are very customer-centric. They clearly care a lot about their customers, which is humbling and inspiring for someone who cares as much about CRM as I do! Secondly, consumers enter into a conversation they actually want to have. Our platform allows them to get their opinions heard and be engaged. As I said previously, it’s the power of putting the customer in the driving seat and giving them control.
I’m looking to extend Typeform’s capabilities by taking a platform-based approach, transforming it from a survey tool into a conversational experience platform. We want to avoid the mistakes done in the past by moving deeper into asynchronous conversations. The future of Typeform is exciting!
- There are three keys to providing a personalized, welcome end-user experience: listening to what customers tell you, synthesizing these insights in a rich, well-developed, interconnected ecosystem, and learning from what they have to say.
- We’re currently in the omnichannel era. Consumers expect to be able to communicate with companies on all channels at all times. Companies that can provide this will beat out those that lag behind.
- Don’t underestimate the two-way conversations with your customers – listening to what they have to say and learning how you can help them.
Who is Manuel Breschi?
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