The Most Important Analysis Begins By Collecting The Smallest Data Elements
Looking Beyond Default CRM Data Collection to Unique Customer Attributes and Metrics
Those experienced with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software systems know that these business applications can be tremendously valuable tools for aggregating key information about customers and business performance. After all, the current generation of CRM software applications grew from a prior era of contact management systems, which organized customer contact data for sales people, and then grew to include marketing and customer service in order to build a complete picture of customer behavior and the customer relationship.
To facilitate important data capture, CRM software vendors have designed their applications to store the data that forms the foundation of understanding customers. While most customer management applications come ready to capture the basics, this out of the box delivery represents only the lowest common denominator for customer data. Every company is different, so the data collected and correlated within a customer relationship management system should vary from company to company based on its unique target market, products or services and circumstances.
However, in far too many cases this added value is never considered, and CRM systems are allowed to work on autopilot without consideration of data that could mean key corporate learning and significant competitive advantage.
For some companies this lost opportunity is the result of a misalignment in business processes. For example, "Customer satisfaction reviews or surveys are easy to incorporate in CRM software but are often not implemented," indicates Jeff Lionz, president of Lionzforce, a California CRM consultancy. Typically this occurs not because the CRM software cannot accommodate the data but instead because no one has sponsored the idea of integrating the survey data. Without that sponsor, a good idea simply remains on the sidelines and the effectiveness of the CRM software is compromised.
Other important data is lost as the result of misaligned motivations among the user communities or roles. According to David Taber, CEO of consultancy Saleslogistix and author of the book "Salesforce.com Secrets of Success", another area where this rears its head is the "Lead Source" field, "Often, there is a reflexive action to put a new lead source in this field every time you contact the lead". That overwrites information on prior contacts, effectively starting the relationship from the ground floor every time a contact is made. "Not only do you end up losing valuable data about the customer's history, but we've seen sales people change the lead source on purpose. Suddenly, all the good leads came from sales and none of them came from marketing staff or customer references."
Taber says this data should be collected in and maintained with the marketing campaigns. "You want to know every ad, every Google PPC ad word, every contact you have had so when that prospect comes up to you at a trade show, you have the full history."
Unfortunately, marketing campaigns also fall victim to costly omissions. "Rarely do marketers spend enough time capturing all the data points associated with their campaigns in the CRM software, like original response date, number of responses and number of download requests, or capture useful profile data on the prospect or firm," advises Lionz. "This data, when tracked not only by web managers but in the CRM system, provides key insight on the genesis of the prospect, and scores the profile value against the company's ideal prospect profile or qualification measurement system. When missed or ignored, marketers fail to establish ROI value for their efforts, and sales – both management and sales reps – don't know where prospects were sourced, how prospects were created or what their original motivations were."
Another of Taber's most disliked data omissions is the sales lead role. "When you convert a lead to a contact, that's the point to assign a contact role, but too many companies look at that field and say, 'who cares?'" he laments. "They should care. If you don't know what that contact's role is politically in the deal – a project leader, a detractor, a champion – you really can't develop a coherent pipeline analysis."
Surprisingly, Taber advises that less than 20% of the CRM software users he talks to record lead roles. "Apparently, it takes too long to spend a few seconds clicking a role from a pull-down menu," he jokes.
While data such as lead roles is simply not entered, other attributes of customer behavior manage to escape the awareness of companies at times when they could directly affect sales progress. "Almost never do companies have a mechanism to see when potential customers are looking at their website and then link that engagement back to their CRM software," he comments. "At the very least, you can drop off a browser cookie while they're browsing, or you could configure the website so they have a better and more personalized user experience when they log in." Also, all the lead management software solutions, such as Aprimo, Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot and others, track visitors to websites and send real-time alerts to sales to apprise them of the customer interest. Unfortunately, says Taber, many companies still remain completely in the dark as to who visits their web sites and what information they look at.
"What users don't know about a lead, prospect, customer or support case is a big reason firms lose key customers. Knowing what a client thinks about the firm in terms of some objective measurement criteria and making that data known and available is a missed opportunity and a key factor in why customer loyalty is more desired than earned.".