The Internet, and information technology in general, has completely redefined how marketing and customer relationships are built, maintained and grown. For the most part, these advancements make it easy and cost-effective for businesses to engage current and potential consumers and learn what is needed to keep them happy and returning. It has been said that customer service is key when it comes to startup success, especially for tech startups.
However, over-dependence or reliance on these technologies can lead to a decrease in customer satisfaction and a loss in ROI. Finding a perfect balance between human and automated interactions is a necessity in today's industry.
Definitions of Important Marketing and Customer Relations Terms
In order to fully understand this article, let's define a few important terms that are applicable:
- Customer Relationship Management – Commonly referred to as CRM, this is a system of related processes used to track interactions with customers. It is an all-encompassing term that covers any kind of consumer involvement including sales, marketing, service and support. More than just customer service, it is a complete business strategy that involves many techniques.
- Inbound Marketing – In simple terms, this is the process of making a company visible to a customer and drawing them in through the use of various methods. Most of these methods include modern technologies such as blogs, podcasts, videos, social media and various other types of internet content.
- Outbound Marketing – This is the traditional use of marketing tactics such as cold calling, radio and TV ads, telemarketing and snail mail.
What Does CRM Automation Help Accomplish?
Most applications and services that automate the customer relations process focus on several specific aspects. They attempt to automate work-flow from acquiring leads through providing support after the sale. This can include anything from targeting potential clients to handling service calls and everything in-between. The overall goal of utilizing a CRM vendor is to gain and develop consumer data, and then mine that data for potential insights into future prospects and increased customer satisfaction. Competitor analysis is a secondary function that can be helpful in developing new and improved marketing strategies. All of these processes can be automated to a certain degree. However, there are negative consequences of relying too heavily on technology instead of personal interactions.
Potential Pitfalls of Heavily Automated CRM Systems
CRM is a difficult concept to grasp. Inbound and outbound marketing in general is hard to implement successfully. CRM, as a rule, is the interactions of a business with a consumer. When one tries to automate the process completely, and remove the personal touch from the situation, many bad things can arise.
One of the most common mistakes businesses make when automating CRM, especially concerned with inbound marketing, is the lack of a specific plan. CRM vendors offer a plethora of options; this can be both good and bad. If the business utilizing the services doesn't already have solid inbound marketing strategies and plans in place, attempting to automate the process will lead to disaster. The cost involved with hiring a CRM vendor can be prohibitive anyways, especially when there is no actual ROI coming in.
Automated CRM applications tend to focus on acquiring new customers and forget about current and loyal ones. This can lead to a decline in the overall client base. Consumers want to feel like they're important to a business from which they purchase a product or service. If they are constantly being brushed off or sent an automated response, they are likely to seek out a company that focuses on them through personal interactions.
Overall customer satisfaction of businesses that use automated CRM services is lower than companies that engage and interact with their clients on a personal level. It is nearly impossible to keep consumers happy if you don't actually talk to them. While automation can streamline the service and support process, it can leave clients feeling cold and disrespected.
Inbound marketing, by its very nature, is the process of engaging potential consumers through very personal and intimate platforms such as blogs and social media. Trying to automate that process will typically backfire as there is no system created yet that can mimic an actual human being.
Customer relationship management and inbound marketing are both relatively new terms. However, both concepts, as far as business-to-customer relations are concerned, have been around for a long time. While a business can help to streamline the processes by utilizing a CRM service vendor, they must remember that human involvement is always necessary to keep customer satisfaction and growth at a high rate.