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Article 6 min read

CRM in service is learning how to make conversations count

CRM in service is changing how we think, how we communicate with customers, and how we measure our success.

By Matthias Göhler, Chief Technology Officer, Zendesk

Last updated August 2, 2022

Another term has hit the CX landscape—Conversational CRM. And it is more than a buzzword. Conversational CRM is a series of concrete innovations that change how we think about sales, commerce, marketing and service.

In service, in particular, CRM is changing how we think, how we communicate with customers, and how we measure our success.

In the past, leaders may not have seen customer relationships as a source of long-term value, but instead, as company costs to manage. In fact, the whole SaaS industry is based around software to make agents extremely efficient and contact centres very lean, to minimise human cost.

While speed and efficiency will continue to be mission critical, Conversational CRM is now taking customer interactions out of the realm of the transactional and bringing a renewed focus on forging ongoing customer relationships. Rather than optimising for transaction length and for the intensity of the work that’s required to service the customer, the focus is now on optimising for customer outcome instead.

The art and science in nailing this right is about getting the efficiency and relationship mix right. Scaling technology and AI to automate 80% of standard repetitive tasks will free up precious time for agents to invest in fostering long-term relationships with customers. This ability to build relationships and the experience around them is what is going to increasingly differentiate companies from their competitors going forward.

What is Conversational CRM?

The term is becoming increasingly prevalent in customer experience and the entire customer engagement space. On the one hand, it’s about trying to connect the dots and build software that is efficient and allows teams to operate extremely effectively. On the other hand, Conversational CRM is also designed to enable different people within an organisation to gain valuable insights into customer interactions. This allows organisations to turn these customer insights into actions, and build processes and automations around them–ultimately bringing more people into the discussion.

Treating customers like friends, not cases

Rather than treating each contact as a ticket, or problem to solve, Conversational CRM works to surface current conversations with customers to agents and businesses in a way that is comparable to how you catch up on conversations in your favourite messaging apps. These customers are people your teams have an ongoing relationship with–not people to manage away.

The potential business impact of this pivot is substantial. In our Customer Experience Trends Report, we found that high performing companies are almost seven times more likely to have already implemented these measures. They are moving customer conversations from being siloed in call centres and making them an area of growth.

Generally, businesses are not throwing money around this year. However,the outcome of investing in conversations justifies the expenditure for everybody. The impact on the business of taking an approach that connects customer understanding across teams goes far beyond cost savings.

Loft, a Brazilian start-up dedicated to helping Latin Americans own homes, adopted this approach by switching to Zendesk to manage and optimise customer relationships through messages and AI tools. With Zendesk’s support, the company was able to redefine internal processes and monitor agents’ adaptation to the company’s changes. It could also add flexibility and scalability to its service team and consolidate customer data all in one place, to gain greater clarity about what happens in the operation.

How might Conversational CRM play out for a customer?

From the customer perspective, imagine you are shopping for a new car, browsing dealer websites in the office from your desktop. You might ask some questions about it, but you’re definitely not ready to make a decision. For the car dealership, there’s an opportunity there to use that data and interaction. When you, the customer, are at home two weeks later–on your phone this time – you might see that you’re re-targeted by a Facebook ad about an Audi. Click on it and you can head straight back into a conversation that’s informed by that original interaction you had at the office, on a different machine. You don’t have to repeat yourself and it’s going to personify that business in your eyes, enabling you to connect more with the brand.

The idea is to give companies the flexibility to build a continuous relationship that fits their brand identity and the experience they want to give to their customers. Each touchpoint, on any channel, can preserve elements like clarity of conversation, as well as the contextual nature of it, even as customers move from one chat or topic to another. This is a huge shift from the old model of rushing through as many calls as possible in an hour and celebrating agents for how fast they can get a customer off the phone.

How sales and service are interlinked

Sales and service are becoming two sides of the same coin–and the experience behind them is becoming a differentiator. That’s because Conversational CRM is not just limited to service. The same interactions, the same richness that we get out of these types of conversations could act as a really compelling marketing channel too. As well as providing a way for new outbound selling and sales opportunities to be delivered, there’s a wealth of information there to build a long-term, sales-meets-service relationship. Or even to use for product research.

With Conversational CRM, transactional, one-off ticket data can be turned into rich trends and actionable insights, based on what customers ask, search for or even click on in a WhatsApp chat. This analysis can inform service development and connect people to customers in your business that you previously couldn’t even identify because you weren’t having those types of discussions. The minute you start blurring those lines and breaking up some of those constraints, that’s when you start to get value from customer relationships that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Tools like IVRs and restrictive webforms may have been the effective service tools of choice in the past. But as we embrace new digital eras of connection, the technology has evolved to offer a more tailored, conversation-based relationship, delivered at scale. Let’s start the conversation today.

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