How to Leverage Disruption and Not Get Disrupted

October 15, 2016


Editor's Note: This post was contributed by Monu Kalsi, VP, Head of Digital, Zurich North America, and Yogesh Khadilkar, VP, Customer Strategy and Analytics, Zurich North America.

As 2016 draws to a close and we prepare to step in to a new year, “digitization” is probably the most wanted, admired and yet least understood buzzword. Over the past several years, there has been an explosion of digital tools, digital agencies and investments in understanding digital’s impact on the customer lifecycle. The main impact is this: Digitization is a key enabler for enhancing customer experience.

In every industry and among every size of company, from startups to established brands, a strong digital marketing approach can enable the sales team while also driving efficiencies in legacy processes. Many companies have leveraged digital to boost their marketing, but most of these efforts have focused on attracting prospects, and there has been less attention paid to using digital to retain, develop, and monitor customers. The sales team is key to pre- and post-sale customer experience and hence has a huge impact on customer retention and upsell and cross sell.

The fact is that relatively minimal digital investments to support the sales team could result in substantial returns. Digital investment to support sales can improve the operational efficiency of the department; it can also improve the customer experience.

Here are five areas where digital investment in the sales team can boost efficiency and improve the customer experience:

ATTRACT: Leverage Internal Portals Embedded in Existing CRM Systems

When we say “Internet Portals,” we are not referring to another Intranet site. Most firms already use a customer relationship management system. But most do not take full advantage of a CRM system’s digital portal, which enables sales teams to build a database of all business leads, to develop in-depth social profiles of customers, and to create a centralized repository which houses the tools that sales and other market facing teams leverage regularly. The key concept here is “Availability drives adoption.” Taking full advantage of a CRM system’s capabilities enables the sales team to cultivate a structured habit of visiting a dedicated location full of insightful data that will enable sales to prioritize and hunt for business!

ATTRACT: Use Mobile Devices to Drive Efficiency

Mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, improve productivity and effectiveness of sales teams, especially those in the field. Benefits from efficiency and sophistication in sales always outweigh the upfront cost of investing in the hardware. Mobile devices enabled with access to internal CRM portals and other information creates a very strong toolkit for salespeople to provide high value information to prospects and customers in a quick and impressive fashion. Once these tablets are activated for the passive information, companies can then take the next step and provide access to their CRM, data analytics, and other customer service platforms via these tablets.

RETAIN: Social Listening and Competitive Intelligence

One really impactful way the marketing department can enable the sales team is by mining and sharing competitive and product intelligence via social listening. Organizations are already mining sources, such as primary/secondary research, consulting firms, industry trade publication/research subscriptions and other similar sources for this information. Social listening opens up a real time channel to either supplement or validate information collected through other media. Competitive listening can provide insights into existing gaps in the market or weaknesses of competitors. And product listening can give companies insights into unmet needs of customers or existing pain points within their own products and services.

DEVELOP: Leveraging Enterprise Email Platforms and Targeted Messaging Tools

Sales and other market-facing teams must be aware of the communications that are being sent to their customers and partners. These include non-transactional communications intended to raise awareness of the company’s products or thought leadership or to nurture customers post purchase. To keep sales teams abreast of these communications, the marketing department can provide access to archives of these emails, programmatically copy them on communications sent to their partners, and vet these communications with sales before they go out to their customers. Another opportunity is to enable these teams with 1:1 targeted messaging tools such as ‘ToutApp’ or similar platforms that allow individual customized mailings and measurement.

MONITOR: Customer Feedback and NPS Insights

Providing access to the customer survey data and Net Promoter Score insights is key to getting sales and other market-facing teams to focus on what matters the most — customer satisfaction. But providing this information is not enough. There must also be a structure and a process for troubleshooting customer pain points quickly. Whether this information is available through spreadsheets or in a more sophisticated customer satisfaction tracking platform, it must be exposed and shared via the aforementioned internal portal. The impact of this information is less technology dependent and leans more on the shoulders of the leadership team. Top management must create a culture and develop a process for these teams to access this information regularly and take actions from the insights.

One last note. Make sure the question you’re asking is not, “So what tools are we buying to become digital?” The key question should be, “How can we use digital to drive our growth aspirations and support our sales and marketing teams?”

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