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The past decade has marked the beginning of the ‘Age of the Customer’, in which technology and economic forces have put customers in control of their interactions with businesses. These businesses, hoping to understand and serve customers in a digital economy, are almost universally undergoing digital transformation, which involves realigning and investing in new technology and business models with a specific focus on the customer experience.


Your company, too, maybe actively working to transform the processes and technology in pursuit of a more effective digital business and a more satisfying customer experience. Yet, you will still have a lot of room for continued development of your capabilities.
 

Touch points
The customer relationship management (CRM) technology must support and enable meaningful customer dialogue at all points of contact. However, controversy seems to surround the concept of digital touch points - the electronic means by which a company can have meaningful interaction with its customers. Some experts seem to think that every digital touch point available is the right one to have. Others think that digital touch points are a matter of opinion.


When it comes to choosing the right digital touch points for your CRM system, there’s no single formula for what works and what doesn’t. Some companies benefit from social network interaction, but others may not. Some must have blogging or newsletter capabilities, while for other companies those are wasted efforts. 
In this situation, how does your company determine which digital touch points are essential elements of your CRM system? By understanding its customers, of course. Let us see how. 
 

Customers and CRM culture 
The easiest way to understand which digital touch points are essential is to understand the customers the CRM system serves. For example, do customers demand chat capabilities? Are they regular social media users? In both cases, how big a role do those capabilities play in the company’s ability to have meaningful interaction with that customer?


The goal with digital touch points is to leverage digital means to build on customer relationships. That means meeting customers where they are and that in turn begins with a corporate culture that desires the best customer relationship possible. Keep in mind that the customers expect to have human interaction with your company, even if they’re using digital means to do it.


The difficult problem with consumers is that they want human interaction but on their terms. Sometimes, that means that the true human interaction they desire in the moment is through some digital means. Perhaps the customer just had an excellent sales experience with one of your associates and wants to share that on social media, tagging the physical location in the post. If the company doesn’t have social media interaction, it’s missing out on the opportunity to open a dialogue with the consumer.


In the case of a bad experience, that dialogue might be someone responding to the post with, “How could we have done things differently?” or “What can we do to make this better?” In the case of a positive experience, it might take the form of, “Thank you for your purchase and for sharing your experience. Here’s a reward for your loyalty.” In both cases, the company that meets customers where they want to interact benefits from the ability to have an open and honest dialogue with the consumer.


The trick is to fully understand your customers and decide how best to reach them in a way that advances the company’s goals. It’s no small order and can be costly, but if you carefully choose the digital touch points that are absolutely necessary and avoid those that offer no true value, reasonable resources can be spent on what really matters.
 

Applications
In using technology, a number of technology applications can be identified that are used in the development of CRM strategy. Four main components can be identified.
 

Operational CRM
This includes customer-facing applications such as sales force automation, enterprise marketing automation and customer service and support. Customer call centres are also a component of operational CRM and have been identified as the dominant aspect in CRM systems. All interactions with the customer are recorded, enabling the company to gather data on the customer and thus track him.
 

Analytical CRM
This analyses the data that has been created through operational CRM to build a picture of the customer. Analytical CRM includes the capturing, storage, extraction, processing, interpretation and reporting of customer data stored in data warehouses. This enables the company to examine customer behavioural patterns in order to develop marketing and promotional strategies.
 

Collaborative CRM
This uses new and traditional communication technologies to enable customers to interact with the company. Collaborative CRM allows a better level of response to customer needs by involving all the members of the supply chain such as suppliers or other partners. It also involves channel strategies or any function that provides a point of interaction (or touch point) between the customer and the channel.
 

e-CRM
This is a recent introduction. This programme makes it possible for the company to have as much contact as possible through all communication channels, notably through the Internet and Intranet. e-CRM is thus a web-centric approach to customer contact. This Internet support takes on the form of presales, services and post-sales support. The Internet makes it possible to have frequent contact with the customer and so keep their databases as pure as possible while developing better customer relationships
 

Key points
Digital transformation is a complex process that fills many business owners with uncertainty. It is critical that you fight through that uncertainty to take steps to implement the culture, processes, and technology that will enable their business to compete in the modern marketplace. 
As a decision-maker seeking to drive 
the digital transformation of your business, you should: 


(1) Advocate digital transformation and the customer experience at an executive level. Digital transformation can only succeed as a companywide initiative, which requires strong collaboration from company leaders. No one person alone can drive all of the changes that are required for the company to operate as a customer experience machine. 
(2) Be willing to take risks and learn from mistakes. As digital touch points continue to evolve and multiply, companies will need to take risks and develop quick processes in order to keep up. In a digitally mature company, not every change should require traditional approvals and a detailed business case; if new functionality is in the spirit of digital transformation and the customer experience, give it a try, solicit feedback and then repeat on it. 
(3) Find partners whose capabilities complement your own. Even digitally mature companies will have new gaps in capabilities as the technology continues to evolve. Enlisting third-party solution providers to help navigate change and implement new strategies is often cheaper and faster than building those capabilities internally. Find partners that understand your broader strategies and have specific strengths in the functions and areas that your company lacks.
The path to digital transformation will vary by company as will customer adoption and the company’s legacy environment. However, every company is under pressure to change and every company needs to have a plan in place. Those that do not take advantage of the new digital age may drastically limit opportunities for future success. 
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at lionwije@live.com)


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Order Gifts to Sri Lanka. See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Vegetables, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Sending Money,Online Books, Delivery Service, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop Sri Lanka

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