The digital age has thoroughly entered our lives, now the world is a data set. This doesn’t just apply to ordinary people, IoT or scientific research. Above all, it’s about business. Anything from a knee-jerk startup to a mega holding company. Now almost every company has such a competitive environment that you have to act like on the battlefield: collect data, analyze, and make strategic and tactical decisions. Otherwise, the client simply will not show interest in your development, product or service. There are questions: what data to gather, where to take them, how to store them and in general – why spend time on it? We know the answers.
Customer data is an asset on par with your fixed and working capital. If you collect, store, process and interpret them correctly, you stand a good chance of gaining a pool of loyal customers and increasing your profits.
In fact, businesses don’t always collect information about customers – or rather, the kind of information that will be enough to build a relationship, rather than trying to snag a few extra sales by email or SMS mailings. Even on our previous article and the comments to it, you can judge what information is most often collected : name, contacts, what and when purchased. That’s not enough. Believe me from experience. CRM people : whichever system you take, there are a lot of fields in the client card, filling them in makes the client base better.
In progress RegionSoft CRM we also made the card the main entity of the system. It has many tabs that include all commercial information: from trivial contacts to financial security aspects. All actions, documents, deals, call logs, etc. are also accessible from the client card. Thus, users of the CRM system get a maximum of data, which can be accessed literally in a couple of clicks.
View a short GIF of a client card in RegionSoft CRM
The gif is clickable
Data collection helps you approach each customer individually, based on their needs and profile. Such personalization makes the purchase more valuable for the customer and profitable for you-all because the customer gets exactly what he or she wants.
It’s obvious to everyone, but we remind you that giving your personal and financial information to you, customers expect that it will remain safe (everyone knows about the tightening of 152-FZ on July 1?) and you will not abuse your trust, such as selling data to third parties, spamming a couple of times a day, carelessly storing data, etc. By the way, there is such a common situation as a manager leaving with a client base. This is one of the problems, a partial solution to which lies in the CRM-system. So if your manager "takes away" or sells the data, it is a double problem: first, the loss of the client base, and secondly, the transfer of information to third parties who will potentially make a commercial profit. So, in fact, the company has failed in protecting the data it has handed over.
What data to collect and why?
In general, you need to collect any data – good analytics knows no details and does not tolerate neglect of the facts. First of all, a business needs customer contact data, demographic and geographic data, as well as information that is relevant to the company’s goals (for example, how old a car is for a car dealership or what brand of phone is for a communications salon). This data is collected during the first interactions and by means of personal questionnaires (hi, 152-FZ, questionnaires with certain data must also be stored in a special way).
By the way, if you think that personal parameters like car brand are only in the B2C sector, then you’re wrong: in the B2B sector there are also preferences that can potentially affect your relationship. These are, for example, the presence or absence of corporate transport, the characteristics of corporate culture, preferred software, brands and models of work PCs, etc.
After personal and questionnaire data have been collected, it is important to carefully collect transactional data: all points of interaction with the customer should be recorded. From transactional information also becomes clear how valuable the customer is, how often and how much he spends, how quickly he pays his bills and does not form accounts receivable, what are his preferences. There are no details in transactions, managers should record everything: from minutes of personal meetings to the facts of not answering the phone. Transactional information gives you an idea of how contactable and talkative a client is, what and when he buys, how often he contacts technical support, and whether he can be trusted. And such information is not just a source of presales, but also a way to resolve conflict situations.
A relatively recent story happened to us when Our CRM system. and bailed us out – all because managers record every little thing in it, and the card stores documents, correspondence history and records of negotiations. The situation was as follows: a user on a public resource accused us that our product was crude and some of the functionality was not working as expected. The outrage from his point of view was beautiful. However, we looked up the information and found in his customer card a lot of rebuttals to his words, as well as a letter of guarantee in which he disclaimed any claims about the product he insistently bought in beta. The attack was repulsed. Generally speaking, when all the data and transactions are recorded, it is as difficult as possible to defame a company with false information – you will have the facts on your side.
Another important block of information is communication. First of all, it is necessary to measure the time of the client’s response to letters, calls, other messages, count the number of incoming and outgoing communications. The introvert will choose e-mail and will be happy to chat, and a busy person will prefer a quick phone call or an occasional letter. This will allow the company to make communication comfortable and businesslike, rather than turning it into annoying spam.
Where do you get your customer data from?
There are many sources, and each company has its own secrets for extracting valuable business information. The only important condition is that all methods must be legal and the data must be "clean". Otherwise you may get a fine and, with the ubiquitous Internet, you may pay for your reputation.
- Information when registering on the site. Create forms on the site that help you collect data from customers. Rules : Do not ask for data for minor bonuses (like downloading an advertising booklet), collect data in stages (some – when registering, some – when ordering), do not forget to specify the policy of data processing (you still remember about 152-FZ?)
- Information from the online presentation. Try to collect data when making an application, as well as during communication with the client. Rules : Ask leading questions, prepare for the client in advance, form a standard questionnaire (e.g., at RegionSoft CRM questionnaire is a built-in feature).
- Chat information. Ask for name and email in chat. Many applications have a built in feature to ask for client information. Rules : do not use annoying "call me back" pop-up buttons, if you do not want to leave your details the client should be able to continue chatting on the site.
- Information from telephone conversations. Clarify necessary data during a telephone conversation with a customer. Rules : record the calls and save them, it will provide training opportunities for managers and save you from hundreds of conflicts (we have provided such a thing – in RegionSoft CRM all conversations are recorded and saved).
- Information from orders on the website or in the online store. When placing an order you can gather a lot of different information, from the availability of children to the preferred methods of payment. Questionnaires on purchase or service results are not bad. Rules : Don’t overload the fields with unnecessary questions, the customer may refuse to buy. Provide a formal bonus for full registration or offer to connect to the bonus system after filling out the detailed questionnaire.
- Information in exchange for information. Offer useful information in exchange for customer data. This can be interesting newsletters, articles, video lessons, etc. Rules : Don’t slide into infobusiness and don’t chase cheap content, work on content.
- Personal communication in sales. During a conversation with a customer, managers can find out the customer’s needs, future goals, and more. By the way, no one forbids inquiring about the client on the Internet either. Rules : don’t be too intrusive, don’t insist on your questions if the client deliberately and rigidly circumvents them.
- Internet of Things (IoT). Works great for retail, B2C. Put NFC tags, customer flow meters, interactive screens – so your customers tell you about themselves. Rules : everything must be within the law.
- Analytics Systems. The most generous and secure way to collect data. Use the familiar Yandex.Metrika and Google Analytics, expand your arsenal of BI systems, use trackers, parsers, etc. Rules : information will literally pour out at you, but that doesn’t mean you can process and interpret it correctly. Select and use valuable data, compare, and look for new patterns.
- Social Media. In our opinion, the method is for the amateur and almost always only for B2C. However, if you can collect data from social networks and use it properly, you should do it, because an extra source does not hurt. Rules : be mindful of the privacy of your clients’ lives.
- Commissioned research – both target groups and potential users in general. A great method that results in a clear informative document with conclusions and even recommendations. Expensive. Very expensive. Rules : Use this method only if it is appropriate. Before ordering the study, conduct an analysis, establish the goals you need to achieve and the hypotheses you need to test in the study.
– Where do you dig, Where do you get your new clothes from, How do you expect to get over the fence?
– Who are you?!
– I’m a business analyst.
How do you store information?
As we have already found out, adherents of Excel in our country enough – in fact, it is one of the most common ways to store the client base among those companies that have not yet implemented a CRM-system. In some ways it is even convenient and familiar to a wide class of workers, but, of course, one of the most insecure. Office workers are also in the habit of storing all contacts and interactions in email clients. This is also fraught with security problems (especially if we’re talking about free email applications), data loss, and the "departure" of the base along with the manager.
To store and analyze information the most effective, safe, and appropriate use of CRM-systems. They, by the way, have already evolved and combine several solutions: project and task management, personal and group scheduling, telephony, etc.
There are two important rules for handling customer data. First: Don’t collect all information at once, but rather, dose your interactions and extract valuable data from each interaction. Second: Don’t extrapolate information about one customer or a narrow group to the entire customer base or even a broad segment. You’re more likely to err on the side of conclusions and assumptions, which will make data-driven sales ineffective. And yes, don’t forget to leave the option to opt out of mailings and interactions with you.
Information collection and processing methods
Of course, the information, the way it is processed, and the analytical tools vary greatly from company to company. In any case, the data collected must be processed and used, simply having it is not a recipe for success, in "raw" form it is useless.
- Documents, certificates, statements and other papers -this is a good way to get official data. Plus – precise and comprehensive information, minus – collection takes time, a lot of legal restrictions (most often there is no consent to process personal data and you have to strive to get it).
- Questionnaires, surveys – is a great method when you need to gather specific information in a tight time frame. The pluses of questionnaires are that they are voluntary and sometimes anonymous, the disadvantages are the need to find a way to get answers from respondents, mistakes in filling them out and false information.
- Telephone or in-person interview – a good way to "get close" to the client, "take down" a psychological portrait and get the data you need. Pluses are in communication with the client and data coverage, minuses are time consuming and labor intensive, interviewers need to be trained.
- Surveillance – is a great way for a business to know what it wants. User information is collected from the outside and looks like an inference. The plus is no legal restrictions, the minus is the difficulty in personalizing, interpreting and classifying the data.
- Research – Own and commissioned. Very good source of information, gives a complete correct picture, allows you to identify complex and non-obvious trends and patterns. Pros – a powerful means of gathering information. Cons – either at professionals and expensive, or independently and long, with preparation and careful elaboration of each question of the panel, and connections between questions. On the pitfalls of amateur research, we wrote about On our own example.
- Focus Groups – Are dead. A joke with a grain of salt. Quite expensive and in-depth focus group research with the ability to interview, discuss, etc. Pros – quick way to get a lot of information, simultaneous product promotion to the group. Minuses – very expensive, requires professional surveying, difficult to get a group together. And dying out because advanced businesses are looking for cheaper digital ways and trying to avoid crude generalizations.
Businesses invest in analytics (at a minimum, paying for software and salaries to marketers, analysts, and accompanying programmers), and therefore must get a return on investment. That is, getting information is not enough – it is important to be able to analyze it. We have already wrote about the principles of analytics in business, but let’s reiterate a few basic ways to apply this asset.
- Operational analytics : intelligence and data work in product promotion, operational reporting.
- Descriptive analytics : customer segmentation, creating a customer portrait, developing a loyalty program.
- Predictive analytics : predictions, predictions, behavioral patterns.
What to count and how not to screw up?
There is a whole group of information that is strictly mandatory for any business to collect, as it reflects its "health" and adequacy to customer requirements.
- Count conversion rates and use the sales funnel. Data on how many inbound leads were converted into purchases tells you at a glance how well your sales force is working and how well your sales logic is aligned.
- Constantly review the range, Use product matrices and ABC analysis. This applies not only to stores or online stores, but also to companies with a narrow product range (for example, software companies). In case of low demand for a product, you can rework it or stop working on it, shifting your efforts to more promising areas.
- Measure sales channels. It’s hard to find a company that sells its product through one channel. Check to see if all channels are profitable to avoid leaking money to the ones with the highest selling price. But don’t fall into the typical trap : a channel can have a high selling price, but effectively support, promote, bring in leads. Be sure to keep this in mind.
Case in point. A company was selling its services and its products through monobrand salons, dealers, agents, postal kiosks and branches, and an online store. after research, it turned out that the monobrand sales price was 10 times higher than the average channel price. Two mono-brands were closed – the revenue from subscriptions in the six-month period dropped significantly. It turned out that the monobrands were bringing in the most profitable and loyal customers, who came to the store with "serious intentions", rather than taking the product "for a ride for a week".
- Financial and cash flow. Be sure to keep track of exactly where the money comes from and where it goes. Any aggregation and aggregation of figures in these cases is the worst thing that can happen.
- Customer support information. Analyze the number of calls, the quality of service, the length of time a customer has interacted with an employee, and collect feedback and suggestions – among them you sometimes find amazing insights. And yes, in these ultra-competitive times, the one with the better service wins.
- Personnel Information. Be sure to analyze internal processes – and it’s definitely not tardiness or internet logs. if a person works productively and gives you the planned results, why control them and provoke them to disloyalty. Analyze KPIs, speed of task completion, try to assess which tasks are best for whom and build a team based on that.
- Information noise around your company. Gather as much outside information about your company as possible : reviews, mentions, citations, etc. The more visible you are in the marketplace, the more noise you make. But even small companies are obliged to monitor absolutely everything in order to avoid reputational losses or to take advantage of a good moment. This is where special search engine queries, google alerts, etc. can help you.
- Information about competitors. You need to know everything about them – but not just to copy the best, but to build back up and carve out a niche for yourself. Study your market rivals thoroughly, don’t leave out new products, price changes, technology and market uptake.
The immediacy of information is an important property of it. You can take your mind off reading the article for a moment and wonder how quickly you can find out about changes in the dynamics of the most important indicators for you. You can bet that a sysadmin will find out about a change in the number of working nodes or a critical drop in the connection speed to the server almost immediately, but a sales manager and his manager will find out about a sharp drop in sales in one day at best – and even then, if they are monitoring the situation daily. But the most common interval is a month, and then it’s a week.
Meanwhile, the earlier a company learns about a problem, the cheaper and more effective its solution will be. So why don’t people know about the information?
- Incorrectly selected reporting period. It is possible to miss a crisis point or to compare with the wrong base period. To avoid this problem, use different monitoring intervals for different indicators: real-time, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
- The company doesn’t pay attention to analytics. Yes, there are a lot of companies like that, unfortunately. They can have billing, CRM, BI, and anything else, but they won’t even put a metrics counter on the site, preferring to work by guesswork. This position doesn’t end well, the company will simply lose itself in a competitive environment, because it won’t be able to assess and predict its state.
- Companies, when analyzing data, do not take into account the seasonality factor and end up making mistakes and drawing wrong conclusions. For example, they may compare the indicators of peak business activity and the period of decline. The same mistake happens in planning – a plan for any period is made without taking the season into account. While each company has its own intervals of decline and growth within the year, accordingly, they must be taken into account both in analyzing information and in planning and forecasting.
- Data is accumulated in several corporate information systems, between which the interaction is poorly configured or not configured at all. That’s number three for us here, but in the hearts of CRM and other business automation solution vendors, it’s number one and grand prize among the causes of business analytics fiascoes. There’s a great study which shows that companies use an average of 14 work applications in their work. Among them there are often overlapping analytics, as well as those that should complement each other (eg, CRM and billing, CRM and 1C). So, the lack of integration makes the data patchwork and reduces its information value and usefulness to the business.
What’s good for collecting and storing information with a CRM system?
Speaking of analytics, it is not unreasonable to dwell once again on the role of the manager. Some top managers believe sacredly in the effectiveness of their team and fully trust it to manage key situations. Well they say they are sure, in fact they are just lazy or not interested in getting into operational work. This situation is fraught – without active control, the business may go completely wrong where its founders and executives would like it to go. Now we are not talking about micro-management, which is mostly nothing but fuss – we are talking about periodic monitoring of indicators and activities, as well as the analysis of management activities. The manager must have access to all the basic indicators with the ability to drill down (for example, to a manager or to a region).
So, keep in mind that these numbers are just as accurate as the fictitious data, ridiculous assumptions, and wishful thinking on which they are based!
By the way, this kind of control is easiest to implement in CRM system with planning tools, plan-actual analysis, sales funnel, etc. The boss gets real-time access to business-critical metrics, can have remote access to the workplace. Let’s repeat for the hundredth time, CRM – a tool to monitor the operational work and performance of tasks, but not a tool for total control and tracking employees. The system does not know how to spy (we’re talking about our own, of course), and in general, "ew" to be like that.
Saving time on reporting. You can praise Excel all you want, but your employees are guaranteed to spend too much time on it. It takes effort to do a spreadsheet report 90% of the time – this is true for numerical data. It’s worse with tasks – for example, if an employee has to report at the end of the day or week how much time it took them to do what task. You won’t just get material that took about an hour and a half to create – you’ll get a stream of inspired lies. While in the CRM you will have a display of done, overdue and delayed tasks for each of your subordinates.
Improved productivity and company performance. Bob Parson, founder of GoDaddy, observed : "Everything that is measured and observed improves. Accordingly, if both the manager and employees can constantly monitor their performance on dashboards, charts, progress bars, with reminders, they will even be psychologically eager to improve performance, to fix the lag situation. By the way, this reduces the level of nervousness and stress in the company. In domestic business practice alive heritage "catch up and surpass" and "five years in four years", so the management of stress is almost not paid attention. Meanwhile, a calm team, able to control their work and their time, works much more productively.
No Big Data or why we didn’t "bolt on" machine learning to RegionSoft CRM
Facebook asked us if there were any in the our CRM system. machine learning. Let’s not make an intrigue out of this question – no. Simply because our system doesn’t need that functionality yet. And here’s why.
First, let’s give a simple explanation of what machine learning and artificial intelligence are in relation to a corporate information system (CRM, ERP, etc.). It is a hardware and software system or simply a program that collects, stores, and analyzes information automatically. Artificial Intelligence is that the program based on big data "learns" to find patterns and relationships in the data, and then when similar data at the input, simulate the situation (again, all based on probability theory – a working on big data Bayes theorem, according to which you can determine the probability of an event, provided that there is another event statistically interdependent with it). There must be a lot of data to train the system, a colossal amount. And this is the problem of slow introduction of such technologies into CRM-systems: small and medium business is practically not able to generate such amount of relevant information, while basic CRM-ki tools and smart human head capable of deduction and induction are quite enough to process their data for regularities.
– So how’s your big data project going, Hoskins?
Machine learning is relevant in banks (that’s really huge amounts of data), in telephony and other types of federal communications, in citizen security and traffic, in large transportation companies, in industry. Basically, the machines inside the information systems of companies in these areas learn to recognize critical situations, fraud, forging, etc.
Implementing machine learning in CRM for small and medium-sized businesses is possible (i.e. we, the developers at RegionSoft, can take and burn a self-training neural network), but it’s expensive and fairly time-consuming development, which greatly increases the license price and make the software overloaded and unavailable to some customers. Although we can’t argue, the marketing is beautiful. We want everyone to get used to basic automation first. And in this process, alas, even the light at the end of the tunnel is not always visible.
If you have information, you have a competitive advantage. You would be surprised, but while machine learning, big data and data mining are going around the world, most of the competitors of small and medium-sized businesses do not even bother to look at the current performance and analyze the sales profile. In general, everyone knows how to count money, but only some are able to competently provide their growth. This means that you can easily outrun your competitors through competent analytics and smart business management.
We have a job
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We are looking for reliable and savvy remote salesmen in St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Moscow and other cities. We will teach, explain and support. In fact you will have an interesting and stable work right from home. If there is a technical expertise – we will tear off the hands.
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