CRM Process Automation: how to implement in your organisation

Implementing automation technology can benefit an organisation in a variety of ways. Getting tasks done without the need for human intervention can speed up operations round the clock, so it’s little wonder that this is becoming more common among companies. But how can customer-facing teams effectively carry out CRM automation?

Don’t automate everything

Firstly, you need to think carefully about which areas of your CRM system need to be automated. This step can be aided by discussing the matter with colleagues.

“When first implementing a CRM automation system, it can be easy to fall into the trap of automating anything and everything. This is a very common mistake,” said Simon Johnson, general manager UK&I at Freshworks.

“Not only will this become a costly ordeal, but it will likely bring low yields. While the purpose of automation is to simplify repetitive tasks and remove redundancies, business leaders must ensure they are doing so in the right areas.

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“The main company focus should be on boosting everyone’s performance; when creating an automated workflow, it should address all the aspects of sales and marketing. This way, both departments can work together seamlessly to generate higher conversions and happier customers.

“One way to make this happen is to talk to team members who frequently over-exceed expectations and interview them to see what helps them be successful. The beauty of CRM automation is the number of use cases that come along with it; it’s highly flexible, allowing the creation of workflows that best suit an organisation.”

Analyse customer data

Once a decision has been made as to where automation should be implemented, it’s worth making use of insight tools for gauging customer behaviour, if you haven’t already.

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Gary Kenealy, business insight team manager at Qbase, explained: “There are some highly effective marketing intelligence tools, such as FastStats, PeopleStage and SQL programming, that businesses can use to support the implementation of an automated CRM process.

“The initial stage is about pushing the data into one single view. This is where FastStats comes in, as it enables the user to analyse and observe trends in customer behaviour.

“Once the analysis stage is complete, it becomes extremely simple to automate the CRM process. By using tools such as PeopleStage, businesses are able to plan customer journeys and activities while feeding this information back into the CRM environment.

“Users can adjust the customer journey in response to how the customer has engaged with the communication. This information is then fully automated, allowing the marketing team to plan the whole customer journey in advance and quickly and efficiently, build complex campaigns across all of their channels; it’s all about keeping the customer engaged by consistently adjusting the journey to react to customer behaviour.”

Use the customers’ channel of choice

These days, there are an array of methods that companies and their customers use to communicate with each other, and with physical stores being closed and employees and customers alike being at home, interaction is more likely to occur online.

Whether a customer appears to prefer receiving information through the company website, via email, or through a certain social media platform, it’s the marketing team’s job to be in the right place at the right time to retain interest.

“Connected consumers have become used to instant gratification resulting from the digital technology that allows them to always be on,” said Adrian Benić, vice-president of product at Infobip. “To put it bluntly, the customers of the modern age have become lazy, they want quick, convenient interactions via the channel of their choice.

“Large call centres stocked with agents manning the phones is no longer enough when it comes to customer interaction, and never more so than now as workforces become more distributed. Organisations must look to quickly pivot their CX function to meet the needs of the ‘next normal’ if they hope to keep up with the connected customer.

“Making this possible will require an omnichannel approach and a cloud-based tech provider, and SMS, chatbots, chat apps and social media should all be considered as vital parts of best practices in today’s CX expectations. Furthermore, businesses need to be able to have a 360 view of a customer so that the call centre agent is aware of previous conversations regardless of the channel they used to make initial contact.”

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Make use of chatbots

Chatbots in particular are a common automation tool that are implemented into company websites, and Benić went on to state that they can play an important role in a successful CRM strategy.

“There are, of course, concerns around entirely replacing humans with AI when providing customer support and for that reason, I believe chatbots will never replace agents completely – nor should they,” he said.

“No matter how strong the AI engine, a chatbot will not be able to understand 100pc of a human conversation, neither will they be able to forge the agent/customer relationship, but what they can do is complete the arduous initial leg-work which gives the agents the necessary detail to provide a personalised service that helps them to foster those all-important relationships. This ensures loyalty and, more often than not, results in additional revenue for the business.

“Transparency is also very important, as you can quickly lose the trust of a customer who has been led to believe that they are speaking to humans when in fact they are not. The key to avoiding this is to ensure exceptional UX design so that a switch to a human is obvious but seamless.

“In this way, a chatbot or automated CRM is a great supplement to modern contact centre services, not only helping to optimise operational costs, but bringing in extra business while keeping customers happy.”

Implement conversation history

A final aspect of CRM automation to be considered is having a backlog of interactions with each customer.

Professor Mark K. Smith, CEO of ContactEngine, believes that referring to conversation history can strengthen customer relationships and, in turn, improve service.

“What is missing from existing human-computer customer service interactions is the inclusion of historical interactions to provide differentiated, contextual responses during a conversation,” Smith explained.

“For example, with existing AI technologies, a customer who previously had a delivery issue will receive the same response on reporting it as a customer for whom it is the first delivery issue. If this were a human-human interaction, then the advisor would likely see the previous issue and revise their conversational approach and tone accordingly to recognise it is a repeat occurrence, but this could quite feasibly extend to offering the customer with the repeat issue an alternate resolution offer.

“The technology that we at ContactEngine have been developing addresses this gap, and we call this Human-Computer Rapport (‘HCR’) – the use of AI to provide differentiated responses and actions based on the wealth of contextual information available from prior interactions with a given customer in order to develop a rapport.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.