The first part of this article examined how CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems evolved into one of the most valuable tools that an organization can implement. Forex firms in the 1980s looked dramatically different to the slick, technology-centric sales operations that exist today and this has, to a large degree, been due to the impact of CRM software.
In the second part of this interview, we explore CRM’s functionality in depth and share some further insights from the ‘father’ of CRM, ACT! co-founder and CEO, Mike Muhney.
CRM basically takes the impact made by a single worker, or in the case of forex markets, a trader, and amplifies their productivity by developing a collaborative and multi-departmental workflow, focusing on keeping customers in the sales funnel. It allows for, and encourages many-to-one and many-to-many contacts, within a single interface.
Ideally, a forex organization’s CRM will account for virtually every aspect of an organization’s day-to-day customer-interactive operations with sales leads being funneled to the brokers who execute them. Support agents access and utilize critical customer data allowing them to tend to that customer’s needs at that exact moment.
A good CRM even allows for activities initiated by those outside a corporate organization in a similar way to an extranet.
A good CRM even allows for activities initiated by those outside a corporate organization in a similar way to an extranet. Once signed up, traders and other users can interact directly with their internal brokerage agents, immediately tending to withdrawal requests and other account activity, as well as any technical issues that may arise.
In this industry, traders start to struggle when customer data resides in multiple silos. A good CRM will allow a sales team, and the individuals that make up that team, to consolidate the information from all of the different silos that they have access to. Each member of the team can also enrich the information that everyone uses every single time contact is made with a specific customer.
Choosing the best CRM
In this industry, traders start to struggle when customer data resides in multiple silos.
Choosing the best CRM may sound like a tall order given that the market is huge and there are no inherently ‘bad’ CRM suites out there. However, an organization can implement the wrong CRM for its particular needs. Hence, it is vital that an organization finds the right CRM solution in order to increase team productivity while simultaneously raising customer satisfaction. Getting it wrong can have the exact opposite effect with customers and sales personnel becoming increasingly frustrated as processes break and sales opportunities fall by the wayside.
It is important to remember that a CRM is nothing but a database with an attractive front-end to make it easy to use. Researching specifically what is needed out of the database and making an informed decision makes it much easier for an organization to find the best CRM that is best suited to their needs.
Perhaps not surprisingly, organizations may face several challenges when implementing a CRM system and attempting to engage in meaningful relationships with their customers. In light of this situation, Mike Muhney shares his insights on CRM’s functionality and some of the key issues involved.
CRM data involves the storage of high cost leads and customers. Muhney sees the evolution of encryption as “depending on a number of variables”, explaining that sensitive industries such as the military and market-moving events such as mergers and acquisitions that affect the financial markets have a much higher need for secrecy and protection, or encryption, than “normal” day-to-day commercial activities. He does not see CRM data as any different from corporate, financial or employee data, nor that it is the responsibility of the CRM user themselves. Instead, it is “an IT corporate issue for all of their data that they need to protect, CRM just being one area of this”.
The evolution of mobile
Moving on to the subject of mobile technology, the evolution of an increasingly mobile world has affected the way people manage and access their contacts in a variety of ways. Muhney believes that it has affected it in both good and bad ways. Given the current technology, primarily smartphones, there is no longer an excuse not to be able to have network relationship information to hand at all times, which he refers to as “on demand, instant recall, photographic-memory-like executive assistant capability”.
There is no longer an excuse not to be able to have network relationship information to hand at all times.
Muhney adds that “CRM is only as good as what the primary intended user is prepared to put in it. Effective relationship management can be assisted by CRM, but it is not a requirement. Real relationships aren’t dictated to by data, but rather by each party’s time, intensity, trust and reciprocity in the give-and-take of relationships.”
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“Evidence reveals that despite our being able to ‘connect’ and ‘be connected’ more easily than ever before, we are actually less connected. What mobile technology has offered us is the ability to be more voyeuristic about people. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but offers no distinction from competitors who have access to the same information. It also has in some ways created more superficial relationships, meaning we don’t ‘dig deeper with people’ as much anymore. What is important is not so much the mobile technology but rather the actual attitude that people have about the value and purpose of relationships.”
Leveraging technology to increase engagement
On the subject of relationship building, companies with large sales funnels often face friction points in maintaining meaningful relationships. Once again, Muhney shares his thoughts on how companies can leverage technology to increase the feeling of personal engagement.
Real relationships require at least four elements which are time, intensity, trust and reciprocity.
“As a consumer or customer we are approached mainly by larger companies on two fronts, marketing and sales. Real relationships that are meaningful and sustainable require at least these four elements which are time, intensity, trust and reciprocity. Where sales taper off and marketing takes over can lead to an erosion of those four essential elements. And yes, companies and their sales do need to gauge the value of the customer to determine the extent of interaction one-on-one. They should not only rely on the highest value customers as a key metric should be conversion of more mediocre ones to higher value ones”.
Global business and cultural barriers
With respect to challenges faced by global businesses, including cultural barriers, Muhney offers his opinion on what software and platforms should do to make their users aware of these distinctions.
Having lived in Europe and spoken across the world, Muhney believes that building bridges where cultural divides exist can best be done by establishing personal relationships one-on-one, along with an open-mindedness and appreciation for others viewpoints. At the end of the day, he adds, “it’s not your culture and my culture that we are trying to bridge, it’s you and me as individuals. Software may or may not have anything to do with that – other than a great CRM-like system to help you remember those elements shared between the various peoples of the various cultures.”
Managing relationships across platforms
Muhney further expressed his thoughts on how integrating and unifying communications into trading platforms and CRMs is accelerating in response to customers and potential clients having to monitor their WhatsApp, SMS, Slack, email, Skype and Facebook chat.
He elaborates on how companies can manage meaningful conversations across an increasingly complicated and numerous playing field. Against the endless access to publicly available information out there about individuals is mostly what they themselves have posted via the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Many firms have a mission statement, their raison d’etre, but few, if any, have a relationship statement.
Muhney suggests doing what is possible within one’s means to get an impression of people, especially in the early formative stages and then taking it further to establish a real and distinctive, versus superficial and illusory, relationship. To this he adds, “never relinquish practicality and never be so intrusive as to appear selfishly voyeuristic to where the perception is that you are after all nothing more than self-serving.”
Gaining the competitive edge
As we have seen, CRMs have become one of the most valuable tools an organization can implement today and an effective strategy can serve as the cornerstone of a company’s sales success. There are choices to make and aspects that have to be taken into consideration but getting it right can help organizations achieve customer satisfaction and gain the competitive edge.
When asked for a final single piece of advice he would give, Muhney answered: “simple, and I say this all the time. Have a relationship statement as part of your company’s charter. Many firms have a mission statement, their raison d’etre, but few, if any, have a relationship statement. Create one, because without the customer even the greatest mission statement is useless.”