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9 Tips for Combining CRM and Business Intelligence

Date posted: November 17, 2015

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is all about optimizing customer interactions and informing every transaction with a customer’s information to make each experience helpful to customer strategy.    Business Intelligence (BI) tools are designed to give organizations direct access to all of the information they pull in, and to transform that raw data into digestible analytics and insights that business users can understand. Combining CRM and BI can help a business become a smarter business.

A recent article on PC Magazine gives nine tips for ensuring the integration of CRM and BI platforms, and capitalizing on the deep data synergy the combination enables:

  1. Understand CRM operations
    A company can’t begin to use a BI tool to gain customer insights if it doesn’t have an accurate picture of everything being doing right and how it can improve on the customer support representative side. A business should ask itself certain questions, including:
  • Are our employees following best practices and using all available CRM tools during interactions?
  • Is our customer support team properly staffed?
  • Are there any unnecessary steps or roadblocks in the customer exchange?
  • Do higher value customers receive a different experience?

Starting with these questions will give the business a better understanding of the customer experience before layering BI on top.

  1. Understand customers
    BI tools work best when a business already knows what information it’s looking for. Do you know what’s the extent of the information your current CRM solution provides? After implementing the BI solution, do you know what the key metrics are that you’re interested in finding? Today’s customers, especially Millennials, generally offer businesses a wealth of personal information, much of it publicly available on various social media platforms. Consider using a Social CRM strategy to find out what you know and what you don’t know about your customer base.
  2. Plan intelligently
    Don’t jump into a BI solution without a plan for how it fits into not only your CRM strategy but into all of your company’s infrastructure and services.
  3. Select the right BI tool
    Take careful consideration when choosing the BI solution that’s the right fit for your business. Make sure the BI tool integrates with your existing CRM software, be it through a front-facing integration or via an application programming interface (API).
  4. Do some data triage
    A BI tool will inundate an enterprise with mountains of data if you let it. Examining your existing operations and customers, and then intelligently planning around both should have already given you an idea of your business objectives. But, once the BI tool begins populating, you’ll need to make the Big Data a lot smaller by exporting a small number of metrics at a time to the tool’s various charting and data visualization features. To start, much of this data will also be unstructured— so be sure to sample and test each data source to eliminate redundancy and to ensure only accurate, consolidated data makes it to data warehouse storage.
  5. Make the hard choices
    A BI tool identifies the strengths and weaknesses in every type of customer interaction, and graphically displays both in a chart or report. Business managers then have to decide what to do with the data. That may mean reallocating resources, reorganizing workflows, or completely overhauling a process or customer interaction procedure.
  6. Be a data scientist
    With every customer interaction and business transaction now informed by Big Data and interpreted through your BI tool, it’s time to experiment and test. Implement minor or major changes to your customer interactions (or any other aspect of the business) and track the results on customer satisfaction, productivity, profits, or any other viable metric as if you’re conducting a controlled experiment. The same idea applies when rolling out a new product or service: evaluate its progress and profitability with BI data at each phase.
  7. Streamline customer targeting
    Tying CRM and BI together will provide a much richer profile of every customer—from what platforms and tools they’re using in combination with your product to whether they prefer online or in-store interactions. On top of Social CRM data, this wealth of customer insights should be directly applied to reorganizing and segmenting your customer base. The more well-defined categories and sections a business delineates, the more effectively its marketing and sales staff can craft an effective strategy to convert, maintain, and monetize customer relationships.
  8. Be smarter
    Once you’ve truly integrated CRM and BI, there is no limit to how the interlocking services can facilitate innovation. Giving customer support staff access to BI analytics encourages more personal transactions. Real-time BI data can be tied to alerts to improve CRM response time. Leveraging BI data for predictive modeling and analysis can help anticipate customer problems before they occur. If a business has planned out its CRM/BI integration and gone about the transition with a clear plan in mind, the results on the overall customer experience and, ultimately, on an enterprise’s bottom line can be dramatic and long lasting.