Regardless of your political viewpoint and the shape of Britain’s future relationship with the EU, one point of agreement seems to be that the impact on British businesses is likely to be substantial – whether or not they trade directly with the EU. But amid the uncertainty, we’ve seen a new sense of pragmatism emerging. Business intelligence software – in particular, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – is playing a key role in helping companies continue to invest in growth while cushioning the impact of market volatility, preparing for changes ahead and exploring new market opportunities.Let’s look at precisely why CRM systems are being harnessed by businesses like yours to chart a smooth course to the post-Brexit era.
1) Keep As Predictable And Flexible As Possible
It’s impossible to plan for the unknown, and it’s evident that many aspects of Brexit still fall into this category. But forward-thinking companies are building additional levels of predictability and flexibility into their business so that they can manage costs carefully and adapt quickly to changes as and when they do happen.
This rationale may lie behind the recent spike in Cloud software adoption. According to Forrester Research, “reported use of on-premises private clouds jumped from around a third in 2016 to more than 60% in 2017” – suggesting that companies are “hedging their bets” and taking advantage of the scalability this technology provides in order to prepare for all eventualities.
In the CRM market, our experience certainly corroborates this. Alongside our All-In-One on-premise and private hosted deployment models, we are seeing rising demand for the Cloud-based subscription option as companies seek to avoid upfront capital expenditure, lock in predictable monthly payments and remain agile. This trend is only set to increase as migration and access to Cloud CRM becomes ever-more streamlined and cost-effective.
2) Prepare To Expand Into New Markets
The EU as a whole is Britain’s largest trading partner, accounting for 44% of all UK exports. However, the ONS reports that eight of the 10 fastest growing markets for UK exports since 2010 were outside of the EU. Similarly, if we look at small business exporters, the majority (78%) trade with the EU and non-EU countries, most commonly the ‘Anglosphere’ due to the familiar language and culture.
It’s well-recognised that exporting is good for business. According to the Director-General of The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Dr Adam Marshall: “Our research shows that businesses who do trade internationally are more innovative and dynamic than those who just focus their attention on the UK market.”
While the future of exporting is heavily dependent on the eventual nature of international trade deals, one potentially positive long-term outcome could be the diversification of trading partners. Indeed there have long been calls for British businesses of all sizes to tap into overseas markets to a greater extent – in particular outside of the EU.
On a practical level, expanding successfully into new markets requires your company to be highly attuned to your new prospects’ preferences, which may differ from those of your domestic customers. Are you geared up to analyse purchasing habits so that you can match product lines to local market demand, and respond quickly to opportunities? These are the type of capabilities that well-performing CRM software can deliver, equipping you with the data required to profile your customers and pinpoint where you need to make changes to products or processes.
3) Get Smart With Business Intelligence
Have you got your finger firmly on the pulse of what’s happening in your customers’ businesses – as well as your own? This is the foundation to making properly informed preparations and strategic decisions – which of course relies on top-notch business intelligence. We’ve mentioned expansion into new markets, but the same levels of insight and analysis need to be applied to your existing ones. They could very well be undergoing change already, or your customers could be planning change imminently – but you won’t know unless you gather and analyse the right data.
A Business Brexit Checklist published by the BCC recommends mapping your customer and supplier base to assess how changes in Britain’s relationship with the EU could affect you. This is where technology-driven business intelligence comes in, giving clear visibility into the sales pipeline and wider business performance metrics to highlight crucial trends, patterns, opportunities and red flags.
Consider carefully which data sources your CRM draws together. We recently revealed how our Customer Success team bridges the divide between marketing, sales, product delivery and customer service. The data they contribute is instrumental to our ‘360 degree’ customer view. Getting on the phone to customers regularly – or even better meeting face-to-face – for ‘bigger picture’ reviews about strategic objectives is the ideal opportunity to stay abreast of their plans and predictions for Brexit.
4) Cherish Your Customers
Markets, businesses and customers may be transformed in many ways as Brexit unfolds, but one thing’s for sure, the importance of Customer Experience will not diminish anytime soon. Now more than ever, we all need to be investing in our existing customers – and that means paying them more attention! Do you communicate with them enough? Is your communication engaging and adding value? Aim to consolidate relationships by demonstrating knowledge of their needs, creating emotional connections and embedding your products and services deeper into their businesses.
Making the most of data analysis and visualisation tools in your CRM can help you to keep track of customer behaviour and journey milestones, surfacing any potential problems so that you can step in as required, smooth things over, close deals quicker, jump on up-selling opportunities, and ultimately keep customers happy.
One of our customers in the financial services sector has seen precisely these benefits since implementing their on-premise CRM solution. “Our vision is to deliver outstanding service to long-term investors. Maximizer CRM has already helped us to create stronger, more personalised and knowledge-based relationships. As a team we are much more efficient and confident in our decision-making and analysis,” says Carolina Newton, Relationship Manager, EMCORE Asset Management AG.
5) Streamline Processes And Enhance Productivity
All-In-One CRM systems represent a cost-effective and scalable infrastructure to power your customer engagement and digital transformation programmes. For these initiatives, the real benefits come into play when you apply CRM across all customer-facing departments, not just the sales team, and leverage the value of the latest Mobile CRM apps. This multiplies your return-on-investment many times over, enabling individual teams to work more productively – on average by 10% – and departments to collaborate more effectively. The overall time and cost savings should not be underestimated and could make a real difference to your resilience in economic straits.
What’s more, if Brexit results in more of your workers having to travel overseas – or potentially relocate overseas – then your CRM is the ideal mobile and remote collaboration tool to make this transition as smooth as possible. All staff, regardless of location or device, will have access to synchronised, real-time customer documents and data to facilitate efficient, joined up working.
6) Sharpen Up Data Governance
Should your company find itself having to deal with new markets, supply chains or industry segments, it will be imperative to be well-prepared from a data governance perspective. This means having accurate, agile, transparent and secure data management capabilities nailed down so you can easily comply with the potential demands of different regulators, customers or trading partners.
It will not be possible to achieve this degree of database rigour by using spreadsheets. CRM has proven to be the ideal platform for managing differing data management obligations, for instance the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (which applies to any company with EU citizens as customers) and Canada’s anti-spam law, CASL. It’s important to choose a system that is straightforward to customise, and a provider that will work with you to give the right guidance, so that you can turn bespoke dashboards, indicators and automated workflows to your full regulatory and commercial advantage.
From a security perspective, you should ensure that you or your Cloud provider holds your data in data centres that are Tier 4-rated with ISO 27001 accreditation.
Gartner tells us that nearly $40bn was spent worldwide on CRM software in 2017 and it is predicted to be the fastest growing software market in 2018 at a rate of 16%. We believe that many business owners are turning to CRM due to its unique suitability to helping them strike a balance between ‘battening down the hatches’, economically speaking, and continuing to invest in growth and innovation. In this blog we’ve outlined how the right system will generate valuable productivity savings and provide the data framework behind your customer-focused digital growth – all while revealing exactly the type of sales, marketing and business insight you need as Brexit draws nearer.