Jon Ferrara co-founded the pre-Facebook, pre-Internet, pre-LinkedIn CRM system called GoldMine. His motivation was to connect people at a more personal level—to let them build relationships that build real value. That’s still his mission at his newer company, Nimble. Their product is what many call the “world’s first social CRM.”
Jon is a big customer experience fan and recently he and I had the opportunity to chat in depth about how technology can help (or hurt) the customer experience.
Our world has changed. Customers no longer want to be pushed through a sales funnel (like many CRM programs can lead them to feel). They’re humans and they value relationships, value creation, and good timing.
So I asked Jon about his views on these points. His ideas around deepening relationships by blending CRM into social conversations are worth your attention.
For those of you who haven’t seen Nimble yet, here’s a screen shot (for Atlanta-based Tope Awotona, founder of www.calendly.com, whom I don’t know yet) showing how robust Nimble’s information curation capabilities are and some of the options it gives you to connect, comment, follow, annotate, save, remind, etc.:
So, besides helping sales people keep track of their selling efforts, how can CRM be used to create more value for customers?
Customer Experience is all about aligning the promises you make with the experiences you deliver. Unfortunately, your customer journey is broken whenever your customer-facing employees use disparate systems. The CRM system is commonly used by salespeople and marketers for outreach to prospects, customers and influencers; front-line CX representatives and customer care teams work within their CX system; and accounting and everyone else in the office works in G-Suite or in Office 365.
What’s missing in most cases is a unified system on a single platform that unifies the six islands of information that surround every business: sales, marketing, customer care, accounting, social media and email. Granted, there are enterprise options available from Salesforce and Oracle which unify your engagements, but their complex, costly systems are not accessible to 99% of the business world.
What most businesses need is a simply smart, social CRM that generates people and company records automatically from the data that’s already in and around your business so every customer-facing employee can engage armed with business context and social insights. This is what Nimble does, and it’s why we’re growing so quickly.
My take: That’s smart design. Once all of a company’s systems are connected, understanding customer intent and anticipating needs lets you deliver higher value service at lower cost. Until those connections are in place, products like Nimble can help you connect the dots, working around the common disconnects that lead to frustrated customers.
How can companies leverage CRM to serve before they sell? (i.e. emphasize creating value rather than just extracting it from clients’ wallets)
Imagine this scenario. I am a sales rep and I’m on Twitter, in Outlook or in Gmail, on Instagram, Facebook, and the company’s CRM. When I’m reading a post on StoryMiners, I want to know who Mike Wittenstein is and whether I’ve ever spoken to or connected with him in the past. I want to know if anybody on my team knows him. I want to walk in his digital footprint to get to know him and what he’s passionate about, and I want to be able to connect within him on whatever appropriate, relevant and authentic channel I can. That’s what Nimble helps people do, by surfacing a customer’s history of interactions with a person or business and displaying the important signals that can help facilitate a genuine connection.
Nimble makes it easy for people to engage authentically with a customer, prospect or lead about what he or she is passionate about, before engaging with them about business.
My take: Putting relationships and service ahead of sales is the difference between a valued experience and a merely functional transaction. As long as you use the information you find out about someone using Nimble to make an honest connection that doesn’t manipulate others, it’s helpful to everyone and contributes to value creation.
What are some of the most common CRM challenges a business needs to overcome in order to be much more responsive to consumers “whenever they want it, whereever they want it, and however they want it?”
The biggest mistake companies make when implementing their CRM is asking employees to become data entry jockeys. Most customer-facing employees continue to manage most conversations and relationships via email, spreadsheets and in social media — and not in a separate contact manager (which requires laborious documentation). CRMs that require users to log what they did, whom they did it with, and what the possible outcomes could be every time they connect with external constituents are fundamentally flawed. They require a mountain of work that people simply aren’t willing to do.
There is a powerful stat released by Docurated stating: ‘Only a third of sales reps’ time is actually spent selling. That means the other two thirds is wasted on day-to-day stuff like researching contact details and updating the CRM. With the right technologies and processes, you can easily cut this noise in half.
My take: The more time you give salespeople to sell, the more they’ll sell From my personal yet still limited experience with the product, I love the way Nimble seems to capture what’s current and relevant, then lets you do the ‘next right thing.’
How does Nimble overcome these challenges and fundamentally change the way CX teams engage with consumers?
Nimble synchronizes individual emails, calendars and contacts as well as social networks into a shared team relationship manager that auto-generates dynamic social and business profiles for O365, Outlook and Gmail users everywhere people work.
Nimble delivers these social business insights within your work window so you can engage authentically on whatever channel your customers or prospects are using. Multi-channel support spans the Web (via Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Edge plug-ins); in popular Web applications (Microsoft Teams, Dynamics 365 and Skype) and in email, calendar and contacts, in the cloud with Office 365 or Gmail, on the desktop (Windows and Mac) and on mobile devices (iOS and soon on Android).
Using Nimble, customer-facing employees can engage authentically throughout the journey, from the time a contact is first identified to the time she becomes a repeat customer.
My take: knowing not only what you’ve done with someone online, but seeing what others on your team are doing with a company or contact is a brilliant feature. This way, one brand, regardless of how many people are in it, can act like and appear as one brand to customers. The left arm can finally know what the right arm is doing
How much life does CRM have before it gets eclipsed with more multi-purpose and context-sensitive technologies (like Nimble)?
In today’s over-connected, over-communicated world, it’s more important than ever to engage authentically. If you’re not listening and engaging with customers, prospects and influencers about their passions, you’re already dead.
Relationships may start on Twitter, where you can find areas of commonality, then switch over to LinkedIn, before moving to email, and ultimately to the calendar for an appointment or video call. If you’re doing it right, your relationship grows deeper, and you connect on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat as well.
Through these fluid connections, prospects and customers get to know you — not just your business persona — which is key, because the customer journey is largely driven by emotional connections. That transcends business and moves into the what I call “the Five Fs”: Family. Friends, Food, Fun, and Frolicking. This is where relationships really solidify. The only way to maintain a real relationship with someone today is to stay top-of-mind, and you can’t do that with a monthly newsletter. You do that by adding value to their journey to become their trusted advisor. They will not only pick up the phone, they will bring their friends with them.
My take: Nimble is perfecting the bridge between professional and personal. We’re all humans. Finding the right human-to-human connection within a business context is something we all can all use to move our businesses forward.
How do you see customer experience evolving over the next 10 years with AI, chatbots and new high-tech devices?
I believe a social CRM that builds itself and delivers social business insights everywhere you work is key to making and managing authentic connections online. Siri may be in the offing, but it’s years away. As processes and systems become increasingly digitized and AI becomes more prominent, we’re focused on helping people be more human, authentic, and engaging when making connections online.
My take: The Kool-Aid® tastes good and I’d like to see Nimble become an early adopter of machine learning capabilities so that the way I like to work becomes ever more natural.
Nimble is a product born from an intense focus on creating value for others. By design, it enhances relationships and brings authenticity to the forefront. My first experience with the product has been comfortable and natural. Knowing more about a person at the start does help you connect in more meaningful ways! Knowing when your important contacts are active on a topic that dovetails with your own interests is magically helpful.