Three Keys to Elevating Your Customer Relationship IQ – Part 2

Timing--and meaning--is everything.

Part 2: Timing—and Meaning—is Everything

Last time we talked about Creating Intelligence You Can Trust and how your CRM or billing system fields may be “complete” but that doesn’t necessarily equate to accuracy. For truly complete information you can trust, the secret lies in a consistent method for tapping concrete, info-rich complex contracts and delivering that digital intelligence to those executing your downstream processes when and how they need it.

Today, most companies operate in reactive mode when it comes to using customer relationship information. Do your sales execs wait for information like expiration dates and upsell opportunities to come to them? If so, it’s likely that customer is already well down the road of evaluating other vendors.

Does your finance team explore opportunities for cost pass-throughs or chargebacks early on or only in fire drill mode when quarterly revenue numbers look iffy?

Same for operations and legal teams—are compliance and term changes top of mind every day or only when threats arise?

It’s obvious that in order for all of these functional areas to successfully maintain their role in nurturing and growing value throughout the customer lifecycle, timely access to information is critical. But it’s just as important for that information to be meaningful in the moment. In other words, context is key.

At Pramata, once complex contract information is digitized and refined, it’s combined with those other relevant sources of insight, including sales CRMs and client billing systems. The result is a single source of truth that’s not only accurate but also relevant.

Presenting customer information within the specific user’s familiar context is the real difference between static data and active intelligence. It’s also the difference between proactively growing customer value and waiting for opportunity (or threat) to find you. And in today’s competitive market, can you really afford to wait?

Next time we’ll wrap up our series on Elevating your Customer Relationship IQ with our final installment on Synchronizing the Customer Lifecycle.

Three Keys to Elevating Your Customer Relationship IQ – Part 1

Intelligence you can trust

Part 1: Create Intelligence You Can Trust

Never in the history of business have we had more customer relationship information at our disposal. Data from CRM and customer support applications, billing systems, even everyday email correspondence—all useful but still lacking the concreteness found only in your signed customer contracts.

It’s not that you don’t know there’s tremendously valuable information in those signed agreements, rather, it’s that you also know there’s usually a gargantuan level of effort required to unlock and access this data. And once you have it, how long until it’s outdated and unhelpful?

At Pramata, our singular focus is transforming complex contract information into meaningful intelligence to continuously fuel your downstream processes in sales, finance and operations. In working with a variety of Fortune 1000 companies, we’ve found three consistent elements to elevating the customer relationship IQ across an organization. And as a result, increasing the opportunity for significant revenue growth and long-term customer value.

  1. Create intelligence you can trust
  2. Timing—and meaning—is everything
  3. Synchronize the customer lifecycle

In this three-part article series, we’ll tackle these one at a time. So let’s jump in with Creating Intelligence You Can Trust.

When it comes to complex customer relationship information, the accuracy of your sources can be a real potluck. Your CRM or billing system may appear “complete” but too often that can be mistaken for accurate. Just because all of the fields are populated with information, doesn’t mean it’s the most relevant or up-to-date profile of your customer.

If you lag behind with out-of-date data, or allow errors to creep in and go unaddressed, it won’t take long for cracks to show in your customer relationship lifecycle. And those cracks can start leaking customer value and revenue real fast.

You might try filling in the gaps with tribal knowledge, but even the most informed team members may be operating off of different versions of the real story. The information locked in your complex contracts holds the most reliable answers to your customer relationship questions, but most companies can’t tap into that valuable reserve without devoting a lot of time and people to an “all hands on deck” project.

In working with many large, global organizations with constantly changing and complex customer relationships, we’ve discovered that keeping data up-to-date and trustworthy requires a three-pronged approach: a technology component, a human component and a process component.

This is the premise behind Pramata’s unique Digitization as a Service™ or DaaS. We designed DaaS to securely extract and enhance critical contract data using proprietary technologies, best practice processes and hands-on expertise. The result is clean, accurate data that’s digitized and refined to within 99% accuracy, then intelligently combined with relevant data from your CRM, billing systems and other key sources.

Only when these data sources are synthesized and interpreted through the unique lens of your business environment and context—on a continual, consistent basis—can your sales, finance and legal teams act on that insight with full confidence and a much higher rate of success in tapping new revenue opportunities, addressing compliance issues and more.

And that’s a great segue into the second cardinal rule in raising your customer relationship IQ. Tune in next time as we unpack the premise that Timing—and Meaning—is Everything.

The Truth is Out There

Search for customer truth

Are your customer relationships working for you or against you? Or to put it another way, when it comes to your customer agreements, there’s what you know, what you think you know and the truth.

Say you’ve contracted pricing for Customer X at a discounted introductory rate for nine months. It’s in the signed contract. But your new account manager thinks the pricing agreement is for 12 months. Because that’s what the billing system has (mistakenly) indicated. So your most recent invoice to Customer X still reflects the reduced rate instead of the correct price—a loss of $400K in revenue for a single month. That’s significant. And it’s unacceptable, wouldn’t you say?

And this is just one example of these missed opportunities each quarter, millions of dollars in price increases go unnoticed, renewal opportunities go un-worked and minimum commits are not met. That adds up fast.

It seems like this should be an easy case of reconciling one contract with one billing system. But the problem we discovered at Pramata in talking to countless large-scale B2B companies is that customer data is much more diverse and complex than that. And historically, if you want the truth, it takes a concerted all-hands-on-deck kind of effort that you and your staff just don’t have the time and bandwidth for and your current internal systems aren’t made to do.

This is where we come in. Pramata Customer Relationship Intelligence (CRI) bridges the information gap inside your current IT infrastructure. It mines the valuable hidden data within your B2B customer contracts, synthesizes that data with relevant information from your billing systems and CRM applications and delivers it in the most meaningful context for your finance, sales and legal teams. Mine, synthesize, deliver, repeat. That’s our process mantra.

You might be wondering why you can’t accomplish this with your business intelligence, CRM and contract lifecycle management tools. Those systems have their purpose, but they lack the unique connective tissue that pairs hands-on expertise with expert automation—then keeps that process in constant motion.

With this complete digital view of actionable customer insight, it becomes routine to capitalize on pricing increases, discount expirations, cost pass-throughs and many more untapped opportunities within your most valuable customer relationships.

No more millions in quarterly revenue left on the table. And best of all what you know to be true, really is.

Let us show you How it Works.

Timing is Everything: The Next Step in Raising Your Customer Relationship IQ

timing-is-everything-the-next-step-in-raising-your-customer-relationship-iq

As we continue through the series on how to more intelligently engage with your customer, we have covered vital areas you must address including making sure data is accessible, correct and consistent, and giving it context and meaning for the sales reps who need it.

The good news is, pretty much every company we have worked with has solved those essential elements for at least a portion of their relationships. Once. At one point.

Because customer relationships are not static, most companies have event based customer relationship intelligence. A sales team may do a detailed analysis of a single customer relationship before an upsell or the sales ops team may comb through contracts looking for a certain license structure or key upcoming dates.

But as soon as the project is over, things change. You sign a new deal or start amending old ones and all of that hard work instantly becomes stale. Soon, another project rolls around and you have to start from scratch.

This constant evolution makes it difficult for even the most sophisticated CRM or sales tool to offer intelligent insight into the current state of the customer relationship. Each time a sales rep interacts with a customer, it is possible and even probable that the parameters of the relationship have shifted. In fact, you want them to change!

The key question related to timing is, how long does it take you to understand your customer relationships as they stand today? If you have to wait too long, you will miss out on important opportunities to engage and grow your customers.

To solve this, a lot of companies look to 1) standardize the customer relationships, or 2) collect most of the key information during the contract drafting and negotiation.

Option #1 is a typically the right solution for very high volume, very low complexity deals. Think: “I’m calling AT&T and changing my cell phone plan.” Where it breaks down is in more complex B2B negotiations. IBM is not accepting your ‘standard terms’ no matter how many times you say please.

Option #2 sounds good, but in our experience it really breaks down once customer negotiations get serious. At some point, the deal team needs to negotiate on the fly with the customer and those changes don’t make it back into the data workflow. That creates gaps in the data. Closing those gaps would require controls that unnecessarily create friction in the deal process and potentially insert risk.

The ideal solution comes quickly after a deal is signed. By inserting a final check into the deal process post-signing, you can build and maintain an essential database of critical customer information. The investment in this capability will create a very significant return by enabling groups across the organization to proactively engage the customer and execute campaigns, rather than waiting for the next “event.”

Best in class companies don’t require their sales teams to wait for valuable data that has a direct impact on customer engagement. You shouldn’t either. Delays in collecting relevant customer details can delay upsell cycles and kill promising sales campaigns before they start. Because timing is everything.

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Five Keys to Making Your Sales Team Customer Relationship Intelligent. Stay tuned for our final post of this series where we’ll cover the last step in making your customer relationship intelligent: how to ensure the customer relationship trumps all.

Making your data mean something – part 4 of Raising Your Customer Relationship IQ

making-your-data-mean-something-part-4-of-raising-your-customer-relationship-iq

In our previous posts in this series, we explored the importance of having data accessible to sales reps in CRM, and ensuring that data is accurate and consistent. Yet no matter how accessible and accurate your data, if it doesn’t make sense to the sales reps that need it and if it doesn’t provide contextual understanding, it’s virtually useless.

The often-cited goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.

Creating insightful information is no small task.  For example, sales contracts yield invaluable information that speaks to the what, when, where, why and how of the customer relationship. Those same contracts are often sprawling, complicated and hard to decipher.

This situation leads to a pretty common scenario in sales operations.  With the right tools and understanding, data from contracts can provide invaluable context.  At the same time, a blunt force approach can and will overwhelm sales teams with yet another field (or 50) in their CRM.  It just becomes more useless noise.

The key to surfacing insight from the noise is to engage the sales teams to deeply understand how and in what situations the data will be used.

I’ll give you a pretty common scenario that we see:  a sales person is doing a new deal with an existing customer and they ‘need the contract.’  Now, one approach could be to create a contract object, plop in a PDF, and enter a couple of pieces of metadata.  Voila!  They ‘have the contract.’  Next problem.

But that gives the sales person no context.  Instead, if you double-click with a sales person, you’ll see that there are at least two distinct use cases with key related questions that involve the contract in this scenario:

Account Research & Opportunity ID (pre-proposal)
What have we sold this customer and what is the current pricing?  What are they using/buying?  Where are the ‘gotcha’ commitments I need to know about?

Engaging the deal desk/deal process (post-proposal)
Is there a ‘clean master’ I can use to close this new purchase and bypass the whole deal process? What about pre-approved discounts? Are there any non-standard contract terms that require additional approval? Who do I need to get involved?

By going to this level of detail, you may notice that each of these use cases requires a slightly different approach.

In the first use case, an account rep would most likely be doing account research in their CRM. You’ll probably need to give a fairly high level, but impactful summary of products and pricing. The second use case is all about working with an in-flight opportunity. In that scenario, the best solution may be to pull through old contract terms/pricing into the opportunity and accelerate the process.

In neither case would a rep need to read through the contract or interpret the underlying legal text

Whether you’re working with contract data or another data source, the important thing is that you engage your reps and understand what they actually want to do and how things actually get done.

This will help you offer up solutions that put the information they need in context and display it in a way that enables action.

This is the fourth post in series examining the Five Keys to Making Your Sales Team Customer Relationship Intelligent. Stay tuned for our next post of this series where we’ll cover the fourth step in making your customer relationship intelligent: timing is everything.

Raising your customer relationship IQ: building data you can trust

raising-your-customer-relationship-iq-building-data-you-can-trust

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In our previous post in this series, I emphasized the importance of keeping relevant customer data accessible in the place sales reps need it most – inside CRM. While I believe that is a critical first step in creating a more intelligent customer relationship, the next item on my list is just as vital.

 

The data available through CRM has to be accurate, and it must be consistent. In other words, your sales reps have to trust what it is they are seeing. Too often “complete” data can be mistaken for accurate data. Just because all of the fields are populated with information, doesn’t mean it’s the most relevant or up-to-date.

If you lag behind with out-of-date data, or allow errors to creep in and go unaddressed, it won’t take long for your data-rich CRM to become useless in the eyes of your sales team.

At first glance, the solution may seem simple enough. Make sure the data inside CRM is more than just complete; ensure it is data that is correct and consistent. But as sales operations professionals, I know your mind is already spinning as you consider all of the customer accounts with amendments and updates and revisions. Which iteration is the newest, or the most accurate? Which contract is current, which one has changes and where are they? How can you determine whether a complete profile is an accurate one? As you see, it gets tricky fast.

In our years of experience working with large, global organizations that have vast and complex customer relationships, we’ve discovered that keeping data up-to-date and trustworthy requires a three-pronged approach: there must be a technology component, there must be a human component, and there must be a process component.

The right technology will provide automated extraction of data through a variety of approaches; delivering it to the sales professional via CRM where they need it most. The right people will bring knowledge and expertise as they assess the data available, comparing it to what they already know or have seen on a consistent basis. The right process ensures that both the technology and the people accessing that technology are creating accurate data and understanding that data correctly.

When these three elements are layered together and interwoven effectively, data is readily accessible and – more importantly – true data integrity is realized.

This post is the third in a series examining the Five Keys to Making Your Sales Team Customer Relationship Intelligent. Stay tuned for our next post of this series where we’ll cover the third step in making your customer relationship intelligent: how to guarantee your customer information is meaningful and relevant.