By Henning Ogberg, Executive Vice President Worldwide Sales, SugarCRM

It’s estimated that 78% of consumers have bailed on transactions or not made an intended purchase because of poor service experience. With customer centricity becoming ever more critical to a business, the level of expectation is rising faster and faster. For a business to keep up with their customer expectations they need to use the knowledge at their disposal to tailor every customer interaction and ensure questions and queries are answered with speed.

An intensifying culture of immediacy is moving fast. This seismic shift is caused by the era of mobility, which is increasing customers’ expectations for access to a service and also providing them with a wider range of channels and platforms with which to reach a business or brand in a matter of minutes. Businesses have to think on their feet and react to this change by bringing in personality to their brand and also dealing with each customer as an individual – there cannot be shortcuts here and brands will succeed and fail in their handling of personalisation in the face of increasing market competition.

However, for this individualisation to work, customer-centricity has to be embedded in the organisational culture of the entire business and not just in the call centre or marketing department. Every employee should be able to deliver personalised customer interactions across the entire customer lifecycle, empowering them to provide a top-rate service. Having one single view of the customer-base can help employees to achieve this, but rolling out such a strategy across departments can prove troublesome.

Gartner has estimated that the global CRM market will be worth $37 billion by 2017. This shows that there is a clear momentum in the market and companies are increasingly turning to CRM solutions in order to redefine their customer experience. CRM systems can empower all customer-facing employees to interact with customers on an individualised basis therefore redefining the customer experience.

It is tempting to deploy a single CRM solution; but although this might be quick and relatively simple to deploy, it isn’t necessarily the best option. Given the unique needs of companies managing complete CRM initiatives, a one size fits all approach is inherently flawed. On the other hand a best-of-breed approach can help companies find the best fit for their business. Yet the array of solutions can be bewildering, so what factors should companies consider when buying CRM solutions?

Firstly, consider the pricing structure of the product you are buying. Choosing best-of-breed products rather than going for an all-in-one solution can help in the avoidance of extra charges as you are less likely to be tied into additional, non-essential tools. Examine the flexibility of your product choice will it allow you to scale up when you need to and scale back during times of lesser demand?

Secondly, investigate how easy it will be to integrate the CRM solution into your existing business processes. Will it increase productivity by streamlining processes or would it be complicated to roll out across the business? If the primary goal is ensuring the easy interpretation of data, ensure that your CRM solution makes it easy to tap into the current data you have available and enables you to collect further data on every touch base with a customer.

Thirdly, think about how easy the new CRM solution will be to use on different devices. Sales people often have off-site client meetings because people are much more likely to buy from a person when meeting face-to-face, so it’s essential to make sure they can easily access essential information across different platforms at the click of a button. An individualised pitch and service can only be delivered if they can get to critical information quickly, no matter what device they are on. This information should also be easily understood because data is only useful if you can draw insight from it. A list of figures and stats mean nothing, if they do not provide insight into the business and its issues.

Providing a personalised service that makes you stand out is dependent on understanding your customers’ needs and supplying a solution that will ensure those needs are met. A CRM solution can help companies find this insight but it’s essential to find one that will meet the needs of your business as well as the needs of your clients.