In the age of social media, when the public has a ready-made platform to voice their dismay or approval of a company, getting customer service right has never been more important.
Thankfully for organisations there is now a whole array of tools that can be used to monitor customer sentiment and improve relations, and effective use of these can pay dividends.
With this in mind, we spoke to SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin to find out how companies can best use the technology at their disposal.
TechRadar Pro: How has the proliferation of mobile devices and social communication affected how businesses engage with their customers?
Larry Augustin: In the past five years, there's been an explosion in mobile technologies: sales of tablets and smartphones will grow by 18% and 12% respectively this year alone.
On top of this, wearable technologies, such as Google Glass and smartwatches are set for explosive growth. But our desire to be connected to the wider world at all times is driving a culture of immediacy.
Customers expect more from brands and can very quickly become disgruntled if access to a service becomes unexpectedly delayed.
The matter has only been made worse by the proliferation of social networks, which have made it far easier for customers to complain. For example, it's becoming increasingly common for consumers to take to Twitter and attack brands for their poor customer service.
This is why it's becoming increasingly important for business to invest in robust communication platforms that enable them to engage with each and every customer effectively and quickly.
TRP: Why are more businesses investing in real-time analytics tools?
LA: CMOs use data and technology to help identify profitable customer relationships and changing trends to better understand their customers' wants and needs. But worryingly, the growing volume of digital content isn't showing any signs of slowing down and is set to reach eight zettabytes by 2015.
Businesses are therefore increasingly investing in real-time analytics in order to respond rapidly to changing market conditions and exploit customer data to maximum effect.
CRM software can seamlessly unite data from many sources from within or outside an organisation. This provides a complete view of every customer to every employee in real-time.
TRP: How has CRM software evolved from its early days as a simple sales tool?
LA: Legacy CRM software was designed to give managers reports to provide visibility into sales and business performance. Those on the front line of customer sales and service were typically neglected, meaning they've been put off from ever using CRM platforms properly.
If businesses are to respond to each and every customer effectively and timely, they need a system that keeps the individual user front of mind, and that's something we are seeing becoming more prominent in CRM software today.
TRP: How can CRM help businesses to better understand their customers and establish trust?
LA: We've all had this experience: We call into a company, and are passed around several times to different departments, only to repeat the same basic personal identification information over and over again.
As customers, in times like these that the company does not know or understand us as individuals, and our level of trust in that organisation drops.
CRM addresses this issue because it allows employees to deliver a consistent, high quality customer experience every time they engage with a current or future customer, enabling them to build up trust and better understand in the process.
TRP: So how are big data and CRM connected?
LA: By integrating insights gained from analysing big data into CRM systems, businesses can transform their customer information into valuable customer insight. This allows employees to understand the "who, what, where, when and why," in one central location before talking to their customers.