Operational Customer Relationship Management

Airlines · 9 min read · Oct 22, 2021
operational customer relationship management

Customer relationship management, also known as the acronym CRM, is a complex activity that covers different areas required to build a good relationship with a customer.

Fortunately, the complexity of CRM has been reduced with the development of customer relationship management software that makes business processes much more superficial.

In general, there are three types of CRM, and operational CRM is just one of them. Let’s see what the three types are.

What are the 3 types of CRM?

The three types of CRM are analytical, collaborative, and operational.

Analytical CRM

Analytical CRM refers to managing the data obtained about the customer. This means keeping it safe and, as the name suggests, analyzing it to make good use of it towards building that vital relationship.

Collaborative CRM

When managing customer relationships, members of different teams such as sales, marketing, and customer service need to keep smooth and clear communication. Therefore, collaborative CRM refers to helping teams with task assignments, data sharing, and other communication needs.

Operational CRM

It could be said that operational CRM is the father of the other two types. This refers to a centralized system where all business operations are streamlined to improve customer interaction, sales, and marketing processes, and customer service to enhance customer satisfaction. In other words, operational CRM takes the analytic and collaborative and puts them in one single place.

In addition, good operational CRM software provides businesses with the capability of measuring, analyzing, and tailoring the customer journey for increased customer satisfaction. It also allows companies to be more efficient with marketing, sales, and service automation features.

What are the main components of operational CRM?

Given that operational CRM systems cover different aspects of the business, there should be several vital components in any CRM software to be considered a good CRM solution.

In general, it should include collecting customer data and storing it safely, tools to automate different business processes, and functions to help sales and customer service teams serve customers better.

This said, here are the main components every operational CRM system should have.

HR management

This is an aspect that is often forgotten, but managing people within a big organization can be really challenging. Assigning the right people to specific tasks can be a game-changer for companies’ productivity and profitability, so a CRM system needs to help to ease this process. Fortunately, they usually do. At least the good ones.

Lead management

This is an essential component of any operational CRM system. In the end, you can never have customers if you do not have any leads. Leads are the ones who you work towards converting into loyal customers. But dealing with all the information you get from contact forms, subscription forms, blog comments, among other sections of the online environment, and even offline opportunities, can be very time-consuming.

An essential aspect of the lead management component is lead prioritization. This means using the available data to identify the best leads prone to becoming customers and those who will probably require more time and effort. When this is done, the information can be given to the sales team to focus on those leads who are a priority.

In addition, it must include the capability of automatically distributing the leads. It is not the same sending great leads to a sales rep with years of experience as sending them to newly hired sales reps who need time to develop their skills. The proper lead distribution will keep your sales pipeline flowing in the right direction.

Therefore, to collect, store safely and distribute this information to your marketing team, sales reps, and your customer service team so they can keep track of those leads and convert them into new customers, the operational CRM system in place must have this component.

Three people having a meeting.

Sales Force Automation

As mentioned before, when an organization applies operational CRM, it usually tries to make business processes and workflows more efficient. Therefore, different forms of automation are expected, including sales force automation.

This automation refers to tracking customers, improving customer interactions, enabling sales forecasting, scheduling sales meetings, and processing sales. All these are using the information from other components, such as the lead management component described above.

The most powerful operational CRM software also empowers the sales team after the initial sales process by making possible vital actions such as tracking sales performance, automating upsells, and scheduling customer follow-ups.

Another essential aspect found in this component is the automation of sales reports. Having reports every day and sometimes even in real-time will result in a motivation boost for the sales team. Seeing their current goal to move on to the next one will definitely increase their competitiveness and productivity.

Also, managers will be able to limit the reports to the information that matters to them without dealing with cluttered spreadsheets. And they could also see it in real-time when needed.

Support automation

Operational CRM is all about customer satisfaction to secure those loyal customers. And giving them support is one of the most critical actions along the customer lifecycle.

Even when organizations do their best to keep things clear for their customers, these will eventually have questions at different stages of their purchase journey.

Customer interactions are always a great opportunity to do business, and a customer service team must take advantage of that fact. Providing excellent support should not be limited to helping the customer solve their problems. Instead, it should be creating an experience that will make the customer want to buy more now and in the future. This is the ultimate goal of a service team.

When customer service teams automate customer service functions, the operational CRM software enables customers to solve their problems themselves and raise tickets when they cannot find the solution. This results in queries being solved much more quickly.

Moreover, the feedback provided from customers should be considered critical customer data. The information obtained usually helps identify what customers might be looking for in a product or a service. These are great business opportunities since those needs can usually be covered with add-ons or improvements that lead to higher profits.

Another essential function for customers is the ability to update their payment and invoicing information.

All those essential support functions mentioned above can be automated with the operational CRM software using tools like:

  • Autoresponders
  • Live chat
  • Help desk
  • Ticketing systems
  • Priority checkers
  • Support community and forums
  • Satisfaction surveys
  • Self-service management for payment and invoice information
A woman with a headset working as a customer service representative with live help desk.

Marketing Automation

Operational CRM refers to managing all operations involving the relationship with the customer to do business successfully. And marketing is among the top operations. Without promotion, no product nor service will ever be purchased.

Now, campaign management can be complex as it deals with a significant amount of data, and doing it manually is basically impossible. That’s what the marketing automation component of the operational CRM software will do for your marketing team, automating data processing and analysis and other marketing processes to achieve successful marketing campaigns.

The main idea of marketing automation is to interpret the data to offer a tailored-made experience to each customer. This can be done by learning from the customer’s behavior like pages visited in the website, information requested through contact forms, or even interaction with email marketing campaigns.

Here, trigger-based or event-based marketing strategies play an important role, and they can be automated with an excellent operational CRM platform. This will allow your team to send out accurately targeted, personalized marketing campaigns to potential and existing customers.

Different marketing campaigns can be automated with operational CRM software. Here are the ones that are a must.

Welcome campaigns

This is the most common of all. And any company that takes business seriously must have one in place. This campaign refers to sending out a personalized message to the potential customer after they have interacted with your business in some way. For example, it could be after a phone call, filling out a contact form, or subscribing to your newsletter. You may use a newsletter maker to create engaging newsletters for your customers and enhance your marketing efforts.

The fact is that sending this type of message achieves different things, including:

  • Showing the potential customer that you care.
  • It gets the customer used to hear from you regularly.
  • It lets the customer the opportunity to know your company and your business better.
  • It gives you the opportunity to set the value your business can provide before the sales pitch.

Although this could be done manually, the fact is that it is usually difficult for marketing employees to keep up with it, and costly mistakes can be made. Fortunately, operational CRM is here to help.

Onboarding campaigns

These are campaigns designed to convert your customers into real loyal ones. Also, they help with customer retention. After a purchase is completed, the customer is ready to use your product but does not necessarily know how to get the full benefit from it.

Remember, the idea is to create a fully tailored-made experience, so following the purchase with communication to allow them to experience your product the best way is vital.

Of course, keeping up with all things related to the customer experience requires effort and can be very time-consuming. Therefore, automating messages to ask them for feedback on their knowledge to schedule phone calls in case they need help, among other possible actions, can really make a difference.

With this automation, not only will you create the best experience, but you will show that you care even about the sale, so customers will be more likely to come back to you and buy again.

Repeat purchase campaigns

We mentioned that onboarding campaigns make the customer more likely to buy again. However, they will not really make the sale. So, it would help if you had something more after the onboarding, and this is it.

Using the data from the buyer along the purchase journey, your centralized CRM system will allow you to identify other relevant products or services you can offer for a new purchase. This is achieved by using the analytical power of the operational CRM.

Reconnecting campaigns

Some customers seem to disappear after interacting with your business or making their first purchase. However, they are still potential buyers. The operational CRM software you use should let you see past purchases and interactions so you can develop a personalized offer to reconnect with those potential buyers and bring them again into your funnel.

A customer browsing and shopping at an online store on a laptop, using their credit card.

Reporting and Analytics

Data analysis is critical to developing a successful business strategy. Studying key performance indicators is crucial in understanding and tracking sales performance, so it is essential to include it in your operational CRM.

Moreover, business executives need reports to see the position of the company with respect to the market. This will allow them to make the right decisions at the right time to swim across competitive and difficult markets situations.

For example, companies running their business through operational CRM may have had a quicker and more effective response to the pandemic situation than those without it. Especially those who got hit harder, such as the ones in the traveling business like small airlines. If you want to learn how to regain customer confidence in traveling, you see this unique course.

What is the difference between operational and analytical CRM?

Analytical and operational CRM have things in common, so some people think they are the same. However, functional CRM refers to a broader system, and it includes the analytical component as it was described in the previous point.

Many could think that the analytical type of CRM could do a better job when it comes to helping process data instead of manually analyzing data because they are entirely focused on this aspect. However, current operational CRM solutions are so powerful that this is no longer true.

On the other hand, the analytic component is sometimes not considered a key feature for an operational CRM to do the work. In the end, it is up to you to decide whether you really need to be included or not, but keep in mind that getting an extra tool may result in increased costs.

In short, the differences between analytical and operational CRM can be summarized in the following list:

  • The main functions of operational CRM are sales, service, and support, not analyzing data.
  • Operational CRM works perfectly with customer-facing functions while analytical cannot perform them.
  • Operational CRM connects marketing, customer service, and sales teams while analytical only provides information.
  • Operational CRM automates many functions including scheduling, follow-ups, and contacts while analytical only automates the analysis and reporting of the data.
  • Operational CRM facilitates customer self-service functions, something the analytical type of CRM obviously does not cover.

Which is an example of operational CRM?

The first action any company takes when deploying operational CRM is lead generation. There are different ways to do this. In this example, we will use a common strategy used by airlines.

When people are trying to find the best flights for the destination they want to travel to, airlines usually offer the option to subscribe to a VIP type of club or similar to get special offers and start collecting points for even better benefits.

Once the person fills out the subscription form, the information is saved in the system’s database, and the CRM will start the automated campaign.

Moreover, the system can take the leads searches to segment according to desired destinations and send them offers with similar goals. Other tools such as lead scoring and email personalization come together to try to convince prospects to buy.

According to the response, the prospect is taken over by the sales team. The sales team then uses operational CRM tools to move the prospects further down the sales funnel.

Once the lead completes a ticket purchase, the customer service team takes charge to improve the customer experience by offering add-ons such as extra luggage capacity, special seating, car rental at the destination, among others. Here, the team also uses the operational CRM to automate surveys to get feedback about the purchase process and the flight experience once the flight is completed.

Then marketing will retarget the customer with email sequences that will offer similar flight experiences and improved ones for future trips, so the process starts again.

Of course, during pandemic times, an important aspect will be keeping the passenger informed about all the requirements and safety measures taken to protect their health.

A person sitting at a desk with a laptop, booking flight tickets online.
Image source: https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-finding-airfares-deals-20180411-story.html

Final thoughts

Keeping CRM operational is essential for any business to succeed. Apart from having different customer touchpoints, CRM systems allow companies to control the customer lifecycle to increase customer satisfaction. This results in increased revenue and a better reputation for the company.

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