When Professor Knowle discussed strong brands, he discussed characteristics that sets them apart. One of these characteristics is that their managers understand what the brand means to consumers. Another one is that these brands offer consistent and meaningful experiences through all of their touch points in order to reinforce the connection with consumers. One of the tools that brand managers leverage in order to do these two things is CRM, or customer relationship management. CRM is the process of analyzing all of the interactions between a customer and a company, and using these deep knowledge about the customers to manage those relationships and forge stronger connections. While in theory, any process that is used to gather data on customers to better manage their relationship with them can be described as CRM, for example, a spreadsheet. The term is usually used in reference to CRM software or technology. A CRM system tracks information across every touch point in a customer's journey. This can include details that the customers sharie in a form, how customers engage with marketing campaigns in social media, interactions with customer support, buying patterns, etcetera. For example, if your brand runs a campaign on Instagram, CRM will instantly capture what the consumers say if they click on the link, etcetera. CRM does allows you to use what you know about your customers so that you can provide them with what matters the most to them. Not only do you have information of what is relevant to them, but you also have the opportunity to provide exclusive value when they need it. And the more you know about your customers, the more you can elevate your communications so that you can reach them at the right time, in the right place, and with the right message. So for example, if you're the manager for a baby formula brand, understanding people's attitudes towards baby formula can help you tailor your messaging. Some new parents may feel guilt about giving baby formula to their babies while others feel perfectly fine about it. As you can imagine, this information would be crucial to craft the appropriate messaging for these customers. Let's hear more on CRM from an expert. Okay, to help us better understand CRM, we are very fortunate to have an expert here at the University of Illinois. Dr. Mike Yao who is professor of digital media. So, thank you so much for being here with us to talk about this. One of the first questions that we have is can you give us an example of how CRM is in the real world in our day to day lives? >> Really, yeah, I think CRM is really a broad term to just kind of capture the overall, any system and technology that you can use to keep track and maintain a good relationship with customers or customer relation management. So, really, the broad definition can be as simple as a spreadsheet to very sophisticated large database that have very integrated technology from the front end of the marketing funnel all the way to the post purchase and recurring and linking to the email system. So it's not one thing, but really it's a way of thinking about customer relation management in a way that it's holistic and integrated into both the management side of the business, as well as the marketing side of business and in the post purchased customer relations side of the business. So, yeah, but the term is generally refers to the larger enterprise systems that provides a tool for companies to maintain a contact list. Able to reach the customers at different touch points at different parts of the marketing journey. And increasingly, I think CRM is also swimming upstream to be integrated into the inbound marketing website and chat bots, and systems as well. >> Wow, that's great. Great. So, Mike, you described the different elements of CRM, tell me though, tell us, what would be the benefits of using CRM and artificial intelligence? What would those benefits be? >> Yeah, I think the core function of CRM doesn't change. It's maintaining the customer relationship, but I think that the scalability when you run a business and reach a point where a spreadsheet and someone manning the spreadsheet. Updating the spreadsheet or having multiple people updating multiple spreadsheets and in keeping track of when did you send the email, when was that customer last reached? And what did they do, linking two different systems, it gets very daunting, so, so once you have a business that have multiple people maintaining the same list of context at various touchpoints for various purposes. And it hurts not only the efficiency of running the business, but also, it has a negative impact on the customer experience. Imagine that you have a sales lead send me an email about something, then you have a sponsorship email solicitation that reached me about something. Then you have, let's say if it's a bit B2B business, then you have multiple emails made from different sources, different departments then they have redundant information. So, not only it's inefficient, it's redundant, but also it creates a very negative experience on the customer's experience side, right? And then of course the use of automation artificial intelligence allow these very intimate interpersonal relationship building activities to scale at a point where you can still feel it's very personalized. You can still feel that it's very well time and its strategic. And when do you send out email, when do you say what. Which even to come to a point wish you happy birthday, and personalizing, customizing the experience but at a global scale without losing touch of that personal connection that is needed in the relationship aspect of the customer journey. >> I love those happy birthday messages I get. [LAUGH] >> [LAUGH] Yes, yes. I know that you're a very prolific researcher in this area. And I know that your research focuses on the social and psychological impacts of interacting with digital media. So, you already touched a little bit upon this. But can you tell us more about the interactive components of CRM and how they impact customers? >> Yeah. So, I think that, I teach a class on the digital marketing and digital media. So, I touch upon this idea that in the old days in the mass media, mass communication era, the marketing promote particular promotion and mass marketing side of it is much more of leverages the mass media system. It's impersonal, it's one way, you send advertising messages and bombard them with the coupons and various things. Even the email marketing, it's less personal, right? So, the CRM itself used to be more behind the scenes, right? Maintaining database, maintaining customers, a spreadsheet of people who made the phone call. When was the customer made the last purchase. But increasingly, the use of CRM is now integrated with the front end inbound marketing, even programmatic advertising to point, let's say when the journey really starts, the minute customer reaches a website, look for some information. You have a chatbot pops up, right? Now, that's not technically the CRM system, that's the marketing touch point, but the chatbot or some sort of subscription call and ask you to input the contact information. But now we're at a point where the technology allow us to connect these two touch points. So, the information, anything you say from that moment on even prior to that, when somebody clicked on the ad and then reached the website, that information can now be integrated into the CRM back end. That's when the customer technology human interaction experience becomes very important, because if you think about CRM and more or less as a management, behind the scene management solution, then the customer experience piece of it is not as important. You design the system mainly to help the sales department, the kind of customer relations management department, post purchase activities, even handling complaints. Although those activities, the user is really about the in house team, make sure that the system is easy to use. But once you start to cross that boundary to go, okay now I'm the front center, I'm connected to the touch points that are related to the external customer facing. Then you have to realize that well what kind of data do we connect? How do we collect that personal data? Do we want to collect the data? How do we use the data? How do we use the data in a meaningful way to connect the marketing strategy department, or the brand management department to the technology department, to the customer relationship department. Oftentimes they might be managed by different departments but system wise, data wise and the customer experience wise are connected. So, that's why some of the issues that I mentioned about how people, the very first contact point may not be a CRM contact point. But increasingly, I think enterprises and companies cannot afford to start thinking about CRM as a separate issue from the marketing issue, because the data can be transferred, data can be utilized and then a lot of intelligence and insight will actually help improve both. So, the customer relation experience and information can be used in the marketing strategy and in the marketing side of things, the front end promotional side of strategy can use the intelligence from the customer journey. Right? So, that's why I think some of the user experience design, touch point design. A lot of these issues require a deep understanding of how the customer think about technology, interact with technology, under what kind of circumstances they're willing to provide what kind of information and how do they manage their personal information? How do they manage disclosure and how do they perceive the kind of at what point does the happy birthday message becomes creepy? What point that the happy birthday message, in what context would make people feel warm and fuzzy? But at a certain point, at what point the happy birthday message becomes ill timed and inappropriate, or kind of creepy just like why would you sending me this? Might as well be a welcome happy birthday message. >> [LAUGH] >> [LAUGH] Great. Now and you touched upon many of the themes that we've also been discussing in the course, the importance of first of all creating these deep connections with customers, but also consistency throughout all of the touch points. And I do think that CRM is one of the ways in which you can ensure that consistency if used correctly. >> Yeah, to add to that, I also think that just looking at all the technology solutions for the business enterprise, from email automation to front end sort of chatbots, all the way to automated emails and schedule, and even social media posts. I do think that CRM should be a center hub that connects all these touch points because it's really the logical place where all of the data about the purchasing data, the experience data, the actual consumer behavior, purchase decision, complaints and emails and communication. It nicely integrates with all of the other insights, attitude, behavior and communication sits in one place. Because this is, I mean the technology is the most mature, the CRM, I mean the larger enterprises has very mature database and in the system and to build out from the CRM system reduces the redundancy. Sometimes in the company said let's create a chatbot but if you didn't have a CRM touch point there ready to go, where does the chatbot's data save? I mean, let's say the other day, I was talking to one of the projects that we're developing, we can develop a website said well let's add a please contact us if you have any questions. But then that email sends it to someone who receives this email have to manually reply it, so hindsight and say well if we were to have the CRM system, even a very simple one in place, then that whole automation scalability will have a destination and have a follow up action. So, I always think that if from a technology adoption point of view I would say CRM should be the centerpiece that you think about, then build out the other technology from that. >> That makes sense. >> That's wonderful. Well, thank you so much for speaking with us. Now we know more about CRM. >> Thank you. Pleasure to be here. >> Great, thank you, Mike. Wonderful.