CRM Communication Channels: How to Build and Manage Customer Relationships

May 15, 2023
CRM communication channels

As businesses compete in an increasingly crowded market understanding and anticipating consumer needs is crucial - as well as developing long-term customer relationships.

That’s where customer relationship management (CRM) comes in.

By providing businesses with a platform to manage interactions, track customer data, and streamline sales and marketing processes, CRM systems empower businesses to build customer loyalty and drive revenue growth.

It’s why 91% of businesses with over ten employees are already using CRM software and strategies.

But if you want to truly succeed at CRM, you also need the right customer communication channels.

After all, how can you expect to build authentic customer relationships without two-way communication and rapport?

Luckily, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to help you choose the best CRM communication channels for your business needs. We’ll cover:

  • What is customer relationship management?
  • Why is CRM important for business success?
  • Examples of CRM systems
  • The essential CRM communication channels
customer loyalty handshake graphic

What is CRM (customer relationship management)?

CRM is the strategies and technologies used by businesses to manage their relationships with existing and potential customers.

CRM systems typically involve the use of software to manage and analyze customer conversations - including sales, marketing, and customer service interactions.

The primary goal of CRM is to optimize the customer lifecycle by understanding and meeting customer needs more effectively.

This process involves using customer data, such as contact information, purchase history, preferences, and previous interactions, to gain insights into their behavior and improve the customer experience.

Overall, CRM helps businesses to strengthen customer relationships, improve customer satisfaction and retention, increase revenue, and forge lasting brand loyalty.

customer conversations

The importance of customer relationship management

CRM is a crucial practice for brands looking to foster customer-centricity and stay competitive in a rapidly evolving market.

It’s essential because it helps businesses to:

  • Build authentic relationships: By gathering customer data and insights, businesses can enhance the buyer journey and build stronger relationships with customers. It's why 47% of brands using CRM say that it has a massive impact on their customer satisfaction rate.
  • Improve customer service: CRM systems enable businesses to provide more efficient and effective customer service. With customer information and interaction history readily available, businesses can quickly address queries and resolve issues.
  • Streamline sales processes: CRM systems help businesses to boost revenue by streamlining the sales process. In fact, statistics indicate that CRM systems can help increase conversion rates by up to 300%.
  • Provide personalization: By analyzing customer data, businesses can identify specific customer segments, their preferences, and purchase patterns. This empowers brands to provide personalized experiences, increasing the chance of customer engagement and conversion.
  • Increase efficiency and productivity: CRM automates manual tasks, streamlines processes, and eliminates redundant steps in the data entry workflow. This frees up time for agents to focus on more strategic and high-value activities.

Ultimately, CRM is important for businesses because it helps them to optimize customer interactions, streamline processes, and make data-driven decisions.

customers going through sales funnel

Types of CRM systems

CRM systems provide a centralized database that allows businesses to store customer information and manage customer interactions across multiple contact channels.

These systems are not only useful for managing customer relationships but can also significantly improve communication and collaboration between departments (i.e. sales, customer support, marketing).

The best type of CRM system for your brand depends on factors such as industry, company size, and your specific business needs.

Here, we’ll discuss three of the most popular CRM systems.

contact center agent using crm system on laptop

1. Salesforce

First up is one of the most widely used CRM systems globally - Salesforce.

Salesforce is a cloud-based CRM solution that provides businesses with a suite of tools to manage their customer data, interactions, and other business operations.

With the Salesforce platform, businesses can unite their departments - sales, support, marketing, and IT teams - around a single shared view of their customers using AI and real-time data.

One of the key strengths of Salesforce is its scalability and flexibility, with the ability to cater to the needs of both small and large businesses.

It offers a range of customizable features that businesses can use to create a customized CRM solution tailored to their specific needs.

Additionally, Salesforce offers seamless integration with a variety of partners through it's AppExchange marketplace - Talkative included.

Overall, Salesforce is a comprehensive and powerful CRM platform, making it a popular choice for businesses of all sizes.

salesforce CRM

2. Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a suite of business applications that includes CRM software.

It provides businesses with a range of tools to manage their sales, marketing, and customer service processes in a unified platform.

The Dynamics 365 CRM system provides features such as lead and opportunity management, sales forecasting, marketing automation, customer service management, and social listening.

One of the key strengths of Dynamics 365 is its integration with other Microsoft tools, such as Microsoft Teams. This enables users to work seamlessly with familiar tools to manage their business operations and collaborate with team members.

Microsoft Dynamics is best suited for mid-size businesses and can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud. 

It’s a popular choice across a range of industries due to its customization options and integration with other tools and platforms.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM
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3. Hubspot

HubSpot is a cloud-based CRM platform designed to help drive business growth by aligning sales and marketing teams.

HubSpot offers a range of CRM capabilities, such as contact management and email tracking. It also provides marketing automation tools to help businesses generate and nurture more leads.

One of the key strengths of HubSpot CRM is its ease of use and simplicity. The platform is designed to be intuitive and user-friendly for all levels of technical expertise.

Another significant benefit of HubSpot is its affordability - it offers free CRM software with basic features, making the platform accessible for small businesses and startups.

For larger organizations, HubSpot also provides a range of paid plans with more advanced capabilities, allowing businesses to scale up as they grow.

Overall, HubSpot CRM is a simple yet powerful CRM platform that arms businesses with the tools they need to manage customer relationships and streamline their sales and marketing processes. 

HubSpot logo
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The essential customer communication channels for CRM

Communication is critical for successful CRM because it enables businesses to build and maintain relationships with their customers.

By leveraging the right communication channels, businesses can digitally engage their customers at all stages of the buyer journey, ultimately driving conversions and customer delight.

In this section, we’ll explore the essential customer communication channels and how they can be used by brands to take their CRM efforts to the next level.

customer enjoying engagement channels

1. Email

Email remains one of the most popular and widely used digital channels for customer interactions.

It’s a particularly valuable channel for CRM because it allows businesses to reach a large number of consumers in a personalized and cost-effective way.

Here are some key tips to keep in mind when using email as a CRM channel:

  • Provide personalization: Personalized email content that’s tailored to a customer’s specific interests, preferences, and purchase history can be very effective in building relationships and keeping customers coming back for more. Brands can use CRM software to segment their customer base and create targeted email campaigns that are more likely to resonate with customers.
  • Utilize automation: Email automation is a key feature of many CRM systems, allowing businesses to set up emails that are sent automatically. Having an automated email system in place can save time and resources while still providing a personalized experience for customers.
  • Track effectiveness: The success of email campaigns can be tracked and analyzed using CRM software and data. Metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of different email campaigns. This information can then be used to inform and improve future efforts.

In summary, email is a useful and effective CRM channel for maintaining customer relationships and improving marketing efforts through personalized content.

happy customer using laptop desktop

2. Live chat

Of all the communication channels brands can implement, live chat is arguably the most essential.

It currently reigns as one of the favorite channels for customer support. In fact, more than half of today’s consumers would rather use live chat than call a business phone line.

On top of that, 51% of customers are more likely to remain loyal to a company that offers live chat customer service.

Live chat is ideal for CRM because it allows agents to have real-time, humanized interactions with customers via instant messaging.

Brands looking to leverage live chat as a CRM communication channel should aim to do the following:

  • Offer multiple chat touchpoints: Having live chat on your business website is a great start, but it’s best practice to offer a variety of chat touchpoints. By doing so, you’ll make it easier for customers to reach you via their preferred platform. With Talkative’s live chat, for example, you can offer chat support via a number of digital touchpoints, including your website, app, and messaging channels.
  • Be responsive: Live chat is all about speed and convenience, so it’s important to respond to customer messages as quickly as possible. Set clear expectations for your average response time and monitor your chat queue to ensure that customers are not left waiting for too long.
  • Harness the power of AI: By implementing contact center AI and automation, you can empower your live chat agents to perform better and more efficiently. For example, with the Talkative platform, you can integrate with Google Agent Assist or OpenAI to provide your agents with AI-powered assistance and response suggestions during live chat interactions.
  • Get proactive: Getting proactive involves using live chat to initiate conversations with customers, rather than waiting for them to reach out to you. Proactive customer service can be a powerful strategy for driving sales and increasing customer engagement. To help you get the most out of your proactive chat interactions, consider making use of customer journey mapping and engagement tools like proactive chat nudges.

By offering live chat as a CRM communication channel, you’ll provide a faster, more efficient, and more convenient way to interact with your brand than traditional channels like phone and email.

consumers using live chat to contact businesses

3. Social media

The rise of social media throughout the past decade has made it an increasingly popular customer communication channel.

Social media networks provide a convenient and accessible platform for customers to connect with brands, seek solutions to their problems, and share their concerns or experiences.

It’s why more than 80% of consumers use social media to contact and engage with businesses.

When using social media as a CRM channel, you should adhere to the following best practices:

  • Monitor your accounts: Make sure to regularly monitor all your social media accounts for customer messages, comments, complaints, and brand mentions. This will allow you to respond quickly to feedback and provide timely support.
  • Be present across platforms: The most successful brands are present and active on multiple social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc). By doing this, you’ll stay competitive, widen your scope of reach, and ensure that customers can interact with you via their preferred social network. This will also help with LinkedIn recruiting and keep you ahead of competitors.
  • Implement customer support tools: With the help of social media customer support tools, brands can manage customer interactions more efficiently and take their social media customer service to the next level. With Talkative, for example, you can support and engage your social media customers with live chat for social media and a social media chatbot. You can also take advantage of our messaging app integrations, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and SMS.
  • Post relevant and engaging content: In addition to responding to queries and providing support, you should also use social media channels to proactively engage your customers with relevant content. This could include sharing blog posts, posting helpful resources, promoting new products or services, or offering exclusive deals and promotions.

Ultimately, social media is a must-have CRM channel if you want to meet customers where they are and strengthen the emotional connection between consumers and your brand.

social media apps

4. SMS

SMS is a valuable CRM channel for businesses due to its high open and response rates, as well as its immediacy and convenience.

Messaging apps like SMS allow customers to contact your business effortlessly, from their mobile devices, whenever it’s convenient for them to do so.

They can simply send a message to your support team and get on with their day, rather than wait around on hold or in a live chat queue.

If you’re interested in using SMS messaging as part of your CRM strategy, take note of the following pointers:

  • Obtain consent: Before you start sending SMS messages or communicating with customers through messaging apps, it’s good practice to obtain their consent. Make sure you explain to customers what type of messages they will receive and how often they can expect to hear from you. This will help ensure that you maintain a positive relationship with customers and reduce the risk of becoming a nuisance or being reported as spam.
  • Keep it short: SMS messages and messaging app notifications should be concise and easy to understand. Focus on communicating the most important information and providing clear calls-to-action.
  • Personalize messages: Use customer data and previous interactions to personalize your messages and make them more relevant to the recipient. Address customers by name and reference their previous purchases or interactions with your brand.
  • Offer proactive support: Like live chat, SMS can be a great way to provide proactive support to customers. Consider setting up automated messages to check in with customers after a purchase or to provide order updates.

By offering SMS as a customer communication channel, you’ll give your customers the same ease and convenience of contact that they have when they’re messaging friends or family.

SMS and social media messaging channels

5. Video chat

Video chat is a fantastic CRM channel because it provides a more personal and interactive way to connect with customers.

Sometimes a text-based interaction isn’t quite enough to give customers the humanized support they need. Video call software rectifies this issue by enabling face-to-face interactions in the virtual realm, empowering brands to take the in-store experience online.

It’s why video chat for customer service is such a powerful channel for customer relationships and driving online sales. In fact, customers who use Talkative’s video chat are up to 4x more likely to make a purchase.

Consider the following tips for leveraging video chat as a CRM channel::

  • Know when to use video calls: Video chat is best suited for complex and high-value cases that may be challenging to manage via other digital channels. These scenarios require in-depth guidance and a more consultative approach to sales and customer service, which is much easier to provide through face-to-face communication.
  • Offer on-demand and scheduled video chat: Offering both on-demand and scheduled video support grants greater flexibility for customers. On-demand video chat provides customers with the ability to immediately connect with agents when they need assistance, while scheduled video chat allows them to book a time that's most convenient for them. By providing both options, businesses can cater to the needs of different consumers and ensure that they're always able to obtain the support they need in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Utilize cobrowsing: Cobrowsing is a valuable collaborative tool that can be used alongside video chat to provide customers with more hands-on assistance. With cobrowsing, agents can guide customers through a website or process in real-time, allowing them to see and interact with the same content simultaneously. This helps to resolve issues more quickly and effectively, as agents can visually demonstrate solutions and troubleshoot problems together with customers.

With the power of video chat as a CRM channel, your brand can deliver the ultimate digital customer experience that’ll keep your customers coming back for more.

video chat cx with customer and agent

6. Chatbots

Chatbots (otherwise known as virtual agents) are an essential CRM channel because they can provide immediate customer support around the clock.

They can be deployed across your website, app, and social platforms to handle FAQs and basic problems without intervention. In fact, it’s estimated that chatbots resolve customer issues around 69% of the time.

With a virtual assistant chatbot handling basic tasks and common questions, your agents will be left with more time to dedicate to the customers who need them most.

In order to get the most out of a customer service chatbot, you should endeavor to:

  • Humanize the bot experience: AI-powered chatbots can be trained to interact with customers in a conversational, human-like manner. You can even craft a compelling personality for your bot that aligns with your brand voice and values. By doing this, you'll enhance the customer experience by making your chatbot more engaging, likable, and enjoyable to interact with.
  • Allow escalation to human agents: Although chatbots can handle many customer queries, there will be times when a customer needs the human touch. So, it’s important that your chatbot can initiate a seamless escalation to a human agent when necessary. The best way to achieve this is with the help of an omnichannel platform like Talkative, which enables your chatbot to be integrated with all your other channels.
  • Continuously optimize and update: Monitor your chatbot’s performance regularly and make necessary adjustments based on customer feedback and usage patterns. Additionally, ensure that your chatbot is regularly trained and updated to reflect changes in products, services, or policies.
  • Utilize chatbot analytics: Use the analytics and data provided by your chatbot to gain insights into customer behavior and preferences. This information can be used to improve your products and services, as well as your overall CRM strategy.

By incorporating chatbots into your CRM strategy, you can provide a more efficient support experience for customers while also reducing costs and improving operational efficiency.

AI chatbot tech graphic

The takeaway

Successful customer relationship management is critical for businesses of all sizes and industries.

With the communication channels detailed in this article, businesses can optimize their CRM strategy by providing a personalized and seamless experience for their customers.

But in order to get the most out of these CRM communication channels, you need the right platform to manage them.

That’s where Talkative comes in.

Ourwas specifically designed to power better conversations and tailored customer service at every digital touchpoint.

We provide a complete suite of engagement channels that’ll allow you to connect instantly, and effortlessly, with all your digital customers.

What’s more, we offer deep integrations with some of the top CRM systems - including Salesforce and Zendesk.

As a result, you and your customer-facing teams will be fully equipped to engage and retain more customers than ever before.

Want to learn more?

Book a demo today and discover how you can take your CRM strategy to the next level by getting Talkative.

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