The next aspect of account management we need to consider–one that is vitally important–is application integration.
Digital transformation is definitely accelerating across industries, according to Mulesoft Research’s 2021 Connectivity Benchmark Report. This study was conducted with 800 IT leaders throughout the world. Of these, 77 percent say that failure to transform will impact revenue. Yet integration challenges continue to be a roadblock for digital transformation initiatives.
The pressure to enhance connectivity between systems, data and applications has been increased by the covid-19 pandemic, according to the report. A top-down approach is being taken in more organizations for the development of integration and API strategies as compared to last year. However, less than a third of apps are currently integrated, with many of them existing in silos. The average organization runs over 800 apps, each with an approximate lifespan of four years. This lack of integration will be unsustainable in the future as organizations strive for increased business efficiency and better-connected experiences.
Integration Tied Into Account Management
Let’s take a look at how application integration affects account management. We’ll bring it back to a salient point we made in our last article, which was that all departments need to work together to achieve a 360-degree view of the customer. In order for account management to utilize data from all of these disparate systems, they all need to be integrated and available in CRM. Otherwise, account management isn’t really possible.
How It’s Accomplished
Integration, first of all, requires OpenAPIs. OpenAPIs are application program interfaces that are publicly available. OpenAPIs, along with the latest in API technology, make it possible for developers to integrate programs with proprietary software applications or web services.
The first thing required by the account manager is having the needed data right in front of them. When they speak to an account, they need to know, for example, how many support tickets that account has and if there are any open. An account manager making a call to an account without such information would be a very bad move.
The Importance of Iterations
We can now visualize the direction we’re taking. We need the whole company connected up so that all data is available from all departments.
Before we proceed with real account management, though, must we wait for everything to be accomplished first? For this, we can take an example from today’s software development, which is conducted in iterations. I see it as a significant error on the part of many companies—and people for that matter—that they want everything do ne NOW, completed and in perfect working order.
If we’re honest, there is nothing in life that proceeds this way. Nothing in life arrives completely formed at its perfectly operating end result. You obviously always must have the end in mind—for example, a child growing up will be attending school for the next 12 to 14 years or longer. But you certainly wouldn’t want to say to a second-grader, “For the next 16 years you will go to class, and be told each day what to do, and then you will have homework, and life will be very hard.” If you did that, who would want to go to school?
We’re just, in my opinion, complicating things far too greatly. We should not start with trying to make things perfect all at once. We should take things in iterations—and when the first iteration is well in place, we adjust the system according to feedback.
Just as an aside, the programming methodology used at Pipeliner came about in this way. With Scrum programming, team members break their work into goals that can be completed within iterations, called sprints. The scrum team assesses progress in daily meetings of 15 minutes or less, called daily scrums. When the sprint is over, the team holds two more meetings: one meeting is the sprint review, used to show stakeholders the work that has been done and to gain feedback, and the second is a retrospective in which the team reflects for improvement.
Previously programming was conducted through something called the waterfall model, within which everything had to be done perfectly the first time, and there was no going back (much like a waterfall). It only went in one direction. We can compare this to the way organizations proceed today when trying to reach a particular goal. Various people and departments are adding items in and making the goal more complex and harder to achieve. In the end, the goal is barely reached if at all.
Being Efficient and Productive
Iteration is definitely the most efficient method for moving toward a long-term goal, and efficiency means doing the right thing and doing it better. An example I always use is the utilization of the right hammer to put nails in walls to hang pictures. Using the correct hammer makes the job efficiently, and where the person was only able to hang 20 pictures an hour in the past, they can now, with the right tool, hang 50.
We definitely have to start somewhere as we go forward in the integration of different solutions, parties, and departments. Starting small is much more efficient. Efficiency leads to productivity, and productivity leads to profitability—which is where we all want to go. ]
Adding In Value
The addition of value is another highly important factor for integration and account management.
I will point out that the value I am referring to is not for your company but for the customer. You can “love the sound of your own voice” as a company, but that doesn’t say anything to the customer. Your company can even have plentiful data about a customer, but when the customer reaches out, you give them nothing. Where do I get that idea? Well, most banks, despite all the detailed financial information they have on their customers, never offer anything of value to them.
When engaging in account management, thoroughly utilize a customer’s information to figure out what kind of value you want to bring to them.
Follow-up Processes In Account Management
Let’s now take up the last factor for integration and account management, which is having adequate follow-up processes in place.
To take an example, let’s say that after integration of all your data you conducted a Quarterly Business Review (QBR) with a particular customer. The customer lets you know that they have a new support issue. At the conclusion of the QBR, the customer should, through an automated process, be “taken” right to Tech Support so that they can be serviced right away.
When required in such an instance, the data set flows to any of the customer touchpoints automatically. If a data point changes and the customer should be steered to a different department, that should happen right away also.
I’ll take my recent covid-19 vaccination as another example. I’m now in a database, and the data point shows that I was checked in, that I received a vaccination, and that I checked out. There is now a data point indicating that I was vaccinated. This data point will be important to government agencies and anyone else concerned. It will not only contribute to statistic compilations but will ultimately, I believe, result in a “pass” that can be utilized traveling and for other purposes.
For yet another example, this time from our own field, you might have a customer who is upset due to some issues with your product. Because of this, they are refusing to pay their bill, and your support people are working on solving the issue.
There are two directions in which this problem could be directed. The account manager could agree to give the client ten more days to pay their bill, while your company works on a fix for the customer’s problem. If the fix happens and the client pays their bill, all is good and everything returns to normal. If the problem isn’t fixed or the invoice still isn’t paid, we still have an issue. An automated process would take care of either scenario.
This clearly demonstrates that automation is a ust for account management to efficiently function. Without it, account managers will become very overwhelmed, having to keep track of customers and “moving parts.”
To sum up: account management, through application integration, must deal efficiently and effectively with customers, must provide value, and must utilize automation to provide effective service.