CRM in the Eye of Adversary Economic Climate
In the current global economic recession, the market strategy of choice is customer retention, and customer service is a core ingredient in this pursuit.
Indeed, Gartner reported mid 2008 that for the third year in a row, customer experience and customer service are cited by CIOs as key business factors that will drive decision making during the next 24 months.
Customer service in the context of customer retention places the emphasis on post-sale consumer interactions that are flawless.
How can CRM help companies improve customer service?
The answer lies in embracing traditional customer service adages that have led individual industries for ages. Think for example of the hospitality industry motto ‘Smile, make eye contact, and use the last name’ to instill a customer service orientation in its front row of staff facing customers at all times.
Just taking these three values of ‘being pleasant, being there for the customer to instantly act according to its specific wishes, and knowing the customer’ into your CRM selection and planning process is half the battle won of instilling customer service into your CRM effort.
And that’s the advice for all companies, and in particular, the data- or process-oriented organizations such as banks, insurance companies and cable tv companies, who have been building complex still-internally focused CRM systems. CRM systems might have cut their process costs, but what is their customer service level? Do their CRM systems fully enable their customer service agents at point of contact, and enable their customers directly when they are in self-serve mode? In most cases ‘not yet’ is the answer, and that’s why according Forrester nearly 40% of companies offer a customer service experience that is rated as “poor” or “very poor.”
Who’s on Track
Companies that are exploring SAAS CRM systems are on the better track to win the customer service battle. While today’s SAAS CRM systems are not yet perfect for all companies and all industries, companies with SAAS-based CRM systems are best placed to offer superior customer service thanks to its web-based interface as well as its web-way of thinking.
Today’s customers live in a world called 2.0. Customer service is about knowing the customers and their individual needs. It is about being able to respond to these needs, with either a virtual or a physical a smile.
And as today’s customers live online, they may be more inclined to email a customer service representative than to pick up the phone. However, they will do both. Therefore, companies must integrate both information sources to deliver a complete and consistent response to the customer’s reality.
In addition, today’s customers are actively partaking in interactive communities online. CRM solutions need to tie in with these communities. A company like Adobe has been doing this for decades. Visiting its web site, and you’ll instantly know what is meant. The old ‘user groups’ have made way for communities. The main menu offers access to the communities by user group, or by resource: Adobe Labs, Adobe TV, Forums, User groups, Exchange/ Marketplace, Experience Design and Blogs. In other words, communities are an integral part of its website and of its corporate thinking.
Today’s customer is also like a 5-year-old: they want to do things for themselves and they want to succeed doing them. So, think in the form of guided self-service. Giving customers online account access through an easy to understand interface is what it is about for the next decade ahead for many industries. Therefore, the preferred CRM solution encompasses easily adaptable and easy-to-use user interfaces for both customer service agents and customers.
CRM for Customer Service Goes Beyond the Basics
Traditional or process-oriented CRM systems may be superior at enabling the basic sales tasks like product selection, order management, payment, account setup and basic support. However, additional capabilities are a ‘must’ in order to deliver contemporary, quality customer service through CRM systems.
Things to look for are those that follow the hospitality customer service adage:
- OFFER A SMILE: capabilities to use your CRM to nurture online communities through CRM integration with social media like Facebook; to allow the customer service agent’s presence into these communities; and to connect the customer service agent dashboard with customers’ own self-serve web interface; are three leading edge examples.
- MAKE EYE CONTACT: analytical applications to understand customer-intentions, which in turn enable tailored interactions as well as products & services to match customer preferences.
- KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER’S LAST NAME: to be really ready to serve a customer, CRM systems must have the capabilities for customer service agents to find action-oriented answers for his customer fast.
The customer service adage has stayed the same. The implications for our CRM systems will evolve over time.