There is no better time to retune marketing, sales, and service operations--it may influence customer loyalties later in the year.
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Competition is fierce in today's market regardless of the industry under discussion, and that competition has made customer loyalty about as elusive as El Dorado. For instance, nine of 10 consumers surveyed in the United States and the United Kingdom last year said they would take their business to other companies than the ones they traditionally buy from for the right incentive. Six of 10 consumers had already changed service providers in one industry or another. To help strengthen growth engines, which help encourage customers to stick with a company, it's time for a few professional resolutions for 2007 that focus on customer marketing, sales, and service. Below, some practices to begin with, segmented by department:
Marketing: Apply customer insight to unlock segment potential. Customer fragmentation has produced an increasingly demanding consumer base, and has forced organizations to focus on smaller market segments. To acquire new customers and sustain the existing customer base, marketers must strike a balance in how they use resources to market to the most valuable consumer segments. Customer insights and their application are crucial if marketers are to maximize the return on their investment.
Build stronger customer relationships. As products and services are commoditized, one of the few ways an organization can distinguish itself is through customer interactions that support a branded customer experience. That experience shapes the relationship, and it can separate high and low performers. Better alignment and integration across internal functions is needed to impact the customer experience for key segments. Marketers need to step up to the plate and help shape customer touch points.
Sales: Pump up sales productivity by mapping processes to new technologies (BlackBerrys, cell phones, email, et cetera), many of which can and do get in the way of sales calls. Map the sales process first. Minimize administrative functions. Tone up the sales team with productivity solutions. Then pick technologies to support the process and increase productivity.
Set sales goals and establish rewards for meeting them; consistently compensate the sales team. Forget the bulky binders that collect dust on a shelf. Streamline sales compensation plans and quickly implement them. Ensure that you pay on time--all the time.
Service: Use analytics tools to gain a deeper understanding of the actual intentions of customers in their own words. The combination of these insights for stated and undeclared intentions (service needed, but not directly asked for) provides the foundation for tailored treatments and customer satisfaction improvement.
Enterprises will need to explore enabling CRM technology solutions while following through on these resolutions, such as enterprise packages, niche and best-of-breed solutions, SaaS, and composite CRM solutions that can support a company's service-oriented architecture. At the same time they will also have to consider the links between the back- and front-office strategies, processes, and amount of data required to sustain operations, as solutions are selected.
Many organizations think they have a healthy customer service operation, but may need to think again. Often, a wide gap exists between the service customers expect and the actual service experience. Try aligning what marketing tells customers to expect from service, isolating their intentions when contacting the business for service, and comparing delivery against those expectations to find what's clogging the system. Make this an annual checkup. If a problem shows up in the results, it's time for a specialist.
Woody Driggs is managing partner of the Customer Relationship Management practice at Accenture.
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