Small changes at minimal expense can have far reaching effects.
Posted Jul 19, 2004
CRM initiatives can reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction. The myth that CRM initiatives require huge amounts of money and resources is belied by the fact that small changes--at minimal expense--can have far-reaching effects. Here are five simple, low-cost ways to improve CRM.
1. Call your main business telephone number--experience what customers hear when they call your company. Senior management is often unaware how difficult it is for customers to call the company to do business. Many companies use autoattendants to reduce expense. However, the menus/features of some systems are difficult to navigate or to connect to a live person when necessary. I have called many businesses during their published business hours, only to hear a recording say, "Please call back during regular business hours." Menus can be changed, rearranged, or features can be added to autoattendants to make calling a more pleasant, less frustrating experience.
2. Create a mission statement for your call center, tech-support or help desk that accurately reflects what's expected of those employees. I am often told by contact center employees that the job is "to make customers happy." Frequently this puts those employees in the position of engaging in problem resolution, a task that may not be their responsibility.
One of my manufacturing clients was stunned to learn that each customer call was costing $1,500 and taking four hours or more to resolve. The firm's tech-support department had a 55 percent abandoned-call rate, and an average on-hold time exceeding eight minutes. By working with this team and creating a new mission statement we were able to reduce abandoned calls to less than 15 percent, and on-hold time to 1.5 minutes, without increasing staff.
3. Turn your customer service "cost center" into a "profit center." Identify and reduce expenses, such as lengthy phone conversations. One way to do this is to consider what it costs to keep an agent on the phone and to determine the breakeven time of a telephone contact. A shorter telephone contact resulting in a positive resolution for the customer, even if it means bending a company policy, is a good first step for turning cost centers into profit centers. (See also Delivering on its Promise
4. Use your customer data more effectively. When a considerable investment has been made to gather customer information, you need that data to work. One way to do that is by focusing on data quality. Poor data quality results in increased marketing costs and potential misunderstandings regarding the true profile of important customers. If one customer record indicates 'Bank of America Corp.' with $1 million in revenue and another is 'B of A', with $200,000 in revenue, does your querying tool recognize the two as "one and the same" customer worth $1.2 million in total? Using your data more effectively can create real value.
5. Listen to your customers. There is no one better equipped or more willing to give advice than your customers. Survey them frequently and ask such questions as, How easy is it for you to do business with us? Discuss what they say with your managers and others who interface with your customers. Most often you will find that making small changes in the ways you do business can have dramatic positive results.
Many techniques can be applied at little or no cost to enhance CRM results. Depending on company need, there are also many CRM software solutions available. Well-planned CRM initiatives can make a significant, that is, measurable, difference toward reduced expenses, improved customer satisfaction, and increased employee effectiveness.
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