A recent study indicates that 88 percent of CEOs consider getting closer to customers a top priority. However, most companies narrowly confine the customer experience to the front office within sales, service, and marketing domains. By doing this, they are building a customer-centric strategy that only goes halfway. This is not enough.
The demands of customers have changed. Today's customers want instant answers and deeper access, meaning an outdated CRM system can no longer provide all the solutions. To become truly customer-centric, businesses now must connect office functions including billing, receivables, and product/service delivery to the front office to gain a comprehensive view of customers for the purpose of better serving them.
Through this customer-centric approach, businesses will arm customer-facing employees with the information they need to serve their customers by answering their questions and delivering a one-call resolution. Every department will be able to focus on serving all requests at any point during a customer's journey. Legacy management structures, old operational practices, and outdated systems should no longer be an excuse.
But how can a company truly connect with customers? The following tips can help any business become a more customer-centric organization.
Build business processes with the customer in mind
Ancient disparate systems and artificial department barriers prevent companies from operating at optimal speed. That is why organizations must turn to solutions that will take the time and effort out of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and increase the pace of its processes.
The growing adoption of social and mobile tools in business is helping to reach this goal by connecting customers, employees, partners, and products in a single system, which provides everyone with a unified view of the entire customer journey.
Keep information in a multidimensional system that can be easily accessed by the entire organization
What does a customer service representative do when a customer calls and asks, "Where's my order?" To answer the question, the agent must be armed with the right information to establish if the order is held up in distribution, still with the supplier, on hold due to payment issues, etc.
Traditionally, businesses have implemented systems of engagement (CRM) separately from systems of record or operations (ERP). This divide has led to barriers between departments and the bifurcation of customer information. To answer customer service questions like the above efficiently, the walls between the systems of engagement, systems of record, and systems of operations should be taken down, and customer information should be visible to each and every employee. In fact, they should all be considered systems of engagement in a customer-centric business.
Don't be afraid to "overcommunicate" with customers
Conversations are key to personalizing the customer experience. However, they are lacking in many of today's ERP systems. By embedding social and mobile components into business applications, companies can track relevant notes alongside transactions, accounts, reports, or other objects. Conversations traditionally lost in a sea of emails can be attached to any business activity. This helps to put more context around a cold transaction, which helps employees understand both their customers and colleagues.
To remain competitive, companies must evolve to their customer' ever-changing needs. It is only through removing barriers and busting silos that businesses can increase visibility and compress time out of processes to meet customer expectations.
Jeremy Roche is president and CEO of FinancialForce.com.