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Automate Your Customer Reference Process
Five reasons to do so.
Posted May 1, 2007
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Even companies with the strongest established customer list can find it exceedingly difficult to obtain the right customer references, in the right time frame, to satisfy a prospect's request. Often at the root of this challenge is the lack of a well-defined approach to proactively cultivating a willingness in customers to share their success. Applying an internal process and some centralized ownership to the care and management of customer references can have a dramatic and measurable impact on a business's ability to grow and succeed. Many companies use simple homegrown tools or spreadsheets with the names of customers, contact information, customer detail, and activity notes. However, such manual methods have limited benefits because as demands increase, spreadsheets quickly become cumbersome and inefficient. Automating the process with a software solution designed specifically to solve this challenge provides far greater benefits. Detailed below are five important reasons why companies should centralize and automate the customer reference process. Success Metrics Tracking With an automated system, companies gain the ability to measure gaps, document improvements, and demonstrate ROI. For example, customer usage can be recorded and controlled to avoid customer burnout. An automated system details which customers are being used too much and which ones not enough. By tracking usage, the organization can better understand which customers are contributing the greatest business value in a given timeframe and acknowledge them appropriately. And perhaps most valuable, a centralized and automated system has the ability to deliver extensive reports that show the tangible dollar value of customer references in a meaningful way. Program Efficiency When marketing can use an automated system, significantly less time is spent on onerous manual tasks like dealing with email and manually tracking activities. Marketing staff may send automated approval requests and updates about certain customers or activities to relevant internal personnel including sales representatives, account managers, and even executives. Consider this in contrast to the undefined program where a sales representative sends an email blast to the entire organization looking for help and the corresponding fire drill that ensues.
Sales Effectiveness Strong, relevant, and happy references can be identified and approved much more quickly with an automated system. By connecting references with prospects right away, companies create favorable impressions. As a result, prospects may have more confidence in the company that can lead to shorter sales cycles and higher close rates. Some solutions will even integrate with existing SFA packages so that sales and marketing professionals can access reference information from directly within their sales automation environment. Broad Visibility and Buy-In One of the great benefits of centralized customer reference programs is the fact that multiple internal stakeholders and participants can be kept up to date easily. Without a centralized tool, reference programs often feel like a black hole where salespeople are asked to send their customers. Similarly when the need for a reference arises, salespeople may be left with nothing more than instructions to send their requests to an email alias. By establishing a centralized system for customer references, all stakeholders and participants can easily obtain visibility to the right information at the right time. They can immediately see the status of their open activities and know their own contributions. This level of visibility and common shared resources encourages stakeholder participation at levels not often otherwise found. Collaboration Occasionally companies will have several departments and/or individuals conducting their own customer reference efforts. A centrally recognized, consistent approach with common language and expectations protects against the development of multiple uncoordinated, and often unsuccessful, outreach attempts. With an automated system, users can work together in unison, often achieving stronger results. Improving sales efficiency and results are priorities for today's corporations operating in competitive environments. Customer reference management, even in its most basic form, is often overlooked. Replacing spreadsheets and inefficient manual or nonexistent processes with a valuable and trusted technology tool empowers organizations to finally tap into the sales and marketing power of their own customers. About the Author Joshua Horwitz is the founder and president of Boulder Logic. Please visit www.boulderlogic.com.
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