When efforts to win new business fall short of expectations, protecting current customers becomes paramount. Consistently delivering high-level customer service fosters long-term loyalty, which helps protect against attrition and often translates into a consistent and dependable revenue stream. Your ability to stay truly close with your customers can be enhanced with technology that captures customer interactions and seamlessly integrates the information received with your business and workflow processes, all the while facilitating internal and external communication between your business and its customers.
Consider Strategy and Culture Before Technology
No CRM solution is complete without the right strategy to back it up. Your organization must be committed and prepared at all levels to deliver on its promise to provide excellent customer service. Since culture is tied tightly to the success of any software implementation, you're more likely to realize the organizational synchronicity and focus needed to become more customer-centric if you can convince company leaders that CRM can help your entire business perform better. Also, imbue employees with a sense of ownership in the initiative by soliciting their feedback. Even with the best technology, the implementation will fail if your company is not properly positioned to take advantage of it.
Organize, Communicate, Execute
You can't leverage your customers if what's known about them is locked away in the heads of your service people or account managers. Traditional business areas that are oriented around servicing customers and protecting that relationship (customer support, customer service, account management, etc.) separately provide important information, but when woven together with a system that facilitates cross-functional communication, they can serve the customer as a whole and help build a strong, fruitful partnership. By capturing and organizing customer history, and making it accessible to employees that need it, you can retain the value that each interaction adds to your relationship with each customer. This allows your business to deliver a consistent level of service across departments, as everyone can experience the advantage of having access to customer history and context when conducting an interaction.
Helping Your Customers Help Themselves
Don't underestimate the value of self-service. Sometimes, customers need help outside operating hours. Self-service tools can be a great savior for both your business and your customer.
Consider a self-service portal. Portals are not bound by business hours, and your customers are free to seek helpful information on their own schedule. A strong self-service portal not only offers the ability to submit online support requests, but also provides access to training resources and serves as a platform for your customers to connect both with you and one another. By providing this kind of on-demand access into your organization, a self-service portal can make your entire support and service infrastructure more efficient, freeing up resources to focus on more difficult problems that customers can't solve on their own.
Self-service tools can be costly and unwieldy to effectively maintain if they are not part of your infrastructure. Seek a system that provides the framework and a solution provider that offers the expertise to show you how to properly deploy them.
Measure, Measure, Measure
To measure the return on your CRM investment, you must establish Key Performance Indicators before the implementation. Periodic milestones should be checked, and adjustments should be made if goals are falling short. There is art to building customer relationships, but there is also science.
In the End, It's Always About People
How you service your customers during a tough economy can determine whether or not you're able to protect the relationship. Many companies intend to provide outstanding customer service. Some may even call it a mandate. Unfortunately not everyone has really figured out how to do it...at least consistently. Customers are not impressed when they must explain the same problem multiple times or are bounced around to different departments, none of which seem to have the answer they're seeking.
CRM software that captures and organizes each customer interaction can address many of these challenges, but the secret to successful CRM is still in the understanding that your business is comprised of people whose function it is to service other businesses made up of people. Computers and processes don't service people. Only people service people. If your business is properly aligned strategically, the right business system can help your organization service its customers more effectively, helping to keep your service levels high and your customer attrition rate low.
About the Author
Patricia Bosco (firstname.lastname@example.org) is vice president of support at Exact Americas. With more than 20 years spent providing software support services, Bosco prides herself on possessing great passion for delivering exceptional customer service.
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