CRM Requires a New Management Mindset

The term customer care has typically been associated with problem solving. But customer care is changing significantly. In the past customer care was a passive process: the customer initiated the inquiry. A day without customers calling was a good thing--it meant nobody had a problem.

In most cases, a customer care process involved giving the customer some piece of information from a database about product data, technical support, warranty information or order status. Unfortunately, in order to get the right information, customers first had to determine what part of the enterprise to ask.

Because customer care often happened after the purchase had been made, it wasn't believed to affect the bottom line. A customer care transaction was considered to be effective if it was short. Long calls meant that more customer care people would be needed to answer telephones, thus increasing costs.

With the emphasis shifting from commanding a share of the market to owning a share of the customer, the scope and magnitude of customer care has taken a dramatic turn.

Today dealing with customers after the point of sale isn't just about answering questions. Instead it's about building relationships that transcend individual transactions and ensure customer satisfaction and repeat buying. What used to be simply customer care has become full blown CRM that hopes to improve service and reduce cost, give customers individual personalized attention and build long-term connections.

This is a mindset change for most executives. To manage complete customer relationships companies need to adopt a culture focuses on much more than just problem solving. All the technology in the world that provides automated, profile-driven customer service will never replace human contact.

Listening to the voice of the customer, and taking action based on that input are two very different activities. Without a top-down mindset to include the customer in every decision, managers and customer care people quickly revert to inwardly focused decision making, which is basically a financial-only focus.

For example, with today's CRM technology it's easy to check an order entry system and spot customers that have defected. The real challenge is to find customer care people who will make use of that information to improve the service or customer care processes, reduce defection levels and strengthen the business.

A great CRM strategy is not enough. You need management commitment to customer care, plus empowered, motivated and well-trained employees.

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