• December 1, 2008
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Build Transparency and Trust

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What kind of image does your company convey to customers? Just because your company has a decent product and/or service, a Web site, and the ability to provide customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction. There’s more to it—a lot more.

First, companies need to appreciate the situation their customers are in: Home prices are falling, retirement accounts are dwindling in value, healthcare costs are rising, and salaries aren’t keeping up with inflation. What’s more, there’s an underlying level of distrust—many customers feel duped by big businesses and blame them for the recent government bailout on Wall Street. With all of these issues weighing on Americans, it’s a small wonder why voters elected a presidential candidate whose platform was built on promising change. Customers are so distrustful of corporate America (and the CRM industry is no exception—see “The Rave Is Over”) that many would rather trust a total stranger in an online community than a company they’ve been doing business with for years. Clearly, improving customer trust should be a major focus for organizations in 2009.

A good place to begin is with your company’s Web site, which acts as the front door for your customer interactions: It should be attractive, inviting, easy to navigate, and helpful to viewers. For useful tips on improving your site’s appeal and functionality, read our feature story, “Spiff Up Your Site!," by Assistant Editor Jessica Tsai. One helpful tip in this story is to take customer feedback seriously. Don’t make the mistake of only relying on what one source in this feature calls “HiPPO”—the highest-paid person’s opinion. It’s natural to expect high-paid execs to drive customer strategies. They should, but they shouldn’t do it without their customers’ input.

These efforts will go a long way in helping customers perceive your company as attentive and helpful, which will build customer trust. Social media tools can help as well. Recently, I participated as a panelist at a conference session on social media, ably moderated by Paul Gillin, a social media strategist and author of Secrets of Social Media Marketing. One attendee asked the panel to explain the impact that social media can have on a business.

One way to explain this is the example given in our cover story, “Transparency,” by Editorial Assistant Lauren McKay, which shows how Comcast is using Twitter and blogs to contact disgruntled customers. Essentially, social media enables companies to glean valuable insight from customers. This insight can have positive effects on product development, public relations, sales, and customer service.

If the whole purpose of CRM is to provide better customer insight—enabling companies to make smarter business decisions—then social media should definitely be part of a CRM strategy. You may not agree that the customer is always right, but the collective voice of the customer is.

David Myron
Editorial Director


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