• January 1, 2013
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Remove Avoidable Customer Obstacles

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As I write this column, my home is nearing the finishing stages of its recovery from Superstorm Sandy's floodwaters. (For more details, read last month's column, "Open Your Doors to Mobile Devices.") When your home is one of the many that is significantly damaged by such a large natural disaster, you come to grips with the realization that you have to be patient—sadly, a lot of people are in the same, or similar, position.

However, when customers are forced to wait, not because of volume, but because of another kind of avoidable obstacle—in my case, operational miscues—it can make a tense situation even more difficult and encourage customers to lose faith in an organization. Because of operational miscues, for weeks I couldn't get essential information from my insurance company; I searched several home improvement stores for an item that was in stock but couldn't be found; and I was delayed in processing an insurance check because my mortgage company lost a stamp needed to approve the transaction.

In each of these scenarios I remained mostly calm, even though I knew that these mishaps were avoidable. While these mistakes might appear innocuous to companies, they can become sizable and frustrating customer obstacles. This leads me to the point of this month's column—companies should remove as many obstacles as possible for customers and prospects.

Fortunately, many CRM vendors are doing this. CRM cloud vendors, for example, are trying to eliminate one of their prospects' biggest obstacles—concerns about data security. These vendors have recently improved their security efforts with more public and private cloud options. Their challenge, however, is to change existing perceptions about cloud security by communicating their message to the masses, which is one reason why we are featuring our cover story, "Building an Impenetrable Cloud," by News Editor Leonard Klie.

Another avoidable obstacle, which is as old as the CRM industry itself, is proving a CRM system's value to salespeople. There are a variety of reasons why salespeople don't want to use a CRM system, one of which might be the fear that Big Brother is watching their every move and finding out how unproductive they really are. It doesn't help that even successful salespeople have been reluctant to change what has worked for them over the years. And, of course, one of the most common reasons salespeople avoid CRM systems is that regularly updating customer records is boring and tedious work, and it takes them away from their most important job function—selling.

Keeping accurate and updated customer accounts on file naturally benefits companies, as they can maintain the customer relationship even after a salesperson leaves. In this regard, though, early CRM vendors put the cart before the horse, as their systems benefited companies more than the salespeople using them. However, new sales tools are available that truly benefit salespeople, and not solely their employers. This is why we offer our feature "5 Emerging Sales Productivity Tools," by Associate Editor Kelly Liyakasa. Today, any company that implements a CRM system without considering how it will benefit salespeople is inadvertently setting up avoidable obstacles and will likely continue to struggle with user adoption.

Clearly, it's essential to find and remove the customer obstacles in your organization, especially the avoidable ones. When a company can get right down to a customer's or prospect's problem and quickly solve it, trust is established and an immediate connection or bond is formed. That is how great relationships start and how existing relationships prosper. Don't let avoidable obstacles get in the way of a great relationship.

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