Implementing a World-Class Customer Management Program

The success of any company depends on its ability to engage and interact with customers in new and innovative ways. According to McKinsey & Co., the average company loses between 10 and 30 percent of its customers annually, proving that interaction is a critical component to securing meaningful customer relationships and driving deeper levels of engagement and service.

In today's competitive climate, companies cannot wait for their customers to initiate contact; they must create proactive value-add CRM programs that aggressively initiate, develop, and grow customer relationships.

A recent study by Defaqto Research found that 55 percent of consumers would pay extra to guarantee better service. By implementing a successful customer management program, companies can ensure that their customers are not only satisfied, but also that they realize the full benefits of the product or service they have purchased.

Plan your customer relationship program

There are a number of things to keep in mind when developing a customer relationship program:

  • Keep goals simple and achievable, yet meaningful enough to positively impact your customers.
  • Establish key performance lndicators (KPIs) that will drive adoption and positively influence your CRM team's behavior.
  • Define your performance targets and determine the criteria you will use to measure interaction and engagement.
  • Deploy your program as a pilot initiative to a handful of customers. Gauge initial customer acceptance and incorporate feedback prior to deploying across your entire customer population.
  • Ensure all customer-facing parts of your organization buy into the program goals.
  • Keep the assigned account-to-customer ratio low (e.g., 1:35, or less) to maximize your account manager coverage and service levels for each customer.
  • Select account managers who are customer-focused, flexible, and creative self-starters who thrive on working with ambiguity.
  • Provide enough time to develop a solid program, but don't try to define all tactics or deliverables up front. These will change based upon the broad spectrum of customer requirements.

Assess engagement and usage

Once you have created your program and identified your participating customers, review your customer support history and CRM records. Interview key customer-facing employees to gain a subjective understanding of each customer's current level of engagement with your organization and their current usage of the solution.

Rate the engagement and usage for each customer on a scale of zero to 10, where zero represents zero to low usage and engagement and 10 represents exceptionally high usage and engagement.

Devise tactics to achieve your business goals

Use the engagement and usage assessment to create a quadrant plot for each customer (see chart). Categorize each quadrant to describe the usage and engagement combinations for your targeted customer population. Within each quadrant, create a list of targeted activities and tactics your account managers can utilize to achieve desired program goals and increase customer engagement. Below are some examples:

Quadrant 1—Willing but not able. This quadrant represents customers with relatively high levels of engagement, but whose solution usage has been limited. Relationship managers should focus on supporting current product owners to bolster their ability to expand usage outside the current scope.

Quadrant 2—Risky business. This quadrant represents customers with historically low customer engagement, where solution usage is unknown or very limited. Tactics should focus on establishing and increasing engagement. Once the customer's engagement level begins to increase, the focus should turn to increasing usage to drive value and ROI.

Quadrant 3—Silent but satisfied. This quadrant represents customers who have historically had reasonably high product usage, but haven't actively engaged with your outreach attempts. The outreach efforts should focus on increasing overall engagement with customers by providing value-add interactions. This will drive your solution deeper within their organization and increase overall customer satisfaction.

Quadrant 4—Raving fans. This quadrant represents customers who are highly engaged and have expanded the solution usage across the enterprise. Focus should remain on sustaining the relationship, showcasing their success stories among their peers and industry, and working together to deepen your partnership.

Measure success–but be patient

To keep your program on track and ensure sustained success, perform regular assessments that score engagement and usage levels for each targeted customer. Leveraging a project management office to track program activities and customer deliverables will enable your business to focus more on driving the program deeper throughout your customer base.

Remember, increasing customer engagement and product usage will require an initial investment of time, especially if this is the first attempt to create a customer management program.  With focused attention, a customer management program can be launched in as little as six to nine months with positive results within the first full year of program execution.

Remain flexible

Once the program is up and running it is important to remain flexible to attract and retain your key customers. Use the program as a guideline, but find creative ways to address individual customer requests while driving engagement and solution usage as deep as possible. The goal of the program is to increase customer engagement and product usage, but there are often internal barriers for each customer that must be overcome. Seek ways to build alliances with each customer and, above all, build trust. Relationships built on trust always endure challenges and stand the test of time.

Dave Baca is the vice president of global support and hosting services at ANCILE Solutions. He has more than 27 years experience in commercial and defense sectors. He is responsible for setting the strategy and overseeing ANCILE's global support business, servicing more than 3,500 global customers.

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