We have already discussed how Marketing and Sales can benefit from using CRM. In this article we will look at the impact on Customer Service in a business.
There is an old adage in Customer Service; ‘look after your customers or someone else will’. This has never been truer. It is so easy for customers to change suppliers now; even selling something cheaper isn’t going to retain customers if the service stinks.
Even online retailers, some of whom are the cheapest still try to provide good service, especially in terms of replacing something that is faulty quickly and simply so the customer feels little risk is involved in the transaction. This is enhanced by allowing the customers to comment on products and services and allowing prospective customers to read these ‘reviews’.
This embodies the new age of honesty and transparency when dealing with customers or prospects. If you don’t the new freedoms available via Social Networking will quickly expose you and you may not even be aware of it. More on that subject in a later posting.
So what is Customer Service?
Well this can come in a number of guises but basically it is how the prospect/customer is dealt with when they have a query or issue with a product or service they have or are looking to purchase. One of the aims of customer service, apart from any statutory duties is to keep existing customers and entice new ones.
There is a plethora of statistics on the benefits of retaining customers over getting new ones and we will cover this in more detail in a later posting. The norm is to assume that it can cost five times more to get a new customer as opposed to selling to an existing one. So that alone should be enough to convince you about having a retention strategy. If it doesn’t, watch this space for a more in-depth discussion on the subject.
So what can we do to help retain or gain customers? Here are some ideas:
Allow the customer to reach you via the channel of their choice
Respond quickly to an enquiry or issue
Keep the customer in the loop about the progress of their enquiry/issue
Be frank and honest with them and manage their expectations
If there has been a problem don’t just fix it, provide a 110% solution
Sounds technical doesn’t it? All it means is allowing the customer to contact you by their method of choice. Allow them access via the web, email, text, phone, fax, letter, etc. and be prepared to respond accordingly. The technology to enable this is readily available and relatively cheap. This will allow all enquiries to be logged in one system, regardless of channel and an appropriate response actioned.
Other than the telephone which people expect an immediate response from (provided a human answers the phone [this is highly recommended by the way]) most of the other channels can have an automated response system setup which will reply to the individual using the information supplied, acknowledging receipt of the information.
Keeping them in the loop
Your systems should enable you to setup automation (or at least reminders) to send out updates to the customer (using the appropriate channel) as you progress an issue/enquiry, ideally pre-empting customer enquiries on the subject.
This is really important. You might know how difficult it is going to be to resolve something but there’s a really good chance that the customer won’t. So even though you may have pulled off a minor miracle to get something sorted the customer may appear ungrateful simply because their expectations have not been managed properly. It is very tempting, especially if someone is bellowing over the phone at you, to underestimate the time required to rectify the situation, or worse still promise a solution that isn’t in fact possible. This is easily done under stressful situations. It is much better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around. If you fix something quicker or in a better way than promised, how good does that make you look? This is why it pays to be frank and honest; you will be more respected for it in the end.
This is really tied in with the previous paragraph in that if there has been a problem, especially if it was avoidable in the first place. Don’t just fix it make amends as well. Again it is a known fact that people tell other people about bad experiences but by resolving it in a positive way you can get them telling everyone what a great experience they had despite the problems!
All of the above are a part of CRM. Customer Relationship Management is about culture and attitude as much as technology so it is really important to ensure that your processes work well before attempting to automate them. The technology is really about enabling multi-channel communication, automating responses, reminding staff to carry out an action and escalating an issue if it isn’t being resolved within a given time scale. Therefore it should allow your customer service staff to spend more time dealing with issues and giving the customers a quality experience rather than dealing with the minutiae. An additional benefit is that reporting on KPIs becomes so much easier as the data is being collected by the system as a matter of course.