The concept of CRM has been around since the beginning of human interaction. Where do you think the phrase, “the customer is always right,” came from? So, why all of the attention now? What is it that makes CRM so important? So much so, that companies invest large amounts of money and time to implement it?
The answer lies in a shift in the 1980s away from true customer service, to what I like to call, our new “Self-Service World.” Today’s popular belief is, “since I can’t get the service I deserve, I will do it myself and pay less.” I was raised in a time when you were not allowed to pump your own gas. It was considered to be too dangerous. I can recall a time when three attendants would service my family’s car while they pumped our gas. They would wash the windows, check the tires and oil, and even check the battery if they knew us well. I remember the attendants would always take the time to speak with us and really tried to get to know my family as people.
Was the attitude and attentiveness of this business designed to create customer loyalty to bring us back to that particular gas station, even in times when you would pay a couple of pennies more for gas at that station? You bet it was! Just yesterday I pumped my own gas, bought some gum and a soda, and went to pay the clerk—only to be made to feel that my transactions were an inconvenience! His only interest was in taking my money as quickly as possible, so as to not interrupt the game he was watching on a TV behind the counter. Sure, the example from my childhood is more costly in the short term, but can you really afford not to provide the best service possible to your customers? When acquiring new customers is seven times more expensive than retaining and reselling to existing customers—no you can’t.
The result of this “Self-Service World” is that fewer companies provide “excellent customer service.” In the past, you gained the understanding of the importance of high level customer service by observing employees at restaurants, gas stations, and retail stores.
Today, most people are comfortable using a computer, and will pick up the technical aspect of your training in an hour, although it may take them weeks to learn how to interact with potential and existing customers. Human interaction training, focused on skills such as consistency, competence, confidence, and kindness, can help your employees successfully deliver desired company results.
For example, by requiring that employees consistently answer the phone with the same greeting throughout the company, you, as a business, provide your customers with the confidence and knowledge that they will receive the same level of customer service each time they contact you. The same result is achieved by providing your employees with a central respository of information—including customer communications—to access for answers to their questions. When industries compete at any level, the difference maker is always customer service. Consistency, competence, confidence, and kindness are reasons why customers will remain “your” customers.
How Does CRM Help Me Achieve My Customer Service Goals?
CRM software provides the technology to ensure that all your resources are centralized and accessible. CRM software opens interdepartmental communications by combining the resources of your customer-facing departments—Marketing, Sales, A/R, Customer Care and Support—whatever they may be. By having this information available at their fingertips, employees are empowered to step out of their realm, if need be, to help customers.
CRM allows support and service departments, for example, to intertwine communications with the same customers on a daily basis by providing them access to the interaction between all employees and customers so that issues can be resolved immediately. Let’s not forget the line of communication between your inside and outside sales groups.
The interaction information maintained in the CRM system keeps everyone in the loop so prospects and customers alike feel that the entire enterprise has been made aware of their issue, not just the person they spoke with on the phone. A CRM solution partnered with human interaction training is a recipe for success!
CRM Simplified: You Can’t Automate Human Interaction
CRM has taken its hold in the business application world, and Sage Software understands that it is not the software alone that makes the CRM initiative successful. Many companies sell customer service automation, such as auto e-mail response and “personalized” marketing campaigns, but they may not understand the CRM culture.
For example, my father recently purchased a fifth-wheel trailer camper. One night, while watching a TV advertisement for “how to” videos for his type of camper, he decided to call and order the videos. The customer service representative he spoke with was friendly, polite, and helpful, and even thanked him for his order—the standard behavior expected of an inside sales representative. When my father received his order in the mail, he noticed a message hand-written at the bottom of the invoice. It read, “Thanks for your order Jerry. I hope you have a great time with your new fifth wheel. It was nice talking to you. —Maureen.”
Receiving a personalized response from a company goes a long way to create value in your customer relationship, and will help to ensure they become a repeat customer. If your company understands that a “10 second gesture” is what CRM is about, then your company is ready to embark on a CRM software solution to help enhance the “CRM culture” you practice.
Has your organization taken the time to start your CRM initiative? Maybe it is time…
Director of Hosted Services & Partner Development