So it has been a while since I had a chance to put down some thoughts and I decided to go back to some grass roots basics around the concepts of why the cultural side of customer relationship management is so important. More and more these days I get involved in conversations in the board room with teams of people that are caught up in the “hype” of CRM and I get concerned because the motivation to embrace customers and leverage technology to empower employees and optimize the customer experience.
There are endless numbers of consulting firms or software publishers that are willing to simply go through the motions and help companies deploy CRM without major discussions around what a firm is trying to accomplish and the way they go about acquiring, servicing and satisfying customers. Unfortunately I get involved in many of these train wrecks when I get asked to come back in after the fact and deliver the bad news that a CRM technology is only one third of the equation. The rest lies in the people you employ and the processes that you follow on a daily basis.
If you assess why people want to do business with any of us it is our ability to do what we say on any number of different levels. One of the more poignant points regarding the explosion of CRM is that fact that more and more companies are delivering services along with products or just services as our country expands its role as a service economy. So what does this mean within the context of CRM? Simply put, your CRM foundation should become the place that you measure how you keep your promises to customers.
The process starts within the marketing teams. At the time that you begin the process of acquiring leads and prospects you start to make representations about your offerings. In a sense you are starting the process of making promises to people you don’t even know or have never met. As people respond they begin to engage with your company through email, phone and personal interactions. As they see how you interact with them they begin to make assessments about the promises and representations you have already made.
When a lead is assigned to a team member and they begin to interact with a prospective client there are more and more promises being made. You are building a relationship and little things like when you agree to follow up or what you say you will send and when you will send it are part of the customer experience. And, there will be a positive or negative effect in the mind of the customer in the way that we go through our business day interacting with those who pay our paychecks.
As we craft our solutions there are more representations made and all of those interactions need to be recorded so that other team members or employees that become engaged with the customer later on will understand their expectations and concerns. If you believe that this is essential in the way you need your firm to operate then you can leverage a CRM foundation to record all of these promises and then measure your different internal teams on how well they do at executing what you told the customer you were going to do for them.
When you finalize a transaction with a customer they begin to understand in great detail how well you do what you claimed you would do when you were making claims during the sales process. More importantly, there is a difference between what you contractually said you would do and what is the right thing to do in many situations. People on the customer service side or in your project teams have to deal with gaps in expectations and the customer will let them know what is wrong and they expect you to bridge those gaps.
The method on how you handle service and execute your projects will be measured in several ways. Customers will inquire or make claims and more importantly, they will let you know how you are doing by their willingness to continue to expand the volume of business you get from them or look for other alternatives. This is where customer service and marketing to your installed base using a CRM will give you the ability to measure your effectiveness in doing what you promised in the first place.
At the end of the day we all want to have faith in those who we rely on to do things for us. If you intend to run the type of company that keeps its promises then I hope you revisit the systems that you have and assess them from that perspective and not just as a technology solution to manage lists, track your sales people, or store your documents.