Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Sage, Sword Ciboodle Offer Timely Customer Loyalty Tips

February 24, 2009

In today’s economy, every buyer is golden. The ability to survive through today’s climate and be ready for the growth tomorrow depends on building in that buyer loyalty. That is where customer relationship management (CRM) solutions come in. You can use them effectively to know and serve your customers more effectively.
 
Sage Software and Sword Ciboodle are two of the world’s leading CRM suppliers. Here are their tips in how to gain and keep customer loyalty with CRM:
 
David van Toor, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Sage CRM Solutions North
America

*          Forget the surveys
 
Although surveys may have merit in specific situations, overall they represent a waste of company time and resources and often mask real problems that need solving. It's rare that surveys ever provide a representative view of your customer base. Only highly dissatisfied or extremely satisfied customers tend to complete them. Anyway, your company probably doesn't have enough resources to properly follow up on all the data a survey may provide.
 
Instead, assume that you do indeed have dissatisfied customers, and for each one of these you have an employee who knows about it. Empower these people to solve problems at the front line of interaction instead of wasting time on surveys. Addressing the root causes of problems as they occur is the ticket, and instilling this type of culture within your staff means there won't be big problems to blow time on surveying later.

*          Create and/or embrace the right communities
 
To encourage and maintain loyalty you need to converse with your customers, and you need to do this where they congregate. More and more, social networks and online communities are where these conversations take place. Monitor and participate in these. You may have millions of customers which warrant creating a branded community to support them. Other scenarios may call for participating in industry-specific or customer/fan created communities. Maybe even all of the above.
 
The value in doing so is tremendous. Generating goodwill, opening up dialogue that surfaces real problems and earned praise, empowering customers to help solve each other's problems - relieving your own tech support while growing your knowledgebase - and engaging customers to suggest improvements for your product or service are just a handful of initial benefits. Get out there and engage!

*          Leverage your data
 
If you follow the above tips you'll collect a lot of useful customer data. Here's where the technology side of CRM comes in. Feed this information into your CRM system. Take advantage of the Web 2.0 features that some vendors like Sage are building into their CRM offerings to further automate and share customer intelligence. And most important, act on the data by deciding which pieces are essential to respond to, helpful to respond to, and (for some, perhaps) have no mutual benefit in responding to. It all comes back to getting good data into your system. If you can achieve this, you'll have all the details you'll ever need to satisfy your customers.
 
Paul White, COO, Sword Ciboodle USA
 
*          Sketch an outstanding, affordable, communicable, customer experience

Loyalty is improved when you tailor your processes to make it easy for your customers to access your services in a manner that is intuitive and effective. But that doesn't mean over-simplify! Look at how your customer interfaces with you for each goal they have.

*          Given your proposition - identify the most compelling questions and
metrics

Unique to your business, your brand and your customer's expectations is a set of metrics which, if improved, will increase loyalty. Make sure your customer-facing services measure these data points and apply careful management to improve them.

*          Explore channel preferences, revenues and costs - and implications of changing behavior

Segment your customer base so that you can really understand their cost/value/potential value profiles. In some scenarios, having more than one product holding does not make a more valuable customer. In others, a customer who has registered for web self-service can actually become
more costly. This analysis is key to creating value for and from customers.

*          Define critical data for a 'single customer view'

What information really encapsulates the customer for your business? As well as providing a single contact center desktop with historical transaction information, think about capturing the key information from the customer's perspective. What open cases do they have? What offers
may be interesting to them and why? What processes have they engaged with recently? What is their cost/value profile? How did similar service problems get solved successfully by other agents recently?

*          Exploit existing data, processes and infrastructure

CRM is not a new application silo, nor must it be used as a blunt instrument to replace too many legacy applications. Your existing application infrastructure might not provide the most intuitive
interface between customer and business, but its role is still important. Creatively applying technology that extends these existing applications rather than replacing them accelerates return on investment and minimizes cost.

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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