A Higher Level of Customer Relationship Management: Building Closer Customer Relationships

A Higher Level of Customer Relationship Management: Building Closer Customer Relationships

Most businesses recognize the importance of creating a quality experience for customers doing business with them.  The thing that many business owners overlook is how their internal workflows and information management systems serve to either support or impede the delivery of a well-rounded positive customer experience.  Growing businesses must adjust their processes and improve their tools in order to have the necessary information available to workers at various levels of the organization, providing a centralized means for collaboration, data sharing and analysis.   With the right information systems and process support, even small businesses are able to function at exceptionally high levels and provide the consistently high-quality service and customer experience that establishes long-term value in each and every customer relationship.

Businesses which excel at providing very high levels of customer service tend to have a few common characteristics – features of the business that identify it as an organization geared towards growth and success in driving the customer engagement and business value.  Among these characteristics is the recognition of the need to use technology better – leveraging automation to a greater degree to create consistency in work performance, and improving information collection and integration to provide more context and depth to the data. Added efficiency which affords employees time to focus on customer oriented tasks and elevating the customer experience even more is the payback.


Many CRM solutions describe the benefits of a “360 degree” view of the customer, yet these solutions often orient themselves to supporting only sales and Contact Management and do not address product and/ or service delivery (fulfillment of what was sold/ordered)  or project management, contracts and agreements tracking or other aspects of doing business with the customer.

Granted, customer interaction occurs most frequently with sales and service teams, but there are potentially vast number of processes and tasks performed within the business which operate with the same information as sales and services, and which would benefit by integration within the same information and workflow framework.

By selecting a solution that addresses the wider variety of business and information management requirements rather than focusing solely on sales and support, business owners and managers find that they are better able to address internal workflows with streamlined process automation.

The result is significant improvement in the quality and completeness of the information available to users throughout the organization, ultimately improving the quality and nature of customer engagement and interaction. Perhaps even more impactful is the ability for the business to better understand  the context of and motivations for customer interactions, and (most importantly!) having the capability to take immediate action based on that knowledge.

With the right customer relationship and business management solution in place, and with a focus on systematic approaches to enabling process and workflow automation, businesses can become more flexible and responsive to changing customer needs and expectations.  Creating the complete view of the customer relationship and capturing the data which helps users understand the dynamics of the entire relationship serves to build closer customer relationships that will strengthen and grow over time.

When a business needs to implement a Customer Relationship Management solution to address sales and support needs, it makes sense to also review information management requirements for:

  • Delivery of products and/or services  – i.e. fulfillment of what was promised by sales
  • Scheduling of Work/Service Orders and integrated billing based on completed work
  • Time and personnel activity management as well as time reporting and billing
  • Project or job resource and time management and reporting
  • Documents, contracts, before & after pictures, and agreements of all types
  • Products and services, proposals and quotes, price books and channels

Additionally, since the processes are so closely related in terms of the information collected or used, it makes sense that the CRM solution would also work with:

  • Marketing campaigns and activities, lead generation systems and e-newsletter solutions
  • Accounting solutions which also utilize customer, product, job, time, cost and other data
  • Expense spending management, approvals and reporting

To be truly useful, the solution must also support remote and mobile workers since field service personnel and other workers are often not in the office when they need to get something done.  Whether the access is via hosted solutions providing full remote desktop functionality, or via web-based application extensions allowing device independent access (or both!), the solution should be designed to allow users to access the system and perform their work from wherever it is required.

Even more, a comprehensive approach to managing business activities and information, particularly with a focus on providing all departments with all the information and capability they need to get their jobs done properly, requires that everyone in the company be on board.  There really isn’t a great way to centralize and manage critical business data when the approach is to give a few people some information and functionality, leaving it up to human beings and individual initiative to connect the dots (and the data).  The result is almost always a series of gaping holes in various processes where information and requests get lost.

Among the best solutions I have found which delivers the foundation for all of this functionality is Results CRM.  Thousands of users have successfully migrated from ACT!, Goldmine, Telemagic, Salesforce.com and other SFA and CRM solutions to the Results CRM platform, and have benefitted from better workflow automation, more logical company and contacts associations, and a broader range of functionality supporting everything from sophisticated quote and proposal development to comprehensive project, time and expense management.

At the end of the day, it’s the reporting that wins.  If the data isn’t in the database, you can’t report on it.  If you can’t report on it, you can’t measure it. If you can’t measure it, you can’t make good business decisions and grow the business.

Make sense?



4 Rules for Building Service Customer Loyalty

4 Rules for Building Service Customer Loyalty

Every business owner knows that it’s important to retain the business of good customers, because those good customers will turn into referrals and more customers.  What many business owner’s don’t know is that building customer loyalty – the repeat and referral business that keeps the doors open – takes more than producing a good product or having nice personnel.  Building customer loyalty is a continuous process which involves just about every area of the business. Particularly with service-based businesses where there may be a number of variables involved with the delivery, proper information collection, management, and communication becomes the essential foundation for delivering on the promise of great service, which helps to develop loyal customers.

4-rules-of-thumbIn a previous article titled “4 Rules of Thumb for Business Success”, I stressed the importance of creating the best business impression possible.  Here are a few additional tidbits for service businesses – things the company can do to make sure that the work is done completely and correctly the first time, which is what leads to happy and loyal customers.

Rule 1. Remember that everyone in the company is essentially in a sales and service position.  The customer should be able to get useful help or direction from any employee.  Not that everyone in the company can do all the jobs in the business, but everyone should be willing and able to find the resources necessary to get the customer’s question answered.  And it’s a good habit to try to set any necessary service appointments on the first call – it lets the customer know you’re ready to get the job done and saves them time.  Too many sales teams simply answer inquiries from callers and don’t ask for the business.  If you don’t ask, they can’t say yes.

Rule 2. Structure the order process to make sure that all information is captured, stored, and made available to service techs.  Customer requests should be specifically noted, along with any special details or requests.  There’s nothing more annoying than telling the company to watch out for something when they’re at your place, and then finding out that the tech didn’t get the memo.  Also make sure that any specific work items or parts are listed on the order, making it easier for the tech to record what they do and use.  All of this information should be available not just to techs, but to customer service and sales people, too.  After all, mismanagement of order information is usually not the customer’s fault, yet the customer is the one who ends up not getting what they asked for.  Avoiding this situation is critical to developing loyal, repeat customers.  It also makes getting the customer sign-off more likely, and this signature should be captured at the work site when the job is completed (allows the billing department to get the invoice out much faster, which allows the company to get paid faster).

Rule 3. During the job, make sure customers and co-workers are informed as to the status of the work.  The worst thing is to partially complete a job and leave the customer hanging – a situation that status tracking of service orders helps prevent.  When the work is completed, make sure to let the customer know, and also provide observations and recommendations.  Whether it’s a single job or a regular maintenance contract, always document what was done so that the customer knows exactly what work was performed.  Use a checklist or cheat sheet to make sure things are done completely and consistently every time, including cleaning up and making notes about the job.  Documenting things that technicians notice while at the customer location may provide the opportunity to offer more or other services to the customer, or might at least inform the customer about an issue they should be aware of.  By paying attention while on-site and looking for upgrades or value-adds that might benefit the customer, service technicians can often position themselves as top sales people, too.

Finally, Rule 4, always thank the customer for their business and let them know you genuinely appreciate it.  Smile, hand them a business card, and maybe even ask for a referral.  If you’ve done your job well and kept the customer informed along the way, it’s likely that this customer will bring you more business both directly and through referrals and recommendations.  That’s customer loyalty, and you can’t buy it anywhere – you have to build it.

Make sense?