We are currently living in the Age of the Customer.
Never before in the history of business has customer feedback had the ability to travel as rapidly and be as far reaching as today. With the popularity of social media sites—Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.—it is possible for a disgruntled customer to go viral on the internet and single-handedly have a significant impact on the reputation of a company.
While this may be viewed as a negative by many companies, we at Rockton Software (www.rocktonsoftware.com) feel that the positive potential is just as compelling. Organizations that value customer service (like we do) can garner significant praise, which can be a true differentiator when it comes time to evaluate the competitive landscape.
I believe all companies have a true desire to offer excellent customer service, but many companies fall short. Why do some succeed while others fail? The answer lies in the single finite resource that every company shares . . . time!
Without the correct technology infrastructure in place it can be extremely time consuming to provide strong customer service. This is where a powerful Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can provide significant benefits. Companies often take the time to implement a CRM system and even do a reasonably good job at capturing and structuring important data that they will then utilize when a customer calls in to provide support.
While this approach works for smaller companies, it will not scale well for long and eventually you will find yourself adding employees to provide service that may not be very efficient to begin with. If this approach sounds all too familiar, you should be asking yourself: “If we already have the data our customer needs, then why is it only available internally and requires interaction with one of our employees to provide it?” Many times it shouldn't require any personal interaction, and your customers would appreciate more of a self-service approach that is convenient for them.
The next evolution in your customer service infrastructure should be to provide easy access to your CRM data via your company website. Most customers want immediate access to relevant information at any time, on any device they choose, and it is up to you to meet this reasonable albeit challenging expectation. Some of the areas in which we leverage our CRM data to enable Customer Self Service are:
Download Software: As a software products company, it goes without saying that we want the latest version of our products to be readily available to existing and potential customers.
Knowledge Base: We have all heard the old adage that "There is no such thing as a stupid question." If one of your customers asked it, then the solution could be valuable to others!
Download Documentation: It is much easier to distribute this and keep it current if it is in electronic format.
Get a Quote: In any economy, cost is often a driving factor affecting purchase decisions. Make it easy to understand the complete cost of your products with no purchase obligation.
Place an Order: Provide your customers the information needed to make an informed purchase, and when they are ready, make this process as convenient as possible.
Open a Support Ticket: Sometimes your product fails to meet expectations and although many consumers will prefer to speak to an individual, if it is not time critical they may prefer to address some issues online.
Subscription Management: If you are distributing any information on a regular basis, you are legally (and ethically) responsible to make it easy for your customer to select which information they want to receive. If you are offering multiple products this benefits you as well to tailor the information distributed.
Provide Feedback: Regardless of your industry, your business exists to meet the needs of your customer. If possible you should be proactive in gathering feedback, but also provide a good passive mechanism to make sure you never miss an opportunity to hear what your customer is saying.
There is no single silver bullet or panacea that will solve all the difficult issues facing a business operating in the Age of the Customer, however, leveraging your CRM data on your website is just one of the pavestones in a successful pathway to excellent customer service.
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