CRM is the Rodney Dangerfield of business processes. For anyone denied exposure to this master of the funny phrase he was an American stand up comic during the 1960′s and ’70′s. He felt that all of the other comedians were younger and better looking, but not better. He accepted the underdog position, and in one of his first acts opened with the line that he would repeat thousands of times over his career: “I don’t get no respect.” For example: “I don’t get no respect. I asked my wife ‘is there somebody else?’ She said, ‘there MUST be!!”
And doesn’t this just about capture the way many of us could summarize the CRM efforts in our business? Given a choice of projects, IT would likely say, “Isn’t there anything ELSE we can work on.” And for just cause: working on improving the customer experience, and contributing to customer loyalty, profitability and revenue growth, though compelling, deals with change management issues that IT cannot control. IT cannot make customer service agents more motivated, or customer-facing employees more devoted to the customer. They can’t own the survey process or the customer feedback process or decide on the processes by which sales, logistics, marketing and service departments will act.
But I recently spoke with the business owner of a large financial advisory services company (business-to-business) who described the impressive improvements to the customer experience on the web and in the contact center. He has grown his business over 40 percent in the past five years, and contacts with the contact center and on the website from partners and end customers have grown almost 75 percent. But his customer support costs have not grown at all. His support staff has not grown at all. How did he handle 40 percent more clients and 75 percent more interactions? By shifting more and more of the interactions to self service.
Don’t think that getting your business customers to move from interactions with a human to interactions with the website is all that easy. First of all, his customers pay a lot of money for his company’s services, so there was an assumption that customers ‘deserved’ a human. And nobody was about to use self-service unless it was equally convenient and equally effective. But working with the customers, and hand-in-hand with the CIO, the company has done just that. I won’t go into detail, as I may create a Case Study. The short story is that they studied, together, the ‘psychology of deflection,’ and like a Karate kamae position, they are always looking for the right stance to take with the customer for the key support processes. They look for patterns of interaction, recurring questions, highest impact answers, and then focus, focus, focus on creating solutions, communicating them to customers, and probing for new ways to measure and improve, measure and improve.
IT and the lines of business = successful (=profitable and cost-reducing) CRM strategy.
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