Focus on the Customer by Empowering Your Employees

Before you read this article, please go to the shelf, find your customer service standard operating procedures, dust them off, and check to see how many issues your organization faces daily that aren’t covered by a listed procedure. The truly customer-focused organizations are keenly aware that there are many situations that arise that are not covered by a known procedure and in order to keep the customer satisfied, action that is ‘against policy’ may have to be taken. These organizations engender a Focus on the Customer culture that empowers employees to do just that.

Empowering an employee to advocate for the customer, however, doesn’t necessarily give them the tools to do so. For years companies have been seeking the best way to handle these un-documented service scenarios so that the customer is satisfied and the company interests are also protected. Many people feel that if they tell the Customer Service Rep to treat the customer as fairly as they would want to be treated, then that meets an internal standard for solving the customer’s issue and protecting the corporate interests. However, many others feel that relying on a single employee’s perception of ‘fair’ may not do either of those things. This latter stream of thought has led some companies to insert a management review stage into the process that is counter-productive to an empowered culture.

Don Peppers, a highly respected author and CRM researcher, recently blogged about a new and innovative approach being tried by an Australian company. In their system, the customer service representative formulates an approach to solve the customer’s issue. However, before presenting it to a customer, they present it to a peer in customer service. If two customer service reps agree that the solution is the right one that is the one presented to the customer. In addition, the solution is reviewed later by management to see if it is something that would make sense to include in a standard procedures manual. This approach seems to preserve the culture of empowerment while ensuring that a ‘reviewed’ solution is used. It has the added benefit of increasing the knowledge base for the company.

If you have an innovative idea for creating and maintaining an empowered customer service culture that focuses on the customer, we would like to hear from you as well. Customer Relationship Management is a marriage of culture and technology and the companies that customers like to buy from are the ones where that relationship is nurtured from the boardroom to the warehouse.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

Organize your Company by Focusing on Your Customers

In 2015 many have come to believe that Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is all about the technology. Technology is only the enabler. Real CRM is a corporate wide discipline that is enabled by the chosen CRM technology. That technology is capable of capturing all of the information about your transactions with customers (indeed, you can usually capture every interaction from the first moment you meet them as prospects to whatever eventuality occurs), but that typically requires a discipline throughout your company to do just that! That discipline can come by focusing on the customer.

Customers want to work with companies that are well-organized – that is, there are no gaps in their interactions with their customers. During sales interactions, these well-organized companies quickly provide answers that are specific to the customer’s needs and situation. They understand not only the features of the products that they sell, but also the benefits that derive from those features. Finally, they understand which of the benefits best match the objectives of the customer and focus on delivering those in value messages and during service delivery.

During support interactions, the support team can clearly define the support process for the customer, they have documented knowledge of the products and services the customer has purchased, they have access to what the customer is currently evaluating, they know what service level the customer is entitled to have, and they have encyclopedic knowledge on how to resolve an issue or answer a question. In addition, they have support sites specific to the customer for speedy and effective self-support.

Finally, the customer is delighted to learn that the well-organized company understands the social and competitive landscape that the customer faces. The well-organized company is in touch with the thought leaders and decision makers in the organization and the marketplace, they know the competitors and understand the competitive advantage the customer is attempting to create, and they understand the trends and regulatory pressures that are also shaping the customer’s behavior.

There are many companies out there that have processes in place (sales, customer service, and marketing) to gather the information described above. What they lack is the corporate discipline to gather it consistently and to then consistently share the raw data and the customer-focused analysis of the data.

If you are currently evaluating your CRM technology ask yourself some key questions:

  1. Does our system put the right person, in front of the right customer, with the right product and information, at the right time? (Or, as in many systems, are we relying on sales people to figure that out and then record the interaction in a CRM tool?)
  2. Does our system make it easy for my Sales channel to see and evaluate customer issues that required support from either self-service or the Customer Service team? (Or, as in many systems, are we at best only presenting the raw data and expecting the Sales team to spend additional time analyzing it?)
  3. Does our system make it easy for the Customer Service team to understand the Sales activity with the customers that involve samples, demonstrations, and trials?
  4. Does our system proactively push results from marketing and social media campaigns to our Sales and Customer Service teams? (Or, as in many systems, are we expecting those groups to search for, pull, and evaluate the information?)
  5. Finally, is our corporate focus on the customer, treating each customer as a marketplace of one, to ensure that each corporate employee understands the importance of using the system each and every time we interact with a customer so that we have the data and analysis available to demonstrate to all of our customers that we are a well-organized company?

Put the “customer” in the center of your Customer Relationship Management system and you will find that your company will focus on the discipline needed to maximize the return on your investment.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.