The acronym CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management”, and yet when it comes to the intangibles of customer service it has always been up against the prevailing slogan, “Conclusive Results Matter”. Salespeople have always lived by this mantra, they know that talk is cheap, that leads are nothing until closed, and that only performance counts. Added to this layer of first-time customer acquisition is the deeper and more subtle layer of customer retention, more bluntly called repeat business, and this is a world that salespeople don’t necessarily involve themselves in: the metrics of retention are often far removed from anything they can claim as performance.
“Most revenue systems focus on current period costs and revenues and ignore expected cash flows over a customer’s lifetime.” Beyond risk and compliance: Driving customer value
CRM software has developed along the lines of these underlying dynamics: the focus has been on customer acquisition. Changes in thinking that now lead the software into realms of service and support, and into providing a unique experience for each individual customer, derive more from the brutal facts of customer loss and subscriber churn than from any epiphany of good marketing. All this because analysts have been begging corporations for decades to look closer at retention.
The world simply competes too strongly for the customer now, and only the customer-centric experience-providers are winning. Oddly enough, it is cold, logical software (and hardware and infrastructure) that has enabled this humanization of commerce to arise. This was first done through desktop computing and then through the rise of the Web, with its enormous empowering of unique and independent customers.
“The customer is taking charge. Consider healthcare Latest News about healthcare. It is now standard procedure for patients to investigate symptoms on the Internet Free How-To Guide for Small Business Web Strategies – from domain name selection to site promotion., learning about diseases and treatments, and tracking records of doctors and hospitals. Patients assess the latest clinical drug trials and experimental procedures. Consumers are now directing their own medical treatments. The specialist doesn’t decide, only advise [...] Peter Drucker often said, the purpose of a business begins and ends with the customer.” Get to Know Your Customers – They Are in Control
But just as customers have become empowered, so too have companies, and again through software. Improved analytics now show executives the existence of exploitable margins and missed opportunities in customer service. Revealing these margins, and denominating them in money terms, are the necessary arguments that enable executives to change company protocols.
Just as there are damned lies and statistics, metrical data doesn’t necessarily equate to information. The study of the charts doesn’t always yield knowledge, and least of all does any of this equal wisdom or acumen.
“Many organizations find themselves increasingly overwhelmed with data, and it is not uncommon for corporate departments to run hundreds of reports on a daily basis. However, these reports are often of minimal help to executives or business analysts seeking to use the data to make decisions” Putting the Business Intelligence Puzzle Together, Part 1
Software brings change, however. Analytics gives birth to the assurance that answers can be found, and that knowledge can be learned. The Web shows that people are a force to be accounted for. Even the frustration of finding no answers drives the new search for knowledge about the customer. Some companies have decided simply to ask the customer, thereby changing from internal quality assurance to survey evaluation.
”’We have made changes on what we now know is important to the customer. We know that they want you to be responsible and answer the question and get the problem solved,’ she said. ‘We can be chitchatting all day about the weather and giving out $20 gift certificates, but people want to know where their stuff is, and they want to talk to somebody who is competent and can fix it.’ [...] ‘For years, bragging rights were about service levels,’ he said. ‘Service level is important, first-call resolution is important, but now that we can truly measure customer satisfaction in real time, that’s the single North Star that should be bragging rights: What percentage of my callers give me a perfect score?’” Customers: The best judge of agent performance
Asking customers if it was good for them is part of an entire tableau of involving the customer in the workings of the enterprise, even to the extent of merging customers into the living knowledge management (KM) system. More on this soon.