5 Ways to Empower Customer Service Teams with a CRM Solution

Customers want to ask for advice, register complaints, share feedback and request new services through their preferred channels whenever convenient. But, the turnaround time and quality of each interaction needs to match their expectations. To stay ahead of competitors and encourage existing customers to make new purchases, customer experience optimization or CEO is the way forward. If your customers wait in long queues or wait endlessly to connect with a call center agent, it is time to give serious consideration to implementing a CRM solution to manage relationships and simultaneously reduce pressure on your hand-picked employees suffering from stretched hours and back-to-back irate customers.

Consumers often assume that companies with the largest customer bases have the best products and services, I often stay clear of their brands, knowing that unless they are dedicated to focusing on CEO, I will have yet another frustrating experience with customer service. For example, I was earlier subscribing to the most popular mobile service provider in my city. A year after handing over all required documentation and subsequently being issued a connection, I received a call from an agent saying my number was registered to someone else and that I could retain my number only if I submitted my ID proof and address verification documents! Initially, I was frightened by the thought of losing a number that was registered in around a hundred places including my kids' school. A few weeks after submitting the required documents they had lost, I ported to a new service provider and tweeted my experience to about two hundred followers.

After working abroad for a few years, I returned to my hometown and considered subscribing for multiple services from a single company. My logic was simple - I could save lots of time and prospective headaches by submitting my KYC and address proof documents once, but have access to their mobile, broadband, digital TV and website services. The account ID they would assign me would be the key to all their products and services making interaction quicker and more effective.

Unfortunately or fortunately for me, I learnt in my first conversation that this was a large corporate with millions of customers whose key focus was profitability without the fear customer churn. I called a number they had advertised in a local newspaper and after sharing my key details including the product that interested me, my call was transferred to another agent..she asked for my details again and had no idea what my conversation with the other agent was a minute back! I didn't want to spoil the agent's day - she was only a pawn in the hands of an insensitive organization who was following her trainer's instructions. After sharing my contact information and other details a second time, I informed her about my interest in a digital TV connection. 

"Sorry, we have discontinued digital TV services," she responded.

"Oh! I saw an advertisement for your digital TV services in last week's Sunday Mail! Anyway, forget that then. Can you send a person to complete the formalities for a broadband connection?" I said calmly.

The agent replied quickly, "Our digital TV services are only available for metros. If you are interested in our broadband services, I'll need to transfer your call, can you hold the line for...."

I disconnected the phone before she could hear my frustrated groan - I had spent eighteen minutes talking to the wrong call center agents..If my call was transferred again, the third agent would again ask for my details before discussing their products and services. Why can't the company see the obvious gains in a well integrated Telecom CRM, I asked myself. 

Customer experience optimization is the key to gaining momentum in your relationships and reaping the benefits of loyal customers that openly advocate your products. Perceptions can be created through any department, but, it is common knowledge that customer services is at the center of influencing customers' mindsets and propensity to buy again.

5 ways to improve customer services with effective CRM solutions:

A customer's details page
1. Single interface for holistic customer information - a 360 degree view of each customer record with information populated from multiple objects and systems ensures service personnel can provide a quick and effective resolution for almost any case, issue or request.
  • Activity management - ensure the CRM solution displays all open and closed activities related to a customer record like appointments, tasks, ToDo lists, etc. to enable quick tracking during interactions. In addition, alerts and escalations should be incorporated for unattended activities nearing their deadlines.
  • Parameterized reports - enable users to view graphical representations of data pertaining to a single record to quickly assimilate the next best offer or identify bottlenecks.
  • Multi-system integration - populate information through multi-system integration to ensure all users are on the same page and can collaboratively work towards providing solutions.
Bucket report for feedback
2. Easy access to feedback forms - collating customer feedback ensures you can understand their needs and improve your services and cross-selling capabilities by surpassing their expectations.
  • SCRM - create company accounts across networks to ensure customers find it convenient to share their thoughts and complaints across geographies. Capture these conversations with social CRM tools to enable a quick turnaround time and improve customer perceptions.
  • Website - ensure customers can register their displeasure or service requests through your official website with web capture forms that are automatically captured on the CRM software and assigned to specialists. Also, ensure clear visibility for relevant contact and toll free numbers on all webpages.
  • Branches - ensure lower call volumes and shorter queues by implementing an effective CRM solution for all customer facing employees to enable access to a holistic customer view. 
Configuring a keyword search 
3. Social CRM for monitoring customers' conversations - social networks are a critical channel for understanding existing and potential customers to improve services and business strategies. The CRM solution should facilitate creating dynamic assignment rules and escalations with a negative offset for tweets and conversations to stay competitive.
  • Keywords - configure keywords to pinpoint and list conversations pertaining to your brand. Assign and track these important comments with customized tools to avoid customer churn.
  • Profiles - study customer profiles from social networks to gain a clearer understanding of their preferences and build better rapport.
  • Competitors - use keywords relating to your competitors for monitoring user generated content and improving business strategies. It is also critical to ensure competitors are not bad mouthing your products to generate a negative perception among your customers and trigger churn.
SLAs for a specific category
4. Complying with stringent SLAs (service level agreements) - CRM solutions need to be flexible and future proof to ensure continual improvements or changes in compliance regulations can be incorporated into existing business processes and strategies. SLA rules are critical for ensuring the customer services team is performing at par with expectations and should be easy to create when new products are introduced.
  • Category-wise SLAs - ensure each case is automatically assigned an SLA on the basis of its category or similar criteria using the CRM software's customizable rules. Users should have clear visibility for these timelines to work efficiently and comply with internal and external regulations and timelines. 
  • User Help - display help tutorials for users on the basis of a cases' category to ensure clarity when communicating with customers.
  • Escalations - create individual external and internal SLAs with their own set of assignment and escalation rules on the basis of their criticality.
An approval record
5. Add approvals to the workflow - set up a workflow for approvals to automatically or manually assign records to approvers for their review and feedback. This will help to create a transparent audit trail and clear accountability helping to improve the quality of resolutions and hasten turnaround time for cases.
  • Avoid embarrassing mistakes - incorporate a carefully designed approval process for cases belonging to a specific category where false commitments can set off a chain of negative feedback and subsequent churn. CRM solutions can automatically use a customized execution criteria based on a specific set of values for each scenario to assign records in a specific status code for approval by specialists or designated approvers.
  • Publish approved solutions - create a centralized repository of solutions for frequent customer queries to shorten call time and provide consistent responses. Ensure only approved solutions are accessible to users by limiting the 'publish' option for appropriate senior employees.
  • Additional details - interests, preferences, budget
Customers no longer hesitate to share their dislikes or frustration about brands that disregard customer satisfaction and though many organizations increasingly publish fake reviews on social networks, there are manifold honest opinions in the mix that can be leveraged to improve a particular product or service and slowly regain a sizable wallet share. 

Qualifying a lead is just the tip of the iceberg - it's the follow up which can make prboofits soar through precision in up-selling/ cross-selling and building rapport - usually the result of successfully implemented CRM solutions. A happy customer only needs to spend a few seconds clicking a 'like' or 'follow' to let his network know your organization is true to its word and worth checking out. I won't elaborate the flip side in a similar scenario, but, in our always-connected world, consumers only trust the opinions of relations, friends, neighbors and colleagues!