3 Steps to Building a Strong Foundation for CRM to Deliver Great Customer Experience

Matching expectations to advance retention and sales
In my last article, I covered the advantages of amplifying customer satisfaction and the subsequent loyalty through consistent Customer Experience. At a broader level, the following 3 strategies should be executed to assure the finest Customer Experience:

1 Establish expectations by adopting an outside-in approach
A critical aspect of creating an ideal customer experience is setting expectations in accordance with brand values, which are direct manifestations of the company’s reputation. Brand values must be distinguishing, appeal to customers, and should be in perfect alignment at all organisational levels. Also, the expected customer experiences should be clear amongst the workforce across all verticals, and their actions must be aligned with the associated expectations of customers.

A host of factors are responsible for shaping customer expectations – past experiences, advice/ validations from family and friends, online communities and reviews, website comparisons, etc. Since, all these factors happen to fall outside the organisation’s purview, customer expectations influenced by them may not always be right, which is when organisations may need to reset the same. Social media monitoring is the next mandate that follows – this includes first ascertaining, if the company is being discussed on online social networks, and if 'yes', then finding out if the projections are authentic.

It goes without saying that the best customer experiences result only when they are crafted entirely from the customer’s point of view. An outside-in view becomes essential here. Depending on the heterogeneity of the organisation’s clientele, the customer segments will also differ, due to which, multiple, varied experiences will emerge. Organisations that do not adopt this approach and only focus on their own risks and benefits are sure to create inferior customer experiences.

An optimum CE necessitates reference to multiple, assorted sources. A complete scrutiny of competitors and also incorporating best practices from other industries as and where applicable is wise. Each customer touch-point should be well aligned, and simple process designs should be employed which augment profitability by balancing business needs with customer expectations.

Successful organisations completely understand the customers’ mindset and constantly reinforce this understanding with ongoing research and customer validations.

2 Live up to customer expectations
All resources – human, financial and technological - must be focused to ensure that workforce productivity is enhanced and the expected CE is delivered. Optimisation of customer processes and systems to deliver the intended experiences could involve cultural changes for workforce, including training, motivation and empowerment. This will ensure that every employee comprehends, values and exhibits brand values with conviction.

Customers’ experiences should be consistent across all departments and channels. A single view of customers and their interactions with the company, helps personalise the CE further. Investments that blend cost-effectiveness and productivity with worthwhile customer experiences will be most successful in raising brand recognition, profitability and customer loyalty.

3 Transcend the Customer Experience
Constant enrichment of customer experiences depends primarily on customer feedback. This purposeful feedback is embodied in customer dialogues which emerge from varied communication channels. It is also necessary to use multiple mechanisms and technologies to continually capture, store and analyse direct, indirect, or deduced customer feedback. Enterprise feedback management, social media monitoring, web and speech analytics are some of the technologies which can be coalesced to render a comprehensive understanding of the VoC. A continuous feedback loop should be incorporated into maximum feasible customer processes across the complete customer experience.

The information that surfaces from meaningful customer insights should then be dissipated to the right people (decision makers and employees at all levels) using the right channels and at the right time. Information timing and format will however vary depending on the employee’s role in the organisation. It would be ideal, if the information transfer is done in real time or as close as possible, depending upon the urgency of the issue and probable adverse ramifications of delaying appropriate action. If any negative customer situations or trends emerge, it is critical to intervene immediately and nip them in the bud to avoid further escalations.

A very important aspect of customer satisfaction is that problem resolutions and/ or change implementation should be communicated to customers at the earliest. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive revealed that a large percentage of customers give companies a maximum period of one week to respond to their queries, following which they discontinue associations with the brand.

It is thus clear that timely and meaningful responses to customers have multiple, long-term benefits. When customers discern that organisations really listen, care and actually act upon their feedback, companies gain credibility. It also inculcates zeal in customers to continue providing information in a scenario where customers are most often than not, apprehensive about sharing their thoughts and time.

Though the ‘Customer is King’ philosophy is a timeless concept, what really forms the core of this concept is the manner in which organisations design, create and maintain phenomenal experiences for their customers. An effective financial CRM solution ensures continual improvements based on voluntary customer feedback or comments captured from social networks. The crux of customer-company associations is 'respect', when customers are given their due respect, everything falls into place – increased profitability, customer satisfaction and business relationships are sealed for a lifetime.