One thing we all have in common in this modern world, is that we have all, at some point in our lives, been on the receiving end of poor customer service.
Don’t get me wrong, a career in customer service is not an easy one, and I’m sure there are many service providers out there who have been wrongly on the receiving end of an angry customer, for reasons out of the businesses hands, that’s another topic in itself. It is hard, however, to ignore that one thing companies often fail on heavily is providing a timely, easy to access and appropriate level of service for their customers.
So what exactly is “customer service” and how can improvements be made with data management and a single customer view?
Customer Service can be defined as any activity or interaction with a customer that helps in the process of the purchase of a product or service and the delivery and tracking of that product or service. The customer service process includes the aftercare and support and in some cases the returning or crediting of orders.
Whatever part of the customer service cycle you examine, data is gathered, tracked and updated and then is used to inform and assist the next steps. Without correct collection of data on your customer there is no way of knowing what they bought, why they bought it, when they bought it and whether or not they are happy with it.
One major step forward in the improvement of this process is to adopt a solution like Salesforce. That said, although Salesforce can be put in place to track information, without data management steps, such as integration, de-duplication and standardisation, you won’t get the most from your data assets.
For simplification let’s break down the customer service life cycle into five stages. These stages see the client from their start point of being a prospect, right through to a long-term customer who’s renewing. There are many stages where the data you collect can be used to help you provide a customer service that’s a cut above the rest:
Stage 1 – Prospect
Customer service starts even before your “customer” has become a customer. Whether you connect with your prospects face to face, on the phone, over the Internet, or through marketing campaigns, your service starts from here. How you manage the prospecting relationship is what will make the difference between gaining a customer or losing an opportunity to one of your competitors.
Of course, improving customer service through the right training is a must, however, as a business; you need to ask yourself “what assets can you leverage to help you convert more of your prospects into customers”? Yes, your Data! Believe it or not, one of your biggest assets in this process of converting prospect to customer is something you’re already collecting.
Information about your existing customers and trends can be used and analysed to help you tailor your services to the right demographic. However, without maintenance, this data can result in garbage in – garbage out. Tracking previous sales in Salesforce can help you know who your best customers are at any one moment in time, in turn helping you know who you should target for the future.
Typically, this information may be in multiple locations. The key to maximising its effectiveness is in ensuring it gets stored where the sales or marketing people in contact with prospects can access it. This is where you can really personalize your prospecting, allowing you to differentiate yourself from your competitors. A robust synchronization with your other systems that are tracking your sales, means your sales people get the data they need, when they need it. Maybe your prospect for a certain product is already a customer of another product? How can you leverage this if you haven’t got that information to hand?
Furthermore, knowing if your customer is happy with your services will also make for a smooth upsell/cross sell process, allowing a customer who’s made a small investment to make a bigger one, all thanks to the right customer service.
Stage 2 – Purchase
So, at this stage, your prospect is now making the move to becoming a customer. Chances are, this interaction involved a member of your sales team or a distributor to complete the process. It’s also highly likely that this transition involved sending or re-keying information into other systems to be processed. Best practices in Data Management can help streamline this process.
Being able to provide quotations and product information in a timely manner means that your customer will associate your business with a quick and efficient service. Automated integration will help your sales people do what they do best, selling, without the added administration and chances of errors occurring, particularly when dealing with the invoicing and costing process. Even better is a solution that can be managed by your sales department.
The purchase stage is also an opportune time to start collecting information that will soon inform your campaigns and strategy moving forward, in order to convert all those prospects. Using a CRM tool like Salesforce, you’re able to track key information about this sale for your records. How much did the sale close for? When did it close? Is there a renewal process or a subscription involved? What products did the customer buy? All this information is extremely valuable for any future interaction with your customer. Even if you outsource your services or after care through a third party provider, collecting this information in a format that your business and your service provider can track is key to making sure you are one step ahead of any future issues that may come about.
But what if you have multiple views of your customer or conflicting messages or information? Using an MDM tool in Salesforce will help resolve data conflicts and consolidate the information where you need it. Knowing what was important to the sale means knowing what might be valuable in the aftercare or in a future upsell or renewal.
Tune in next time for Stages 3 to 5 – Delivery of your products through to Renewal/Upsell/Return.