Monday, July 4, 2011

Customer Services are Integral to Business Growth, A New Study Shows

A recent survey performed by the Federation of Small Businesses indicates that many of the 1,700 polled believe providing better customer service is an integral key to growing their businesses. Whether exposing employees to in-house training in areas such as sales, marketing or public relations, the overriding sentiment was that increasing the company’s care and concern for the paying client seemed paramount to its success.

One of the more recent developments in the ways businesses operate is a focus on something known as customer relationship management, or CRM. In effect, CRM is akin to taking customer service to new levels by providing employees with tools and data they need to exceed the customer’s expectations.

The implementation of CRM into the company’s operations has multi-tiered effects on information organization, sales forecasting and indeed tends to lead to increased sales, and as importantly to the long term growth of the business and increased perceptions of customer service. The following list will focus on and expand how a business’s use of CRM affects the customer directly.

4 Direct Effects of CRM on the Customer Experience

  1. More Satisfied Customer Base: The early part of the 20th century saw a number of brand names become synonymous with the products sold by the company. Think Kleenex or Band-aid. Of course in those days, there was very little, if any competition and this allowed the company to develop a large base of customers who became habitual buyers. As long as the business treated the paying clients well, their growth and profits seemed guaranteed.Today’s markets certainly have much more competition, however the concept of developing a satisfied customer base holds true. Providing the ones main source of revenues with satisfactory customer service is an excellent way to firmly establish the company in the marketplace and ensure its growth in the long term.
  2. Customer Loyalty Improvement: Some savvy marketer once came up with a concept for the tobacco industry that fully encapsulates the concept of customer loyalty. The paradigm that was filtered into their customer base was that a cigarette smoker would rather fight than to give up their particular brand. This very same concept holds true for any brand looking to increase the loyalty of their paying consumers. By providing excellent customer services, the company increases the chance that someone who buys their products would actually pay a little more or go a little farther in order to have the quality and service they have come to expect. Lower priced imitations of their favorite goods would only cause them to reaffirm their brand loyalty that much more.
  3. Customer Retention: It is certainly true that it costs more to get a customer than to keep one. Retaining the businesses best customers is one of the key focuses of CRM and when considering the implementation of such a plan, bearing in mind the cost factors of getting new clients versus keeping existing ones can be a strong rationale for investing in the technology required.While some customers look for the deal with every purchase they make, others look to be cared for. They become loyal to a brand and its company when they know they can expect quality products and be serviced even beyond their expectations. The business looking for long term customer retention must place excellent service to the paying clients above even their own goals of profits. Customers see this in the company and tend to reward the business by staying with them for very longer periods of time.
  4. Direct Customer Referrals/WOM: Most businesses understand the power of word of mouth advertising. When the above three factors come together to produce an extremely satisfied customer, an inevitable result is that customer’s desire to spread word of the treatment he or she has had at the hand of the company.In days past, the rule of thumb was that each person knew or had some direct connections with upwards to about 150 others. Known as the Dunbar Number, this sphere of influence was one way that a company would hope to get knowledge its brand products passed around. Today, however, the concept of spreading the word to only 150 others seems quaint. With the advent of social media and the communities which have spawned as a result, even the most average of individuals can have hundreds or thousands of others they communicate with on a regular basis. Today, direct customer referral is big business, and the best way to understand the power of this phenomenon is to harness social CRM for the benefit of the company and its customers.
The speed and power of the Internet can make amazing things happen very fast. It is important, however that when considering how to grow ones business, to have a realistic expectation on what will happen and when. Yes information travels faster today thanks to email and the World Wide Web. But when considering the implementation of a plan which may include CRM, it is important to remember that investing in such a game plan is a long term proposition.

Information gathering, storage and processing takes time. Training employees on use of the tools and various other aspects of providing quality customer services will also take some time. Most importantly, the business needs to put the time and effort into helping their customers feel important and appreciated in order to begin to see returns on any CRM investment.

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