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Posts Tagged ‘CRM’

Hard to believe but… recent research indicates that when customers post a negative review or lodge a complaint, they only get a response about 35% of the time!

This, according to research by the firms Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies, as recently report in the April, 2012 issue of CRM Magazine.

“Companies are asking their customer to do something for them and then not doing even the basics to express their appreciation or thanks or to let them know that their feedback was heard,” noted a senior analyst at one of the firms.

Turns out, when a response is given, 39% were satisfied, 35% indifferent and 26% were dissatisfied.

Deeper research by the firms revealed that slightly over 1 in 4 customers complete a customer satisfaction survey.  Of those, about 80% say they complete surveys somewhat frequently, or frequently (all told, from 3 to over a dozen times).  They do so because customers feel “it’s part of their job as a customer.”  57% said they did so to give feedback to help improve the company.  They expect a response.

And yet, almost two-thirds go unanswered.  That’s a real missed opportunity.

Customer satisfaction research “is about the opportunity to engage and often recover your customers after a bad experience,” notes Chadwick analyst Jeff McKenna.  Most companies asking customers about a recent experience don’t even take advantage of the opportunity to turn a service failure around.

The research indicates two basic reasons: one has to do with companies working with old, outdated CRM systems; the other is fear – the fear that customers will take advantage of them.  So apparently, rather than working toward helping the majority of honest people, companies let fear of the few impede their customer service responsiveness.

The good news in the research is that 57% of customers complete surveys to share a good experience, versus 35% who do so to register a complaint.

In the last analysis, while the problem should dictate the kind of response, everyone should get a response, even if it’s just acknowledgment of the customer comment, or an affirmation that we heard you and we’ll look into it.

This, apparently, is a conclusion that has gone largely unnoticed among too many companies.

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A series of three articles recently published in the trade magazine “CRM” (Feb. ’12 issue) points up a lot of interesting research about the three “generations” of buyers that today comprise most of the customer base that any of us is trying to sell to.  The articles covered a lot of ground, so below, we’ll recap just a few of their most interesting conclusions.  They’re worth noting to web marketers and others who wish to appeal to these particular audiences:

Gen Y

These are folks in their teens to mid-30s.  They’re multi-cultural to a greater extent than prior generations… They “live in the moment” (they are, after all, the Facebook generation).  They grew up with the Internet, consume media online, and are the ‘wired’ generation.  They’re interested in the visual and contextual: How does a product look and work (not what advertisers say about it).  By 2017 they will outspend the Boomer Generation… their friends are their biggest influencers and they distrust canned messages.  They blog and the v-blog (video) in ways that influence one another.  They use social media and are passionate about changing and improving the world.  They are irreverent (think Beavis & Butthead) but full of potential.

Gen X

These are people in their mid 30’s to 40s.  They’re the MTV generation… the latchkey kids.  Gen X is tech-savvy, they grew up with PCs and video games, they’re highly connected and wired.  They use the web… for banking, research, product purchases.  They will reach you on their own terms – they don’t like being told what to do or buy, and need a compelling reason to do so (including a money-back guarantee).  They’re iconoclasts – they make fun of tradition and convention, and are a more ‘in-your-face’ generation than their forebears.  They want their websites comprehensive, interactive, with many links to product info, and there they will buy books, music, tickets, and much more.  95% are said to be on Facebook (this sounds high to me).  They read a lot, though not necessarily on paper (more onscreen).  They’re the first generation with lower expectations than the prior one, and they grew up with a lot of trauma and drama.  They buy on friends’ recommendations, their peers are very influential, and they’re big on social media, while being protective of their hard-earned dollars.

Baby Boomers

Spending is said to peak at 50, and these folks are 54 on average.  After 54, a savings binge begins.  Analysts say this spells doom for big box retailers, among others.  These folks are going to prefer saving over spending.  But as a group, they’re expanding rapidly, and do have real purchasing power, despite the havoc wreaked on most due to the collapse in housing.  Boomers prefer ‘experiences’ over ‘stuff.’  They’re still the majority of voters, and they are the youngest ‘oldsters’ ever (“60 is the new 40” and all that).  They are on a quest for vitality, and the products that support it.  They put a high priority on family, and living close to them, exacerbated by their high rate of divorce.  They will spend on tech and on ease-of-communications products.  They want value, service, and to deal with a real person.  They’re savvy and experienced consumers.  If you appeal to them you’ll be rewarded; if you marginalize them, you’ll be penalized.

And of course, the editors at CRM conclude with the most obvious recommendation: Don’t create a separate (marketing) program for people over 50.  Rather, make a broadly universal, “ageless” appeal to all generations.  As they say, “Ageless marketing is the future.  Bet on it.”

As we move into February: Beginning with our next post (and the five that follow it) we’ll dig down into a topic of importance to many of our clients and followers: How to Attain Fulfillment Excellence in Your Warehouse. 

We’ll spend most of February on the topic, and you’ll learn about the latest research in how WMS (Warehouse Management Systems) helps make companies better at order fulfillment.  Stay tuned…

 

 

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SugarCRM is a popular open-source Customer Relationship Management solution that has gained popularity in the marketplace for its functionality and low cost of entry.  (Disclosure: our firm does not sell or represent SugarCRM, but we do represent other similar CRM products.)  Recently, in an article in CRM Magazine, the company published a basic guide to the key steps involved in buying a CRM solution, which we thought worth recapping here today.

As the article points out, a CRM solution requires a different process from the typical IT purchase.  Because CRM connects so many parts of the business, you must understand not only the products and vendors available, but also the way your own business works.  They call this the “Knowing Yourself” phase.  As the article advises, during this stage you should:

1. Look at your own business

2. Pick the right people for the team

3. Understand your regulatory realities

4. Consider your budget and where to run your CRM.

The next steps involve understanding the ways CRM is delivered, and their financial implications.  Sugar recommends not focusing initially on features; rather, start with issues like customer support, vendor roadmaps and experience.  They recommend that you avoid the “feature shootout” mentality.  While this may be self-serving on Sugar’s part, it really does make sense: it’s always most important to stay focused on the business-critical elements of any potential CRM solution.

When it comes to knowing your unique requirements then, Sugar suggests these 6 key considerations:

5. Integration requirements

6. Support requirements

7. Vertical market requirements

8. Feature requirements

9. Financial requirements

10. Vendor requirements

It’s good advice, and should increase the odds that the choice you make is indeed the right decision for your organization.

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Customers have various responses when asked how much impact technology has had in terms of increasing their sales and marketing effectiveness.  According to one recent survey conducted by CSO Insights, the answer may be a resounding “It’s OK.”  A classic case of being damned by faint praise.

This, despite the billions of dollars spent on CRM and related sales & marketing improvement technologies. 

The reason why begins to emerge in the results of CRM Magazine’s 2011 Lead Management Optimization study, which asked over 600 firms to rate the accuracy of their customer and prospect data.

It turns out only about one-third of companies are putting real effort into the quality and caliber of their customer data; and only about one-tenth are doing it for prospect data.  This despite the fact that executives at these firms listed “capturing new accounts” as one of their top three goals for 2011, notes, Jim Dickie a CSO Insights partner.

Help is available.  Companies like Dow Jones, Hoovers, ZoomInfo and others help improve the quality and quantity of data firms can have on customers and prospects.  Better data is like higher grade fuel in its ability to goose up your marketing and sales efforts by having the right information in the right place at the right time.

And like putting better fuel into a high performance car, why invest in the car if you won’t complement that investment with one in the fuel?

Maintaining your in-house data base is a never-ending process of continuous improvement.  We’ve been doing it ourselves for about 15 years, and it’s never ‘good enough.’  But the quality and timeliness of the data is improving – it’s an investment.  An investment in purchasing the right lists, managing the lists through outbound telemarketing efforts, and constantly updating the database with new information.  And now, these newer SI (sales intelligence) services like those mentioned above are making better data than ever available to all companies. 

Thus, CRM is not the end – it’s the beginning.  Managing the quality of the data is the tough part, and requires a conscious decision by sales management to make it an ongoing priority.  Otherwise, as the renowned saying goes, garbage in, garbage out.

 

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As noted in our prior post, too many companies end up with disparate silos of information.  Spreadsheets and Word documents and CRM data and accounting records all spread out across separate applications, often unable to talk to one another, or to be accessed by all.  As we noted earlier, it doesn’t have to be that way.

That’s why when today’s buyer looks at upgrading their in-house systems, they make sure that the ERP system contains the functionality they need to incorporate good customer relationship management – from quote to cash.  The best systems will now integrate with your office productivity suite (especially if it’s based on Excel and Word, but other options exist as well for the non-Microsoftie world.)

The point is, if your system is more than 5 years old, there’s a lot of new functionality out there.  Functionality that can save you TONS of time and money.  Functionality that helps you manage better… track the life cycle of an opportunity from opening to close… and make sure it’s all (or at least, mostly) integrated with your overall business management system. 

When used properly, the right CRM system, integrated properly, unifies all of the data about a client, project or opportunity into a single database, available to everyone in the organization, at any time.  It’s a better way to manage tasks, appointments, results, promises, interactions… and all the activities that comprise your business relationships – with both clients, and prospective clients. 

Best of all, it’s there forever.  I can’t tell you how often we’ve found it useful to track interactions with long ‘dead’ prospects, or clients, who have recently sprung back to life.  There’s value in knowing who the players were back then… who said what to whom… where the objections arose… and what the stumbling blocks were to closing the old deal, in order to improve our odds today.

The same can be true for managing projects.  Many different users, often ones not physically in the office, need access to a centralized database.  The tools exist today, and the links into ERP are many and useful.  It all depends on your plans and priorities. 

 

Professional firms today face stiff competition, cost pressures, and changing markets and circumstances.  And because their product is often an intangible (like knowledge or expertise), they must leverage Customer Relationship Management to ensure accurate delivery of quotes, estimates, deliverables and promises – and make sure these are in line with customer expectations and your own terms.  There are a lot of moving parts to manage, and when the sales cycle is long, you need all the tools that modern technology has to offer.

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Two factors often appear as critical elements of a successful CRM implementation.  We learn these lessons the hard way, whether we’re a customer or a service provider of CRM solutions.  Either way, they are important.

First, a well thought out, step-by-step implementation plan or methodology.  A typical outline of one of these would look something like this (we hit this in the prior post as well, but it bears repeating):

  • Identify the business objectives
  • Align the stakeholders (get buy-in)
  • Conduct a solution assessment (a roadmap, a pain chart, a process analysis)
  • Develop the solution (steps, processes, level of customization)
  • Plan the implementation (timetable, participants, testing)
  • Execute the implementation

As Mitchell Cannady, President of Spinnaker Network Solutions says:

“Without a well-defined and managed methodology, it is easy to understand why implementations fail.  The absence of any one of these steps leads to either the wrong system being put in place, or the right system with an undefined or misunderstood usage.”

The details of each methodology phase may move and change as part of the scope, but the principles don’t.  Each of the items above has its own unique elements to be addressed, and they are different for each company, starting with the basic objectives.  Each takes time and deliberation, from defining the vision to rolling out the solution.

The second key factor is a direct link to one of the execution principles above: training.

General system usage (h0w to launch, naviagate, etc.) can often be taught on a classroom basis, typically on-site.  But without specific, hands-on, individual (or small group) user training, projects can and do fail.  If the earlier solution assessment process engaged your users, then most of their basic needs should have been addressed as part of the solution.  When it comes time to train, it’s a matter of teaching users how to use, and where to look. 

The time spent on training can be recouped many times over if you get your users to understand their place in the system, better understand how to do their jobs, and better respond to their specific job requirements.  CRM at its best is intended to make it easer to take care of the customer.  Training empowers your team to do exactly that.  It’s not the place to skimp.

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No two CRM implementation methodologies are the same, nor need they be.  But most will encompass the basics framed by some of the following principles:

First, with a hat-tip to Stephen Covey’s success principles: Start with the end in mind.  In other words, establish the business objectives you hope to achieve by implementing CRM (or integrating CRM with your business management system).

Next, align your team.  We think it’s critical that the Top Guy/Gal in the organization be vocally and visibly on board with the initiative.  You will be asking people to change the way they do their jobs from this day forward.  Make sure it’s known that this initiative is mission-critical, key to the company’s growth, key to the staff’s future paychecks and company well-being, and that it is not optional.

Engage an outsider to do a focused assessment of your needs – a roadmap.  Look at your current processes.  Determine which are critical and which can be jettisoned.  Start with a blank piece of paper.  No sacred cows.  Or at least, very few of them – and then, only the ones in line with upholding the company’s key principles.  During this process, you look at (and for) processes and procedures, you question and analyze, and ultimately, you map those processes to the software and your future processes.  This is the essence, actually, of a term called Value Stream Mapping.

You look for specific pain points, specific opportunities for improvement.  This is the time to drag out the dusty wish lists that define how we might do things better.  You align the processes and the people with workflow and the software (and process, and people) steps required to accomplish the specified objective.  A flow chart is the ideal tool for these steps.  Start with the How We Do It Now flowchart, and evolve it into the How We’ll Do It in the Future flowchart.

Once the flowchart is set and agreed upon – and by this point, you will likely have invested several weeks and probably a hundred or more labor hours in the effort – then you can start evaluating appropriate software tools.  Ideally, if one is available, you want to work with the software that is supported by your current business management system – assuming you plan to keep that system.

Build your plan.  With software identified, you need to identify who will implement, which department goes first, what the timeline will be, and how you will ensure that while all this is going on, that people still have time to do their ‘real jobs.’  Along with this process, you need to identify who does what, what your provider will do and what you will do.  This, in turn, will drive the project cost estimate.

Execute.  It usually helps to think in smaller (or departmental) phases.  Don’t tackle phase two until you are reasonably comfortable that your designated phase one is good to go.  Keep looking backwards: did we accomplish each desired project benchmark.  How are the users feeling?  Are users conforming to the usage requirements established at the project’s outset? 

Like The Boss says: Two steps up, one step back.  To make it happen requires a lot of prior thought, good planning, and then training.  We’ll look at that next.

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