In the modern business world, two factors drive success. One is customer service. The other is technology.
Excellent customer service is paramount to growing a business of any size in any industry. According to Microsoft’s research, 96% of consumers name customer service as an important factor when determining their loyalty to a brand. Those consumers are putting feet to their values, too. Fully a third of the people who leave business relationships do so because of poor customer service. No wonder business media mogul Gary Vaynerchuck says, “The customer is always right as long as you expect and want their money.”
Entrepreneurs and small business owners generally agree that customer service is a key building block of commerce. But more than a few might take issue with the idea that technology is the other major driver of success. After all, any great product sold by helpful people at an affordable price point should succeed whether technology is part of the process or not, right?
Consider that Amish business owners, a group famous for their long deliberations regarding modern technology, keep an astounding 95% of their enterprises open for longer than five years. If they can run a profitable restaurant with a cash box and a cookstove, why should modern business owners buy into the technology craze?
If you’re thinking of business technology only in terms of buying a new tech toy for business then you’re right. It’s value may be very limited, and you’d probably be better off looking elsewhere for a business development strategy. But if you understand how to lace together technology and customer service so that each supports the other, you can construct a rock-solid business that customers love to buy from and tell their friends about.
Why and How Does Technology Support Great Customer Service?
At its heart, great customer service simply means giving the customer what they want when they want it.
But that’s not what many entrepreneurs think about when they consider customer service. Entrepreneurs get customer service wrong because they think it’s about something other than the customer. They think it’s about themselves. Many entrepreneurs mistakenly believe customer service is about good negotiation or being really nice or even helping people not be mad at the business.
Fundamentally, a great customer experience is not about any of those things. It’s about the customer. And if your customer service approach is based on you instead of your buyer, your approach will erode the foundation of your company and ultimately leave you unable to attract or retain customers — even if you’re pleasant and friendly.
Great customer service is 100% customer centered. That doesn’t mean the customer is always right in a conflict between them and your team, but it does mean the customer’s experience stays uppermost in your mind as you plan each interaction with them. Will this interaction respect the customer’s time? Purpose? Intelligence? Feelings? How will this part of the experience accelerate the customer’s ability to get what they want?
Once you are thinking with the customer in mind, you have started doing customer service right. Technology can help you do it even better.
“There’s a lot of excitement about new technology in customer service, support, and success,” says Michael Redbord of Hubspot. “The progress of video, real-time messaging, chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI), cryptocurrencies, self-service, and even customer success itself, all present the potential for big changes in the day-to-day workings of customer success practitioners.”
Paradoxically, mass technology can equip companies to provide personalized, one-on-one service to each customer. Video contact, bots, and blockchain may be beyond the scope of many small enterprises for a few more years, but much powerful business technology is already affordable and accessible to everyday entrepreneurs. The best technology for customer service is a Customer Relationship Management tool.
What Is CRM Software?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is an umbrella term that covers all aspects of a customer’s experience with a business. By managing relationships with their customers, businesses avoid having buyers who drop in and out and instead forge relationships that result in recurring sales. A CRM approach allows a business owner to establish their enterprise as the go-to spot for buyers in their industry.
Can’t you do CRM without access to the latest technology? Of course you can. Traders and merchants have managed customer relationships in a systematic way for thousands of years, long before modern SaaS CRM systems were ever conceived in the minds of software developers. In fact, technology is only one of of a CRM’s three components — people, processes, and technology.
The most important element of a CRM is people. Want to manage great customer relationships? Put down your phone, and start forming meaningful relationships with the people you want to buy from you. Study them. Learn their names, remember their preferences, and start finding out the information about your customers that will help you serve them well. Without a relationship in place, CRM technology won’t help you succeed with your customers.
How Does the CRM Process Work?
The second component of a CRM is processes. A CRM process is a system in which information about the customer relationship gets acquired, stored, managed, and surfaced at the right time. Remember the days when your mom would go to the beauty shop, and the beautician would open up a little plastic box filled with 3 x 5 index cards? On each card, she would have written down a customer’s name, some important personal information, and how they liked their hair cut. That’s a CRM process.
The technology involved may have been simple at best, but it was effective and useful for that beautician’s business. Right at her fingertips, the beautician had all the information she needed to give your mom a beauty-shop experience that would have her coming back for more.
If your business can serve more than a handful of customers, you could benefit from a more technologically advanced system than the old box of 3 x 5 notecards. As the third piece of a CRM, technology helps organize all your relevant customer information in a way that lets you and your team retrieve quickly and effectively.
CRM software helps business owners understand customer behavior and meet specific needs through efficient resource allocation and timely and appropriate service promotion. Simply put, a CRM equips you to sell the right product to the right person at the right time for the right price. It is so valuable, in fact, that in the last few years, CRM software has grown to become one of the largest-selling SaaS software branches.
Regardless of your business’ niche, industry, or size, a good CRM software can help you deliver great customer service.
10 Ways CRM Software Helps Deliver Good Customer Service
How does CRM software improve customer service?
1. Identifies top prospects – A CRM allows you and your sales team to see which potential sales leads are the most ready to close the deal and then to create personalized pitches likely to appeal to those leads. By focusing your team’s efforts on the most sales-ready leads, your members’ time becomes infinitely more valuable to your business.
2. Improves efficiency – A good CRM system will help eliminate manual-entry errors and reduce the repetitive data collection and update approach that customers find annoying.
3. Shows what customers really want – With CRM, you can track customer activity and gather data from calls, chats, and social media. Using that data, you’ll immediately see what customers are buying, what they like about the product or service, what they don’t like, and how they want to make their purchases. You’ll also see the price points that they find most attractive and the times they are most likely to buy.
4. Turns data into intelligence – A CRM does more than store information. It also organizes, cleans, and segments that information in a way that your team can transform it into strategic planning and effective activities. You’ll be able to track each sales team member’s performance and determine the health and sustainability of your customer relationships.
5. Reduces response time – A CRM lets you reply to customers immediately so they know your team is on it. This approach leaves the customer feeling satisfied that their problem will be solved in a way that calling a number only to be put on hold or sending an email and waiting to hear back can never do.
6. Identifies loyal customers – It costs 5-25 times as much to get a new customer than it does to keep an old one. Identifying and serving your most loyal customer is a cost-effective way to generate revenue.
7. Increases referrals – A CRM can also help you get referrals from those loyal customers. Satisfied buyers will spread the word about your company. And we ll know that word-of-mouth marketing from a trusted source is the single most effective marketing strategy there is.
8. Focuses content marketing – A CRM can tell you what customers find effective on your blog, videos, podcast, and social media presence; and you can create content relevant to prospects at all the buying stages. Some CRMs even allow you to post directly to all your social media sites from a single platform.
9. Supports cross-selling and up-selling – Knowing what your customer currently buys is key to knowing what upgrade version or complementary product you should pitch next. An effective CRM will help you spot these opportunities.
10. Streamlines invoicing – Some CRM systems let you create quotes and send invoices using the same platform on which you fill orders.
Which Features and Functions of CRM Tech Can Help Businesses Achieve Customer Service Goals?
For many years, CRMs were only available to enterprise-level companies that had the financial capacity to afford such expensive technology and the human resources to manage it. Then software developers realized that small businesses needed CRMs too. Thus, they created easy-to-use, cloud-based systems that work for entrepreneurs.
With all the CRM systems available, which one should you choose for your business needs? Consider several different elements of the CRM, including its features, functions, and costs before you select a product.
A good CRM should offer contact management, lead management, and interaction tracking. When checking out a system, ask yourself if the contact management features are well organized, easy to use, and offer quality information at a glance. Does the lead management process flow logically and work well with your business’ approach? Will your team be able to collaborate easily using the interaction tracking or will the system require a lot of offline conversations or tedious workarounds.
Different CRMs may offer different functions, but some of the most common include email integration, pipeline management, document management, quotes, workflow management, and forecasting. The functions you need may be different from what another business needs. It’s good to know in advance what you want a CRM to do so you can determine if the product you are considering meets your requirements.
In some cases, you could be well served by hiring a consultant to help you select the right data management tool, create a solid system, and train your staff on how to use a CRM to its full capacity.
Some of the most popular CRM software systems include Hubspot, Salesforce, Freshsales, Pipedrive, and Zoho. In the non-profit world, CRMs are often called donor management systems, and some of the top choices include DonorPerfect, CharityEngine, Blackbaud, and Salsa. Each system possesses certain strengths and attributes, but all require users to learn the product and faithfully use it in order to extract the maximum benefits from it.
How expensive are CRMs? They range from free products offered by companies such as Hubspot and Zoho all the way to $200 per user per month. You’ll know if you need a stripped-down, streamlined product or if investing in something with more bells and whistles is right for you. The most important thing is getting the right product to help you better serve your customers, increase your revenue, and stay in business for years to come.