Strategy

OPINION

The Revolution Your Customers Want

If you want to see who’s winning at retaining and attaining higher-than-ever customer loyalty, look no further than what is really happening inside sales reps, call center reps, their managers, and for that matter, their CEO.

What is it? It’s nothing on the outside — while a new CRM system on a hosted platform helps, and the analytics application that gives all of us accidental analysts a free rein with relevant data and just enough insight to be dangerous is fun, that’s not it either. It’s in reality none of these.

What it is goes so much deeper than any application or tool. It is a true heart for and passion to deliver exceptional service at every customer interaction, at every chance. That is what the true revolution customers want is all about.

Responsiveness From Deep Within an IVR System

I got to thinking about this while in Florida recently, after having to arrange to serve coffee in a trade show booth in the Orlando Convention Center. I dreaded getting approval, thinking it would take hours to traverse the organization and get the OK to give away coffee in the same facility that gets US$1.65 a cup.

Nonetheless, in I dove to the Orlando Convention Center’s interactive voice response system and eventually ended up leaving a voice mail for Brenda Petersen. Within less than 70 minutes of getting the voice mail, she called to explain that while she did not cover this area of approval, she had three telephone numbers and an e-mail address of the person who did. She would not only forward my voice mail, but also call the person responsible for making these approvals happen. Within three hours I had the green light.

Shocked, I wrote a note to the biggest, most important title I could find on the organization’s Web site to report this exceptional customer service. Again it happened: a response cc’d to every member of the management team within hours. Now, consider that I am a humble everyman, I am a no one — just one of thousands of exhibitors a year this organization sees asking for approvals. I realized that I’d encountered a service organization that had insightfully placed people with a passion for service where they were needed most. It all worked.

From that point, I started considering why customer relationship management systems will become even more role-based than ever before — and there needs to be more aptitude testing than ever to make sure people in customer-facing roles have a passion for serving others.

Find That Intersection of Passion and Service

Clearly, the management at the Orlando Convention Center does this daily, looking for opportunities to put those with the greatest passion for service into the most intensive customer-facing roles and jobs. Taking this a step further, isn’t that were each of us has also excelled? Doesn’t anyone who is passionate about any area of service to others and excels at delivering it make the perfect “fit”?

Yes, and that’s why the entire re-ordering of enterprise-level customer loyalty, customer service and the broad customer relationship areas of enterprise software shows so much potential.

Finally, with roles-based software and the growth of quickly deployable architectures like SaaS (Software as a Service), more companies than ever have a chance to capture these incredibly valuable intersections of passion and service and turn them into the “new norm” of behavior.

Cultures become what they praise, so if you want to get your company to this level of responsiveness, shower praise on those who have found this intersection of passion and service in their many roles and jobs. While metrics and key performance indicators are needed for managing any customer service strategy, the most unquantifiable of attributes make the biggest difference.

Mapping the Passion/Service Intersections in Your Company

Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a Six Sigma exercise to measure a person’s innate aptitude and passion for a customer-facing role from pre-sales, to sales, through service, at all management levels? Looking for the intersection of passion for service and the ability to deliver it could lead to much more streamlined CRM systems.

There wouldn’t be the need to create encyclopedic systems designs. There would be much more of a focus given to those who live at that intersection. Giving those people the chance to see their own progress through metrics that really matter would be all the motivation needed. Unleash them, and you will have created the revolution your customers want.

Next Stop, CRM Development: From ‘Born to Be Mild’ to ‘Born to Be Wild’

The Steppenwolf classic “Born to be Wild” says it all. Developing customer relationship software that doesn’t let those with a real passion for service accomplish their objectives is living in a “Born to be Mild” world.

That’s what is so encouraging about Salesforce.com and its upcoming Developers’ Conference starting May 21 in Santa Clara, Calif. Personally, I look at that event and hope the Brenda Petersens of the world step up and develop the next generation of software that captures the essence of how they capitalize on that critical intersection of passion and service, and create some exceptional applications in the process.

I’m not here to promote the conference — just challenging those with a passion for service to customers to crystallize their strengths in software so companies who struggle to serve others find potential solutions to their problems.

No Excuses for Not Moving Forward

You might finish reading this column and say, “Our culture is so ingrained, it just doesn’t care about service like this …,” or “This sounds like a lot of work,” but if you are not passionate about changing how customers are treated, there are plenty of other companies that are.

There is no excuse for a lack of change in this area — even if it means starting small and creating a Customer Champions Program — holding up those who have found the intersection of passion for service and the ability to deliver it as what your company really needs to be about.


Louis Columbus, a CRM Buyer columnist, is a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He has worked with enterprise clients on defining solutions to their channel management, order management and service lifecycle management strategies. He also teaches graduate-level international business and marketing courses at Webster-Loyola Marymount University and University of California, Irvine. He is the author of fifteen books on technology and two books on analyst relations. His book, Getting Results from your Analyst Relations Strategies, can be downloaded for free.


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