Sept 11th, Customer Service and CRM

A colleague was telling me how friendly the staff were at an airport on a recent trip, which reminded me of Sept 11th 2001. I was on one of the last flights to land in the US on that day - on my way to an ACT! Conference that I ended up being unable to get to. I was stranded in San Francisco for 10 days, calling United Airlines each day to see if I could get a flight to the conference or back to Sydney.

One of the lasting memories of that time was how, in stark contrast to the expected reaction, how friendly the Americans I met were at that time. They went out of their way to help and seemed genuinely apologetic for the inconvenience... saying things like "I had such a great time when in Australia and we're so sorry your trip has been affected like this".

I was really amazed how friendly and polite the airline staff were despite the understandable stress.

All of this really reduced my stress and confusion at being stranded alone in San Fran ... in fact, I even managed to relax enough to do some site-seeing, catch a few bands and generally enjoy a rare (albeit enforced) holiday.

I say all this because I find that people, especially airline staff, aren't usually that helpful and friendly... and it made me realise that if phone/email support people were, not only better technically trained, but also better trained in service and empathy, the users who deal with them are happier and actually put less aggression on the support person - it's a win/win.

When I worked at Digital, in the early 80s, all engineers were given service oriented training on top of their technical training and were also judged on this in surveys that were completed by their customers.

One of the core points of the CRM is that "everyone sells"... let me repeat that "everyone sells". Not just the sales and marketing people, but the receptionists, the tech support staff, the product teams, everyone!

From that realisation, the first point to understand that is that when someone calls tech support, a good operator can not only relieve their immediate problem, but also (in a non-aggressive sales way) recommend upgrades, addons or even (for the right client) an up sell to a bigger product.

The second point is that it expands the value of the CRM product and makes it imperative to be able to share information on customers across all groups in a company.

CRM should be the centre of the corporate infrastructure. The customer database is the most valuable asset that any business has. The ability to integrate this with mobile users, with support, with accounting, as well as sales and marketing should be primary considerations when users select a CRM product.

CRM is about managing the relationship with the customer, not just getting a sale.

From Sage’s point of view, this is a message they should get out to their user-base. It will create additional sales within current customers – and it’s always cheaper to get additional sales from a happy client than to get new clients. Obviously, they need to make sure the customers are happy - with the products, support and other deliverables.

Mike Lazarus
ACT! Evangelist
GL Computing, Australia

BTW: “Everyone sells” was a quote I stole from Mike Muhney – one of the co-founders of ACT!

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