Winning And Keeping Customers Requires
Your desire to win more customers and keep them longer is directly
affected by your organization's capability to build quality relationships
and maintain them. Winning the business through marketing and salesmanship
is a relatively exciting time with a lot of money and energy invested.
It is not uncommon to have executive involvement at this point, and several face-to-face
meetings. Execs provide leadership and direction to build a successful
account strategy and therefore invest their valuable time to close the deal.
You win the business and the contract is signed. Now comes the hard
part. You deliver your product or service and your new client becomes
another record in your customer database. Over time, the phone becomes the
primary means of contact between you and your customer. This is where most
companies begin to fail in maintaining
their hard-won relationship. The challenge increases as more people become involved,
too. One person might have made the actual buying decision, but then
possibly hundreds of that company's employees become your "customers"
as well. They all have varied
perceptions, expectations, and demands.
In addition, it often seems that the longer a company is the customer
of another, the further down the "importance chain" they are placed. There is now limited access
to high-level decision makers, or
no executive involvement at all. Much less money is spent on keeping accounts
took to get them. This is fine in concept, and actually good business: Customer
acquisition is a very expensive activity. However, winning a customer doesn't mean less
attention, effort, or energy is required for each instance of customer
interaction after the contract is signed.
The customer relationship management (CRM) industry has evolved to
address these issues. (I suggest dropping the "management" part just to
make it more personal, at least for conversation.) Much discussion and
time are spent on figuring out how to provide a superior experience for customers. The
problem is mainly that -- it is all talk. Does it make it to the actual
customer interaction? Why do customers feel that service is in continual
decline? Generally, it is because most customer relationships lacks two key ingredients: leadership and execution. And the
latter cannot occur without the former.
Attention is primarily focused on improving the skills of the people
who are on the front line with customers, like call center and help desk agents.
By default, the responsibility also seems to land on the agents' shoulders...
or their managers'. This is wrong. An executive-level stakeholder should
be directly involved beyond having the call center or help desk as a line
item on their budget.
Leadership means recognizing the needs of the customer relationship team;
providing access to the proper resources (such as modern technologies);
acting as a champion in the face of budget cuts; presenting an example of the commitment to and the attitude of
customer care; and making decisions when required, whether they are easy
or not. Leadership also has to protect and support its
employees against unruly and overly demanding customers.
Delivering an extraordinary level of
customer service is only possible with an extraordinary leadership
effort. Customer service is the focal point and daily interaction that ultimately
leads to having extended customer relationships and their
John McDonald, president of MBC
Solutions, strongly believes that
leadership is the key to customer relationships and that the leader
involved should actually be the CEO. As an experienced CRM specialist, he
has overseen many successful implementations and knows that, "A CEO-sponsored
customer relationship project has an 85 percent better chance of being a
success than if the project is handed off to a department or senior level
McDonald makes a number of points with respect to implementing a
customer relationship program for your business:
- Leadership drives the vitality and responsiveness of the individuals
connected to the project.
- Top-level sponsorship incorporates the benefits of customer
relationships into the organization's culture.
- A CEO can rally disparate departments and divisions around a common
project and link them together... this unification is a foundation for
solid customer relationships.
At MBC Solutions, they believe: "If the CEO
doesn't buy into the project, shelve it until the lights turn on. This
will happen eventually. Probably when one of his biggest competitors start
taking business away from him because they implemented a CRM
Effective and well-executed customer relationship management results in
positive customer relationships and customer loyalty. I recently heard
someone define customer loyalty as "Sticking around until something
better comes along." Leadership is a commitment to and a strong
belief in superior customer satisfaction -- and this is the ingredient most lacking
where customer loyalty is eroding. If you have hundreds or even thousands
of customers, it will always be a challenge to keep them all happy. Is it
possible? Looking at those considered great leaders in history, it seems
that a common test of their leadership was to provide hope in the face of
seemingly insurmountable odds. So…onwards and upwards!
Martin Wales, the Customer Catcher, is a business development
specialist helping companies win and keep more business with a focus on
CRM. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator
focused on maximum results with minimum risk using a company's existing
resources. Contact him at email@example.com.