A blog in The Wall Street Journal last year underscored the increasing importance of delivering an exceptional customer experience. In fact, the piece by Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who worked at IBM for nearly four decades and has also spent time as a strategic advisor to HBO and Citigroup, argued that with customer experience, there are one of two ways companies today can set themselves apart.
“A company can differentiate itself from competitors in one of two key ways: by providing a superior customer experience or by offering the lowest prices,” argued Wladawsky-Berger. “For companies that prefer the former, digital channels are, far and away, the most cost-effective way of reaching out to their clients.”
His is just one argument in a case that has been gaining traction recently: That the ability to make customers feel heard, respected and delighted in all their interactions with a company will determine winners and losers in the economy. And for good reason. The rationale for providing a superior customer experience is buttressed by a report by software company Enkata, which found that proactive customer support can increase retention rates by between three percent and five percent.
Using technology to proactively deliver superior customer service
The question, of course, is how to actually deliver an exceptional customer experience. In some ways, we all know that excellence can be defined by what it is not. Indeed, a very familiar subpar customer experience goes a little like this: a customer receives the wrong order or a shipment is delayed without them knowing about it. In frustration, that customer reaches out to the company providing the product or service to complain. At this point, the only thing a company can do is react to an angry or disappointed customer.
Proactively managing important customer relationships with the help of CRM can fundamentally alter that dynamic and create the sorts of customer experiences that can set manufacturers apart from their competition. A sophisticated CRM provides innumerable avenues to manage relationships in a proactive way.
For example, the right CRM for manufacturers can track the most important customer data, including any service issues that arise or any repair and warranty information. Manufacturers who act on this information quickly, often before an existing customer is even aware there may be a problem, gives themselves plenty of opportunities to delight customers. For instance, when a manufacturer knows about a service issue quickly they’re able to respond with the equipment and expertise a customer will need to resolve the problem. There’s no need to wait for the customer to ask for help. And, honestly, there’s no reason that should ever happen if a CRM is configured to deliver reports and alerts when something needs to be addressed.
That same proactive approach to managing relationships is also possible during the order and shipment process. The right CRM will provide manufacturers information about potential delays in the delivery of products. Acting on this information and making arrangements to ensure that any delay is minimally disruptive will improve the customer experience, even if the circumstances are less than ideal.
But perhaps the biggest way that CRMs can improve the customer experience is by freeing up a manufacturer’s personnel to provide individual and very human attention to their clients. This happens when a CRM automates tasks that otherwise would be handled by staff and is consistently updated with the most relevant information. When this takes place, manufacturers become business advisors to help their customers forecast demand for their products and deliver on their promises. A proactive relationship with customers is a productive relationship.
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