Managing Customer Relations in your Business
Every business is faced with the issue of managing its customer relations. This part of the business cannot be wished away, but must be handled with utmost care, professionalism and effectiveness to ensure that the business grows.
Besides other articles on Customer Service as Face of the Business, Customer Service through Phonecalls/SMS/E-mails, and Consistency in Customer Service Processes, this piece looks at how managing customer relations begins as an in-house job and then worked outwardly using technological means to manage relations with your customers.
In managing customer relations, I believe that charity begins at home. How staff or employees are managed is a starting point to managing relations with external customers. Choosing the right staff and having the right team in place is crucial to success of your Customer Relations.
In this vein, I would like to highlight that there are team members whose first customers are fellow employees within the business. Sometimes this is taken for granted and not handled professionally.
Depending on how the business is structured, there are those units or departments whose main “customers” are team members/fellow employees. For example, HR unit, Finance, ICT, Administration, depending on the nature and structure of the business. I once witnessed an ICT team member address a new staff who needed assistance with ICT issues. Waoh! This drove this lesson home for me. I thought to myself, “Would this new staff not think he has just joined the wrong team.” It was sad to see.
It’s important to note that these team members also need to be mindful of these “internal customers”. These internal relations should model, within the business context, what relations with external customers should look like.
Expectedly, there may be close working relations and familiarity within the team. However, when it comes to providing the necessary backend support and services to fellow employees, this needs to be the first “Melting pot” in which great customer relations need to be brewed.
It can indeed be different. With such technical part of the business, it’s easy to feel almost at the mercy of the ICT personnel, unfortunately. Right attitude is key.
You cannot give what you do not have. If employees treat one another unprofessionally and provide haphazard backend services and support to fellow employees, this will in no time get to external customers and will affect the great potentials of one’s business success.
Besides being pleasant and courteous to one another, we can deliver timely, consistent and efficient backend support and services to fellow employees. The internal communication system and/or processes within the business is a big factor in this regard.
You know why this is a big deal for your business? Yes, because: When a customer calls in to make a complaint, you can be sure that your excuse about this unit or that department would only further piss them off. They just want their issue sorted, and that’s it! They don’t care about who is responsible for what.
In fact, it would be unprofessional to begin blaming your marketing, delivery, front desk or finance unit, when speaking to a client. Give the customer an assurance to follow up, and do get the issue sorted promptly and as satisfactorily as possible.
We know that some customers can be quite challenging. However, patience and efficient service delivery is an obligation on your part. If your business team is not coordinated and a good internal communication put in place, efficient delivery to customers will always be a challenge until that is sorted.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM is used by businesses to collate customer information over time for a better understanding of a customer’s preference, taste, concerns and purchase history.
CRM software compiles customers’ personal information, interactions across various media, and all customer engagements with the business.
A new business may not be able to put such software in place immediately. However, a good knowledge of the CRM system would help the team know what Customer relations would look like with the system in place. Hence, the business can already begin to put in place simple strategies and information gathering practices.
This can already prepare the team with the knowledge of how the CRM system works, so they can better appreciate its benefits. CRM processes can also be outsourced. However, before taking such step, it is better to consult technical expert to advice and possibly guide.
Sometimes, as new businesses, we may not even be conversant with the ideas around this technological support for a business. My attempt here is more of an exposure to these ideas and its future possibilities for a business.
Some Benefits of CRM
- Provides greater customer insight to customize products/services to customers’ taste or provide improved customer experience. This in turn increases customer loyalty.
- It can support an increase in customer revenues, through increase in the purchases of retained customers.
- Employee dealing directly with customers have quick access to customer information for faster responses and feedback. As a customer, I believe you would feel good that you don’t have to keep providing same information, and you are promptly responded to.
- Personalized/marketing messages can be sent to individual customers.
- Managers can track performance and productivity based on information provided within the system.
- Assists in customer retention through customer satisfaction.
In general, CRM would improve customer service efficiency and effectiveness in your business.
It’s an exciting challenge to know that one can never think they’ve arrived. There is always that next thing to do to make your business more customer-centred and outstanding.
- Linda Ellah