One in three consumers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. – Future of CX report, PwC
Why CX Matters
Yes, every business today knows customer experience is important. However, knowing the impact that customer experience can have on a business, both in terms of intangible factors like reputation and tangible factors like revenue, is very important to drive the message home.
If there’s one story that clearly illustrates the impact of poor customer experience, it’s United Airlines’ 2017 passenger-removal controversy. A video of United Airlines staff mistreating a passenger on-board went viral, leading to intense outrage on social media platforms. The effect did not stop at online outrage; United’s shares subsequently fell 6.3%. That was a dip of nearly US $1.4 billion!
This example clearly highlights the impact of CX in the B2C space. When it comes to B2B customers, the need for good customer relationships and CX is magnified for the following two reasons:
- B2B customers, although perceived as a ‘business’ and not as an ‘individual’, place equal emphasis on CX and customer relationships. A recent report by Accenture stated that 90% of the surveyed B2B executives cited CX as a very important factor in achieving their organizations’ strategic priorities. That’s an increase of 16% in two years.
- The need for maintaining customer relationships is magnified when it comes to B2B customers because the amount of time, effort and money that is invested in acquiring each customer is exponentially more.
Maintaining positive customer relationships is more important today than ever. With people across the globe connected via social media and the internet, a customer’s experience with a brand (positive and negative) can become news in just a matter of seconds. A study in 2019 on customer experience by Omoto stated this interesting stat about the spread of brand reputation by word-of-mouth – 13% of customers tell 15 or more people if they’re unhappy. Conversely, 72% of consumers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people. But here’s an even more interesting stat – An average Twitter user has 707 followers which means that, while a negative experience can reach 15 people over time by word-of-mouth, with the power of the internet today, it can reach 707 people in just a few seconds on Twitter.
Maintaining Customer Relationships Amidst Unpredictable Situations Like a Global Lockdown
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has put forward another challenge – maintaining customer relationships and delivering positive CX while teams are disjointed and working remotely. In an ideal scenario, a customer can reach a business easily via multiple channels 24×7. With forced remote working, however, everything goes haywire. Suddenly, companies can only serve on select days for select hours. Without a solid customer relationship based on real time communication, businesses will start bleeding.
The silver lining is that maintaining customer relationships when working remotely is easy, with the right set of tools and methodologies.
How CRMs Help Maintain Customer Relationships While Working Remotely
A CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, tool is a solution that allows a business to execute marketing campaigns, acquire leads, nurture leads, convert prospects, manage customer interaction, and use analytics to acquire more customers. It can be used to connect all customer-facing departments within a business: marketing, sales, analytics, support, etc., via one single platform.
Here are the different areas of customer relationship that are hard to maintain when teams work remotely, and how CRMs can help improve the process:
1. Availability of support
The number one issue with remote teams is the uncertainty of availability. This can be a general concern. As the team lead or business head you’re unsure if your remote workers are at their desk or not. The exact same issue affects customers – they are unsure if they will be able to reach out to the support team and get an issue resolved in time.
What customers expect more than anything else from a brand is availability. Ideally, this would mean having open support lines that the customer can reach on, 24×7. But what happens when unprecedented events like the current pandemic hits and entire organizations begin working remotely?
Having a centralized solution in place where customers can log in complaints that can be picked up by a support member as soon as they are available is the right way to ensure maximum availability. A CRM solution like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics works perfectly to achieve this. CRMs also integrate multiple communication channels (like social media handles, email, chatbots, etc.) helping brands with Omni-channels facilitate customer conversation via a single portal.
Having a CRM in place gives remote workers wiggle room with the defined SLAs. A customer will be perfectly alright with a ticket being picked after fifteen minutes, but not if the phone is left ringing for even one minute. The real-time ticket status system also maintains an indirect conversation between the organization and the customer.
CRMs like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics also have workflow automation tools that can be set up to route tickets to the right department and individual once created. In a scenario where all employees are disjointed and working from separate locations, this can prove to be extremely useful in ensuring customer issues reach the right person on time. These tools ensure customer tickets continue moving along the pipeline helping with faster resolution.
Lastly, it’s important to maintain transparency when the availability of service is concerned. Notifying customers of any downtime beforehand will help proactively curb any panic that could arise.
2. Maintain Service Uptime (and Product/Service Quality)
100% uptime is uptopian, and to a large extent, customers understand this fact. That being said, maintaining close to 100% service uptime is definitely possible. It’s also prudent to prepare proactively with backups and disaster recovery scenarios.
The same goes for maintaining the quality of service. A brand’s customers come to expect a certain level of quality when it comes to service. This quality needs to be maintained even when teams are working remotely. It’s important to understand that how teams work (in-office or remotely) is the company’s problem, not the customer’s.
Preparing for both modes of working will help switch between the two while having little to no effect on work quality. If employees are given the tools they need (laptops, phones, software, etc.), the location of work will not impact the quality of the service or product.
A CRM stores all customer-related data that can be made accessible from anywhere. This helps remote workers get the information they need when working with a customer, greatly helping with the quality of service. The CRM tracks a customer’s interactions with the business helping the executive make informed decisions even when they are working remotely.
While preparing for 99% uptime don’t forget to prepare for the 1% downtime. If there’s a planned downtime of services, notify customers in advance. If there’s unexpected downtime, ensure communication channels are open to accommodate customer queries.
Just acknowledging a problem can sometimes be the solution.
3. Communicate with Empathy
We recently published an article that spoke about the fine line between personalization and automation (9 Ways to Strike the Right Balance Between Automation & Personalization). We discussed when it’s OK to use a bot for communication and when a personal touch is needed. Empathy can only be delivered personally, so the first step is balancing automation and personalization. An understanding conversation can go a long way and build relationships for life.
This can, however, be a challenge when teams work remotely. When the personnel assisting the customer is not fully aware of what the customer needs or has a problem with, they cannot express empathy.
A CRM stores complete customer history that the support team can use to create positive customer relationships. Right from the initial interaction by the sales team to the most recent ticket closed by the technical team, everything is registered and accessible even when working remotely. Support teams can analyze the customer’s problem and plan out a solution even before the conversation starts.
Another important step is training customer-facing executives to adapt to situations. An insurance company facing issues with accounting software will have a very different temperament than a healthcare provider whose asset tracking system has gone down. The brand must be able to adapt their tone and response accordingly.
4. Be Transparent About any Organizational or Process Change
A company that transitions from in-house teams to remote teams will definitely face a change in working style and processes. A customer unaware of this shift could get frustrated, trying to figure out what’s going on.
A CRM with push notification capabilities, like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics, can be used to easily send informative notifications. As a brand, you need to assess how remote working is going to affect a customer and then notify them of this change and its impact. Transparency will greatly reduce the number of disgruntled customers.
5. Maintain Constant and Clear Communication
When a business undergoes a change like shifting to remote working, an initial communication is not enough. They need to maintain constant contact with customers with relevant and clear information.
Constant, of course, does not mean bombarding customers with daily emails and messages. When a business changes, it resets the customer’s perception of the brand. When Walmart took over Indian e-commerce company Flipkart, there were a huge number of questions raised by customers and by traders in the Indian stock market. Customer trust in the brand was altered. Pushing out regular communication that indicated services and processes would remain unchanged helped bring back customer trust and loyalty.
There are two lessons here. One is to maintain consistency and quality of services even after a change, and two is to communicate on a regular basis until loyalty is developed.
6. Collect Feedback and Calibrate
While you will find a lot of great strategies on how to maintain services and the quality of products when teams shift to remote work, nothing can be more valuable than customer feedback.
While a brand might be aware of some known issues, some can be brought to light via customer feedback.
Whether you have teams working remotely or not, collecting customer feedback is an excellent and necessary business process. Positive feedback builds brand reputation, and negative feedback creates areas for improvement. It also gives customers a portal to vent and/or communicate, which helps with customer retention.
CRMs can be used to create custom surveys to collect valuable feedback from customers. The advantage of using a CRM is that the data that is acquired can then be used to draw insights and analytics, and also can be used to tailor future marketing strategies.
Surveys can also be created more intuitively via a CRM. Customers’ past interaction and history can be taken into account to create personalized surveys which will provide more useful insights for the business.
The situation in the world today is unprecedented, but the comforting prospect is that we are all in it together. There is a general sense of empathy and camaraderie being experienced, which gives businesses wiggle room for performance.
That, however, should not be taken as an excuse to dilute customer relationships and experience. Maintaining customer relationships takes work, but with the resources available today is easily achievable.