Zendesk, Salesforce Service Cloud, Zoho Desk, Dynamics 365 Customer Service. Do you see the connection? These are service-oriented modules that are offered by these – and many other – popular CRM applications. And yet – at least among my client base – their usage lags far behind most other “sales” oriented functionality that generally define customer relationship management offerings.
It baffles me. Didn’t we learn on our first day of business school that the least expensive way to generate more sales was to sell to our existing customers? And what better way to do this then to seek out problems and solve them?
CRMs since their inception have always been considered to be sales tools. They emerged from contact management software in the ‘80’s and the salesforce automation applications during the ’90’s. Most of my clients purchase their CRM systems with an eye towards improving their lead management, marketing, pipeline reports and overall sales process. Services are rarely brought up.
And yet most mainstream CRM applications include – or have the ability to add – very powerful service management features. Features that will not only help manage problems but can identify sales opportunities. How?
When used correctly, any issue or question raised by a customer is entered into the system – via a web page, chat, email, text, voice or manually – as a ticket or case. With minimal customization the ticket/case form can capture all aspects of the problem like what product it’s related to and how often it happens as well as detailed notes along with date and time stamps. From there the ticket/case can be queued or automatically routed to people that can best resolve the problem and customers can receive instant notifications on progress.
When issues are resolved the answers are documented for future reference. A knowledge-base can be created so customer service reps (and customers) can research past issues on their own or get notified of a common problem and how it’s fixed. If the problem is pervasive, product management would become aware so they can address it on a timely basis. Reports are used to track cases/tickets by product, representative, type of issue, the amount of time it takes to resolve, status and resolution. Alerts are sent to managers so they can know of problems before they become bigger problems.
This is service. But it’s also sales. Why? Because using a CRM system to track problems serves two significant purposes.
For one, it puts everyone on the same page. That means that a salesperson will know if a customer is having a product issue before awkwardly calling to sell them on another product. Or a service person will know that the salesperson is trying to close a big deal with the customer and that this technical issue could create potential obstacles. Sales and service are sharing information. They’re talking to each other. They’re up to date on the customer’s situation. It’s the core to customer relationship management. You know…CRM.
But more importantly, it reduces churn. Problems are identified early. Customers don’t want problems of course, but when they happen they want them solved fast. Owners and leaders want to make sure that not only are their customers’ needs being addressed but that there are not deeper issues about a product or service that they may not be aware of. They can use their CRM’s service management capabilities to not only demonstrate how quickly they respond to their customers’ needs but also to identify potential selling opportunities.
In these highly competitive times, existing customer retention is as important for sales as new customer growth. My best clients understand this, which is why they don’t run away from their problems. They embrace them. They receive frequent updates and are up to speed on all the open concerns their customers have and how they’re being addressed. They know that problems aren’t really problems. They’re opportunities.
It all makes sense. And yet most small and mid-sized companies I work with don’t use their CRM systems for this purpose.
My company uses its CRM’s service management capabilities to track all of the time our people spend on clients, along with detailed notes of the service performed. I’m also aware of any service management issues when clients create cases in my system. Of course I don’t like to hear of problems. But, as the owner, I need to know about them. Because not knowing means I’m running my business in the dark. It means I’m potentially losing clients…and service opportunities. Considering what I spend to acquire them, I would prefer not to let this happen.