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Have CRM Systems Ruined Customer Service?

It is not an unheard of phenomenon in which companies invest thousands of dollars and valuable time in deploying a CRM system; often going so far as to working their business processes around the system, only to find that the desired gains in new customer acquisition and customer retention don’t happen.

Why does this happen? What’s the reason that inspite of having a system in place that should actually facilitate the relationship between an organization and its valued customers, we find that the exact opposite happens?

A tempting and probable idea that is often put forward is that CRM tools and CRM systems often distance the company from the customer – they weaken or reduce the human element and the loss of the human element in any relationship is detrimental to the relationship.

CRM systems are a part of a CRM environment that is made of three elements –

  • Operational – Automation and support for customer processes
  • Collaborative – Interaction between a company employee and customers
  • Analytical – Analysis of customer data

Customer service is hurt when aspects of CRM for which the systems are responsible fail to provide a synergistic input to the overall effort. What are the CRM systems responsible for? They are mainly responsible for bringing down service costs, streamlining operations, and providing data. The CRM systems very often are molded to represent and guard the seller’s interests. The key aspect of a “customer centric” CRM environment is the human element. An important example of this is the employees that are the go-between or the interface between the business and the customer.

Operational Roadblocks to Customer Service

The three basic functions of a CRM system include SFA for managing leads and closing a sale successfully; marketing automation for campaign management; and of course customer support.

A CRM system becomes a roadblock to smooth CRM when it is not fully incorporated into the overall business operation scenario that includes billing, employee and customer workflow, document management, etc. What’s more, the fact that these operations too affect the overall customer experience is only hazily registered with most companies and these crucial operations often run autonomously of one another with limited access to both employees and customers.

In other words, customer interaction with different contact points within the company is affected by fragmented data, incomplete information, and a lack of cohesion with respect to even basic customer service issues like greeting the customer, dealing with a hassled customer, and customer complaints.

Employee Resistence Impacts Customer Service

Customer management systems also require intensive learning and re-learning on part of the employees. Often, they are forced to change their perspective on customer handling. Out of the blue they are expected to conform to a pattern of operations as demanded by the new CRM system. Unfortunately the focus of CRM solutions can very often be on selling to the customers. When the staff is expected to perform to facilitate the working of a CRM system that is designed to sell, and also provide customer service, this leads to employee frustration.

Even at the best of times, it’s not an easy task to get employees comfortable with the existing setup to rouse themselves and make an effort to change their style. When it involves a technology which is seen as a disruptive and often needless addition to their tasks, employee resistance is but natural.

Poor Installation Leads to Poor Customer Service

CRM systems promise integration and customization but customization comes at a cost and often businesses choose to remodel their processes rather than bear the cost of customization.

Another reason why CRM systems fail to deliver the promised results is that the deployment/ installation is not done right, miscommunication between the company and the vendor’s team delays the installation, mounting pressure creates antagonism towards the new system, and escalating costs sometimes force companies to arrive at a consolatory level of deployment that may require the staff to take a circuitous route towards completing what was meant to be a straightforward task.

For example, failure in successfully migrating data from an existing system to the new one can lead to several hours of extra work. This may turn out to be a one-time effort or the beginning of a regular activity every time a new product is added to the company’s portfolio or existing product parameters are changed.

Salespeople are wary of new systems because system related faults such as failure to capture data from disparate data sources in a company and present a unified picture to the employee often hinder sales performance. The management may not be too keen to accept responsibility for a flawed CRM system and may find it convenient to point out to skill gaps in the salesperson’s performance.

Is CRM Behind the Decline in Customer Service?

In conclusion, it would be fair to say that although CRM systems are not exactly ruining customer service but they can do more harm than good to hard-earned customer goodwill if they are not implemented properly.

In theory, CRM systems are meant to help execute customer service operations on a larger scale that were earlier being done by discrete individuals in a non-uniform manner. The idea here is to scale operations and earn more. The problems arise when the system is implemented keeping sales and the seller’s perspective in mind while purporting to be customer centric.

To ensure that CRM systems work to promote customer service, it is crucial that the employees are able to view a single truth about their customers both current and prospective. The single biggest factor that gives CRM systems a bad reputation regarding their inability to improve customer service is disparity in information and this needs to be tackled.

So, by choosing the CRM system right for their organization, ensuring that its deployed right, not losing focus during the initial teething troubles, and always maintaining employee morale, a company will be able to obtain the desired performance out of its CRM system.