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Commit to Your Customers and Survive, Even Thrive

Round Table Topic: Expert Advice on Leveraging Your CRM System to Survive This Economic Crunch

Contributed by: Tom Millay, General Manager, Consona CRM

The customer retention component of your CRM system will keep companies competitive during this economic crunch.  Who can afford to lose customers as discernment is exercised when money becomes tight?  Never before is providing the right products/services, to the right customer, at the right time been more important.  

During the economy’s slump in the early 2000s, many companies in an effort to retain sales or avoid severe measures such as layoffs, implemented aggressive cost-cutting measures which backfired as customer satisfaction plummeted.  IT budgets were squeezed and many lower-cost solutions were implemented in the short-term, such as interactive voice response (IVR), web self-service, and others.  In a time of uncertainty, the last thing a customer needs to feel slighted by their trusted business, not being able to speak to a “real” person at their bank would be one example.  This mistrust is the opposite result a business wants in order to remain profitable.

Customers require a genuine sense of trust and interest in the business to remain loyal. High customer retention has been known to be vital to any organization. Growth can be experienced, even in downturns, when loyalty, motivation, and ability to resist competition are installed within a customer.  The strategy to achieve good retention thus resulting in referrals and cross sales follows this simple outline:

  • Commitment to customer satisfaction
  • Customer experience
  • Empower the customer
  • Create a competitive experience differentiation

 As observed in the past downturn, consumer-based industries shifted their investments away from a focus on customer relationship management resulting in dissatisfaction.  Dissatisfied customers will purchase products/services elsewhere resulting in lost revenues. This devastating effect can and must be avoided to successfully survive economic uncertainty.  An overall corporate strategy, with clear and concise long-term goals focusing on customer management will provide the necessary direction and commitment to reach those goals. In addition, this direction will match the tools necessary to accomplish the corporate strategy and provide the discipline to utilize the technology to the fullest potential.  Many organizations have a sophisticated technology systems and either are not utilizing or lack the discipline to obtain desired results.  The old saying applies “what is good for the goose is good for the gander,” truly effective customer management strategy translates directly to the bottom line.

Executive decisions are more streamlined with a total understanding into the customer experience. How could one possibly retain customers without a clear picture of the customer experience?  CRM software provides this timely information concerning marketplace trends as well as issues enabling the company to provide the latest products/services with reducing calls due to resolution of issues. Data can also improve the actual management of customers, such as drop down screens and extensive histories.  A competitive edge will be accomplished with these tools offering favorable customer satisfaction as company performance creates the intent to continue business and in best case scenario a willingness to recommend your organization to others. 

As part of the policy of good customer experience equaling good customer loyalty, an objective should be to empower the customer.  Allow outlets, such as surveys or social networking websites to be available to your customers. Starbucks has effectively implemented a website where corporate change has been initiated from customer comments. Thereby accomplishing two aspects for high retention, empowering the customers to create change thus improving their customer experience as well as creating a competitive experience differentiation as other coffee shops have not been as technology advance.  CRM provides a practical and strategic framework that makes it easier for organizations to move towards these goals of customer service stability and, even growth, amidst market uncertainty.