If you’re going to create a customer-focused culture, you need to be able to take the desired behaviors and break them down to bite-sized pieces that your employees, members, or volunteers can understand. In 2003, my organization, the American Cancer Society adopted Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) as a business philosophy. Known in the business sector as Customer Relationship Management, this philosophy focuses on building relationships with customers as opposed to focusing solely on the transactions. CRM differs from customer service in that the organization uses technology to store data about the customer in order to create more desirable outcomes that benefit both the organization and the customer.
Even if you don’t adopt CRM, your customer service philosophy should be built on easy to teach fundamentals. Here are the CRM fundamentals the American Cancer Society uses. Our organization works with both individuals (B2C) and work places (B2B).
I have made minor changes to make the fundamentals relevant to the business sector.
Always close the loop
Follow through – never leave a customer wondering when and how their request will be met. (In other words, your employees should never tell a customer, “Well, you need to call….”)
Make the organization appear seamless
A customer’s experience should be consistent regardless of how they engage the organization. (Is your Web site as user friendly as your bricks and mortar outlets? Do all of your locations/employees place the same emphasis on serving the customer?)
Expose customers to other ways in which they can be involved
Maximize every customer touch point. Expose customers to the organization as a whole so that they can become involved to the degree that their interest, needs, and skills allow. (On a micro level, this speaks to cross- and up-selling. For larger corporations, this means that customers of one business unit are encouraged to do business with other business units. The TV Cable companies call it “bundling.”)
Build on each interaction
Information learned during one interaction with a customer should not be lost, but captured, shared and used to improve the next interaction. (This can be done without software. In my jewelry store, I learned to find out what my best customers wanted so that I could find it for them even when I didn’t carry it.)
Include methods for measuring the value provided to the customer
We must have a way to validate that we are actually benefiting the customers we serve. (If you implement improved customer service by territory or by division, having metrics that shows your success will help sway others. Once the entire organization is on board, these metrics will be the proof that increasing your focusing on customers was the right decision.
Protect our customers’ privacy
We must be willing to ask our customers about their degree of comfort with sharing certain, sometimes confidential, information. (Identity theft—‘nuff said.)
Allow for updates and improvements
Always strive to enhance the experience we provide our customers while working to meet our business goals. (There’s always room for improvement.)
You’ll need to tailor your fundamentals to meet your business needs. Most importantly, when it comes time to convince others to adopt a more customer-focused culture, having fundamentals provides you with examples of what you’re talking about. They serve as a starting point for reviewing policies and procedures that may stand between where you are now and where you want to be.
Identify those employees currently providing great customer service and use examples from their work with customers to provide illustrate the behaviors you desire.