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With CRM, less can be more

Forget customer satisfaction. One CRM consultant argues that his formula for improving customer relationships is far more effective.

ATLANTA -- Customer satisfaction is not the indicator of success that you may think and, in fact, is "the most warped metric there is," according to CRM consultant Bruce Kasanoff.

Speaking at the Smart CRM East conference, the president of Westport, Conn.-based Now Possible said that customers really want less.

Fixing the problem before a customer has it is a much better approach than saying, 'We'll do it quickly.'
Bruce Kasanoff, CRM consultant,

"I want less," Kasanoff said, referring to his own experience as a customer, "less of my time, less of my effort. Don't make me repeat an account number."

He argued that customers want hassle-free personal attention.

"Recognize [that customer satisfaction] is a meaningful metric, but the closest thing I've seen to predicting success is to take the experience of the customer and transfer that to the future," Kasanoff said.

Doing so requires a company-wide strategy that starts with listening, Kasanoff said. Organizations should store customer information that helps customers -- not just the business. And companies should be wary of collecting too much information. Customers grow leery when asked for too many details, he said.

Additionally, when employees are personally accountable, customers are better served. For example, a 10,000-seat call center that Kasanoff worked with reduced average call times and follow-up items simply by having agents say "I" instead of "we." Saying "I" made agents feel more responsible for the customer experience, act faster and be more inclined to provide the appropriate help, Kasanoff said.

In fact, Kasanoff said that far too many CRM initiatives focus too much on the company. What's good for the customer is what's good for the company, he argued. By approaching CRM decisions with the customer in mind, organizations weed out unsuccessful projects before they hurt relationships or waste money, Kasanoff said.

He approaches the process of improving the customer experience with the acronym LESS (listen, examine, stop and solve).

When it comes to the "solve" step, companies should recognize patterns that save customers time and money. Businesses should then mine data to determine how to add value -- not necessarily sell more, Kasanoff said.

For example, a swimming pool firm installed modems in its pools to alert the company office when service is needed.

"Fixing the problem before a customer has it is a much better approach than saying, 'We'll do it quickly,'" Kasanoff said.

CRM initiatives, almost by definition, focus on the customer, but thinking about the organization from the customers' perspective intrigued some attendees. It also left them with questions.

"It certainly gave me some food for thought," said Marla Davidson, CIO of the Arthritis Foundation in Atlanta. "But how do you do it right?"

TechTarget is the organizer of Smart CRM and owner of the family of Web sites that includes SearchCRM.com.

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Special coverage: Smart CRM East

Best Web Links: Customer lifetime value

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