Writing A New Story: CRM And Customer Service

Lisa James

Today we have so many techy acronyms: IoT, ML, AI, VR, CX, (to name a few), that we sometimes forget about one of the originals: CRM. Doing simple searches of CRM solutions, you find varied answers on what CRM is. Some searches water down CRM to merely an administrative tool, or a solution to “manage” business relationships.

Though the acronym “CRM” stands for “customer relationship management,” “manage” is no longer the operative word. Companies want to do much more than simply “manage” their relationships with customers. This is the old definition of CRM, in the pre-digital age. At the heart of the new CRM and customer service story is a need to deliver on your brand promise and create, build, and sustain long-term relationships with your customers.

A key piece in creating successful relationships with your customers is customer service. Yet for so many companies, when building their CRM story, customer service is the last part of the story that is thought about. Many companies simply find customer service a hassle. It’s not as flashy or creative as sales and marketing, and it tends to be the costliest and least revenue-generating part of your business. So why bother?

To build a true CRM story, companies need to recognize the role of their service organization. We are in the age of a CRM evolution, an age that is defined by digitalization, disruption, automation, and predictive behavior, and customer service plays a key role in your CRM story.

3 things to consider with CRM and customer service

Here are three things to consider when writing a new CRM story with customer service:

It’s not about the solo performance: No agent is an island, or at least they shouldn’t be. To drive a successful service organization, collaboration needs to be the heart. Companies tend to have hundreds of facts sheets, FAQs, and product documents in their database, but no easy way to organize, search, and find the answers needed to serve customers.

There is an urgency to create a collaborative knowledge base, where agents can have the most up-to-date information, search keywords, or get recommendations based on a customer’s past interactions and service history to solve issues quickly. If an answer is not easily found, an agent should be able to chat and connect with other agents who have more knowledge or experience.

Building a service organization that is collaborative will keep an agent connected and enabled to serve a customer, without long hold times. Do you remember that old business term that everyone hated: “synergy?” Well, it’s back, but is now a bridge to share knowledge and expand databases with relevant information to provide your customers a quicker, more tailored response to their questions and complaints.

Intelligence makes an appealing protagonist: Customer service in the old CRM story was nothing to behold. It had a bad reputation for slow response times, rude agents, and broken promises. Much of this was caused by poorly constructed call centers, overworked agents, and unintelligent automation.

Now in an age marked by digitalization, intelligent automation is key to keep your brand promise. To keep up with the growing influx of service needs, agents cannot do all the work. Virtual assistants like AI chatbots now give call centers the ability to run 24/7. Introducing intelligent hybrid systems where an intelligent virtual assistant can start a conversation, answer level-one service requests, and then transition without losing context to real agents, allow your call centers to operate outside your agent hours, but within your customers’ preferred times.

Fueled by data, machine learning algorithms can create a smarter call center where agents are spared from doing rudimentary, time-sucking tasks such as categorizing service tickets or finding the best-skilled agents for a job. Processes such as this can now be predictive, proactive, and intelligent.

Call centers cannot be your star: When we think of the role of customer service, we can no longer think of the stuffy office room with the agents in headsets, sitting at their cubicles, answering phones. The term “call center” is slowly dying out in the new CRM story. The term “contact center” or the even fresher term “engagement center” are now hitting the field, transforming the way that we think about customer service.

These titles emphasize the importance of having an omnichannel presence, creating seamless relationships with your customers no matter the channel they prefer to interact in. Yet, there is still a key part of service that has mostly been ignored or considered a separate part of the story in the old CRM story: Field service management.

Field service management may not be a relevant term to all service organizations, but as we’re seeing a shift toward more companies adopting usage-based services and contract models of operation, Field service management is playing a large part of your CRM story without a technician heading to the field.

Aspects of field service such as contracts, warranties, and service-level agreement management are becoming a larger part of day-to-day business. The need for the flexibility that comes with mobility and offline environments are areas that are being developed within service organizations when companies think and innovate with field service in mind, instead of just call centers. Including field service as part of your CRM story can give your company a starring role in the digital age.

Learn how to give customer service a new role in your CRM story here

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce.

Lisa James

About Lisa James

Lisa James develops suitable strategy, messaging and positioning to support respective business and pipeline objectives for SAP Hybris solutions. She is an expert and recognized thought leader and evangelist inside SAP, influencing internal solution innovations, core marketing strategies, and external company perception.