At Commence we value our customer relationships.
“Relationships, not technologies, are what make CRM strategies successful. They connect people and get work done, deliver value, solve problems and gain insight into how better to serve customers in the future.”
Louis Columbus, Forbes.com
Our goal is to help you get the most value from our CRM solutions. How do you do that? Just ask! Customers can call at any time during our business hours and speak with a qualified sales or support representative. After hours you can take advantage of our web-based knowledgebase, free training videos and e-mail support. The company has been operating this way for more than 20 years and has built a solid reputation for providing world class customer service.
We invite you to stay connected with us on your favorite social network. Send us your feedback after your service or support inquiry is resolved. Be the first to sign up when free classes and webinars are offered, see what we’re reading on other sites, pick up some expert sales tips and best practices, and see how other customers are realizing exceptional value from our CRM Customer Success stories.
Every week we share some of our top posts on Google+ so you can stay up to date and share the news with your colleagues. To make sure you don’t miss a post, all you have to do is add the Commence CRM Google+ page to your circles or follow us.
We’re on other social networks, too.
If you’re new to Commence and want to catch up on what you’ve been missing, follow us @CommenceCorp. Here you’ll find an assortment of news, reviews, special promotions and other updates.
Like the Commence CRM Facebook page to get our top stories in your feed.
No time for social networking?
We’ve got you covered. If you’d rather visit our website for your CRM news, we have some other easy ways for you to keep up:
- You can subscribe to our RSS feed to read the daily Commence CRM Blog in your favorite newsreader. We have an excellent weekly series of training articles from sales expert Dave Kahle, and you can get the latest company news and white papers in our CEO corner.
However you choose to keep up, we’re happy to have you join us!
Consumers looking to purchase specific products and services often turn to the internet to begin the process of gathering information about what’s available to them. The internet is a wonderful, quick and efficient source of information, enabling you to hone in on specific products or services and visit individual company websites or read product reviews.
While the amount of information can be overwhelming, you can always count on that one report you can’t wait to get your hands on once you see it – “The Top 10 Report”. Consumers who download these reports feel as if they have hit “pay dirt” or have they?
Today there is a top 10 report for almost any product or service including CRM software. But can you rely on these reports to provide you an unbiased review of the product or service you are interested in? Unfortunately, there is a reason to be concerned. Why? The fact is many reports charge a fee to be included in them. This is known in the industry as “pay to play” and has become so prevalent that some of these reports may no longer provide the credibility you think they do. They instead simply list the companies that have agreed to pay to become part of the listing. This isn’t quite fair to the consumer but this is business and things are not always fair.
So what can you do if you are looking for a specific product or service, or in this case an online CRM system? Use the reviews as a starting point then do more homework about the company or vendors you may be interested in. Check how long they have been in business and how many successful implementations they have done. What kind of customer service can you expect? And if you are focused on online CRM software, where will your data be managed and stored and how can you get access to it if you need to
Another great source of unbiased information is Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. These social networking sites represent the public at large who often provide excellent unbiased feedback about specific products and services.
Image “Gold top 10 winner” by Sam Churchill on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Strong sales mentoring combined with great CRM software make a powerful combination. We look forward to sharing these insights into the sales process with you each month. Below is a Sales Management article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.
By Dave Kahle
No one looks forward to an encounter with an angry or difficult customer. Most of us can’t help but feel emotionally impacted by an upset customer. An ugly incident can ruin our entire day.
Not only that, but there is usually some damage that can be done to the company by the angry customer. Our job security is not enhanced when the company loses business. Put those two things together, and you can see that dealing effectively with an angry customer becomes a challenge that we must overcome.
Here are some tips to make your next confrontation easier for you, better for your company, and much more satisfying to the customer.
1. Don’t take it personally.
Unless you were personally involved in the incident that caused the customer’s anger, the customer probably isn’t angry with you. He’s angry with your company, and he’s angry with the consequences that impact him. There is no reason that you should take it personally. You are just the current expression of your company, the most convenient representative.
When you take the customer’s anger personally, it’s so much easier to become defensive and argumentative. And when that happens, the net effect is to turn a bad situation into something even worse. When you are tempted to react in kind, emotionally, just tell yourself that this is not about you.
That is often enough to turn a customer’s attitude around. It is amazing how powerful an empathetic, active listener can be. When you sincerely and actively listen, that calms the customer down, it shows him that you are interested, it gives some credence to his/her position, and, it gives you some information and time to think. A magic elixir!
If you were the customer, and this thing had happened to you, how would you feel? Wouldn’t you also be upset?
Empathizing doesn’t take much effort on your part, and it has a powerful impact on a tense situation. When you empathize with the customer by letting him know that you understand how he feels, you release much of the tension out of the situation. Picture a balloon that you have blown up almost to the point of bursting. There is tremendous tension inside the balloon pushing outward. But when you open the bottom, and let some of that pressure out, the balloon relaxes. Same thing when you empathize with the customer. Picture yourself letting air out of the bottom of that balloon.
This sometimes seems like too little, too late. Regardless, it’s the minimum acceptable response. If your customer has been wronged, or thinks that he or she has been wronged, apologizing for your company is the least you can do. If you are afraid of admitting responsibility, then let the customer know that you are sorry this thing happened to him. That’s generally enough to not accept any responsibility, and still convey a message of concern.
5. Don’t blame.
No one cares who is at fault. No one really cares that so-and-so in inventory control didn’t order enough inventory, or that the picking clerk incorrectly picked the order, or any one of a thousand other possible mistakes that other people may have made. Blaming someone emphasizes that you are more concerned with yourself than you are with making things right with the customer. It emphasizes the past (what happened), instead of the future (what you can do to fix this.)
Blame is the first response of a small person. Don’t show yourself to be in that league by immediately jumping to blame someone.
Always ask something of the customer. By asking, you show your interest in the customer, indicate that you really do want to understand, and give the customer an opportunity to describe their situation. Ask about the details, ask about the situation, ask what the customer would like to see as a solution. Don’t worry about asking the wrong thing. Almost any question in that situation is going to have a positive impact on the customer. No matter what, ask.
7. Promise accurately.
The worst thing you can do is make some grandiose or unfounded promise to fix the customer’s problem, and then not follow through on it. Or make a promise on behalf of your company, and then discover that your company is not able to meet the terms of your promise.
By doing that, you’ve fed the customer’s frustration and added fuel to an already hotly burning fire. It is far better to not promise anything than it is to jump to a hasty and unfounded promise.
8. Deliver more.
Here’s an opportunity to turn the customer around. Deliver more than what you promise. If you say you’ll have a replacement to him on Friday, try to get it there on Wednesday. If you say you’ll replace that gallon of paint with a free gallon, throw in an extra brush. A little something above and beyond what you promise is a great way to say that you are sorry for the previous inconvenience, and leave the customer with a good feeling about the encounter with you and your company.
9. If possible, follow up.
To this day, I remember a hotel calling back the day after I rented a small conference room to ask if everything had been acceptable. That follow-up call was eighteen years ago, but I still remember the powerful, positive impact it made on me. Someone cared enough to call after the fact and determine that I had been satisfied. What a concept!
Your follow up call can have the same effect.
A difficult and angry customer is one of the most intense challenges you’ll face. Implement these nine tips and watch yourself grow in confidence as you expertly handle these hot situations.
If you’d like some additional help with this thorny issue, check out a variety of resources at http://www.davekahle.com/difficult_customers.html. If you are a subscriber to The Sales Resource Center, check out Cluster CL-12: Abusive Customers, Cluster CL-17: Dealing with Difficult Customers, and Pod-15: How to Skillfully Handle Difficult Customers.
About the Author:
Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and seven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, and visit his blog. For a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses with the purchase of his latest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.
Image Credit: by Molumen source openclipart license Public Domain. Free images from acobox.com
Small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) can deliver customer value by being product centric, i.e. providing product leadership, or by being customer centric or customer intimate. In the former instance, the SMB tries to continually improve the products and services they provide to their customers. In the latter instance the SMB strives to understand their “favorite” customer, anticipate future customer requirements, and to respond to those needs.
Product Centric Strategy
To pursue a strategy of product leadership or product centricity involves delivering customer value through leading edge products and services. This entails a continuous stream of new products and services, and creatively adapting to new and changing market conditions while constantly pursuing new solutions on behalf of clients and customers.
To do this effectively, the business needs to be very research and development centered and extremely knowledgeable about the products and services currently being developed and considered in the market place. Sales & Marketing needs to be closely tied to customers in order to teach them new approaches and solutions to their problems. This also requires the ability to direct customers into avenues they hadn’t entertained on their own about the use of new products and services.
Larger companies can execute this strategy more effectively than SMBs, because they have the resources to devote to research and development and also have larger sales, marketing and support organizations that are able to stay in touch with their customers. The company’s personnel often act as advisors and consultants to their customers assuming the role of fitting their product to the customer’s needs.
Customer Centric Strategy
Customer intimacy or customer centricity entails precisely segmenting and targeting markets, acquiring detailed customer knowledge, developing an operational flexibility that allows for immediate response to customer needs, and securing customer loyalty. The value added component of this strategy is to attain intimate knowledge of the customer’s requirements or pain points and outlining a specific solution to address those requirements.
This strategy demands a very active marketing, sales and customer service department geared to relationship selling. In fact, these departments drive the SMB’s business and are the company’s primary interface to prospects and the customer base. As such, they need to continually solicit customer information, sort it, analyze it, and use to define a consistent message for all who interact with the customer.
One of the ways to capture, manage and share this vital customer information is through the use of Customer Relationship Management software (CRM). Large organizations have been using CRM solutions for some time to automate and streamline the interaction between the company and the customer. The utilization however is mostly to gather contact management information about the customer and to use that information to drive and fine-tune the sales cycle. The objective is to find creative ways to sell additional products and services to the customer by convincing the customer that there is a fit between their requirements and the products or service the sales representatives is selling.
While this is fine, in order to execute a customer centric strategy you need a CRM solution that is designed for customer collaboration. The CRM software must solicit not only geographic customer data, but also demographic data to help build a detailed picture of the “favorite” customer makeup. In addition, the sales, customer service and any other personnel with customer contact need to be trained to solicit and collect psychographic and behavioral data that help define how and why the customer buys.
The rapid expansion and utilization of social networking can provide essential customer centric information for sales and marketing organizations. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are being used by today’s businesses to communicate and interact with similar organizations. These conversations provide valuable insight into customer buying patterns, likes and dislikes and behavioral data. Best of all, you don’t have to be an enterprise company to access social media sites, capture and analyze information and produce a marketing message that fits the customer’s pain points and buying habits. What is important is that the SMB selects the right CRM platform which will enable them to directly link to these sites, capture the information and utilize it to gain a competitive edge.
Commence Corporation, a leading provider of cloud computing based CRM software, is taking a leadership position in this area and understands that the future of customer relationship management will be driven based on the collaboration and partnership with customers. Commence is busy restructuring the data points that their system collects to include the needed demographic and psychographics data that CRM systems do not capture today. Commence is also working to seamlessly interface the product with social media applications so that it can collect and analyze all of the different streams of customer conversations that are currently on the web, then use this information for targeting effective marketing campaigns.
Having the right business strategy in today’s challenging economy is critical for success. A sound customer centric strategy gives you the ability to craft a company wide marketing message that is used by all to communicate your value not only to your current customer base, but also to those prospects that your sales team can readily qualify and close. To do this effectively, you need to select a CRM software provider that offers a platform that can support the customer collaboration that will need into take place in the future.
About the author: Larry Caretsky is the president of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software which can be deployed in a web-based, cloud-computing environment or on premise. Caretsky is considered an expert in Customer Relationship Management and has written numerous white papers on the subject, which may be accessed via the company’s web site at www.commence.com.