CRM Portals Power Sticky Customer Communities

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CRM Portals Power Sticky Customer Communities

When customers go online to connect with your business, are you bringing a state-of-the-art portal to bear?

Consumers are hooked on Facebook and Twitter, not to mention Amazon, eBay and all things Google. Where applicable, they want to track orders, create returns, live-chat with service agents and tap modern user interfaces, whether they’re online or using a dedicated mobile app.

Many businesses, however, still sport portals that were built in the “mid-naughties” (circa 2005). Their outdated capabilities are compounded by the fact that all things “social networking” — including online communities — are evolving at a lightning pace. Businesses can either keep up or risk looking permanently outdated and losing business to portal-savvy upstarts or long-term competitors.

CRM-Driven Community Benefits

That’s why many businesses have been building new customer portals, especially after adopting cloud-based CRM software from salesforce.com. From there, tapping software such as Salesforce Communities to expose critical customer information via a portal is a short step forward and can generate big returns and cost savings.

For example, Cloud Sherpas is helping one e-commerce software vendor build a community portal to enable its super-users to connect, trade tips and troubleshoot advice. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, the business plans to distill that knowledge into its Salesforce Service Cloud application to help customer service agents better troubleshoot customer problems.

Meanwhile, in Australia, we’re helping a government council that’s already adopted Service Cloud roll out a new portal for maintaining better contact with local residents and automate many types of services. Available features will include everything from enabling locals to report street-lighting faults and pay for their child’s after-school programs to contacting the pest-removal team and sending messages to area councilors.

Continuing CRM Payoffs

Cloud Sherpas has also just launched a portal-revamp project with a large home goods retailer. Previously, the company’s portal only allowed customers to enter an order number and would then return the estimated date on which their goods would be delivered. What was conspicuously lacking, however, was any discussion of order status, delivery options or the ability to pick or change a delivery date and time.

Why couldn’t the retailer’s portal do that? Previously, the company didn’t have the right infrastructure in place to grab the necessary information from its order-entry and management system and relay it to a customer-facing front end. Now, however, since implementing Service Cloud, exposing this information in a highly useful — and usable — manner only requires the small step forward of adopting Salesforce Communities.

Furthermore, to make it as easy as possible for customers to access the information they’re seeking, the business won’t require them to manually create a new account at the site — although that remains an option. Instead, they can quickly log in using their Google or Facebook ID.

Community-Powered Service Claims

But why stop there? What makes this project interesting is that the company is starting to build a community — and foster related discussions — for people who purchase similar products. To help consumers embrace this resource, the business is taking a very “light touch” approach to moderation, in part by tapping consumers to help moderate, so that customers don’t see the portal as yet another marketing channel.

Finally, the retailer plans to offer warranty support for its products — which may carry years-long guarantees — via the portal. Currently, if a customer files a warranty claim for a product, the business must dispatch a third-party agent to investigate the claim. But that process is expensive and a hassle for consumers stuck at home waiting for the agent to arrive. Instead, we’re helping the retailer create a portal-based mechanism through which customers can file claims online and even upload pictures to validate their claims.

The portal-based claim system is a “win” on three fronts: the business no longer has to pay to send agents out, consumers don’t need to wait around and the business gains a new touch point for getting consumers into the marketing loop. Indeed, add in analytics and the business walks away knowing more about its customers, as well as what they want to buy.

How’s that for turning modern social networking into a business advantage?

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user D. Sharon Pruitt

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.

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