Surpassing the shortcomings of CRM


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In customer service, how organizations interact with customers has come a long way in the last quarter century. While telephone retains some popularity, chats, emails, and social media interactions have gained in popularity. The evolution in customer engagement continues, as newer technologies like chatbots powered by machine learning become more common.

The tracking of customer interactions was also very basic twenty-five years ago. If a company bothered at all, their call tracking system might be nothing more than a homegrown database used to collect customer details and record their issue. Just as with customer engagement, how customer issues are tracked and addressed has evolved dramatically. The late 1980’s witnessed the birth of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It offered a single location for storing and maintaining all customer information. Teams working with customers–sales, service, and marketing–would no longer be hampered by disconnected data in siloed systems and would instead have one unified view of the customer sales and service history, which in turn could drive new insights and actions.

It’s a great premise, but the problem with CRM is that it does little beyond providing an individualized view to sales, service, and marketing. It does not put priority on solving customers’ problems, and as a result is unable to improve the customer’s overall experience. It’s time for a different approach, one that focuses on improving the customer experience–and by borrowing concepts from IT service management, that next evolution is here.

Engaging other departments

One of CRM’s core principles is to create a single repository for customer information to benefit customer-facing teams. The result is greater visibility into customers; however, this really benefits the company more than the customer. It is not a route to improving service.

With service management, solving customer problems becomes the priority. Just as with CRM, customer service uses the service management platform to identify, document, and classify customer problems. Where service management breaks from CRM is to make it possible for customer service to easily take those collected issues and engage with departments outside their walls. By connecting the customer and their issue to the rest of the company using a common service management platform, it becomes easier for departments outside customer service to not only work more cooperatively with customer service, but also to provide them with greater awareness of customer issues and the impact they have on the customer experience when problems occur.

Assigning work and ensuring accountability

How exactly does service management enable the entire company to work together on customer issues? Using the platform’s workflow capabilities, customer service assigns problems to other departments and collaborates with them as they are investigated and resolved. Unlike with email and spreadsheets, workflow ensures the problem is never delayed, detoured, or lost. Progress can be tracked from discovery to resolution.

CRM doesn’t limit the ability of customer service to engage with other parts of the organization to solve customer problems; it just doesn’t make it nearly as easy. CRM is a tool of engagement. It records and consolidates customer information. When customer issues come up that must be resolved by other departments, those issues can be shared, but that process is often manual: export the data from the CRM system, email it to the responsible department, and wait for a response. This method lacks visibility, collaboration, and accountability. Affected customers have no timeframe for a solution, and the customer experience suffers.

Delivering proactive service

That ease of collaboration across teams means service management offers an additional benefit: the fastest path to permanently resolving issues. Through the process of working with other departments, the root cause of an issue can be identified and fixed.

Addressing the root cause means all current customers receive a permanent solution, not a workaround. Service management also simplifies the delivery of solutions to the customers experiencing it in the form of automated self-service solutions, knowledge base articles, and proactive email notifications. Even more importantly, addressing the root cause also means future customers will never face the problem, effectively improving the customer experience.

Driving a better customer experience

As Forrester has indicated for the last several years, today’s competitive environment means customer experience continues to be a major focus for businesses. Consequently, it’s time for a new approach to customer service–an approach that does more than just take down the customer’s details.

With service management, customer service takes the lead on issues and engages the entire organization in solving customer problems. By connecting customer service with other departments, problems are assigned directly to the teams who can affect a permanent solution. Existing customers’ problems are solved, and future customers will never encounter the issue. Given the choice between CRM and service management, the choice is clear: only service management will improve customer satisfaction and drive the customer experience to higher levels.

Paul Selby
I am a product marketing consultant for Aventi Group. Aventi Group is the first product marketing agency solely dedicated to high-tech clients. We’re here to supplement your team and bring our expertise to bear on your top priorities, so you achieve high-quality results, fast.


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