Three reasons it’s time to go beyond CRM for customer service


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A lot has changed in the past quarter-century. Music has gone from CDs to pure digital media (granted, vinyl is seeing a resurgence). While cabs are still available, ridesharing services have made hailing a ride much easier.

In the same time period, how companies interact with their customers has also come a long way. Telephone retains some popularity, but chat, email, and social media have all gained significant ground. Advanced technologies like chatbots powered by machine learning are also being embraced by companies and their customers alike.

Twenty-five years ago, customer service teams documented customer interactions in a basic manner. Call tracking systems might be nothing more than a customized, off-the-shelf database used to collect customer details and record their issue–if a company bothered at all. Then, in the late 1980’s, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was born. Customer-facing teams–sales, service, and marketing–no longer struggled to work with data siloed in disconnected systems; one unified view of customer sales and service history was possible, which in turn could drive new insights and actions.

The concept was a step forward at the time, but the limitations of CRM are now apparent. It does little beyond providing an individualized view to sales, service, and marketing. There is no priority on solving customers’ problems, making it difficult to improve the customer experience. For customer service, it’s time for a different approach, one that focuses on improving the customer experience. By taking a service management approach (borrowing concepts from IT service management), that next evolution is here.

Engage other departments

The central concept behind CRM is to consolidate customer data in a single repository. The result is greater visibility into customers, their activity, and history. This benefits the company with marketing and sales efforts, but doesn’t offer a route to improving service and customer experience.

With service management, solving customer problems becomes the priority. Like CRM, the service management platform is used to capture customer information and to identify, document, and classify problems. Where service management differs from CRM is in making it possible for customer service to easily identify issue trends and share them with other departments. The common service management platform connects the teams, providing those departments outside customer service with greater awareness of customer issues and the impact they have on the customer experience when problems occur. 

Assign work with built-in accountability

The customer service management platform’s workflow capabilities are the key to enabling the entire company to work together on customer issues. As issues are identified, customer service assigns problems to other departments and collaborates with them as they are investigated and resolved. Unlike emails and spreadsheets, workflow ensures the problem is never delayed, detoured, or lost. Progress can be tracked from discovery to resolution. 

It’s true that 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 stores customer information and interactions. To work with other departments, the process is typically manual: export the data from the CRM system, email it to the responsible department, and wait and hope for a response and resolution. This method lacks the visibility, collaboration, and accountability service management offers. This means affected customers have no timeframe for a solution, and the customer experience suffers. 

Deliver proactive service

The ease of collaboration across teams with service management offers an additional benefit: the fastest path to permanent issue resolution. By working with other departments, the root cause of an issue can be identified and fixed.

When the root cause is addressed, all current customers receive a permanent solution and not just a temporary workaround. A modern service management platform also simplifies the delivery of solutions to affected customers in the self-service channels they prefer (like knowledge base articles, chatbots, and automated solutions), as well as proactive email notifications. Even more importantly, addressing the root cause also means future customers will never face the problem, effectively improving the customer experience.

Drive a better customer experience

Forrester and others have pointed out today’s competitive environment places high stakes on customer experience–and CRM for customer service isn’t cutting it. It’s time for a new method, one that does more than just take down the customer’s details. 

By taking a service management approach, customer service is better able to engage the entire organization in solving customer problems. With customer service connected to other departments, problems are assigned directly to the teams who can affect a permanent solution. In this way, current customers’ problems are resolved, and subsequent customers will never encounter the issue.

CRM still benefits marketing and sales. But to increase customer satisfaction and drive improvements to customer experience, service management is the next evolution for customer service.

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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