I have worked with companies that considered its customers to be obstacles to avoid or ignore: “If only we didn’t have to deal with those pesky complaining customers,” they’d say, “we’d have time to do really great work.” Any company whose employees still cling to the “customer is always wrong” mindset can kiss success goodbye.
Customers will trust each other before they’ll trust a company, relying heavily on user opinions before deciding where to spend their money. And they don’t need to wait for brands to create a place to share these views; they can find plenty of places to talk trash about your company if you’re ignoring them. Social media has empowered customers to the point where they are self-sufficient and demanding of attention and delivery of quality products.
With so many customers becoming advocates (pro or con) for your company, you need to respond by creating advocates at every level of your business, which may require a major shift in culture. The old-school view of customer relations is that only the sales department gets and keeps customers. Now, all employees, from the CEO to sales to accounting to HR, are players in the customer-satisfaction game.
How do you create this “everybody is in sales” culture? By promoting enterprise-wide engagement. In other words, quickly connect your employees with your customers in high-value interactions, and you create more, happy customers.
To make the significant shift to a sales culture, change needs to start at the top. Over the past 10 years, there’s been a movement at enlightened companies to align their operations specifically around customers. For example, many companies ranging from public, like Zynga, to private, like Onswipe, have added the new C-level position of chief revenue officer, which oversees sales, service, and support departments to keep all of these customer-facing functions operating with common goals.
Other positions that are popping up in the C-suite to create a broad-based sales culture include the chief product officer who is charged with developing solutions that customers truly need (not what you in the business think they need). Chief culture officers, whose brief includes making sure everyone is reaching out to customers in a company-approved manner, is another role that businesses are considering.
And of course, the CEO needs to think of herself as part of this process. In the end, the CEO is your chief customer officer.
As you enlist your employees in a customer-centric approach to their work, you need to engage in these discussions on their terms. This means establishing places where they can share ideas for raising the bar on customer service – for example, private groups online or internal solutions like IBM Connections or Jive.
Along with providing vehicles to encourage employee camaraderie, you need to give them access to the information that will help them become better, smarter customer advocates. In the old days, customer information did not travel far in the organization; it was mainly delivered up the ladder to management for reporting purposes.
But this unidirectional, siloed approach to customer data no longer helps create a customer-focused culture. The CRM revolution means that this information can be accessed across the business, so that sales can come from any department, or with the help of several departments – not just sales.
Everyone is becoming part of the sales process. Your company is most successful when you create a company culture that understands this. In addition to encouraging employees to share ideas and revamping your executive structure to place the focus on customers, you need to make changes in how various departments talk to each other.
Traditionally, departments’ goals weren’t shared with others. But today, everyone expects to be part of the decision-making process. Company leaders at SugarCRM are encouraged to create visibility into goals and targets for each quarter. Equal visibility is a terrific motivator.
The process of gathering the enterprise together in a united view of customer service requires social collaboration solutions. They provide the access to information that fuels engagement and can help you share each department’s goals in order to align people, processes, and technology to reach the overall business goal. And make sure to reward all employees when that deal is closed – don’t just limit awards to sales teams.
The combined impact of these customer, employee and enterprise engagement steps is that you send a clear message to customers that they won’t hit barriers when they try to get problems solved or inquire about new products. No matter who they contact in the business, or what department that person is in, the customer will quickly be well-informed.
SugarCRM is a customer relationship management software company. It started as open source project on Sourceforge, and the company still maintains a fully open source version. Its revenue relies on professional editions and through the provision of support. Total funding after 4 rounds stands at approx. $41 million.