Latest Trends in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Programs

Wouldn’t it be great if those work­ing in customer-service envi­ron­ments could look into a crys­tal ball and pre­dict how cus­tomer expec­ta­tions and behav­iors were chang­ing so that agent train­ing and soft­ware devel­op­ment could co-evolve? While it is dif­fi­cult to pin­point exactly where changes will occur, there are a num­ber of research papers that try to pre­dict the changes that can be expected with regards to Cus­tomer Rela­tions Man­age­ment (CRM).

In the past few years we’ve seen a dra­matic shift in how cus­tomer care is deliv­ered. Changes in CRM include live-chat, cus­tomer dri­ven res­o­lu­tion, social media, and cloud-based soft­ware. So where is the indus­try headed now? Dimen­sion Data released a paper detail­ing what CRM trends they saw com­ing down the pike for 2014, and although the year is almost over, now is a good time to reflect on the bud­ding changes they pre­dicted to see if they mate­ri­al­ized and, if so, to make sure your orga­ni­za­tion is react­ing appro­pri­ately so you main­tain cus­tomer loy­alty and profitability.

Gen­er­a­tion Y and Restive cus­tomers. Accord­ing to the Dimen­sion Data report, cus­tomers are less sat­is­fied with their con­tact cen­ter inter­ac­tions and expe­ri­ences. This dis­sat­is­fac­tion cleaves across gen­er­a­tions with mem­bers of Gen­er­a­tion Y, or Mil­len­ni­als, the least sat­is­fied. The Gen Y group demands mul­ti­ple inter­ac­tion points beyond the phone. They expect to inter­act with com­pa­nies via Web chat, smart­phone appli­ca­tions and social media plat­forms. Accord­ing to the report, this gen­er­a­tion uses phones the least of any other group as a way of inter­act­ing with cus­tomer care agents.

For your orga­ni­za­tion to best deliver ser­vice to Mil­len­ni­als, your CRM prac­tices should:

  • Be cus­tomiz­able and per­sonal: Mil­len­ni­als do their home­work and will seek out infor­ma­tion rel­e­vant to them before mak­ing a pur­chase. They have always been teth­ered to tech­nol­ogy, so it is up to orga­ni­za­tions to meet them where they’re at in terms of tech­no­log­i­cal expectations.
  • Be acces­si­ble and quick: Mil­len­ni­als are con­nected 24/7 and expect com­pa­nies to do the same.  This gen­er­a­tion doesn’t tol­er­ate busi­nesses being closed at night and on week­ends. If your cus­tomer care agents aren’t acces­si­ble 24/7, this is one way to eas­ily improve your cus­tomer engage­ment with this generation.
  • Be share­able: Mil­len­ni­als share what they like and com­plain about what they don’t across many social media plat­forms. Social media is an impor­tant com­po­nent of cus­tomer care delivery.
  • Be visual: This gen­er­a­tion has come of age with online video being preva­lent. Con­sider using video to make the con­nec­tion between the Gen Y con­sumer and your brand or product.

Staff turnover. As con­tact cen­ters con­tinue to migrate to new com­mu­ni­ca­tions plat­forms, cus­tomer fac­ing agents are leav­ing these posi­tions at a grow­ing rate. The Dimen­sion Data report empha­sized the need for proper CRM train­ing, sup­port, and proper tools to recruit and retain CRM staff.  Those orga­ni­za­tions that real­ize that Mil­len­ni­als are not only cus­tomers, but employ­ees, and have tai­lored their recruit­ing and train­ing prac­tices to serve this cohort are find­ing less employee turnover.

An insight paper released by Telus Inter­na­tional focused on best prac­tices when inte­grat­ing Mil­len­ni­als into the work­force.  By focus­ing on hir­ing, train­ing and reten­tion that was specif­i­cally designed with Mil­len­ni­als in mind, Telus Inter­na­tional has one of the low­est attri­tion rates in the cus­tomer ser­vice BPO business.

Some insights into how they’ve retai­lored their orga­ni­za­tional struc­ture to meet the needs of this group include:

  • Com­mu­ni­cat­ing in ways that Gen Y will lis­ten and allow and encour­age them to con­tribute to the conversation.
  • Giv­ing them more con­trol and flex­i­bil­ity over their daily work and future career goals.
  • Trans­form­ing and tai­lor­ing recruit­ment, train­ing and man­age­ment to best lever­age this generation’s nat­ural abilities.
  • Revamp­ing reten­tion pro­grams so they align with this generation’s core values.
  • Being clear and upfront about expec­ta­tions and time­lines regard­ing career advancement.

Mil­len­ni­als now make up nearly 80% or orga­ni­za­tions’ work­forces, and their expec­ta­tions around work­ing con­di­tions are very dif­fer­ent from their pre­de­ces­sors. Orga­ni­za­tions that acknowl­edge these dif­fer­ences and are flex­i­ble in how they struc­ture com­pany poli­cies and pro­ce­dures to meet the needs of this group will find a much more pro­duc­tive work­place, less turnover and higher profitability.

New and Emerg­ing modes of inter­ac­tion. Web chat com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems were high­lighted in the report as a pos­si­ble rem­edy for end-user dis­sat­is­fac­tion, as cus­tomers increas­ingly expect seam­less inter­ac­tion tran­si­tions across chan­nels.  Other emerg­ing trends in CRM soft­ware include:

  • Inte­gra­tion with social media appli­ca­tions. These emerg­ing ‘social CRM’ appli­ca­tions allow busi­nesses to con­nect cus­tomer con­ver­sa­tions and rela­tion­ships across social net­work­ing web­sites into the CRM process.
  • Increased avail­abil­ity of social media and its func­tion­al­ity. These web-based ser­vices empha­size online shar­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion among users.
  • Social media cus­tomer assis­tance options are becom­ing more avail­able. Social media can be a cost-effective way to improve cus­tomer assis­tance options for orga­ni­za­tions. As men­tioned before with the emer­gence of the Gen Y cohort, cus­tomers are first turn­ing to social media about their prob­lems, rather than phon­ing into a call cen­ter.  More orga­ni­za­tions are build­ing online com­mu­ni­ties for cus­tomer assis­tance, which increas­ingly come dove­tail with other CRM processes.

After assess­ing the pre­dicted CRM trends of 2014, it seems that many of these pre­dic­tions were cor­rect. Our indus­try is def­i­nitely fig­ur­ing out best prac­tices for inter­act­ing with Gen Y cus­tomers and employ­ees as well as inte­grat­ing new modes of inter­act­ing with cus­tomers via social media appli­ca­tions. While the land­scape is dras­ti­cally shift­ing in how cus­tomer care is man­aged and deliv­ered, there are con­stants. What doesn’t change is the need for orga­ni­za­tional buy-in and sup­port of cus­tomer care, train­ing and mon­i­tor­ing. Our best pre­dic­tions for how our indus­try will change are based upon com­pre­hen­sive data that allow us to best under­stand where we’ve been so that we know where we’re going.

Jodi Beuder, Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence Advo­cate at Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, believes cus­tomer ser­vice exists not just out­side the com­pany, but inside, too.. “Hav­ing excel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice skills and knowl­edge are para­mount to cre­at­ing strong work­ing rela­tion­ships, whether you are in an office or out in the field.” With over 17 years in Mar­ket­ing Exec­u­tive roles, Jodi has ded­i­cated her career to assist­ing com­pa­nies grow their brand pres­ence and sales, and most impor­tantly, their cus­tomer reten­tion and satisfaction.

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