Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is like home gym equipment – much more of it is purchased than is ever used for its intended purpose. Traditionally the end user is blamed for the breakdown – careless or overworked customer service agents who rush through calls. In reality, all that’s needed is a few small management adjustments to correct what can become an expensive mistake.
Big companies pay big money to have CRM software customized and/or standardized across their holdings. The data on 2012 CRM sales varies among analysts, but it’s in the range of $11 - $18 billion; a massive market that’s boomed since 2009 when corporations started scrambling to catch up with the social media distraction. By way of example, one medium sized software company, CRMnext, has the largest installation to date on a single CRM platform, with 55,000 users at HDFC Bank, and it just secured an agreement with ICICI Bank to consolidate that group’s vast CRM operations.
Yet even for these big boys it’s hard to take full advantage of everything that a CRM platform is supposed to provide; a 2012 study revealed that 74 percent of sales organizations report poor CRM adoption. And the ratio of time spent on administrative tasks versus selling is 65/35.
There’s no secret behind those abysmal numbers. In fact, it’s a discussion that’s been going on since the early 2000s for anyone who cared to listen. Software designers listened, and responded by making CRM suites more customizable than ever, but the problem still trickles down through the breach between management and front line customer service. Agents are supposed to gather information on a call, promote new offerings, provide fast service, handle the customer’s needs and be pleasant, all while being monitored, and usually working for low pay.
Here’s an example: an agent gets a call from a customer who wants to pay on their account. Call quality is sketchy if the customer is on a cell phone and it’s the middle of the day so they’re busy. The agent reads off the welcome spiel, confirms the customer’s contact data, and asks how they can help. By then the customer is annoyed, they just want to put a payment on their credit card and be done. In fact they already tried that on the website last night but couldn’t log on. The agent resets the customer’s password, processes the payment, and asks the customer if they could give them some information on a new service they’re eligible for. The customer, annoyed, says no and goodbye. Off the call the agent clicks the drop down menu where they’re supposed to select how the customer heard about the new promotion and doesn’t see anything indicating “Inbound call”, so they select “Facebook (News - Alert) ad” and move on. They open the Notes screen to enter information about the call but their phone is already ringing again so they just notate “Customer tried to pay online and couldn’t.”
Here’s the result: The customer is irritated that their online payment didn’t work and that they were detained twice on the call (confirming contact data and being offered a promotion.) The agent is frazzled and worried about being polite, efficient, and fulfilling their quota. The marketing department thinks their Facebook ads are far more effective than they are, and IT and accounting have no idea there is a problem with the payment page. A company could sit and analyze reports all day long without knowing they’re seeing faulty data.
The answer is simple. Any company that can get a delegation from sales, marketing, accounting, and management to sit down with customer service agents is a company that can make its CRM software work. CR agents will tell you quickly what trips them up on calls, what information is missing, and, barring threat of punishment, where they take shortcuts to make their jobs easier. Be sure to meet with one exceptional agent and several average ones. The exceptional agent will go out of their way to go back and fix errors but an average agent – who by definition represents most of the workforce – will tell you where and why they don’t.
And remember that the phone is just one front where customers meet a company, in truth every tweet, ad, call and click carry the weight of a personal relationship. With the power available in today’s CRM software tools, the company who learns who integrate it will be one giant leap ahead.