June 11, 2012

Harnessing Technology to Improve Customer Satisfaction

Mary MahoneyBY Mary Mahoney

J. Robinson Group Blog

Forward-thinking companies that want to maintain a competitive edge must take a more proactive approach to consumer interaction, especially online.

In today’s world, companies large and small must leverage technology to help manage their customer relationships. This type of technology can be as simple as an up-to-date customer address book or as sophisticated as a software program that predicts client actions based on past behavior.

While providing good service is as old as business itself, the face of customer service and customer satisfaction has changed dramatically in recent years. While some core elements of customer service remain the same, there are new mediums that require a fresh approach to attaining excellent customer satisfaction.

Forward-thinking companies that want to maintain a competitive edge must take a more proactive approach to consumer interaction, especially online. Multiple technologies can be employed to improve satisfaction, from email blasts and web chats to social media and databases that enable companies to learn customers’ buying habits and anticipate their needs.

Amazon, one of the world’s largest online retailers, successfully exploits customer relationship management – also known by its acronym, CRM – and information technology to support its business strategy. The company records buyers’ behavior, then recommends products to them based on other items they purchased or just looked at online.

While Amazon may be a huge global brand with enormous resources, the CRM technology of accumulating data on individual customers is scalable to small firms.  PCWorld recently reviewed five CRM software applications for small businesses.

Beyond CRM and the company’s walls, the social media represents a new frontier for managing customer relationships, which companies ignore at their own risk. That’s why Fortune 500 companies and startups alike are rushing to master the nuances of social media and hiring staff to monitor review sites for comments posted by customers who choose to vent their complaints and comments outside of traditional customer service channels.

The one-on-one, interactive nature of communicating via social media channels can give a competitive advantage to companies that respond to customer requests and comments posted on third-party sites.  The benefits of actively engaging customers through social media include accelerated growth, greater loyalty, expanded brand awareness and enhanced customer and employee satisfaction.

Conversely, companies that limit such communication to contact centers, media advertising and other traditional means may find themselves ignored by customers who believe it is their right to specify whether, when and how they will be engaged by sellers.

Shanmugam Periasam, commenting in his article, Harnessing the Power of Social Media, said “great brands do not tell their own stories but empower and enable the consumers who can tell great stories for and about them.”

Leveraging social customer service can significantly impact two key metrics: First, customer satisfaction levels, which can be improved significantly. Second, support costs, which can be reduced by reducing dependence on stand-alone customer service departments and contact centers.

The customer service paradigm is shifting, and those companies that can move quickly to respond to this change can gain market share, reduce churn and improve satisfaction by enhancing the experience of a new breed of customers who have come to expect anytime, anywhere access to services, support and sales – on their own terms.

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