Superior customer service is an ethos that pervades the best companies. Everybody who comes into contact with the customer must go that extra mile to make sure customers’ needs come first. Likewise, everyone in the back office must stand ready to swing into action to fulfill orders, resolve technical issues, correct billing anomalies, and generally ensure an all-around great customer experience.
If you’ve been paying attention to business management gurus these past 30 years, you’ve had the foregoing philosophy drummed into your heads. Chances are good that you’ve bought their books, attended their courses, and paid them big bucks to give pep talks at your corporate retreats. Leading management consultants have also brought you up to speed on what exemplar corporate case studies have done to become 100% customer-focused.
In other words, you’re in the choir and would greatly appreciate it if you weren’t being preached at quite so often. If you’re managing a company of any size, what you really want to know is how you can transform your organization into one of these customer-centric juggernauts without the secular equivalent of a religious conversion. Do you really need to subscribe to any particular consultant’s holy writ — or can you simply identify your more customer-focused employees, hold them up as shining examples, and encourage them to share their best practices with colleagues? Can you nurture superior customer service practices that spring organically from your current operations, while at the same time supporting these efforts by encouraging operational personnel to apply the latest information technologies (IT) in new and creative ways?
As a consequence of the ever-rising popularity of CRM solutions deployed through the software-as-service model (SaaS), I get a lot of inquiries about pricing and contracting with vendors like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, NetSuite, RightNow Technologies, and salesforce.com. Sage CRM products (Sage CRM and Sage SalesLogix) are now offered through “the cloud”, and specialty CRM players in the life sciences sector, such as Cegedim Dendrite, StayinFront, and Veeva Systems, also offer this deployment option.
The individuals responsible for choosing to deploy a CRM SaaS solution are often business users, not IT people or solutions sourcing professionals — the director of sales and marketing, vice president of sales, and director of customer service, for example. These business executives are often unfamiliar with the more technical and commercial aspects involved in choosing a SaaS application. Obviously getting a good price is important, but there are additional considerations to keep in mind. Here are some guidelines to help you to negotiate a sound agreement:
Strive for a price lock-in at renewal time. Firms are often able to negotiate substantial discounts when signing initial contracts with SaaS vendors. But these companies don't always consider what happens at the end of the initial contract term. A discount of more than 50% might be offered, but once the contract is up for renewal, you may be in for a surprise if the discount is no longer available. Make sure to have renewal pricing rules stipulated in your contract.
One of the key findings from this Forrester Wave is that a growing range of CRM vendors have incorporated deep analytics features into their customer service capabilities. Most provide embedded, out-of-the-box business intelligence (BI) features such as reporting, query, online analytical processing, dashboarding, scorecarding, and key performance indicators prebuilt to support their customer service applications. That’s no surprise, because these core BI features enable enterprises everywhere to keep track of how well they’re providing customer service across diverse CRM interaction channels and to identify opportunities to improve satisfaction, retention, upsell, agent productivity, and other key metrics.
Social media analytics is one of the most exciting new frontiers in business intelligence (BI). As I noted in a recent blog post, it refers to the application of BI tools, such as reporting, dashboarding, visualization, search, event-driven alerting, and text mining, to information that originates as messages streaming from social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
Forrester sees growing adoption of social media analytics across the entire customer relationship management (CRM) life cycle. This makes perfect sense, because social media are where customers spend more and more time, voice more unvarnished sentiment, and interact with a growing range of trusted commercial enterprises in addition to their friends and families.
Recognizing this trend, enterprise CRM professionals everywhere have incorporated social media into their public relations, product management, marketing, sales, and customer service processes. In addition to establishing their brands’ presence in the leading social media communities, companies have implemented tools to support continuous listening and engagement with customers, prospects, and the world at large through these channels.
Listening and engaging via social media involves much more than BI dashboards to monitor mentions on Twitter and the like. It may also require tight integration with the company’s CRM, enterprise data warehouse (EDW), business process management (BPM), business rules engine (BRE), complex event processing (CEP), predictive analytics and data mining (PA/DM), text analytics (TA), social network analysis (SNA), and other key tools and platforms. We often refer to this cluster of technologies as enablers for “social CRM.”