I once heard said that 60% of lost business is through “perceived indifference” on the part of the vendor. I have never been able to verify this figure, but looking back on my own dealings with various companies, I can well believe it. Hours spent listening to a recorded voice assuming me how valuable my call is, promised calls not returned and quotes that take days or weeks to arrive; usually after numerous calls to chase. I have walked away from numerous suppliers because what makes them looks bad reflects on your dealings with your own clients. “Sorry, but I am still waiting for the information” only washes for so long.
This invaluable insight came my way at around the time that EasylifeIT was born. Until that point, all the planning and conversation was around winning new business, but little about managing the client once they came on board. It was therefore decided early on that we would not use voicemail, preferring instead to ensure that the phone would always be answered by a human being, even if that was an answering service. We also set ourselves the objective of always returning a call or providing information when promised and ensuring effective communication with the customer, even if it was just to say that we were still waiting for the information requested; often it is the silence that infuriates. Finally and crucially, in a world where the concept of “customer service” seems to reach no further than the mission statement, we needed to deliver truly outstanding responsiveness and service.
Of course, having these aspirations are laudable, but how to actually take that into a busy, sometimes frenetic service environment? With requests coming via email, fax, telephone, text and verbal message it is not surprising that things get forgotten or mislaid. Everyone has their own system, some better than others, but to deliver an effective and consistent service you have to employ a system that encompasses all aspects of your business from communications and emails, managing new leads and opportunities to driving your service effort once you have the customer on your books. Most importantly in a small company, we needed access to our systems where ever we were, be that working at home in the evening or when sat with a client in their premises.
As a Microsoft partner, we had an obvious choice of software in front of us. We chose Microsoft Exchange for email communications and Microsoft Dynamics for customer management. It was quite an investment for a small start-up company, and at the time I wondered if it might be overkill. Even with the software concession from Microsoft as a partner, the cost of servers and software still took a large bite out of our initial budget, but my business partner insisted that these systems were in place from the start. She was absolutely right.
Once we started to use the system and began to perfect and tweak the system to our needs, the 2 products simply revolutionised the way we worked. The communications were excellent, with diary sharing and live mobile phone access to not only email but also diaries and contacts. On the customer management side; incoming customer issues are raised as a case, telephone calls, messages, tasks and appointments are attached, and workflows trigger reminders and emails to ensure that promised actions are not forgotten and the customer is kept informed of progress. At any time or location, the complete history of any issue is available, including actions taken and notes, preventing repetition and virtually eliminating the frustration that all of us our familiar with; having to repeat the same things time and time again just because you can’t reach the same person on the other end of the phone.
Our customers certainly do not feel neglected. Emails can be returned where ever I am, and details of their order or issue available at any place or any time. If a customer calls the office when I am out, the staff can see my calendar and know it is up to the minute accurate. If they book an appointment for me to call or visit, it is on my phone within seconds.
Having invested so much in our service effort, we are now turning our attention to the sales effort and applying the same principles. Happily, our initial investment also provides the same functionality for leads, orders, quotes and campaign management.
Despite having worked in the IT industry, and unlike many of my peers, I am a firm believer that not every problem requires an IT solution. However, when it comes to driving customer service and sales efforts, I am completely sold on our systems. However, the cost of deploying such a system in house has traditionally been prohibitive, especially for a start up or smaller business. This is no longer the case.
Above all, herein lies the key benefit of cloud services; the availability of enterprise class software such as CRM at a modest monthly cost. No server is required, just a good broadband connection and this of course makes it absolutely perfect for distributed teams too! Looking back to our start-up days and the pain and cost of deployment, I am almost jealous.
As both an entrepreneur and an IT specialist, Lindsey offers a blend of deep technical expertise and commercial insight, delivered in language business owners can really understand and trust. She works with clients to provide a full range of services from strategic advice through to project management and infrastructure support.
Lindsey is an accredited Cyber Essentials Consultant