In a previous article I discussed the importance of customer satisfaction in the design of modern network architecture. In that article a discussion around the need for a centralized database that tracks the customer experience. The Information Technology (IT) department often gets lost in the technology. It takes a special understanding of the organization to create an information management system that can be utilized to build customer satisfaction. Modern network architecture needs this understanding to smoothly integrate with the way the organization is already doing business.
When a sales person calls meets a new person this becomes a contact and a possible lead. An estimate is made and a value is placed on the lead. This value relates to how closely the lead matches the best customers within the organization. Based on the estimate, the lead is qualified by the sales person. Once it’s determined that a contact is a qualified lead, the sales person follows a series of documented and undocumented steps to walk that person through the sales process. Finally a sale is made. Then the new customer is handed over to customer management. Working with Customer management a formal or informal process of hand-off from sales is made. This is often the first place new customers begin falling through the cracks.
When a customer has finally received their first order the company has a lot of information on the new customer. As a Seattle IT Consulting Company I will ask my client,
“How many times have you gathered the customer’s information?”
Usually the information was first gathered by the sales person. Then the information is gathered again by billing. Then once again the information is gathered by Operations. Then once again the same exact information is gathered by shipping and logistics. It doesn’t stop there as customer service and every department in the organization also asks for the same information over and over again. One non-profit client I worked with had 15 employees and 18 separate databases with customer information that they were maintaining. The customer information across these databases was not unique and 80% of the information in each database was duplicated information. Imagine the frustration of your customers as they call in and are redirected from department to department giving the same information over and over again. Also try to imagine how much effort is wasted by the organization trying to maintain the integrity of so many databases.
The first step for my clients is a recommendation to consolidate the common information into one database of customer information. Then give ownership to the integrity of this database to the customer management group within the organization. Once this is done we can begin to understand our customer.
The first step then is consolidating the information within the organization.
This gives us a lot of benefits. The most important is that we can track the customer through the customer life cycle process from pre-sales through sales. We can also use this information to understand why the customer purchased and understand why they would purchase again.
Marketing gives us the Secure Customer index that we can rate customers in our database. Mike Pritchard is the owner of a market research company 5 Circles Research and explains in his article, Profiting from customer satisfaction and loyalty research some of the variables that make up the Secure Customer Index. Customers are ranked as,
Most organizations don’t know what customers are Secure vs. Vulnerable. 100 years ago, there wasn’t much that could be done about this problem. Strategies ignored this issue and focused on blanketing the highest number of potential leads. Because of this companies spent 80% of their marketing on indifferent and vulnerable customers. Yet we know today that as much as 80% of income comes from Secure and Satisfied customers. By identifying each type of customer, management can design and automate workflow based on each customer type. Focusing a referral program on the indifferent customers can be pointless, but the same referral program focused exclusively on the most satisfied customers can be an effective way of bringing in new customers.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) databases can be focused to identify these four types of customers. The problem is that most business organizations don’t identify their best customers. As the business grows more and more programs that should be focused on “Secure” customers is wasted on indifferent and vulnerable customers. As systems are moved out of on-premise networks and into a Cloud Network Architecture the requirements for IT professionals will need to change from Technology centric to Information centric and Customer centric strategies.