Opinion

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Getting customer management right for your business

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With so much choice, it’s not a surprise to find that consumers really like doing business with companies that have good customer programmes in place. According to new research from Avaya, 92 per cent of UK consumers would rather spend money with organisations that are easy to buy from and 70 per cent already expect cohesive multi-channel service. What’s more, 69 per cent of consumers now expect to be treated as ‘unique,’ with 66 per cent saying they would rather spend money with companies that treat them this way.

And if these statistics aren’t enough to focus businesses’ minds on customer management, the research also shows a strong correlation between good customer service programmes and increased profits. A shocking 81 per cent of companies with solid customer initiatives in place have seen significant profit increases in the last 12 months. They also report other benefits from their programmes, including increased customer satisfaction (68 per cent), loyalty (64 per cent), retention (59 per cent) and repeat purchasing (56 per cent).

Businesses are all ears

By and large companies seem to be getting the message around the importance of customer management: eight in ten have put in place projects aimed at improving customer service in the last year, according to the research.

Lost in translation

However, somewhere something is going awry, as 81 per cent of customer management programmes launched in the last three years have failed. As you can imagine, this is incredibly costly, not just in missed profits, but also in squandered investment. Some 66 per cent of companies say they have wasted money on failed customer initiatives – as much as £750,000 per organisation – and many senior managers cannot actually quantify how much money has been lost.

This failure of customer management programmes seems to reflect the failure of many other enterprise-wide projects. CRM and knowledge sharing systems that remain only partially used, or fail to deliver the expected benefits are examples that have been widely publicised. While the technology involved is often blamed, the real reasons are more complex.

The big picture

After all, simply buying technology will not ensure project success. The right software, with the right functionality needs to be supported by appropriate underlying objectives, strategy and management. For example, there is minimal benefit to having social media monitoring software if you cannot link it in to the contact centre, enabling agents to have a single, overall view of all customer interactions.

Furthermore, the impact of a project is often diluted by the fact that different parts of the business are responsible for different elements of it, adding further complexity to the problem. In the case of customer management, marketing, sales, the contact centre and the finance department all have some involvement and if they do not work together seamlessly, then an overall customer initiative is likely to fail. Conversely, by collaborating closely to identify the ideal set of solutions, the marketing and IT departments can together invest in customer management tools to deliver a coherent omni-channel customer experience that will drive customer satisfaction and business growth.

The results of Avaya’s research point to familiar, but ever-important lessons: technology is only as good as the thinking and planning behind it. New customer – or other – initiatives are only as good as their design and implementation. Companies that fail to understand this are risking not just money, but their reputations and livelihoods too.

Garry Veale is president of Avaya in Europe.

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