The Customer Relationship Management industry (CRM) has exploded. It’s estimated that 91% of business with more than 11 employees now use a CRM system. CRM is a term that refers to the strategies, technology, and practices that companies incorporate into their business to manage and analyze customer interactions and data. However, many businesses are not realizing the full benefits of CRM because they’re entirely focused on the data and ignore the human side of CRM. The data will tell you how to manage customers, but not how to build relationships with them. Computers don’t build relationships; people do.
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, the success of your business depends upon delivering customer-focused experiences and processes. I have outlined below a few tips I’d recommend for staying focused on the human side of CRM.
Don’t overlook the human side of CRM
“Helping is the new selling” are the latest buzzwords being bantered around these days. It speaks to relationships and a service-oriented mindset. Although CRM has the potential to provide deep insight into both individual clients and general trends, it’s imperative that you connect and engage with your customers in a meaningful way or you diminish the value of your CRM system. No amount of data can provide the human touch.
Implementing a CRM system doesn’t automatically deliver results
Databases full of client information are the basis on which to improve customer engagement, but never lose sight of the relationship-side of technology. The success of your business depends on the human element.
This is crucial in any industry. Your sales team are the ones that can help your organization achieve its revenue goals. The human interaction between your salespeople and your customers is what will ultimately differentiate you from your competition, and bring them back again.
This skill is highly underrated. Do your sales people listen? Do they understand what your customers value? Can they educate and inform? Can they close the deal?
In order for CRM to deliver on its promise, ensure that the data and the human element are fully integrated.
Want more advice on how to get the most out of your CRM system, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you.
As a business owner, you know how important it is to keep things fresh and innovative in your workplace, but when making changes, you’ll need to consider how your plans might impact your employees.
If you are in the process of job redesign where employees are assigned new roles that play into their strengths and contribute to a more successful business, these changes can be stressful to your employees. If someone has been hired for a particular job and then he or she is suddenly expected to perform a different role in the organization, tension and stress can result.
A recent report found that 46% of 1,018 Canadian employees recently surveyed had taken time off work or noticed other employees taking sick leave following workplace changes, a common symptom of a stressed-out workplace.
I’ve outlined below a few tips on how you can shift roles in your organization without contributing to employee stress:
- Share your vision.
Why are you doing this? What is this change going to accomplish for your organization? Sharing this vision with employees will allow them to understand exactly why this is happening, and help them find their part in it.
- Keep the lines of communication open in regards to role change.
Ask employees how they feel they can contribute to a new role and encourage conversation. By doing this, you can evaluate each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, while giving them an opportunity to work in a new role they would truly enjoy.
Make sure employees stay up to date as things begin to shift. For example, when you have made some final role decisions, send out an email to all staff informing them of the new structure. Keeping everyone in the know will ensure a smooth transition process.
- When your employees begin their new role, make sure they feel supported.
Assuming a new role can be challenging, especially if the employee doesn’t have a lot of previous experience in the position. Positive reinforcement can go a long way, as employees are less likely to experience stress when they report a positive and supportive workplace culture.
In today’s workplace, you need to keep things fresh, but maintain a balance against a backdrop of inclusiveness and communication. Learning how to handle change effectively is what will keep your team on the right path to growing your business.
How have you successfully restructured your business?
Congratulations! You’ve landed a new client, now what? The first few months of your new business relationship will determine the level of satisfaction your client has with you and will ultimately factor into whether or not you have a solid working relationship from which to grow. In order to maximize your level of service during this new and exciting time, I highly recommend following a carefully crafted onboarding process.
An onboarding process acts as somewhat of a blueprint for the next few months of the new relationship by clearly outlining expectations for both parties involved. Moreover, it protects both parties by mitigating any form of miscommunication or false expectations.
I’ve outlined below the steps involved in creating an effective onboarding process:
1) Send a welcome email
With most things in life, first impressions matter. This is no different in business, and sending your client a personalized welcome email from a C-level individual at your company not only shows your commitment to working with them, but it’s also a nice gesture that opens a line of communication.
2) Learn their resources
Since every company is different and operates in their own way, knowing what resources they have available is important to accomplishing your goals. For example, and depending on the type of services you’ll be providing, you’ll need to establish what platforms each company uses, what internal staff will be directly working with you, and whom you can go to with questions.
3) Establish mutual goals
A new business relationship is a two way street, and success is dependent upon clear communication and support offered by each party. Simply because a working agreement has been established, it doesn’t automatically mean both parties are on the same page. It is through the onboarding process that the details of the contract can fully be planned for effective execution.
4) Have a kick-off meeting
Whether over the phone or in person, hosting a kick-off meeting with key members involved in the launch of a service is an important step for setting expectations and weeding out any kinks that may have been overlooked during the original planning phase.
5) Obtain feedback
Once your business relationship has begun, checking in with your client to provide updates and ensure their satisfaction is key to demonstrating your willingness to foster a successful relationship. Not only will this show them your commitment to providing excellent customer service, but it will allow for any concerns or necessary changes to come to light. Having a 30, 60 or 90-day feedback session is recommended, but you can customize this plan based on your client’s preferences.
As you’ve probably realized in your business ventures, every client is different. Making tweaks to your onboarding process may be required depending on what each client’s expectations of you are and vice versa. Ultimately, an onboarding process is created to help you achieve success and maintain a mutual understanding with your client, so putting in the time to carefully craft one is in your best interest.
Do you have an onboarding process in place for new clients?
Forbes published an article on the importance of peer advisory boards, “10 Reasons To Join A Peer Group.” While I thoroughly enjoyed the read, I noticed the author overlooked a few key benefits that I’ve been lucky to witness firsthand as a facilitator. As a business advisor, I take pride in facilitating a peer advisory board that has proven results for my members. The peer boards help business owners reach new heights and succeed in ways they never imagined.
Peer advisory boards led by trained facilitators embody the power of collaboration, accountability, and perspective. A deep bond can be created and a business asset is formed that business owners crave and are hard pressed to find in any other forum. I’d like to share with you my list of top 7 reasons many business owners join a peer advisory board:
One of the greatest benefits of joining a peer advisory board is the exposure you’ll receive to other small business owners much like yourself. Entrepreneurship is unlike any other job, which means the challenges you face on a daily basis are just as unique. As a member of a peer advisory board, you’re able to share ideas with people in similar situations. As a result, the business ideas you’ll be provided with won’t just be erroneous but tried and true.
As the owner of a business, there aren’t many people you have to report to other than perhaps a Board of Directors or other shareholders. When you’re part of a peer advisory board, however, your fellow business owners will often hold you accountable for the executive decisions you’ve elected to make. Many peer groups meet once a month and they often expect some form of progress each month.
We’ve all had ideas that we considered to be foolproof, but as we’ve come to know in business, not every idea is feasible. In becoming a member of a peer advisory board, you’ll receive constructive criticism from the board regarding your potential business decisions. This allows you to fill in any gaps that you may have overlooked.
With competition at an all time high, it’s difficult to know whom you can share your ideas with. With peer advisory boards, anything that is discussed is confidential among members, so you’ll receive reassurance in knowing that you can freely discuss your business decisions without compromising trade secrets.
As previously mentioned, you’ll surround yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs as a member of a peer advisory board. What this means is that you’ll witness them experience successes and/or setbacks, just as they’ll witness the same for you. Either way, you’ll challenge one another to learn from your mistakes, grow, and ultimately succeed.
A common benefit I hear from board members is that a peer advisory board allows them to focus on developing their business rather than working in the business. Don’t get me wrong, one of the best qualities of a business owner is someone who knows the ins and outs of their product or service, but when it boils down to growth, strategic decision-making is a necessity.
As the saying goes, “it’s lonely at the top.” But it doesn’t have to be. Your fellow board members are there to support you through your journey, and many if not all are experiencing, have experienced, or will experience the trials and tribulations you are facing as a business owner. They are as much of a support group as they are anything else.
Have you ever considered joining a peer advisory board? What would be your top reason for joining?
As a business owner, it’s always very difficult to turn away business, especially in challenging economic times. However, the reality is that not every client is a good client. In fact, some clients make unreasonable demands. You know the kind of client I mean; we’ve all had to deal with them.
In my experience providing advice to business owners, I’ve heard hundreds of stories of unreasonable clients, yet many owners are unclear as to how to improve their relationship with these clients.
I’ve outlined below some of the classic unreasonable client requests and some steps you may want to consider trying to better the relationship.
1. They expect you to be available 24/7.
Unless this is the type of service you offer, you should clearly define your boundaries. Let your client know what your working hours and days are.
2. No matter what you charge, it’s always too expensive for them.
An unprofitable client takes time away from your profitable clients. Set your pricing and be prepared to negotiate but only within preset parameters. Be prepared to say no and walk away if necessary.
3. They consistently pay slowly which has a negative impact on your cash flow.
If you’re spending a lot of time and energy chasing a client for money, this may be a client worth letting go – unless you can afford to wait for your money. This type of client will not change their paying habits until you enforce your payment terms. You may have to hold back on your deliverables to make your point.
4. They keep changing their mind about what they want.
If you have a client that keeps changing their mind about what they want after you’ve done the work, start charging them for the changes.
5. They don’t respond to your calls/emails/texts in a timely fashion.
Ask if there is another person who perhaps has more time to be responsive. Let them know that the lack of response may delay timelines and keep a paper trail in case it does.
6. They rarely turn up at meetings or cancel at the last minute.
Your time is valuable. If your client is consistently not turning up at meetings or cancelling at the last minute, start billing them for your time.
I recommend that you try to convert an unreasonable client into a good client, but that’s not always possible. When all of your best efforts fail, it may be time to fire the client.
Customer retention relies heavily on customer experience, which is why it’s so important for business owners to really hone in on what will make their customers have a positive experience when interacting with their business.
Regardless of the size of your business, you can all take steps to ensure our number one asset – our customers – are happy. Here are a few key tips to help you improve that experience for your customers:
One of the most important ways to keep your customers is to keep in touch with them on a regular basis, whether that is through daily/weekly/bi-weekly calls, meetings, or emails, you need to make an effort to touch base with your clients. These are not sales calls, but rather opportunities to hear more about recent triumphs or challenges they are having in their business. The more you know about their business, the better able you are to serve them. When you listen, a customer feels heard.
Good As Your Word
A common complaint of customers is that business staff do not follow through on promises they make. When you tell a customer that you will email them a document by noon, for example, and they have not heard from you by the next day, they might feel that they are not a priority. Every customer wants to feel as if they are the only ones you take care of, so when you say that you will meet a deadline or deliver a report and not do so, nor call to explain why, they are left in the dark and this is when they are telling others about the poor service they are receiving from your business.
Thanking Them Differently
When a customer has purchased your product or service, particularly an expensive one, be sure to thank them in appreciation, ultimately for their choosing to work with you and not your competition. A phone call or handwritten card with the express purpose of saying thanks will be appreciated, but think of taking it to another level through a congratulatory lunch or a basket of sweets delivered to their home or business. You will be remembered, talked about favourably to your customer’s contacts, and will likely receive repeat business.
Access and Availability
If the main contact number to your company goes straight to voicemail or is automated, this could result in an unfavourable experience for your customer. You want to always make sure they feel that their business is important. You might want to consider:
- Forwarding the main line to one of your customer service reps or an executive assistant
- Make sure your automated system provides a directory with your employees’ names and extensions
- Create a company-wide policy on returning voicemails in a timely manner e.g. calls are to be returned within 24 hours
With so much business happening online today, it is important to set out clear expectations for your customers in terms of how to reach you and when. You might want to consider:
- Making sure your website clearly states your hours of operation
- Adding a simple contact form on your site with a specified time that a company rep will respond, or adding an online chat for immediate answers to any customer questions
- Adding a cell number to your email signature for any immediate calls
- Creating an email policy for your staff to ensure emails are returned to customers in a timely manner e.g. within 30 minutes
The key to customer retention is to strengthen your relationships at every contact point and to be mindful of not alienating them along the way.
As a business owner, you wear many hats, two of the most important being “manager” and “coach”. What I’ve noticed most business owners have trouble with is differentiating between the two roles, and when exactly to wear each hat.
There is a very clear difference between managing and coaching, and it is important to recognize the distinction in order for your company and employees to achieve success under your leadership. So what is this apparent difference exactly?
In the simplest sense, managing is all about directing. As a manager, you are telling others what needs to be done, how to do it, and when it needs to be completed. You have a specific outcome in mind, and you are directing a group whose purpose is to achieve it.
Coaching, on the other hand, is all about facilitation. Your purpose is to create a relationship with your employees as a guide and mentor, working towards long-term improvement and a number of outcomes.
While a manager and a coach may have the same authority, the way they approach each situation varies greatly. While managing, you’re concerned with the strategy and planning, delegating the tasks to the appropriate people. While coaching, you are present, providing encouragement, support, and making suggestions/revisions along the way.
So at what point do you wear each hat? They’re both effective under different circumstances. When facing stressful deadlines or crisis situations, acting as manager is what’s needed. When you are building your team and focusing on your staff’s development, you are coaching them.
A combination of these two styles is ideal, and by evaluating the task at hand first and the individuals involved second, you can then decide on your management style. Managing an employee who is new or unfamiliar with a task makes sense, while coaching your experienced staff can assist in developing their growth.
In what situations do you find it difficult to distinguish between the leadership styles and which to use? Share your questions or concerns in the comments.