Technology – the Cornerstone of Customer Relations

In the 21st century, the question is no longer whether technology can improve your business. We instead wonder whether it’s possible to conduct it without a significant helping hand from tech.

It’s the cornerstone of progress, but today, it’s taken a new forceful shape, too – customer relations.

Even the way businesses view customers has changed. They’re no longer generic consumers but defined through a complex web of their activities by analytic systems. And, as we all know, companies able to manage customer experience reap enormous rewards.

So, what are the main things to consider when improving customer experience? Today, we’re taking a look at proper ways to use technology to breed customer loyalty and boost their expertise.

What Has Tech Done for Businesses?

First, let’s take a look at some current and near-future applications of technology for the benefit of businesses.

Quicker, More Efficient Communication

The first wave of instant technology led us to feel overwhelmed by laptops and smartphones. However, we’re learning to organize our communication and develop tactics around available resources.

Such strategies make things move much faster and more reliably. Think instant communication, timestamps, and automated replies. It does wonders for businesses.

Increased Use of the Cloud

High-tech management and communication possibilities see an even further boost by the use of the cloud as a resource for communication. It enables people to collaborate on projects, even halfway across the globe.

Worldwide Connection

With the growth of storage capabilities and the processing speed of computers, new communication technology also arises. We’re talking about virtual presence, intercultural cooperation, and worldwide partnerships.

Resource Management and Increased Efficiency

The technologies changing communication also affect how we manage resources. With time, it restructures the way we work. Nowadays, we can deploy experts virtually to solve problems anywhere in the world.

Savings on Labor Costs

Many emerging technologies are changing automation and automated learning. So, people no longer need to oversee every step of production and small menial tasks. Most work gets done by machines communicating with one another.

Programming and coding jobs are on the rise, which further shows the advance of the field of automation.

Travel Safety Increases

Work safety also increases with the advent of technology. One excellent example is driverless automobiles.

It has implications for businesses that work in delivery, too. The increased safety of travel could also lead to lowering insurance rates, thus lowering the costs of business-related transport.

The Role of Technology in Customer Relations

Customer relations are what make or break a business. If a brand develops strong relationships, it gains customer loyalty and encourages repeat business. Poor customer relations drive buyers to competitors offering similar services.

With technological innovations, it’s easier than ever for companies to interact with customers. Small businesses that can’t afford traditional marketing and advertising felt and keep feeling the most benefits. Here’s how technology helps you in this regard.

Keeping Customers Up to Date

With company websites and email lists, small business owners can keep customers up to date on changes and developments. These tools make informing customers about new products, campaigns, and discounts easier, too.

With the advent of social media, this capability grows even further. With the low-cost nature of these tools, even new businesses with minimal budgets can maximize their customer relations.

Answering Questions and Receiving Feedback

With websites and instant chatting, customers may reach a company at the time that works for them, not only during business hours.

Companies include email addresses and submission forms to allow buyers to pose questions and provide their feedback on products and services. They also include all other support methods they offer.

The convenience factor by itself encourages customers to interact with their favorite companies. Plus, there’s a personalization element in being able to share your concerns and comments with a brand.

Delivering More Efficiently

No matter the type of business in question, it’s now possible to take advantage of various media types for streamlining services and making products more accessible. Doing so improves marketing and public relations without requiring companies to spend a dime.

Better Pricing and Increasing Efficiency

As mentioned above, technology helps companies streamline their businesses and, in general, reduces the costs of such operations. The customers see this advantage in the form of lower prices.

Managing Customer Services

Customer service management (or CRM) software tracks and analyzes data and feedback for companies.

The data gathered enables companies to deliver desired products and services, as well as market them with efficiency. We’ll take a more in-depth look at CRM below.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management, or CRM, is a business practice which includes fostering and maintaining customer relationships using various platforms and technologies.

In practice, this implies the usage of tools to automate, organize, improve, and make the following fields more efficient.

  • Sales
  • Customer and technical support
  • Marketing

In the past, before the Internet and availability of Cloud-based programs and tools for data analysis, CRM was unreliable, confusing, and inefficient.

Today, it’s still far from perfect, but it’s more streamlined and effective. It now serves as a tool for businesses to increase revenue through customer relations.

What Does CRM Do for You?

In essence, CRM helps your business get new customers and keep old ones. It also captures customer data and analyses it for marketing purposes. There are some basic do-s and don’t-s to streamline and make the most of this process.

Data Analysis

Interactions and transactions on the Web mean that everything gets tracked and recorded on servers. So, there’s a wealth of data for analysis and more informed business decisions.

When it comes to CRM, this means that you get to analyze particular purchases against your sales data. Thus, you get a more comprehensive image, which indicates where you need to invest your money and which parts of your business need improvement.

Managing Interaction Data

You can use CRM software to automate leads and sale processes, as well as collect customer information.

If your company is big and has hundreds of customer support representatives, imagine how frustrating it can get for the customer to speak to a new person and have to explain all past dealings each time.

By recording such information, though, you get all relevant data in one place, and it saves you and your customer from annoyance.

Moreover, most of these services schedule automated elements of the sales process. They will set reminders for the customer where applicable, and provide accessible pathways to follow up actions.

The most straightforward way technology changed CRM is through the tools available. Today, they’re direct, effective, and often work in real-time. The fundamentals of these tools consist of software, hardware, and cloud-based programs.

If you take a general look at these practices, you have two main approaches.

Soft Options – Platform Usage

There are many traditional software programs and Internet platforms that serve the purpose of CRM. One of the largest goes under the name of Salesforce.

Salesforce is a system of many specialized tools to make sales and marketing processes more efficient. It separates your business operations into several clouds and performs comprehensive data analysis.

There are many other platforms, too, to include in your business if you don’t like this one.

Hard Options – Devices On-Site

In-store, hardware plays an even more significant role than software. Most businesses still rely on brick-and-mortar storefronts. So, using technology in your store could be super beneficial.

As all customer interactions fall under the umbrella of CRM, more and more companies are incorporating tech in their stores. Tablet use is the most prominent, and it can range from interactive menus to customer data acquisition through POS.

Employees with tablets can capture customer demographics and contact information for later marketing. Many big and small industry names alike are also including automation in their stores.

McDonald’s included interactive menus in their restaurants, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Many other automation tools exist, from Smart Shelf to restock in retail stores to ShinePay to help people use washing machines with ease.

Common Pitfalls and Considerations

There are some things to consider if your business is diving into the world of CRM. First of all, be sure to choose a platform or service that will serve the needs of your business.

Moreover, be sure that you have the people and resources necessary for making the best use of these tools. After all, any device is only as good as the person holding it. Make a wise choice and train your staff to use the new technology before you implement it.

Customer Services

Another field changed by technology is the way we communicate with each other. In the same manner, it altered the way companies interact with customers.

Today, there are many ways to create and maintain customer service. The best, most successful businesses go for more than one option. Let’s take a look.

Email

Email is one of the first types of customer service to come from the Internet, but it’s still relevant. It’s the norm for companies to have contact addresses on their website for customers to contact in case of any confusion.

Another use of email is to automate it to keep customers informed of the transaction progress. Keeping customers involved and informed is key to creating a trusting relationship.

Text Messages

Like automated emails, mobile networks can also keep customers up-to-date with their order progress. You can automate text messages the same as emails for ensuring customer peace of mind even when they don’t have an Internet connection.

Call Centers

Call centers saw a change with the development of VoIP, which enables cheap voice communication online. You can now include a toll-free number for your buyers to call any time of day.

Be sure that your staff goes through extensive training if you operate internationally, though. An uncomfortable call or two will have your customers reluctant to contact you again.

Chat Rooms and Instant Messengers

There are many services to keep people around the world connected through fast, text-based chat. Thus, you can also use it as an efficient channel for customer service.

When a prospective customer first visits your website, they may have some brief questions that don’t quite warrant calling customer service or sending an email.

So, include an IM service to solve these queries quickly and cheaply and give an incentive for the person to proceed with their order.

Here, it’s also essential for you to understand how IM gets integrated into Web sites. There are two main ways:

  • Customer-initiated IM involves indicating to the customer that there’s an IM channel available and giving clear instructions for using it. You can include many free chat clients this way with ease.
  • Script-initiated IM initiates chat with a potential client. When a visitor spends some time on your page without any actions, a window shows up and suggests a chat. Then, if the person accepts, they start chatting to a representative.

Both methods are super useful for complicated and expensive purchases. When the customer is about to make a decision, your company will be there to provide social, personalized support, and reassurance.

Vendor Relationship Management

Vendor relationship management or VRM corresponds to CRM and describes tools and technology to help customers manage their relationships with vendors. The concept is still in development but presents an exciting prospect.

As an approach, VRM addresses the imbalance between customer and vendor powers. Companies collect data and use it to improve the relationship and get as much revenue from it as possible.

However, customers have the backstories behind their purchases, and as such, can provide a much fuller picture. They can only share the information they consider relevant for purchases, too, which combats the issue of data safety.

So, VRM seeks to return more power to customers and reverse the relationship. Again, the approach is still on the rise, but it could be worth looking into as we enter a new era of customer relations.

The Bottom Line

Nowadays, smart devices play a substantial role in our daily lives. Technology is shaping the future, and it’s time for companies to jump on the bandwagon.

It’s the world of unprecedented connectivity – use the opportunity to amplify your business. Only that way, it will flourish in the face of ever-developing competition.

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Author: Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles of partners on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to editor.webposts@gmail.com.