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 dedicate much of your time to communicating with your clients. While this is crucial for your business, equally important is communicating with your employees. Internal communication touches every aspect of your business from announcing the onboarding of a new client, to introducing a new product to your business line. No matter the size, industry, or type of company you own, I recommend having an internal communications process embedded in everything you do.
An internal communications process allows for the exchange of information between all members of your organization, which will save you time and money. In fact, companies with effective internal communications processes experience 47% higher total returns than those that are not effective at communicating.
I’ve outlined below 3 key elements to help you establish an effective internal communications process.
- Have the Right Mechanisms in Place to Keep Employees Informed
Your internal communication mechanisms must be strategic, in order to be targeted and the most beneficial. Consider your company’s current mechanisms, from the methods of communication it uses, to the way your company engages with and seeks feedback from your staff, to the way it measures if the mechanism is successful and identifies any issues for future change.
Choosing what mechanisms to use depends on your size and budget. If your company has multiple locations, you may decide to invest in passive, large-scale communication options to disseminate information. Creating an intranet (a private network only available to a company’s staff) is one great option. If your business is smaller, consider using more conventional communication channels such as an internal newsletter, e-blast, Director’s blog, or notice board. I have even seen some companies benefit from using social networking sites as their primary means of internal communication. More directed options could include Breakfast Briefs for front-line staff, a monthly Director Communications Day, scheduled Director Q&A drop-ins, or Lunch & Learns.
No matter what mechanism(s) you choose, the bottom line is that employees have access to a platform where they can receive important company information so they stay abreast of the information they need to do their job.
- Creating a Two-Way Loop
Having great communication mechanisms in place is vital, but ensuring that they consistently generate engagement between management and employees is a key step. It is imperative that business owners and managers actively respond to feedback received and ensure a loop is created, as opposed to a top-down form of communication. By acting on the honest feedback reported by employees encourages more of the same – staff telling it “like it is”.
- Measuring the Mechanisms
To ensure that the communication mechanisms you choose are working effectively, incorporating measurement indicators, such as scheduled weekly face-to-face meetings with actionable items reported for follow-up, anonymous employee surveys offered at quarterly or annual company all-staff meetings, or through specific activity surveys through the intranet, could help identify gaps, what is or isn’t working, and what methods of communication work best for your employees.
Regardless of which avenues you choose, the main goal is to ensure employees have several effective paths available to them where they can communicate with senior management and feel heard.
Communicating with your employees is essential for the productivity of your business. Does your company have an internal communications process in place?
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?
One of the biggest challenges I have seen many small business owners struggle with is that of delegation. Most owners started their businesses on their own being the person who does everything and so letting go or delegating can be difficult from many angles. Let’s face it, if you continue to do everything, then why do you have staff and how can you ever hope to grow your business?
Delegation means letting go of the day-to-day tasks associated with that responsibility, but by no means does it mean completely letting go of that responsibility. In other words, if you have hired a sales person to take on the responsibility of sales for your company, although you may not be making the sales calls, you do need to ensure that your sales person has the right sales processes, sales metrics and that they are in fact the right person for the role.
Without the right processes, metrics and people in place, it’s likely the onus will fall back on you to get things done. Sounds familiar? Letting go isn’t easy, but having a proper delegation structure in place will allow you to focus your energy and resources on building a successful business. Here are my recommendations for effective delegation:
1) Have the right processes
Ensure you have the right processes in place to ensure that the task or responsibility will be done correctly and in accordance with your standards. For example, if you are delegating writing you will need to ensure what type of writing, how much time the writing should take, what structure the writing must have, what approvals are required, what source materials, and how the writing must be started. The process needs to be written down, explained to the person who you are delegating it to, and followed up with by you to ensure the process is being followed.
2) Measure your success
The only way you can truly know if the process is working right is to measure its effectiveness and subsequent success. To measure the success of the objective, you may want to consider KPIs as they are an effective way of measuring key business objectives, as are analytics. There are numerous measurement tools available, so finding the one appropriate for your business is important. Whatever metric you choose should be spelled out and communicated to the person taking on the delegated task or project. They need to understand that they are being measured in their responsibilities.
3) Have the right people
In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of building a solid team. Ensuring you have the right people working for you means that you can delegate appropriate tasks with the confidence they will be completed accurately and efficiently. Trust and communication are two qualities that can make or break a business. In my many years as a business advisor, I’ve witnessed numerous business owners cycle through employees simply because they had the wrong person in the role who was not fully capable of handling the responsibilities despite having the right processes and metrics in place. Invest wisely in securing the right team. With the right team in place, you’ll experience no hesitation in delegating important tasks and responsibilities.
Delegating is what most business owners crave – you want someone or something to take the huge responsibility of doing it all yourself off your shoulders. Have no fear, by ensuring you have the right processes, metrics and people in place will mean you can lessen your load, and free up the much-needed time to do what you have always wanted to do: focus on building 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?
Let’s be honest, we all have our favourite clients. I know I do. More often than not, our favourite clients are also some of our best clients. These are typically the clients with whom we have great partnerships and an understanding that together, we’re responsible for success. The question is do we, or should we, treat all clients equally?
How we differentiate clients
For some, client favouritism is already built into many of our business models. It’s common practice to tier clients based on the amount of revenue they generate. We routinely see companies offering different levels of service typically called Gold, Silver or Bronze, similar in idea to consumer credit cards. The clients that spend the most have Gold cards, then Silver level, and then Bronze for “basic level”. Does this differentiation set us up to treat our clients differently instead of focussing on delivering great customer service to all of our clients? Is client favouritism itself two-tiered – clients we like and clients who generate the most revenue? How are we treating clients that don’t generate the most revenue but are still solid performers?
Can client favouritism be a bad thing?
Client favouritism is not a good or a bad thing. It’s perfectly fine to dedicate more time to the clients you have great working relationships with; the ones that are profitable, appreciate your work and do what they say they’ll do. But if you’re only focussed on your highest revenue generators and let others fall by the wayside, you may be alienating some good clients. Not all of your clients are going to be rock stars in the revenue department. However, I do suggest that you nurture solid, steady, long-term clients that deliver consistent revenue, in addition to the few rock stars. These steady clients speak about your service to others, and can be a good source of referrals, so maintaining a relationship with your clients, where each feels like they are the “only” client, is the ideal.