When your brand has no “there there” anymore—no Fifth Avenue flagship store, not even a little flag raised at the local strip mall–where is the customer to find their sense of your brand?
They’ll find it in your customer experience, of course, and in the quality of your customer service:
• Every time your employees pick up the phone, your customers get their sense of your brand through tone of voice, word choice, enthusiasm, and “situational empathy” that your employees demonstrate. [My article here has a longer discussion of situational empathy.]
• Every time your employees correspond by email or answer a customer’s text, the sense of your brand is demonstrated by how quickly, cordially, and thoroughly they approach the task at hand.
• Every time your employees make use of your company’s support platform, it’s shown by whether they manage to elevate their interactions with customers to be truly personal, or whether they let those interactions languish within the strictures of a ticket-based view of the world.
Some of the newer CRM solutions have been designed from the ground up to be customer-centered rather than ticket-centered or case-centered. For example, NextOS, a 360-degree solution from business communications that grew out of creator Nextiva’s own internal frustration with a ticket-based approach. Tomas Gorny, Founder and CEO of Nextiva, explains that “NextOS is designed to move every business away from tickets and toward building stronger connections with customers. The current style of assembly line thinking is outdated and doesn’t work anymore. [In response,] we are bringing NextOS to market to help businesses to build deeper connections with their customers.”
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And, of course, there’s Kustomer, which FaceBook recently bought lock, stock and barrel for a reported $1 billion, presumably because the people at Zuck’s in/famous behemoth saw a gaping need to bring humanity into its support processes. [You can find my original profile of Kustomer co-founder and CEO Brad Birnbaum here.)
Speaking of big names embracing new support solutions, I spent some [virtual] time recently with Joseph Ansanelli, CEO of Gladly, which offers a support solution that JetBlue found so compelling that it bought into the company itself. “Service,” says Ansanelli, “is the most direct way to distinguish yourself today. In the current COVID-impeded environment, our client companies are restricted in their ability to touch customers through merchandising, signage, and furnishings–all that great classic stuff. But a creatively empowered call center, coupled with the right CRM solution, can find a direct route into the warm and fuzzy region of a customer’s psyche.”
Including, sometimes, literally warm and fuzzy. Ansanelli shared the example of Crate and Barrel, a Gladly client, setting up a model store within its call center, giving agent the opportunity to say firsthand how soft a pillow is: “Ooh, this one feels mighty fluffy but still retains some support,” or even to videochat with a customer to round out an interaction.
To continue the analogy of the flagship store, a great brick and mortar store will have employees there devoted to creating lasting relationships with its customers: employees such as salespeople, personal shoppers, technicians. Likewise, in the virtual world, a customer-centric CRM can support an extended relationship between employee and customer.
If, as a customer, I tweet at (or text, or email) Warby Parker, another Gladly customer, with, “Hey, I like these pretty-big frames you sent me but now I’d like some super-big frames to try on,” the Warby employee responding to the tweet has “one view, one complete view, of the customer,” due to Gladly’s functionality, says Ansanelli. “So they’ll know it’s you, Micah; they’ll see all of your orders; they’ll see all of the frames you’ve bought or just tried on. It’s all shown [in Gladly] as one conversation across all their channels, whether [those channels are] voice, email, chat, SMS, social messaging, they’re all brought together in one place.”
And, Ansanelli continues, “At their option, Warby can further follow the ‘great retail employee’ model by connecting you with someone you’ve previously started with on email or phone, so that you can continue and deepen that one-on-one relationship.”