It’s that time of year when masses of CRM vendors and professionals descend on San Francisco for Salesforce’s annual user conference, Dreamforce. It’s a good time to take stock of the CRM industry as a whole and consider where we’ve been, where we are and — most important — where we’re going.
Heading into Dreamforce, I see three key themes playing out in customer service and I’m looking forward to seeing how Salesforce and the SaaS community look to address them. For businesses and organizations, we can look at customer service and customer experience in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. SaaS software has given companies access to the tools and technology to get beyond the basic needs of call center and help desk ticketing — problem solving. In our Customer Support Hierarchy of Needs, we call this moving from chaos to control. Businesses are now faced with the challenge of being more proactive and scaling to handle growth.
The importance of customer experience is more than clear — it’s a mandate. Though it’s expected, quality customer experience is hard to achieve and maintain as you grow. An important question becomes how to handle speed, relevance and personalization of customer engagement at scale.
Given this situation, here are three themes I expect to play out at Dreamforce:
Trend 1: Scale — Expect conversations around the challenge in finding the right combination of powerful tools and human interaction to enable growth without sacrificing customer engagement and customer experience.
Budgets are always limited and companies have to make choices in how they spend money. They are often resource-strapped and aren’t able to dedicate an experienced team to manage inbound customer service issues AND monitor the social platforms where many customer service complaints take place AND focus on engagement and building communities. The issue is, of course, that bad customer service is simply not an option when you’re living a world of forced transparency driven by pervasive media. Customer loyalty is essential and you get there through good customer service. For growing businesses, it can be the difference between success and failure.
Trend 2: Community — Expect conversations to focus on developing community to deflect call center volume, amplify messaging, and nurture and grow brand advocates.
Building a strong customer community is important for businesses of all sizes. It’s not enough to have a customer – is he or she a loyal customer? Is he tweeting about you? Telling everyone he knows about you? Engaging customers in a real and meaningful way is key in two ways: it tends to reduce the number of angry calls to customer service and makes for more impactful marketing. Anyone can tell you how great their business is. But when that message comes from a loyal customer? That has an impact money can’t buy. And from a customer service point of view a strong community amplifies your customer service reach and capacity.
Trend 3: Culture — Expect conversations about building a culture of customer service and weaving customer service into more aspects of the business.
Why do so many good companies fail on customer service? A lot of it boils down to culture. From the beginning, you have to instill a strong customer service program as a core principle. It’s difficult if not impossible to fix later down the road. Employees on every level need to know that strong customer service isn’t a “nice to have” — it’s an essential. It starts at the very beginning. Tools can enhance your ability to reach and connect with customers, but if they’re amplifying a poor culture you’re not much better off.
Scaling aspects of your business as you grow is always a challenge, but in terms of customer service it’s even more difficult and the number of channels to which you need to pay attention grow as well. Our gut reaction to try to deal with scale is through technology, but it’s no longer just about technology. While technology is an enabler and makes it easier to handle the ever increasing expectations, the importance of the culture of your organization and the strength of your community of customers, partners, and vendors continue to grow.
Companies attending Dreamforce know they need good customer service. It’s not news to them. What they often struggle with is how best to make it happen. Freshdesk is excited to be part of the conversation when it comes to customer service. Stop by Booth N1048 in Cloud Expo North and tell us what you think.