It all began with an email.
Your Customers Have Expectations
We all receive emails instantly after an inquiry or a purchase. These emails are automatically generated from the company's customer relationship management software, generally have stock verbiage with merge fields in a template to insert the relevant information, and they always come from a specific person or department. If you are like me, you quickly glance at the email and, since it is a review of what has just transpired, may delete it or let it clog up your inbox. Sometimes, you actually read it or even save it, as it contains important information.
Recently I had the unfortunate experience of a decent-sized company having a major disconnect in their communications with me, one of their valued customers.
Now more than ever, as more prospects and customers are turning to online communication to research and order products and services, it's imperative that a company's communication is in sync through all communication channels. With CRM technology making it possible to communicate instantly, a seamless customer experience is paramount to meeting expectations. Herein lies the issue of a corporate disconnect.
Disconnects are Devastating ... and Preventable
I am relating this incident as it highlights a corporate miscommunication helped by a CRM system that has been neglected or misconfigured.
I received an email after purchasing a car from a large regional dealership. In today's COVID-19 environment, that is quite an undertaking so any communication from the dealership is important. The simple email told me that my license plates had arrived and were ready for pickup. Knowing that I had the option, I clicked the reply button to let them know I would like to have the plates mailed to me.
Unbeknownst to me, an error occurred. I will explain that error soon. Days passed with no word (or license plates) from the car dealership. So I did what any self-isolating, time-on-your-hands, law-abiding citizen would do and telephoned the number in the signature line of the email. A second error occurred. On the other end of that phone call was a recently fired employee of the dealership! The person informed me she was fired a while ago, but she was happy to tell me who I should contact. Can you imagine what dynamite that person could have unloaded on me, the prospect/customer, if she was still feeling angry about being fired or continually harassed as other people like me continued to dial her number because it was in the signature line? Simple as it may seem, you need to make sure that signatures have contact information that is current.
I called the number that the ex-employee gave me and asked for the person who had sent the email. The woman on the other end of the line indicated she was that person. I explained to her that I dialed the number on the email and also mentioned that I replied to the email several days ago. With no empathy whatsoever the woman simply responded, “Oh that email doesn't receive replies.” That was the first error I mentioned earlier. How am I, the recipient of an email, supposed to know that when I hit reply, my important communication will be ignored? As a person who has worked in email marketing before it was even known as email marketing, I can assure you, technically all email sent can also be replied to. What the person on the other end of my phone call meant was, no one was actually reading replies. Third big mistake! There is a fourth mistake, but I'll get to that later.
Three Big Mistakes
Let's sum up how to prevent these first three mistakes.
First, make sure the address your email communications are coming from is real and monitored. All legitimate email systems require real email addresses. Put someone or some technology in charge to actually monitor the reply-to email address. I know for a fact invaluable feedback about your company’s policies and messaging will come back to you unfiltered. It is all worth reading and acting upon.
Second, review all corporate outgoing communications to make sure the messaging is accurate, consistent and relevant.
If someone has left your company — voluntarily or (especially) involuntarily — make sure the contact information is updated. Make sure the tone of all communications is consistent. If your company has branded a new logo or phrase to identify a new program, make sure it's on your communications, otherwise you risk having your company look outdated. In light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, companies are changing the way they interact with prospects and customers. The new policies or added value of a company need to be consistent throughout all of your messaging. If your company has temporarily closed its brick and mortar operations, don't send an email detailing your open hours. Instead, outline the current method of conducting business with your company.
Third, educate your employees on what communications are being sent with their name attached. Recipients believe these emails are actually coming from the people whose names are on them, and if a customer actually contacts an employee in response to an email, that employee should pick up the discussion seamlessly from where they left off in their email. If the original email was generated by a CRM and received a reply, the system should forward that reply to the appropriate person so they are kept in the loop on communication. If the car dealership actually forwarded replies in this fashion, the errors previously mentioned wouldn't have occurred, saving a lot of lost face in a time when proper corporate identity is imperative.
Too Little, Too Late
I mentioned a fourth error. It occurred just today. Two weeks after I responded to the original “Your license plates have arrived!” email, I finally received a reply. It simply said, “And what address would you like these mailed to?” Never mind that the license plates had arrived at my house several days ago after my phone call to the apathetic receptionist.
I don't know if the two-week-old reply was in response to my reporting the error in the first place, or maybe the CRM package does route to the proper person. But a two-week delay in routing and addressing the issue is totally unacceptable.
About the Author
Robert uses strategic vision and a wealth of business experience to map out actionable activities to increase revenue and profitability. He is able to dive deep to uncover issues and barriers that are keeping a company from growth and success, ultimately crafting a tactical plan to help them achieve their goals.
Robert has over 30 years of experience in sales and 15 in operations. He specializes in digital strategy, technology engagement, team building, client services and operational effectiveness.
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