Thursday, 9 February 2012

Call On Me

CRM or Customer Relationship Management seems to be a must have or if you have it a “must make a resolution to use it properly” area. Maybe yours comes from your HMS supplier, a CRM specialist or you are using the new off-the-shelf kid on the block Microsoft Dynamics CRM. On the latter, the programs and features are familiar to users and flexible for the varied needs

The business case for the expense of providing the module is often justified by employing CRM to serve customers better, have at our fingertips a comprehensive view of the resident or customer, drive efficiencies and save money. To make it really sing and dance decent integration, not duplication, is needed in my opinion. Then, probably integration requiring the minimum of ‘feeding and watering’.

Further icing on the cake, but by no means essential, is integration of email and SMS text with CRM to confirm and remind the caller, household or staff what’s been agreed. Also, a great use of SMS is allowing residents to text in for a call back if they are low on mobile credit. Now I wish Npower would offer me that service....

Investment in CTI ( computer to telephony integration ) is essential to quickly locate the caller in a majority of cases. Combinations of networks and call routes can mean however, that originator numbers are not always cleanly transferred through. EG if caller goes via another virtual department or service level in the telephony layer. Be aware of this when setting up your system as this can delay a solid link between these two areas sometimes for weeks or months. Also ensure any telephony will work correctly with Citrix or other forms of thin client. It’s not uncommon for expensive middleware or software modifications to be needed at the eleventh hour.

Problems then can come with shabby data. You know the stuff ‘265133’ when it should have the correct area code in it 01543 or 01922 preceding it. Also, how would CTI make sense of this one ‘01543265133-Mother 01543901781(work mon-wed 12-3pm)’. So expect initial dataclensing and an on-going battle to maintain and up to date quality contact numbers. I don't have to say "You know it makes sense....".

Retaining contact numbers in a standard place is essential to drive up efficiency. For example, storage of home numbers against a family group, mobiles against individual family or household members etc, everything can be found in a single place. The habit of people adding access numbers in special instructions etc, limits usefulness when other teams are looking for reliable and accurate contact numbers to chase arrears or talk about ASB incidents etc. Ensure you have a procedure and your staff understand and keep to it.

There will no doubt be resistance, as it will take another couple of mouse-clicks for someone, but think of the saving later when needed by a housing officer, support worker or a colleague in finance. A few more clicks are a small price to pay for some truly joined up thinking.

Prompt, consistent and accurate service can also be easily enforced with some level of scripting. Clever scripting can be used to consistently tailor service to resident needs. Variables or databoxes configured within the scripting environment can look at the contact, their family, property, neighbourhood, needs, services being accessed and sensibly guide the staff member through a service pathway tailored to this individual.

This approach can be used to great effect in situations where there is high staff turnover, multiple shifts in place or mixed experience or ability of operators. Again, expect resistance from staff who perceive the scripts take too long or do not cover every eventuality. Tackle this by ensuring that there is a feedback loop for staff and a trained individual in the customer service team, confident of the ‘recognised’ procedure and essentially how to tweak and add to the scripts set up.

One large organisation I have worked with utilise two customer service leaders to tackle repair and general scripting issues and improvements on a regular basis. You can watch operators at any time of day or night following scripts 95% or more of the time. That ensures that two similar customers at the two extremes of the organisation stock range, both receive a similar and consistent experience and (hopefully) the highest levels of satisfaction.

Oh, and one last thing to prioritise, regular customer skills and care training, as well as keeping up with the CRM module, particularly when upgrades are applied or new functions switched on. Getting involved with your suppliers user groups will pay dividends too. You will get to know your peers and their priority issues and be able to fight for improvements that will assist your own organisation.

Read on to : Get Connected

I wonder if Primal Scream ever deal with a call centre?.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting

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