The path to loyalty is eased by consistent integration across channels and between the front and back offices.
Many companies that are trying hard to build customer loyalty through CRM systems still do not understand what their customers really want - what factors are most important them when dealing with the business. There is confusion about issues as basic as what method of contact customers prefer: call centres, internet or face to face.
This conclusion is drawn by the authors of a new report from PwC Consulting, the management consulting services business of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
One in three consumers strongly desire a variety of communication channels, but companies only rate this third on their list of perceived customer preferences. And consumers say that they are 60% less likely to do business with a company that doesn't offer their preferred channel. But the solution to this is not simply adding new channels - this can prove to be very costly. It should be done selectively, first assessing which channels are most strategically important to the particular business, then adding the features that will most appeal to customers.
In the early days of CRM, most attention was focused on front-office functions - anything that directly affected the customer. Back-office data was neglected. It has now become clear that this back-office data is not only essential for establishing customer loyalty - it also has to be seamlessly integrated with front-office procedures.
Person to person
The internet, despite all its hype, does not replace person-to-person contact. Only 13% of customers described it as their preferred contact, while over 70% preferred to telephone. It seems that customers do not mind using the internet for product and service searches, but they prefer to speak to someone for transactions and service. This presents a problem, because the telephone is the most expensive CRM channel to support. The report's authors suggest that it may be possible to introduce more "human touch" traits into e-channels (for example, personalisation and real-time access to information), even if only for lower value customers.
Budget least important
Rather surprisingly, when asked why it had proved difficult to meet CRM objectives, budget was ranked last. First was ineffective processes, followed by people and corporate priorities.
According to Dan Hirschbuehler, the lead partner for CRM ACCEL, PwC Consulting's CRM solution, "E-business raised the bar on CRM by introducing an abundance of technologies which translated into increased methods of customer communications - most of which were not integrated with traditional channels. We've learned that loyalty has become a porous concept in the process. With consistent integration across channels and between the front and back office customers are less likely to slip through the cracks to the competition."
Corporate respondents rated "identifying what customers expect from their companies" as the most difficult CRM objective to achieve, followed by "integrating process and technology company-wide".
Consumers felt that the quickest way to lose their business was not resolving issues effectively and quickly. Nearly half felt that resolving an issue on their first call was the most important way of preserving their loyalty. They showed little tolerance for anything less than total CRM responsiveness.
The Multi-Channel Value Quantification survey was conducted in August and September 2001 and based on interviews with decision-makers from 225 Global 2000 companies including financial services, manufacturing, energy and consumer products, and 225 international consumers.
For a copy of the report, visit PwC Consulting's web site.