Reach out

If there is one thing that alienates customers above all else, it’s poor communication or, even worse, none at all. Often, the failure comes from the simple lack of a mechanism to implement and manage communications says Rhonda Ridge, creator of AdminBase.

It is extraordinary just how much damage can be done to a company’s relationship with customers by literally doing nothing at all.

By nothing I refer to customer communications of course, which even in firms that have an otherwise excellent reputation, keeping in touch with the customer may be a stuttering, occasional process, if it exists at all. And, all too often, this is due to the inability to manage communications, rather than a lack of will.

Good customer communications are crucial to any business. And while companies may be very effective when pursuing a sale, many fall down when it comes to sustained communications both during and certainly post installation. And the net result is that even for firms with an excellent reputation with their customers, out of sight means out of mind, leaving them open to plundering by more attentive competitors.

Effective communications throughout the supply and installation process are crucial, to deal with each key stage whether the project runs smoothly or affected by problems. Regular updates are crucial, and when problems occur, they should be seized upon as an opportunity to demonstrate just how slick you are at resolving an issue; never ignore problems and hope they will go away.

Thereafter, an occasional and customised note to catch up and introduce new services and products that they might be interested in, will show that you care and keep your brand in front of your customers so that they turn to you whenever they need any further work done.

This may be obvious. But while the will might be there, the way is usually the key issue. And in that respect the solution lies within the AdminBase installer-specific CRM system that I created 20 years ago, and which we have been continuously evolving ever since.

Communications are a key part of the system, something that we have improved still further recently.

I learned early on about the importance of customer communications and so this is built in to AdminBase as automated prompts and messages at every stage, from marketing through to post installation support. Therefore, AdminBase has features designed to deal with the key issue of managing the communication function, which tends to be the greatest issue.

For example, at the front end of the process, that is the canvassing and lead generation that will plant the first seeds of the relationship, AdminBase will capture enquiries from your website or through canvassing, automatically. It will then schedule appointments and send reminders, with action dates and prompts to ensure that nothing is missed.

After an order is taken, the customer will again be advised at every stage about progress with their order. Following installation, the key function of service calls is managed, scheduling appointments and reminders to engineer and customer.

Communications with the customer could not be more important, says Peter Wheeler of Ipswich-based retail installer Sehbac.

“Having been in an operations management role for over 23 years in the double glazing industry I have witnessed a real step change in the customer’s priorities,” he said. “It’s no longer all about having good products or carrying out a nice neat installation, customer service is seen as the number one priority.

“We must therefore as an industry look at how we live up to the customer’s expectations and more. We must keep customers informed of the progress of their order. Not just before installation but also allowing for remedial works through to the account being paid and all works completed.

“We have received fantastic feedback from our customers, by sending them constant updates that make them feel relaxed. It takes away lots of the worry when engaging with us as they feel we are in total control of the project.”

So, you have signed off the project and collected the money, all using AdminBase. But the customer communications story does not end there, with the latest developments within AdminBase now offering full email integration, and a further feature that automatically allocates customer emails to their files.

These new features are crucial to the customer relationship experience and we have worked hard to ensure they work seamlessly within AdminBase. Failure to communicate with customers for extended periods of time can cause them to forget about you or make them think you no longer care about their business. Even if a customer doesn’t have a current need, the simple act of staying in touch can reassure them you’re still there whenever they need you.

Peter Wheeler uses AdminBase throughout his company and insists that proactively informing customers saves the company money.

“The Dashboard and checklist notifications within AdminBase allow us to track a customer’s order through our processes, providing each administrator with alerts to allow them to review progress and as each stage is completed, send the customer email or text updates direct to their mobile devices at the click of a button,” he said.

“The added benefit to us as a business is when we update our customers via the system, we see a massive drop in phone calls to us chasing progress, allowing us to operate with fewer administrators, so the system pays for itself.

“Customer service is the number one priority, and good communications are an essential part of that process. If you don’t keep in touch with your customers then your competitors will.”