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Tips and Tricks to Using CRM for Customer Service

Customer service
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If you're not using your customer relationship management (CRM) software to improve customer service, you're not getting the full value out of your CRM system. When businesses adopt a CRM, it's usually with the primary intent of streamlining sales pipelines and storing customer information, but modern systems offer so much more than that.

By utilizing extensions and add-ons, and creating processes that support your goals, a CRM can help you improve communication with current and prospective customers.

Editor's Note: Looking for CRM software for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

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Most CRM software allows users to streamline early communication with clients through automated responses. Giving customers instant confirmation that their request has been received is one major benefit to automated emails, but it's more functional than that – canned email responses are an excellent place to add links to request forms, FAQ pages, wikis, price lists and other relevant documentation.

Creating different canned responses for each departmental email address (e.g., customer service, IT, billing, HR) can cut down on basic questions from customers and employees. Too often companies spend time creating FAQ guides and technical documentation that no one uses, but automated emails provide the perfect opportunity to direct people back to the resources you've already created.

Email templates are an easy way to make email communication with customers appear more consistent and polished. When you're previewing different CRM systems, check whether email templates are available and ask how customizable they are. Lightweight systems usually offer some leeway in terms of customization, while more sophisticated solutions, like Salesforce, allow users to create their own templates from scratch using a drag-and-drop interface.

Users can even add images, like logos, to their templates, and save and share them with other users. Templates are also helpful for seasonal promotions and direct email marketing, especially for small businesses that don't have in-house graphic designers.

Remember, customer service isn't just about responding to queries – it's about creating consistent communication across all channels.

Quality CRM software programs are loaded with reports, including reports on customer communication. Some systems even allow admins to compare customer interactions based on employee, enabling managers to see which associates have the longest and shortest response times, and who gets the most customer complaints. As with most features, the more sophisticated your CRM system is, the more options you'll have for pulling reports.

If you make reviewing customer service reports part of the employee evaluation process, you can increase accountability and let your staff know that every single call and email matters, not just for customers but for them. Reports can also help you identify patterns and create appropriate training opportunities to teach customer-facing staff what works and what doesn't. [Interested in CRM software? Check out our best picks.]

Without a CRM, client complaints can come down to an undocumented exchange between your associate and an angry customer. Drilling down into how things went wrong, how long responses actually took, and what was said is much easier when you fully utilize your customer relationship management software.

Most CRM systems automatically log emails, but nowadays many also record and log phone calls, so if a customer complains about rude service, you can listen to a recording of the call they're referencing. On the flip side, if an associate swears they responded quickly and politely to a query, even after getting a customer complaint, you can crosscheck the claim by looking through your associate's communication log.

Training is a big part of adopting any software system. One of the most valuable features a CRM offers is the ability to view in-depth client information. Unfortunately, many companies spend time and money implementing customer relationship management systems and then don't institute processes for employees to use the information at their fingertips. Training employees on how to use the basic functions in a CRM system is important, but so is training them on the process.

When an associate picks up or places a call to a client for whom there is information, they should be using data to inform the conversation. Personalizing a call with a name is the bare minimum; understanding the type of business each client is in, reviewing past orders and reviewing previous communication can give associates real insight into how to best communicate with each customer.

It's not difficult to markedly improve the level of customer service your business offers if you know how to utilize your CRM system. Training is a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to stellar customer service, but a good CRM solution should have lots of built-in tools to help you along the way.