The right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software doesn't just nurture leads and track prospects—it can also help you resolve customer disputes before they cause damage.
Small business owners know better than most that a customer dispute is more than a thorn in the side. Even when they're not serious, complaints can lead to bad online reviews and a lack of referrals, both of which can hurt your bottom line.
According to an infographic from the consumer intelligence company Vision Critical, 80 percent of people won't buy from a business with negative online reviews. Plus, unhappy customers are three times more likely than happy ones to tell friends about a negative experience—and bad word of mouth spreads fast.
Then there's the fact that customer complaints can escalate into professional liability lawsuits if they're not handled properly. Considering that customer disputes are pretty common (a recent survey we did at Insureon found that 22 percent of small business owners have faced a client complaint in the last year), the stakes are high.
So let's see how your CRM can help you keep customers satisfied.
1. CRM keeps your customer information organized
Organization is of crucial importance. You can't address complaints that you can't find. If you're like many small business owners, client questions may get lost in your inbox or social media feeds—and social is a big deal. A study from social media marketing firm Sprout Social found that 83 percent of customer service inquiries on social media go unanswered.
CRM software can help you track prospects as they engage with your business through social media, email, and your website. That means you can respond to customer complaints as soon as they crop up. And the sooner you respond, the less time your customer has to stew on bad feelings.
Plus, some CRM software allows you to link a task to a particular contact. So if resolving a dispute requires a face-to-face meeting, you can schedule that all in one place to make sure your client's needs are addressed quickly.
2. CRM helps you integrate data with customer service
A survey from consulting firm Accenture—as reported by Bloomberg—found that 89 percent of customers get frustrated if they have to repeat their problem to multiple company reps. The survey also found that 91 percent loathe contacting a company multiple times for the same reason.
One easy fix? Integrate CRM with your phone systems so every time a customer calls in their information appears on your customer service rep's computer screen. The result is a win-win:
Your customer doesn't have to rehash their information, which prevents frustration
Your rep can quickly connect the customer with the best person to solve their problem
Also worth noting: A survey from Genesys Global found that competent service representatives play the biggest role in a satisfying customer experience. So the more customer information you can put in front of your reps, the better they will be able to solve the problem and contribute to a more satisfying experience.
3. CRM gives you the insight you need to engage meaningfully
The same insight that allows you to create personalized correspondence for leads and prospects can also help you when a customer comes to you with a complaint.
A quick look at your customer's history, as catalogued in your CRM, can give you an idea of how they've engaged with your business, what they've bought from you, and who they've worked with before. Armed with that info, you can offer solutions that haven't already been tried.
Just remember, when you engage with a dissatisfied customer, you should:
Respond quickly. Staying organized helps you identify and respond to customer complaints faster.
Listen. Even if you know what their issue is, hear them out.
Recap the issue. This is a good way to acknowledge their frustration and demonstrate that you were actually listening.
Offer a personalized solution. Make your customer part of this process so you don't overcompensate. This also gives you a better chance at finding a solution your customer will accept. Keep in mind: Research shows that if you resolve a complaint in the customer's favor, they will do business with you again 70 percent of the time.
Confirm the problem is resolved. If you can, get written confirmation that the problem was resolved to the customer's satisfaction. That way, if the issue resurfaces as a legal complaint, you have a paper trail to support your defense. And if you are sued over a client's issue with your professional work, errors and omissions insurance can help.
You may not be able to solve every customer's problem, but if you are personable and kind, you have a better chance at resolving disputes before they escalate. For more tips on handling customer complaints, check out "The Basics of Responding to Customer Complaints."
Ruth Awad is a content strategist and editor at Insureon, the nation’s leading online small business insurance agency. She regularly writes and thinks about risk management.