I have found that mass customization as the basis for building lasting customer relationships, and, on the internet, that means using a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. I recommend to my customers who want to leverage the internet for something really useful: get automated with customer service! Mass customization is the perfect way to bridge the gap between cost pressures and customer-specific requirements. This strategy combines customer-specific services with the efficiency of mass production.
First Get a CRM
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are typically associated with big businesses, and this has been the case for a while. CRM systems usually require a ton of maintenance and upkeep, and they have high costs and difficult installations. But a new breed of CRM vendors are changing the rules and offering CRM systems (usually Web-based software-as-a-service SAAS models, with zero install or IT department needed) that are targeted at small business. A CRM system is much more than a fancy contact management system -- features like order status change notifications and contact reference numbers are usually standard. Combine with CRM’s other uses, and it is well worth the minimal investment of a CRM for your organization.
Tip: provide an incident tracking number
While no one is a big fan of automated replies of the “Your email is important to us” variety, one valuable purpose they can serve is to provide a reference number for the incident or contact. Even if you do not use anything fancy for this, giving customers some sort of number to refer to is an important part of being able to follow up with them (or for them to follow up with you). It also helps ensure that when you talk to a customer, you both know what the call is in reference to.
Automatically notify customers as the status changes
Automated systems often get a few things right -- like status change notification emails. Keep your customer in the loop, as you work through an issue. Nobody likes surprises, and an automated notification solution makes this headache free.
Keep your customers in the loop and they will be less likely to start looking at other vendors or canceling orders. Many e-commerce solutions offer this functionality, so it’s worth checking the documentation. If your system doesn’t offer such a feature, make a habit of sending emails manually, or scripting something on the side.
At the end of the day, there is no way that the quality of customer service can exceed the quality of the people who provide it. Think you can get by while paying the lowest wage, giving the lamest benefits, doing the least training for your staff? It will show. Companies don't help customers; people do.