An Interview with Vanessa Hunt: “Your Dissatisfied Customer is a Potential Customer for Your Competitor”
Editor’s note: CRM business environment comprises a number of challenges experienced by companies that try to keep up with the changes. CRM consultants are the experts who can bring clarity into the strategic planning and client-based techniques at the highest level.
Today we present you an interview with Vanessa Hunt, a director of Vanessa Hunt Consulting Ltd, marketing and CRM consultant. Together with Vanessa, we will find out the ways to increase the sales and marketing resources. In this interview, she shares the essential suggestions on CRM implementation and gives some pieces of advice on business development.
1. Vanessa, your experience in training, marketing and CRM is impressive. It’s been more than 16 years since your first career step, hasn’t it? Please, tell us a few words how you chose this field, as well as how it all started?
Thank you, Nataliia. I’ve been working for the last 22 years, but yes, the last 16 have been heavily focused on CRM. I studied French and German at Exeter University, because I love reading and learning languages. One of my first roles was working for CSC Computer Sciences, who were implementing a new IT system for ICI Paints. I volunteered to deliver some database training in German whilst working on that project, and discovered my love for technical training.
Later I worked as a Training Manager, designing training programmes for technology professionals. Then I worked in marketing for a technical training provider and an internet solution provider. As the internet evolved, I spotted an opportunity to combine my love of learning, training, languages and IT skills in a CRM training delivery role. I was a CRM trainer for Network Associates (McAfee), delivering training and supporting users across Europe.
That was the start of my CRM career. I then worked on several projects designing, delivering and managing pan-European CRM training for various employers and consultancies. In 2006 I set up my own consultancy business.
2. As a director of Vanessa Hunt Consulting Ltd, the company specializes in CRM coaching and consultancy, as well as social media training and management, what area of your expertise delights you most of all?
What delights me most is when I see how our expertise has helped customers obtain the business results they were looking for. Typically those results are mirrored by changes in their attitude towards technology.
On the smallest scale, I love to see business owners’ confidence grow as a result of working with me on their marketing strategy and approach.
For medium-sized businesses, it might be seeing how a team genuinely loves working with their new CRM solution and watching them thrive as they use technology to collaborate more effectively.
For large corporates, I feel a huge sense of pride seeing new call centre agents working on their new CRM as confidently as they did their legacy one - but also seeing a new confidence because they’re better informed and empowered by using the new system.
So I suppose what truly delights me is when customers are excited as me about how technology can truly improve their business.
3. Today, CRM is the essential tool that assists various organizations with creating and maintaining the customer experience. Being a CRM expert, would you mind sharing a few hints on how to build the successful CRM strategy to increase the business performance?
Anticipating your customer’s future needs is fundamental and having talented resources to enable you to fulfil them is critical. There are many excellent CRM solutions available, but it’s the application of that CRM solution to meet real customer needs that transforms your business and gives you a competitive advantage.
There has to be an appetite for change at a senior level, and a readiness for change at an operational level. Companies have to be clear about ‘why’ they’re implementing technology and how that equates to an improvement in customer experience. I’ve seen numerous projects fail because of lack of senior buy in.
I’d always recommend devoting budget to validating that a business is culturally ‘ready’ to adopt changes in technology before throwing money at it. I believe you need a clear vision of how your customer experience needs to change and a commitment at an executive level to delivering that change. This needs to be supported by a communication strategy that informs everyone in the business of the vision and transformation required, so they can understand and commit to it too. I think there’s huge demand right now for employees who are quick at learning, adapting and innovating. So a core part of your CRM strategy should also be to attract and retain skilled employees who will enable to you to implement your digital transformation.
4. You have numerous of certifications and solid experience working with Salesforce. Can you name the major challenges do your clients experience while using Salesforce? What functionality options may cause issues in the implementation and configuration of the platform? Please, provide several suggestions on how to build CRM strategy properly.
I think there’s still a preconception that Salesforce is quick to implement because it’s point and click, and so easy for users to pick up. But when you implement a CRM solution, you’re usually doing so in order to streamline business processes internally or improve your customer experience. I think companies typically underestimate the human element of change. Just because you can make a change to the system and roll it out the same day, that doesn’t mean you should. Every change needs to be considered from a user perspective - who will be impacted by the change, who needs to be advised of the change and how will you communicate it to them and transfer the required knowledge.
I also think there’s sometimes a benefit to not rolling out to the whole organisation at once. Some companies spend too much time worrying about winning new customers rather than looking after the ones they already have. Customer retention and value are two of the most important KPI’s. Companies spend huge budgets on creating complex, over-sophisticated email campaigns to generate new business, when they could be concentrating more on meeting existing customers' needs for information and service.
Another issue is data. Many companies migrate all data from their legacy system to their new CRM, without identifying the value that data provides to customers. They spend a lot of time bringing across historic data that has little value, rather than focusing on how they can augment the data available to users to inform them and help them better perform their roles.
5. Vanessa, you were a head of marketing department earlier in your career. Did you use CRM system? If yes, how did the platform help you solve business problems? If not, what marketing issues can CRM system solve?
I worked for an ISP who used ACT! We used ACT! to categorise our prospects and customers by a variety of attributes. This allowed us to perform some simple marketing segmentation, allowing us to identify opportunities to sell additional services to existing customers and discover where there was potential to target new businesses.
We also used standard email templates to ensure a consistent brand image was presented to our clients. Those were the days before Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn though - so we only really had two marketing channels to manage, email and phone!
Since then, marketing has become much more challenging because of the vast array of social media platforms available and the different ways customers are contacting businesses. And CRM solutions have had to respond to that, of course, by offering solutions that are omnichannel.
6. Any key lesson you have learned about customer experience from the professional background? Would you mind suggesting our readers the useful resources like blogs, ebooks or webinars to help enhance their CRM performance?
I think there are still a lot of businesses - small and large - who don’t appreciate how important Customer Service and Support departments are to the marketing mix. Rather than working out which marketing channels can be used to attract new customers, I think businesses should focus on the support they offer current customers. How do the customers you have right now want to communicate with you? Are you responding to all their requests, enquiries and complaints as quickly and professionally as you should? None of us enjoys calling a call centre and having to provide our information more than once, especially after navigating through a lengthy IVR menu. Many of us revert to Twitter in annoyance rather than picking up the phone. Ignored Tweets are ignored business opportunities. Your dissatisfied customer is a potential customer for your competitor. I’d almost recommend dedicating some of your marketing budget to providing the best customer experience post-sales that you can, to maintain high customer retention rates. That way your customers will do the talking and ‘market’ your business for you. Delighted customers keep your business flourishing.
I enjoy reading the Hubspot blog (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing). Hubspot also produces some excellent eBooks on marketing-related topics. Most CRM providers share useful content too, including Salesforce, Nimble and Pipeliner CRM. However, it’s easy to be overwhelmed because there’s so much content out there. Personally I follow a lot of blogs, but I consume them as I need them. I like good old fashioned books too. There are some common sense ideas in ‘The new rules of Marketing and PR’ by David Meerman Scott and ‘UnMarketing’ by Scott Stratten. However, the best source for finding out information about what you need from your CRM is to speak to your customers - old and new. Producing case studies is a great way of learning directly from your customer ‘why’ they chose you and what they valued most about your solution. If you understand that, you can ensure your CRM solution addresses their essential needs first.
Many thanks to Vanessa for an in-depth interview with practical recommendations that will help our readers to succeed in CRM implementation and customer experience enhancement.
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