How Satisfied Are Your Customers?

Customer satisfaction (CRM) is a hot topic for many companies. It is a topic of growing importance in economic development. The key is to build on the concept of developing mutually beneficial relationships, ideally true interdependent partnerships.

One of the important concepts in CRM as it applies to economic development is the lifetime value of a company. Decisions need to be made with an eye toward increasing the contribution a company makes to a community by facilitating the success of the company. In economic development this is accomplished by decisions made around asset creation, infrastructure investment and public policy. Strategies in these three areas can either help or hinder a company’s growth. To the extent the business climate nurtures profitable growth, it becomes an important enabler of P&L success and the odds of a company relocating to another community drop dramatically. That translates to sustained job and revenue growth for your community.

Getting started is the hard part, but the early impact can be noticeable. An analogy I read that made sense to me is to think of your first application of CRM as a 15-watt light bulb in a dark room. It isn’t very bright, but it makes a huge difference. As the relationship strengthens, then you can turn the wattage up by developing unique assets and valued associations (e.g. academic partnership to provide labor with a specific skill set).

The key to CRM is to shift the focus from the community needs to the company needs. It is more important to provide what the company needs to be successful than to be limited by what your community can deliver.

Admittedly, this is a new way of thinking for many economic development professionals and elected officials. It requires a paradigm shift and a change in behavior. It requires recognition that facilitating company success is a way to deliver sustained economic prosperity. Often it requires a new way of doing things – new processes, new systems, new partnerships.

But, providing what a company needs should not be misinterpreted as undermining the health and safety of citizens. Ultimately, decisions need to be mutually beneficial in order to be sustainable. You need to find the win:win solution to a problem, not the company wins and the community loses solution. This is where true leadership is required, and the courage to say “No deal”.

It is important to remember that companies seek to avoid entering into deals that fail to deliver shareholder value. Similarly, communities should seek to avoid deals that do not deliver citizen value. In my opinion, company leaders would not expect a community to knowingly enter into a bad deal and they will understand the need to either revise terms or walk away.

So, how do you know if your Organization is doing well in leveraging customer relations as a competitive advantage? You have to ask the customer. This is typically done through a quantitative survey methodology so changes can be monitored over time. The survey can either focus on your community performance alone (compare against customer expectation), or it can include competitive communities so you have a cohort to more directly benchmark against (harder and more costly).

This is an area that is being explored by many economic development organizations. It would be interesting to compile a list of questions that have been used and found to provide actionable insight. As a starting point, here are 10 questions I believe can provide a good foundation to evaluate a community’s CRM efforts.

10 QUESTIONS TO EVALUATE YOUR CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP PERFORMANCE

  1. Understands my company’s business strategies.
  2. Provides support and services that will make my company grow and become more profitable.
  3. Acts professionally and ethically.
  4. Representatives are knowledgeable and add value to my business.
  5. Has a fair, transparent and competitive set of programs to support my business success.
  6. Offers creative ideas to help my business grow.
  7. Responds to my requests in a timely manner.
  8. Provides rapid resolution of problems.
  9. Can be trusted to be a reliable partner.
  10. Makes principle based decisions.

Discussion:

What is your experience with CRM? What have you found to be keys to success? What have the more difficult hurdles to implementation been? If you have run a Customer Satisfaction survey, what questions did you find most helpful? Do you think CRM is a strategy communities should use to compete for capital attraction, retention and expansion? I would really like readers in the private sector to weigh in with advice on this topic.

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