Customer Relationship Management for Sellers

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Introduction

Customers are changing and becoming more difficult to catch and hold onto. They are slippery because they have access to more and more information about goods and services. Customer relationship management is important because it ensures effective communication across all customer touch points. Customers also want to choose the nature of the relationship. They are becoming more arrogant, more educated in the marketing process and do not want to be sold to but rather they are choosing brands that they associate with excellence and non patronizing process (Jerling1996). Marketers are becoming aware of the importance of the customers and customers’ retention for the long term survival of the organization. Customer relationship management is all about building relationships with people who are significant to the organization. Relationships are the fundamental assets of the organization and they determine the future of the organization and also predict whether new value will continue to be created and shared with the customer. Therefore sellers in an organization must know how to create and maintain long lasting relationships with the customers. This paper will give a training program for the sellers, identifying the training opportunities, suggestions to implement and employees’ feedback system.

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Customer Relationship Management Training objectives

  • By the end of the training session, the participants (sellers) should be in a position to establish and maintain good relationship with the company customers.
  • The sellers should be able to meet the customers needs satisfactorily by the end of the training session
  • The sellers should be in a position of winning the customers loyalty at the end of the training session in order to make the company have an edge in the market.
  • By the end of the training session, the sellers will concentrate on maintaining the company’s existing customers and thus reduce the cost associated with attracting a new customer.

Customer Relationship Management training opportunities

An opportunity to conduct CRM training may arise when a company realizes that there is the problem of average customer loyalty, satisfaction and retention. Training is also important for a business that installs a new customer relationship management program in its call centers in order for the employees to know how to use it effectively. Customer service is very important in any organization because it is very expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain and satisfy a loyal customer (Payne 2006). Therefore, a company can avoid these costs by training the sellers who deal directly with the customers on how to satisfy and retain them. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) training activity starts with needs analysis. This will involve a thorough review to identify the requisite mix of knowledge, skills or attitudes that need to be developed for effective customer relationship management to take place. It will be based on interviews with the sellers in the organization and will be undertaken by a person with good understanding of the organization and the particular training requirements of the CRM technology being adopted. The focus of training will help the employees to understand the full extent of the company’s initiative including its opportunities and problems.

The company will identify the burning business issues that impact the current day to day operations. These issues may concern the product or service problems, competitiveness, personnel issues, marketing or customer service frustrations or information sharing dilemmas. To uncover these business burning issues, the trainer will set up an interview with the sellers in order to come up with a report on what the sellers need to be trained on. Businesses do not rely on manpower workforce alone to make name for itself in the market. Customer satisfaction would not happen if not for the employees who face the business loyal market. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) makes it easier for employees to go about the task of handling customer issues, grievances and updates.

Just as people need to be oriented in work operations, sales related force must undergo the necessary Customer Relationship Management (CRM) training. This will equip them with the basic knowledge when it comes to operating the program of according to their task specific needs (Sugandhi 2003). Customer relationship management training will also give them an upper hand when it comes to dealing with irate customers. This will save time and make them credible to face whichever type of customer. Sales do not equal relationships and therefore sellers must be trained to establish these relationships. Sale is a very important point in customer relationships. However it is bracketed by the quality of service one is willing to offer and able to deliver and thus this should be an area that the sellers should be trained on.

Some of the topics that will be taught in the customer relationship management training program will include communication skills. The sellers will be trained on how to clearly and accurately communicate with the customers. They will also be taught on how to make decision making. This will help them to be in a position to come up with a solution for any problem that faces them. The sellers will be taught on how to attract the customers, establish good relationship with the customers and how to serve them satisfactorily.

Implementing CRM training program

Various training methods and techniques will be used in training the sellers on customer relationship management.

Lecture training method

The organization will hire experts who will teach the sellers on topics related to customer relationship management. The company will set aside some rooms to be used as classrooms from where the lectures will be taking place. The experts or the lecturers will carefully prepare a text on customer relationship management topics and then read out the text to the participants after which a discussion will follow (Reynolds 2002). The trainer will give notes to the participants, explain to them and also give them a chance to ask questions related to the topic. At the end of the topic the lecturer can give an exam to test the participants (sellers) on the topics taught. The company will use this method in order for the sellers to be introduced to the customer relationship management subject comprehensively. They will also be educated on the scope of the subject and the subsequent policies of the organization.

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Case studies method of training

Case studies are very valuable for training purposes because they increase the people’s knowledge, understanding and problem solving skills. After a case study has been digested, the real training process should be conducted in an attempt to grasp the meaning of the issues in the case. When the sellers study case situations related to customer relationship management, they will learn about circumstances and actions that other people took when faced with a situation (Reynolds 2002). A case study will help the sellers develop decision making skills. This method of training will provide some transference as well as participation through discussion and feedback.

Role playing training method

Role playing games are very useful. A role playing experience demonstrates the gap between thinking and doing function of a man. The sellers will not be given specific dialogues to memorize but rather they will be informed of a situation and the respective roles they are required to play (Payne 2006). The roles may include that of a salesman making a presentation to a customer or discussing a grievance procedure. As these games are played by human beings who are in no way different from the trainer or other observers, great care and caution is necessary not to act in any de-humanizing way towards the players during the role playing game. Participants will play as sellers and will be required to meet customers in order for the trainer to see how they would treat the customers. The trainer will then guide them on how to handle the customers and satisfy their needs effectively. This training method involves participation and feedback. Sales and marketing professionals can utilize this training method to help fine-tune their sales presentations before presenting to an actual client.

Training by supervisors

In this method, training will be imparted to the sellers by their supervisors. The supervisors will have the opportunities for judging the abilities and possibilities of sellers from the view of their job performance. Training is effective under the supervision of experienced bosses. In order to motivate the supervisors to impart the training, adequate incentives will be provided to them during the training program.

Programmed instructions training method

Programmed instructions or self directed learning will allow individuals to work at their own pace. It involves the use of books, manuals or computers to break down subject matter content in to highly organized, logical sequences that demand a continual response on the part of the trainee. The trainees (seller) will be presented with a small segment of information and will be required to answer a question either by writing it on a response screen or by pushing a button. If the response is correct, the trainee will be notified and presented with the next step. If the response is incorrect, further explanatory information will be given and the trainee will be required to try again. In this method, training is individualized, trainees will be involved in instructional process and feedback provision is immediate.

Audiovisual training method

Audiovisual devices will be used to illustrate the steps in a procedure such as sale making or objection handling. Trainers and trainees receive information from recordings and get immediate feedback. Teleconferencing and videoconferencing will allow an instructional program to be transmitted to many locations simultaneously as well as permitting trainees to interact with one another.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Training evaluation

Training evaluation can be seen as serving three purposes of decision making, feedback and marketing. Evaluation will provide information regarding the usefulness and appropriateness of a program as well as identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the program so that improvements can be made. Therefore, training evaluation can be seen as primarily focused upon the learning outcomes and how their measurements can be used to benefit the organization. Evaluation will provide a clear picture of whether or not the training program goals have been achieved successfully (Sugandhi 2003).

Since Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has been and continues to be an evolving process, evaluation accounts for these changes and determines if such changes are effective. Training evaluation is primarily conducted through the measurement of specific tangible outcomes that are the desired outputs. Evaluation is a continuous process by which pertinent data will be collected and converted to information for measuring the effects of training, helping in decision making, documenting results to be used in program improvement and providing a method for determining the quality of training.

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There are different levels of training that the company will use to evaluate the sellers. The first level is called the reaction level. This level will provide information concerning what the participants thought of the training program including materials, instructor, facilities, teaching methodology, delivery mechanism and content. This level does not include a measure of learning that took place. The reaction level evaluation has response from all participants not just from a few satisfied of a few disgruntled participants. Responses to level 1 evaluation will pinpoint possible problems with the course program. This level will also provide evidence of possible problems but will not supply concrete indicators of what the problems are or how to correct them (Sugandhi 2003).

The second level is the learning level which will determine the course’s effectiveness in providing the participants with the ability to show the attainment of the principles, facts, techniques and skills presented in a training program. Level 2 evaluation will measure cognitive learning and behavioral skills. Cognitive learning will be measured by administering a pre-test before the training begins and a post test given at the conclusion of the training. The pre-test and post-test must be exact or equivalent to one another, that is they ask the same questions and measure the same ability. The different between the results of the pre and post tests provides evidence as the learning gained in the training. The perfect training program should have a 0% participant mean score on the pre test and 100% participant mean score on post test. The pre-test will identify the sellers Customer Relationship Management (CRM) level skills while the post test will identify how well the course program succeeded in teaching the sellers the desired CRM skills. If the scores show that participants did not gain the desired knowledge, then the trainers should know that their program is ineffective in reaching the outlined course quality goals and learning objectives.

Pre-test and post-test results should be analyzed in order to improve training. An item analysis should be performed on each pre-test question that was answered correctly by several participants. An item analysis should also be performed on post-test questions on training objectives that were answered incorrectly by many participants. Assuming the knowledge check of representative sample of the defined population, a business decision can be made to enhance instructional activity associated with the objective.

Behavioral training skills can be measured using a performance based check administered during a workshop. The performance based check will depict all the tasks that a seller must exhibit to show knowledge of the customer relationship management skills. Results of the check should then be analyzed to identify which of the desired skills were not learned by significant number of participants (Bergeron 2002).

The third level of training evaluation is level 3 also called the behavioral level. This level of evaluation will measure how well participants training skills and behaviors from the training programs have been transferred to their job. Level 3 will compare participants skills gained in the training session to those behaviors that were observed during their job performance. Level 3 will determine the training skills used in the job, the success of training in establishing those skills, what needed skills were not being used on the job and the reasons. It will also show the necessary job skills that were not part of the training.

Results from level 3 evaluation can be used in making decisions associated with training modification or identification of the need and content of update training. Administration of level 3 evaluation can be carried out using a combination of four activities; first, questionnaires mailed to the sellers who were the participants, the second activity is on the job action plans created in training and later reviewed. The third activity is interviews with sellers and their managers and the forth activity is observation of the sellers performing their job before and after the training. In order to avoid and eliminate any biases at least two of the four methods should be used. This will also ensure validity to the evaluation findings. The ideal level 3 evaluation should be designed and at the same time the training program should be developed. The first step is to survey the participations to determine their current level. The survey would then become a need analysis used for course design or development. The final step will be to deliver the course and resurvey the participants with the same instruments to determine changes in behavior (Sugandhi 2003).

Level 4 of training evaluation is called the result level. Evaluations at level 4 will be used to measure results of training with organizational improvement based upon the company’s return on investment. In order for a level 4 evaluation to be conducted and be appropriate, three conditions must exist. First, level 3 evaluation must have been completed and should be positive, secondly, records to compare company profits before and after the training must exist and thirdly, the use of control and experimental groups to compare business results must also exist. If these three conditions do not exist, the program will not be a candidate for a level four evaluation. At this level the evaluator does not create an evaluation instrument or conduct a date collection procedure. The data used to determine return on investment must exist before training in order to provide a comparison of before and after dollar figures on return on investment.

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Feedback system

A training course is not complete unless formal and informal feedback is obtained from the participants of the course (Dyche 2002). This feedback is essential in order to evaluate the quality of the course and whether the organization has derived value for money by sending its employees to the course. Maintaining a record of the feedback and occasionally analyzing the results is essential in forming partnership with training institutions. Formal feedback can be obtained through well designed forms while informal feedback by chatting over the breaks is an invaluable source of information for the course organizers or sponsors (Bergeron 2002).

In order to get clear feedback the organization will foster an environment that supports feedback by administering multi-source (360-degree feedback) surveys. These surveys will collect performance ratings from the company sellers along with self ratings. Multi-source or 360-degree feedback will be useful in identifying the learning gaps and setting goals for learning. The feedback receiver will obtain a written report showing comparisons between the different sellers and generally noting discrepancies, strengths and developmental areas. The trainer will deliver the results and the participants will be guided on how to interpret the results in order to enhance self awareness (Jerling1996). The opinions from multiple sources usually based on average response within each group of sellers and the individual ratings from the supervisors will help the sellers learn how others perceive them. They will also use this information to learn and ultimately change their own behavior and improve their own performance.

Individuals will evaluate the gap between self ratings and ratings by others, their ratings in comparison to company or industry norms, and change their performance overtime. In this feedback system, the survey will be developed, administered and reports distributed. The recipients will evaluate the meaning, of the feedback in relation to the source, what they know about themselves and the demands of their jobs. This multi-source feedback system will be a part of a continuous learning process. The results will be used to set development goals, which in turn will drive participation in development activities and eventually result to change in behavior and performance.

Recommendation

Implementation of the training program should involve coordinating the flow of trainees through the training program with optimal utilization of the available resources. The education coordinator should know the number of trainees before initiating the training. The time frame will enable the coordinator to facilitate the flow of trainees through the various areas of training (Payne 2006). The training coordinator should also develop a calendar for each CRM topic and this should also be given to the trainees.

When a company purchases an off the shelf software, initial use training is often included or can be negotiated into the overall price of the software. This training consists of sessions held at the company facilities, or at the vendor’s facilities. Some vendors especially those providing web based software applications offer online training using collaboration tools and services that run in the company learning management system. Initial user training sessions usually last between one and two days although sessions may be longer depending on the complexity of the system. These sessions should include hands on training and thus the sellers should have equipment for system access assigned to them with printers and internet access. This way, as the instructor explains a function, participants can immediately perform the same function. This initial user training should provide users with an overview of the system by providing a day in the life training. After each section of the training, the participants should take a hands-on test to show that they have understood how to use the section effectively. Each participant should receive a set of user documentation guidelines on the customer relationship management system during the training session.

The training coordinator should perform remedial training. Individuals who are trained on the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and who use the system after are likely to retain much of their training. However even the most seasoned learner can benefit from periodic remedial training updates , particularly if there are new system releases which include new function and features. Remedial training sessions should be scheduled within six months after the Customer relationship Management (CRM) system has been implemented and at least once a year thereafter. Supplemental training can be channeled through e-learning and internet or web based online training (Dyche 2002).

The training coordinator should also encourage the training the trainer strategy. This training strategy can be used when the company prefers to do its own instruction or incases where there are so many system users that it becomes unrealistic to train them all at once. This session is designated for internal trainers to learn how to use the system and teach others as well. In this session, each trainer should be provided with a training manual for required user training (Jerling1996). Training the trainer has some advantages and disadvantages. The key advantage is having an internally controllable cost effective means to train large number of company personnel. The key disadvantage is being dependent on company trainers and if these individuals get busy with other assignments, this may delay the training of users of Customer Relationship Management system.

Therefore, creating customer relationship, maintaining that customer relationship and extending the opportunities one have to do business together and it means more than wooing the individual who writes the cheque or signs the contracts. Sellers must be taught to consider all the people who are touched by the company’s products or services. In order to ensure that customer relationship management is well accepted by the sellers the company should motivate, develop and manage the work force (Payne 2006). Though the company may have employed qualified people it is always good to introduce them to the customer relationship culture of the organization. The company should therefore, give training in important areas to help the sellers provide excellent personal services. The sellers’ skills should be reinforced by continuous coaching and feedback. Customer Relationship Management systems can be installed in the companies call centers and the company’s sellers should be taught on how to operate the systems in order to be in a position to respond to the customers’ questions or complaints.

Conclusion

Customer relationship management when adopted by an organization helps in attracting customers and retaining them by satisfying their needs and at the same time the company earning profits (Dyche 2002). Customer relationship management will help in improving an organizations performance. Customer relationship management will also help an organization to have a competitive advantage in the market. Due to these benefits associated with customer relationship management, companies need to train the sellers on how to attract and retain the customers. This article has explained the opportunities available to organizations customer relationship management training program. It has also given an implementation strategy for the training program, explaining the different methods of training that the company will use. An evaluation system has also been developed for the training program in order to determine its value. Finally, the article has explained a feedback system that will be used after the evaluation process.

Reference list

Bergeron, B. (2002). Essentials of CRM: a guide to customer relationship management. London. John Wiley and Sons.

Dyche, J. (2002). The CRM handbook: a business guide to customer relationship management. Chicago. Addison-Wesley.

Jerling, K. (1996). Education, training, and development in organization. Chicago.Pearson.

Payne, A. (2006). Handbook of CRM: achieving excellence in customer management. New York. Butterworth-Heinemann.

Reynolds, J. (2002). A practical guide to CRM: building more profitable customer relationships. New York. Focal Press.

Sugandhi, R. (2003). Customer Relationship Management. Chicago. New Age International.

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