The Best Practices For Building A Database Of Loyal Customers [Includes a checklist!]
A field service customer contact management strategy is ideal for businesses who want to put their loyal customers first. How do you know if customers are loyal to your brand? Imagine if you put out merchandise with your company’s logo. The most dedicated customers, who buy it and wear it proudly, would be what you’d call “advocates” or “brand ambassadors”.
Of course, you don’t need every single customer to be as overzealous as that in order to indicate success or need a field service customer contact database. However, knowing there are customers who love your business really helps, doesn’t it? After all: loyal customers are what get businesses through tough times and make those hardest of days seem worthwhile.
It’s fair to say you want customers who trust you to do an excellent job, and who are willing to pay a fair price for it. So, how do you go about winning more customers and filling your database with the loyal people who come back to you, time and time again? Field service customer contact management is the official name for it but, fundamentally, this is about creating a relationship with your customers, and communication plays an essential role in making it a success.
Why a field service customer contact management tool?
To put this into perspective, imagine if someone who you consider your friend—someone who’s been to your house, played with your dog, even stopped by for a cup of coffee—comes up to you one day and gingerly asks: “By the way, what did you say your name was?” That’s exactly how customers feel when they receive cold emails addressed as “Dear Sir/Madam”.
The benefits of a customer contact database can be summed up in three words: “Know thy customer”.
Where customer service is concerned, nothing is more important than that. While you might (rightly) say that remembering clients details all day, for every job, would be a challenge, that’s where tech comes in. Your number one priority should be to use modern technology to improve and organize your customer knowledge.
At the same time, the field service industry has its own peculiarities and customers expect certain things from the tradesmen they hire. This means that, whilst there are a lot of contact management tools out there, it would be ideal to look for one that caters specifically to plumbing, cooling, electrical, or any other trades business, rather than a generic company.
This will enable you to treat each customer as they would like to be treated: as individuals with needs particular to themselves. Collecting better information about your customers in a database—and then acting on that info—can really improve the profitability of your business.
Historically speaking (though it’s sometimes still the case), businesses may have had a crude database that’s not specific to their business, where they log information as it comes to them, without any real thought into how it’s organized.
This is how they end up with duplicated data spread around a collection of Excel spreadsheets that make little sense to anyone, let alone to someone who might want to join your company. If this description sounds familiar and reminds you of how you’ve been operating till now, then it’s not surprising your business has been leaking money or you come away everyday feeling like it’s a fight for survival.
Using a field service customer contact management database, where you can centralize information, assign access rights to users, and find relevant data in real-time, is paramount for businesses with ambition. That’s you, right?
Benefits of field service customer contact management:
The main purpose of a customer contact management system is to help you segment your audience. With the help of a contact management tool, “segmenting your audience” means sorting your customers into meaningful groups. This is very useful for managing and communicating with customers, but it can be very difficult to do manually, and even if you do use software, it can still be difficult to put to use if you’re not taking the proper approach to managing your data.
First, let’s consider some of the main benefits to a company implementing a customer database. Below, we’ve listed 8 for you to keep in mind:
- Improve your operational efficiency
- Get more repeat business
- Discover your ideal customers
- Produce happier customers
- Give your relationships “content”
- Build better internal and external business partnerships
- Conduction more effective promotions
- Reduce admin costs
Best practices to manage your customer contact database
With that in mind, here are the 4 best practices to follow (or implement as soon as possible) when dealing with field service customer contact management:
If you haven’t already, you must decide on what information is critical for your business, what information is good to have, and what information is irrelevant. When considering what is irrelevant, think about what your clients could consider as intrusive. That’s the kind of data that you want to get rid of right away.
After all, the data you collect should have a use: like knowing the customer’s contact preferences so you can communicate easily and in a way they’re comfortable with. In this instance, contact preference is an example of “good to have” data. The “critical” data would be their name and contact information, like their mobile number and email address.
Some data will be hard to get: not everyone wants to give away their info (and rightfully so), but if you’re honest and reasonable about why you’re asking for certain details and make it clear customers will get something in return (i.e. ease of communication, or even the offer of a discount, or free resource), they are more likely to give you the info and respond positively than if you demand it, or worse: provide no explanation.
Just as your staff enjoy the benefits of good data, it should be known that gathering information is also part of their job. The effects are felt both in and out of the office:
- less paper-chasing
- more efficient use of time
- the pursuit of more valuable work.
Your staff should continue to reap what they sow by practising good information gathering.
With this in mind, the key is to gather as much useful information about customers as possible. We already mentioned critical, good to know and irrelevant data, but consider how your staff can go beyond just textual information and collect things like photographs or videos of installed equipment (like security cameras), or even digitally scan documents to create electronic copies (PDFs) for safety reports (and more) to be sent instantly to a client.
A mobile or tablet can be their best friend—even when they’re offline—they can still take images, ready to upload later. Imagine how useful that information could be for office staff to refer to on a phone call as well, or if another technician has to take over a job from a colleague. Gathering information can create valuable context to better inform everyone’s work.
Another useful habit, this time for office staff, is to have them update the database whilst they’re on the phone with a customer. In particular, make it a habit so that when your admin staff calls or emails a customer, they check if the information in the database is up-to-date.
This could be considered part of your wider communication plan, but queries like this will only take a moment: “Is the best email to reach you on: firstname.lastname@example.org?”. In contrast, sending an invoice to the wrong address can result in wasted effort, cause embarrassment, and even damage a customer relationship.
Just like how it’s a great idea to get feedback from your customers (they’re the ones who use your services after all!) you should also encourage and facilitate employee feedback.
To help, ask your team a few times a year to report on whether the database is still working as intended. For example, if your business has changed and implemented new processes like requiring an update to the template or system design, find out how people reacted to it. Do your employees spot weaknesses in the database (where you’re not recording something that you should)?
Positive or negative, this feedback loop can be invaluable as choosing a database isn’t the end of the story: checking that the database continues to service your business well will be an on-going task.
Remember: even the best software won’t pick up every single error, so it’s a good idea to trust the people you work with, delegate effectively, and then work with your software partner; together, you may even be able to develop better solutions to assist everyone.
Employees feel more valued and that they have a stake in the success of the system if they are consulted. As a general rule of thumb, the least helpful input is from those who say the system is either perfect or completely useless; what you need is constructive criticism, so be sure to ask for specific feedback when fielding questions.
We all like to make well-informed decisions; whether it’s reading restaurant reviews online, getting a movie recommendation from your film-buff friend, or going with a well-known brand: we go to sources we trust based on high-quality data. Similarly, your database should do the same for your business and be a trustworthy place to store information.
Without good quality data, you’re more likely to make poorly informed—and even bad—decisions that could be hard to rectify. Whether it’s attracting the wrong type of customer, or causing you to invest in fruitless marketing campaigns, these are the things you want to avoid. However, manage your data well and that you will learn to trust and be confident in what the data can not only show, but also help you achieve.
Making information gathering a habit and collecting feedback (as discussed) are great ways to make sure you’re producing high-quality data, so be sure to continue in your efforts to keep your house tidy i.e. (correcting records, updating telephone numbers, merging records, asking customers if their information is correct).
The takeaway on customer contact management
The task of improving customer loyalty for your field service business is made much easier if you systematically grow and maintain a customer contact management database. If you’re recording not only service records, but every relevant interaction with a customer, including their feedback and their comments online, it’s all data that can be used to learn, improve, and provide a high-quality service, every time.
If you want something a little more practical, then you can download our checklist: The Best Practices to Managing your Database: A Checklist; it’s free to download, and will get you well on the way to kick off and keep track of your customer contact database journey!