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Five tips for creating a great customer contact list

This year, through Walker’s annual Usage Assessment, we explored the contact management process for customer feedback programs and asked the question, "Within your organization, what is the best source for pulling contact names and e-mail addresses?" The results suggest we have our work cut out for us.

Among the 41% that mention their CRM system is the best source, over half of these individuals indicate it is only a starting point because the information is not reliable and is not kept up-to-date.

The remaining 59% suggest that there is no central location because customer contact details are maintained through different applications like Outlook, Excel, and a handful mentioned LinkedIn or other social networks.

Based on this feedback, which is largely from sales and account management professionals, we should be cautious when pulling contact details from a database and expecting it to represent the best contacts for the customer feedback initiative.

Below are five tips for building a great account-level contact list.

  • Even with the best kept CRM systems it is vital to get the account team engaged in the process. Without their involvement the results might not be considered valid or valuable. If you anticipate resistance from the account teams, implement a form of motivation such as including an incentive based on their participation in the contact management process, make a competition out of submitting names, or perhaps withhold results from unwilling participants.
  • Let the customer participate too. Having someone from the customer organization add, modify, and delete contacts helps secure their buy-in. Getting the customer involved is particularly important if you plan to share a summary of the results and collaborate with the customer on any improvement initiatives.
  • Identify a good starting point. One-quarter of those responding to the Usage Assessment indicate a CRM system is a good starting point. Another great starting point is the contact list from the previous wave.
  • Make the process as easy as possible. Some companies use a simple Web form to collect customer information from account managers. Others allow account managers to upload Excel spreadsheets into a database.
  • Provide clear and simple instructions. Create a quick start guide like the ones you get when you purchase household appliances and link to the "manual" for more specific information. Include a grid to shows the types of people that should be included on the list. Include example titles, departments, levels, etc. to help avoid confusion or misinterpretation.

There is no doubt that the contact management process is one of the most important steps in the process and can be one of the most challenging. What tips have worked for you?

Note: This post was originally published in Customer Connection on 6/30/2009.

About the Author

Leslie Pagel

Leslie Pagel

As vice president of customer experience, Leslie is responsible for incorporating the voice of Walker’s customers into the solutions development process. To do this, Leslie spends the majority of her time interacting with Walker account teams, clients, and prospective clients to understand their business challenges. She coordinates several listening posts that are used to drive strong client relationships and enhance our consulting and technology capabilities.

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