Laura Petrolino

Successful Customer Relationship Management: A Case Study

By: Laura Petrolino | June 19, 2017 | 

Customer Relationships Management: A Case StudyAs is true generally with life, ironically the part of customer relationship management which is probably the most important, is also the part that’s most frequently overlooked by organizations.


Whether you are a product or a service business, that magic time after a customer has made a sale, yet before they either start using your product or working with you in an organized manner, often makes or breaks their entire experience.

No matter how great your product or amazing your service, if you muck up your onboarding, you’ll have a much larger moat to swim to achieve true customer satisfaction.

The old adage, “you only have on chance to make a great first impression” applies well here. While you *might* be able to mend the relationship later on, it will take a lot of work to rebuild that layer of trust.

Component of Successful Onboarding

Proactivity is the name of the game in onboarding. And that takes the shape of four basic components:

Set expectations

What can they expect from your work together (or your product)?

  • How will things work?
  • What’s the communication flow like?
  • Where can they go for help?
  • Where do they find out what to do?
  • Who does what?

Most organizations cover these issues as part of the business development stage, so assume they don’t need to address them again in onboarding.

While that might be the case, there is a difference in the priorities and area of focus for a prospect vs. a customer.

Even if you covered all of this in prospecting, you need to do it again. And clearly.

Ease concerns or doubt

Anytime anyone starts something new, it’s scary.

They might have complete confidence in your product or service and be super excited about work with you, but where there is unknown, there is doubt.

Doubt is always an enemy to successful customer relationship management and customer satisfaction.

Provide a roadmap

What’s one of the best ways to ease doubt?

 A roadmap.

Help people understand where they are going, how they will get there, and how long it will take.

Do this with a clear, goal-focused roadmap everyone agrees to. 

Establish the tone of the relationship

There are a lot of different types of good customer relationships.

Part of successful customer relationship management is setting that right dynamic between you and your customer.

There are very formal relationships, more casual ones, fun and personal relationships, and so on.

It’s important to set the tone from the beginning of what type of relationship you expect.

Of course, the customer controls part of this, but you need a starting point to launch from and adjust based on their responses.

This is also really where you look at your brand personality and how that applies to your organizational relationships.

Customer Relationship Management: A Case Study

I’ll get more actionable about each of the four components outlined above in a subsequent post.

Today I want to present a simple case study.

One that shows how a company instituted a few processes to proactively address common onboarding hurdles.

I love this example because it shows successful customer relationship management doesn’t have to be tedious, expensive, or time-consuming.

It just needs to be consistent, targeted, proactive, and customer-focused.

After my recent move, my WiFi came in spotty in my new office.

After much lamenting (aka whining) to the all-knowing Gini Dietrich about it, she suggested I get an adapter.

Off I went to Amazon to find an adapter.

The Great Gods of Online Shopping suggested one from Net-Dyn.

It got great reviews, was a good price, and Mac compatible — I got it.

The next day I received an email from Net-Dyn

Customer Relationship Management: A Case Study

Inside they provided me clear instructions, proactively answered many of my questions and concerns, and added a dose of fun.

Customer Relationship Management: A Case Study

The brand voice is actually what makes this email.

It changes the customer experience and makes them fun, relatable, and approachable.

Customer Relationship Management: A Case Study

Plus it’s unexpected.

I mean, I bought an adapter.

It’s not necessarily a fun, sexy purchase.

But now I know my adapter is guaranteed, even on Mars, so that changes everything.

They supply really comprehensive directions and then end with this.

Customer Relationship Management: A Case Study

This email should probably be in a textbook about successful customer relationship management.

(And clearly points to why they are the top-rated adapter on Amazon.)

Customer Relationship Management Requires Consistency

Now let me make this VERY clear (before you all yell at me): One email isn’t a customer relationship management strategy.

Even when it’s a really well done email that talks about cookies.

But it’s a good example of an effective process to proactively address a new customer’s concerns and set the tone of the on-going relationship.  

It lowers possible start-up and implementation issues and lets me know right away that, should I have issues, they are very open to feedback and there to help.

It funnels my feedback to them, vs. possible rants to the jeering crowds of the internet (although those still will happen).

To continue this story, when I went to download the driver, I found they didn’t have one for my operating system.

I chatted with their Zen Desk operator who continued the experience the email had set.

He told me to return to Amazon and which one I needed to purchase instead.

My new adapter is on the way.

At this point, prior to product use, I’m a fan of the company.

My expectation is the product will be awesome, and so even if it just “works,” I’ll be a happy customer.

Customer relationship management starts at the very beginning of the relationship.

A process needs to be in place to make sure that beginning is a positive one.

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • paulakiger

    That company had me at “cookie bribery”!

    • Right?! I should have titled this “The Cookie Bribery Strategy of Customer Satisfaction”

      • paulakiger

        Ha ha! We have a Cutco knife. I *hate* their sales strategy (which consists of young adults coming to your house with quite the sales pitch). But we bought one ….. and eventually it needed sharpening. I was being sluggish about sending it off to be sharpened until a friend told me, “you know, your knife will message you while it’s on its sharpening trip and let you know how it’s doing.” That’s all I needed to know! while the knife itself does not appear to be chatty, I have gotten step by step notices from Cutco about the sharpening process, reiterating their appreciation of me as a customer. It matters! And I’ll have a sharp knife.

        • So does the knife actually message you? Like, “Hey, I’m in St. Louis waiting to board my connecting flight…can’t wait to get sharp baby,” or “Ouch, that was a pretty dicey (get it, dicey) few days, but I’m almost as sharp as a 20 year old in an Armani suit. Can’t wait to come home and chop up some garlic with you,” or “Remember when we used to cry together, over onions….now we can do that even more effectively.”

          Cutco….call me? I’ll do your knife writing for you.

          • paulakiger

            HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. I wish! If the knife did it, it would sharpen the effect. I forwarded you one of the emails. Maybe I’ll get to the point and forward our suggestions to Cutco!

  • Bill Dorman

    Set expectations and paint a picture of what it will look like going forward. Of course, the key is to perform and better to undersell and over perform anytime, huh?

    That e-mail? That’s doing the little things that have the biggest impact. A lot to be said for that.

    • Exactly! Never underestimate the little things…..and cookies.

  • Liz Reusswig

    WOW – New Arch Inc may be the KING of customer service. I love that they spell out the number of emails you’ll receive, too…I’d be anxiously waiting for the next one! This makes me wish I needed a wifi adapter…and now I want cookies!

    • Yes! I forgot to mention that. LOVE the tracking of emails. Again, small detail, which makes a huge difference. I’ll send you cookies!

  • Carol Ludtke Prigan

    The cookie-bribery keeps you engaged in reading what would probably otherwise be a tech-heavy, somewhat boring e-mail. But even if you have a cute hook, if you over-promise in your communications and then under-deliver, you undermine yourself long-term. It sounds like New Arch delivered on their promises, and this is the key to continuing good customer relations.

  • Great case study, Laura. It would be great to see more and more companies adopt excellence in customer service.

    In a few years, it will probably be the only differentiator between brands.

  • Great points here, Laura. During the sales process, I often start with an “upfront agreement.” Can we agree that…? It leaves the customer to disagree with the process, recommend something else, or simply agree, but it shows professionalism and, once agreed, the prospect has commitments, as does the salesperson/consultant.

    I like your approach to reiterating this, or establishing a new process, at the very outset of the onboarding.