Alternate Contacts

Good CRM and account management systems allow customers to define alternate or authorized contacts. These people are pre-authorized to manage the account, ask questions, make changes, access records, etc. The benefit is that the process/feature allows more people than just the account holder to securely access and manage the account. Some systems even let the main account holder decide what the alternate contacts can and cannot do (i. e. they can only contact support, not change billing options).

In most companies, this is extremely useful. For example, in smaller companies, the “account holder” is often the owner of the company, but chances are that the owner is not involved with that particular account or service on a day-to-day basis. In bigger companies, the actual “account holder” is probably the company itself or maybe an executive within the company. Again, there is a need to have other people manage the account.

Companies that provide the option to have alternate contacts are not only saving their “actual” customers time and effort, but are also making their jobs slightly more difficult. With this system, the company has to impress more people than just the account holder. Depending on your current level of service, this can either be a blessing or a curse. If you provide great service, it’s an opportunity to show off to more people. If you provide terrible service, there are going to be even more people who will be disappointed.

If you allow your customers to assign alternate contacts, try to do these things:

  • Get in touch with the alternate contact directly. This way, you can explain procedures, answer questions, and help the alternate contact right from the beginning. You should send a welcome email to new alternate contacts in the same way that you send a similar email to new customers.
  • Clearly outline what can and cannot be done. Policies regarding what alternate contacts can and cannot do vary greatly from company to company. It is your responsibility to clearly articulate these to any new alternate contacts. That way, they know what to expect.
  • Treat them just like your customers. Just because the alternate contact is not paying the bill his or herself does not mean that he or she is a second class customer. In many cases, the alternate contact has just as much say in whether or not they will be renewing the service next year as the actual account holder. You never know who the alternate contacts are (it could be the company’s CEO), so be sure to treat all of them just like you treat all of your other customers (which is hopefully great).

2 Responses to “Alternate Contacts”

  1. PaulSweeney said:

    Jun 23, 08 at 5:55 pm

    What a useful post. Something we all come up against, but rarely plan to manage. Kudos 🙂 A point I would add, is that if you build the rules right into the software from the account set up stage, you stand a better chance of staying on top of it. Secondly, turnover is large in organiations is quite hectic these days, so you have to, have to, have a programe for ensuring that the contacts are all up to date, that their numbers are current etc.

  2. Service Untitled said:

    Jun 23, 08 at 10:50 pm

    Paul,

    Thanks for the compliment! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

    Your points are right on. Good CRMs would have a feature (hopefully) that would remind the primary contact of who the secondary contacts are each month (that way no one forgets). One would also hope that the company’s HR department knows who has what access and knows what to remove when a person leaves.