Is your customer data spread across files, documents, spreadsheets, subscriber and mailing databases, your CRM, finance and quoting system?
How many times do you store customer email or name across your business systems, do you hold the same value for the same customer in each system?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
We’ll come back to data, data, everywhere shortly. First, when thinking about your relationship with your customers, it’s helpful to start by thinking about your customers’ view of your business.
The customer view of your business
Typically as a customer, when you use the services or buy the products of a business, you’ll have a pretty good idea of:
- Product or service
- What you bought
- When you bought it
- What you paid for it
- Whether it was discounted at the time you bought it
- How many products/services you have bought over the last 12 months from that business, how much you have spent with that business
- Whether you bought over the phone, through the website or some other way
- What the service was like (did it arrive on time, was it in the condition specified)?
- Who did you deal with, where they friendly, professional?
- Did they do what they said they were going to do when they said they were going to do it? i.e. did they set an expectation, manage that expectation, and then deliver against that expectation
After spending 10 years working in Human Resources and appreciating the value of a well organised filing system for personnel and payroll records, I start by imagining the customer has a folder.
This folder contains every letter, contract, quote, invoice, payments made, product details, and scrap of paper with the date, time, and the name of the person they spoke to for each phonecall they had with your business, and whether they were pleased with your service or not.
This folder represents the customer’s relationship with your business, with all the data held in one place. It may be paper based, but it’s a pretty good system.
Your business view of your customer – data, data, everywhere
Whilst your customer has one relationship with your business, it is likely that your business has tens, hundreds, thousands, or even millions of relationships with many customers.
What complicates matters further, is when more than one member of staff in your business deals with the same customer.
It gets further complicated in today’s world, because that one folder that the customer has which represents their relationship with your business all in one convenient place, will likely be spread across several of your business systems, such as:
- Emails containing conversations between customers throughout the buying process and possibly afterwards, held in Exchange, Outlook, Gmail of whichever email service you use
- Phonecalls that might have been recorded in your contacts database or CRM system – plus probably many other phonecalls that have never been recorded and are held in people’s heads
- Invoices produced for that customer or account, and stored in your finance system
- Prices of your products at a different points in time, held in a products database or spreadsheet
- Level of service provided, held in the persons head who handled the sale, or hopefully captured in some ratings or reviews system if the customer was good enough to provide feedback
- Paperwork behind building a quote or making the sale, held in individual documents in an electronic filing system, probably in Word or Excel
All of a sudden, the customer’s system for dealing with their relationship with your business can feel more organised than the other way around.
What can we do about this?
We need to find some way of viewing the relationship with each customer in the same way that customer views their relationship with your business.
The paperless office never really come to fruition (the concept of a paperless office was talked about in 1975). Paper has been reduced, but rarely eliminated altogether apart from in certain industries.
One option is that your business operates a paper filing system, essentially matching that of the customer. But you have tens, hundreds, thousands, or even millions of customers, how on earth can you store that many folders, and then retrieve the information you are looking for quickly and accurately without tripling your resource?
Running a successful CRM is as much about your business processes as it is the technology. It’s about ensuring that a robust system is adopted for filing important customer information.
A successfully implemented CRM system should provide meaningful management information reports such as:
- A history of all communications with a specific customer with the option to read previous emails, open contracts, view invoices, read conversations
- The number of active and inactive customers you have
- The number of products they have bought or services they have consumed
- Providing any red flag items which highlight potential customer satisfaction problems
It should also be quick to add and amend records when it comes to attaching emails, documents, and recording customer communications.
A successful CRM system is one where every person in your business views the customer relationship with paramount importance.
This article has looked at using CRM as a means to effective management of your customer relationship. Instead of data being everywhere, a CRM holds key customer data all in one place so your business can tell at a glance the current state of that relationship.
We are lucky, technology is already available to achieve your customer relationship management goals, and it is a highly competitive market, meaning you will benefit from continuous improvement by suppliers.
If you’re wondering which CRM to go for, or whether to change your existing CRM, read this brief article first.
CRM features also include managing the sales process, marketing process, and much more…including project management. I’ll write more on this at a later date.