When thinking about your relationships with customers, it’s helpful to start by thinking about how customers view your business.
The customer view of your business
Typically as a customer, when you buy from a business, you’ll have a pretty good idea of:
- The product or service
- What you bought
- When you bought it
- What you paid for it
- Whether it had a discount
- 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
- The company
- 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 records every interaction between you and the customer. For example
- Letters, contracts, quotes, invoices, payments and product details
- Scraps of paper with the date, time, and the name of the person they spoke to
- How they felt about your service
This folder represents the customer’s relationship to 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 a single relationship with your business, it is likely that your business has tens, hundreds or thousands of relationships with customers.
What complicates things further, is when people in your business deal with the same customer.
It gets further complicated in today’s world, because there are so many sources of data
That one imaginary customer folder, will likely be across several of your business systems, such as:
- Emails from before and after the purchase, held in Exchange, Outlook, Gmail or whichever email service you use
- Phone calls that might have been recorded in your contacts database or CRM system. Many other phone calls 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 different times, held in a products database or spreadsheet
- Level of service provided, held in the person’s head who handled the sale, or hopefully captured in some ratings or reviews system
- Paperwork behind building a quote or making the sale, held as individual documents in a filing system, probably in Word or Excel
All of a sudden, the customer’s folder system can feel much more organised than yours.
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. We need to recreate the imaginary customer folder
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.
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 making sure that you use a robust system for 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. Including actions like 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 relationships. 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.
Are you ready to discuss how a CRM system can help you your achieve business goals?