CRM stands for customer relationship management. Basically it is a process that involves keeping track of important customer information. This information could include age, gender, likes, dislikes, pretty much just about anything that will help a company provide better service to its customers. The CRM process is important because it is well documented that retaining customers is much less costly than attracting new ones. Instead of dropping thousands or even millions of dollars building a relationship of trust with new customers, why not just retain the customers you have?

Implementing CRM

First of all, it is important to remember that successfully managing customer relations is a process. You can’t simply buy some software that tracks customer information and then tell your employees to be nice to customers and expect results. You would be surprised by how many organizations take this approach.

CRM implementation can be complicated, but when you boil it down to the essential, there are really only four phases: (1) Understand your customer’s needs, (2) set goals that benefit your customers and yourself, (3) re-align your business to meet customer needs, and (4) do it all over again.

Phase 1

Step 1 is to understand your customer’s, both current and potential, wants and needs. Do not simply assume that your organization already knows what customers want. Here’s a quick question that will help you see if you really understand your customer.

What is it you provide your customer?

If you answered typewriters, computers, legal service, blue widgets, or any other sort of product then you are on the wrong track. You don’t offer customers typewriters; you offer them a communication device. You don’t offer your customers legal services; you offer them comfort and protection. When organizations believe that what they offer is a product, they are suffering from marketing myopia.

Typewriter corporations are the classic example of marketing myopia. When computers were coming out, these companies were in prime position to make the jump over to computing. They were making tons of money and their product (typewriters) was already very similar to computers. However these corporations didn’t understand that people wanted and needed communication devices, not typewriters. When word processing came out these corporations were all but obliterated. Lesson learned; your organization fulfills human needs, it doesn’t provide a product.

During this part of the CRM process, take a step back and ask what human emotion you fulfill for your customers. Chances are if you work at the organization you are too close to the situation. Send out customer survey’s asking them their needs. Note, that you’ll probably want an expert in marketing and customer relations to make this survey for you. Provide some sort of incentive for them to give you honest feedback.

In phase 1 of the CRM process you will want to form a team. Gather people from different parts of the organization. Get your all stars together in one place and assign them the task of finding out what it is your customers want.

Besides the traditional methods of understanding customer needs, social media is presenting an opportunity to better understand customers. Why not risk it and have your organization open up a Twitter account, a FaceBook page, and a blog. Sure you will receive some negative feedback, but that’s really the point isn’t it? Companies that hide from what their customers want, will not be in business for very long.

One last note on phase 1 of the process. There are actually companies out there who collect data on customer’s needs. This data is often a little broad, but in some cases it can yield valuable insights.

Phase 2: Set goals that benefit both the customer and your organization.

Usually after months and months and thousands or millions of dollars spent finding out what the customer wants, corporations are now extremely focused on the customer. This is a good thing, but you’re not running a non-profit here. One common mistake made at this point of the CRM process is that companies set goals that will benefit the customers, and only the customers. After all of the hype created in phase 1, employees are ready to do anything to make the customer happy. That hype won’t last for long if your CRM goals don’t benefit your organization.

There have been books and books written upon how to set goals, but the bottom line is that you need to set goals that are tangible, achievable, measurable, and stretching. Your company should be able to see how they are doing on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. The goal should stretch your employees to become better, but at the same time it had better be achievable or frustration will follow. For your own organization your goal might be something like a 3 percent increase in net income. For the customers, a goal may be something like a 75 percent retention rate. These are just ideas, make up your own goals and accomplish them.

Phase 3: Re-align your business to make your customers happy.

You’ve got the customer’s feedback; you have goals in place to make customers happy, now it’s time to execute. Every organization is different so how you implement your goals will vary depending on how your organization works. This isn’t a lesson on organizational communication, but you’ll need to make sure everyone understands the vision. One way to help them buy in might be to list some of the advantages of having good customer relations: reduced cost, reduced waste, and an increased amount of customers are just a few.

Phase 4: Lather, Rinse, and Repeat

Remember that this is the CRM process, not the CRM event. After you go through each phase of this process, you will learn things about your customers that you didn’t know before. Make sure to incorporate these items into your customer relations plan.

During this phase, your organization should look for feedback. Are customer retention rates higher than they were last year? Is the organization more profitable? Are activities that didn’t provide the customers any value eliminated?

After you finish phase 4 it starts all over again. Keep fine tuning your organization to align it with your customer’s needs, and you will be in business for the long haul.




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