Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is not a piece of software. It is not something you just buy. It is not forms to fill out. It may include all those things, but it is much more. CRM was here before it became a popular word, before computers, even before paper. True CRM is a way of life, a way you run your business, a way to operate with your customers. A way to run your company with the customer as the central point, and knowledge about that customer in your data bank.
This article is the first in a series on CRM. This article will focus on what you need to know about your customers.
First, as I have stated before, let us define customers. A customer is anyone, anywhere who uses my product or service. Period. They may not be buying today, but they are still a customer. Now with that in mind, let us understand what we, as an organization, need to know beyond the normal demographic data.
Are they doing business with us today? If they are, that means that they are current customers, and that we should know a great deal about the business they are doing with us.
We should know a great deal about the people who are at the customer and how they feel about our product, our service, and our company. When was the last time our senior management went out to see them. Beside the business they are doing with us, how much other business has come our way because of this relationship? Who are the people they have helped us bring in. How much of the product / service we produce do they buy from others? Key: All this information must be documented so anyone who needs to know can find out.
If they are not doing business with us, do we know why not? Do we know who is working the customer? Do we know the history and results of that work? Too many times I hear people say, "I am working that customer" I say, OK, what have you done? I was calling them? Ok, when, how many times, what has the result been, and what have you been talking to. How far has the relationship gone? What do we know that can help us? Do you need any help? What do you need? Who has a history working this customer before you? What was their take? Again Key: All this information must be documented so anyone who needs to know can find out.
No this is not trying to micro management sales people, what this is, is good, effective record keeping about what you have been doing. But more importantly, it is a data bank that will help someone in the future to get and keep this customer. As a new rep in a company, I should be able to review all customers that we are going after and see what has been done. I might have new ideas, concepts, and contacts. But if I do not know, then I start at space one. How many times does someone have to start at space one? How much effort do you waste reinventing the wheel? Going after a customer without any knowledge about the customer, again, again, again. I have said his time and again, every time a new rep is hired, they go after certain customers, the same ones we tired before, without any history to read.
So, the first step in effective customer relationship management, keep track of all information about the customer. We have not talked tools, software, forms or anything else, all we have talked about is documenting what you have done. Keep a record so we can keep working the customer. Keep the history so next time we decide to work this customer, we will already know what has been done.
Closing point: I know this is very basic, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in complex, that we forget the basic. If you are not doing this, start a process now to do it.