The acronym CRM gained prominence before many business professionals, educators and writers fully explored the scope of its meaning and implications. Customer relationship management is a business strategy that entices ideal customers and then keeps them at the forefront of every subsequent marketing and sales effort. Customer-centered businesses understand that CRM goes deeper than mere customer service; the key concept in CRM is clearly relationship. CRM protocols differ from business to business — as they should — but five guiding principles underscore the concept.
Study and Deliver
Develop your ideal customer demographic and then study what this core group wants, needs, likes, dislikes, values and aspires to achieve and acquire. There will be exceptions, but your goal is to develop a succinct customer profile to guide all your efforts — from product development to what pleases and irritates your customers about customer service practices — so that you can deliver an exemplary customer experience.
Keep It Simple
Streamline and simplify your customer relationship experiences. Even if customers don't express their gratitude, they appreciate any effort you undertake to anticipate their needs and make their interaction with you as stress- and question-free as possible. Demystify the process by convening a customer focus group so that you can fine-tune and improve the customer experience from beginning to end.
Keep in Touch
Keep the channels of communication open with your customers. Collecting data is valuable, but data can become obsolete in no time. CRM depends on establishing a means by which you regularly communicate with your customers. Most likely, the communications will be a combination of efforts, which might include your company blog, a monthly e-newsletter and social media. Regular communication demonstrates that your company is responsive to customer needs, can spots trends and changes in the marketplace and -- most importantly — modify tactics when necessary.
Track and Record
Develop a reliable system that provides access to customer information with only a few clicks at the keyboard. Tracking and recording customer data is crucial to being responsive to customer needs and to enable your company to set realistic sales goals. Some software programs allow you to create a customer history for each customer in your database, or you might prefer to create your own program with categories that are specialized and uniquely important to you.
Integrate CRM Comprehensively
Integrate your CRM activities across all levels of your company, leaving no one out of the loop. At the same time, ask employees what they need to accomplish your CRM strategies — and then work toward providing it to them. Customer relationship management should not be a term that merely sounds cool; it should become an entrenched value that is rooted in your company culture if it is to succeed.
Customers aren't the only ones who appreciate loyalty rewards; so do employees. Keep CRM top-of-mind at your company by creating enviable incentives that motivate your employees to continually think of new ways to improve the customer experience.