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Are you connecting with your customers?

12 Mar 2012

Customers today have high expectations as well as easy access to social tools to voice opinions or ask for company and product recommendations. While ensuring a positive customer interaction in person is still important to build loyalty, the experiences that customers receive online are just as critical.

Organisations looking to steadily increase brand loyalty and sales are quickly realising that CRM can now offer a compelling option for companies that want a better connection with customers.

Indeed, CRM today is moving to the point of mass adoption, and is fast being integrated within business process management to provide a 360-degree view of an organisation’s customer base.

At the same time, organisations are looking for more than on-demand versus on-premise capabilities in their CRM solutions; they want mobility, integration, increased interoperability capabilities, and a solution which manages processes, not just transactions.

Simply put, CRM is not just technology, it’s a business strategy.

If you extend the concept of CRM into your business it can be much more than managing who you contact, how you contact and when you contact. It becomes the way you manage processes – from the way you sell your products or service a customer, to the way you run processes internally.

Of course, you can’t think that utilising CRM in your business is just a case of installing a new piece of kit and watching it magically solve all your problems. I see a successful deployment of CRM as focusing around three key things:

1. Communicate

Think ‘more haste, led speed’. Now’s the time to identify and connect with key stakeholders and really think about your business issues – what are you trying to solve? For example, are you trying to improve efficiency, or better understand your customers?

Once you’ve recognised those challenges you can begin to think in terms of measurements and identifying targets. This helps you develop clear strategic objectives and understand where you want to be, essential to proving the return on investment from your CRM.

2. Collaboration

Interact with other areas of your business; you may discover things you’ve not thought of, or get new ideas. Remember, good collaboration can move CRM initiatives company-wide.

Enquiring outside of your department can help you recognise where you can link up processes to provide the best value for your customers and share knowledge.

3. Compete

Of course you must spend time understanding the capabilities of CRM software packages but you must spend more time thinking about your own business. What are your core competencies compared to your competitors? How can your CRM make that competency even better? CRM can, of course, improve your marketing function or empower your sales force, but successful CRM could be a whole lot more.

Look long and hard at your products, your staff, and particularly your processes. Where can you improve? Where can you add leverage? And can you use them as business drivers to make your CRM support you and go further?

Today’s uncertain economy isn’t going to last forever, but the strength of the relationships that a company builds with its customer will endure. To succeed, organisations must adopt a ‘win on customer relationship’ business strategy in which they recognise the need to provide a superior experience at each customer interaction point, whether it’s during a sales discussion, as part of a targeted and timed marketing campaign, or during a customer service interaction. The focus has to be on providing on enhanced customer relationships, otherwise you risk sending your customers to the competition.

Mike Lorge is managing director for Sage Business Solutions. Go here for more.

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