The more useful information you know about your customers, the better you can understand and address their needs.
Chosen carefully and implemented intelligently, a customer relationship management (CRM) system can help you gain powerful insights into what makes your customers tick.
The key to getting customer relationship management right is in deciding the best questions to ask and then figuring out what to do with the answers. Before you begin asking your customers questions though, ask yourself some:
- Who are your customers?
- What are the main subgroups?
- How do you currently interact with them, and how would you like to interact with them?
- What do they currently buy from you, and what do you think they might buy in the future?
- How long have they been customers, and what do you know about why they chose to do business with you?
CRM systems provide a framework to collect and process all of the information about the people who buy, or should be buying from you so that you can develop smarter and more effective strategies for targeting them while tracking your success beyond the mere fact of a sale.
1. Segment your customer base
In order for CRM systems to be effective, it is important to feed in as much useful information as possible on your customers.
This data should include a record of all conversations and interactions, from emails to phone calls and other channels. Also consider the customer experience of purchases, including with your competitors, and dates, return of goods for whatever reason, complaints, and other post-sale feedback, including expressions of dissatisfaction.
Then there’s all the information specific to each customer, such as company and industry, name, job title, and gender of key contacts, as well as how long they’ve been with the company and even their budget.
According to Michael Loop from digital marketing specialist Datarati, it’s vital to start from scratch and to ensure that the data entered is clean.
“It’s important to have rules for validation in systems so that segmentation is clean and accurate and the system is free from duplications,” he says. “If you don’t have that information you will be sending out inconsistent messaging and possibly creating duplication.”
2. Work out which information to focus on
Obvious information to capture includes the best method of contacting and interacting with customers, such as whether they prefer to be phoned or emailed and whether there are best times for contact. And as Foster stresses, make sure that your customers want to hear from you.
“You really need to know whether you have permission to send people emails, for instance,” he says. If you don’t have permission, you will be contravening spam/privacy laws.
Digital communications, especially via the web, are creating new opportunities to monitor and respond to customer behavior. For instance, Datarati’s Loop suggests that companies pay close attention to what information is accessed on their websites, such as market reports, case studies, or other materials that might provide insight into what customers are thinking about. Personal information is also very important. In the past, the more popular sources in the business world might have been bars and golf courses; now social networking is emerging as a useful source of ‘highly enriched data’ that can be applied to increase the effectiveness of CRM systems.
3. When you have the data, how do you use it?
A big point of getting CRM right is that it boosts your ability to craft more intelligent and targeted campaigns for the future, while also giving you useful ways to refine your general interaction with customers.
For instance, information from a CRM system might lead to an email campaign being segmented into different groups presenting different incentives or special offers depending on past history. “Try to look at trends for customers and export that data to things like email marketing,” Foster suggests.
4. Make use of your CRM system day-to-day: checklist
- Train your staff – A CRM system will only be as good as the people who use it. Therefore the most important thing to get right for successful implementation is staff education.
- Ensure it gets used – CRM takes time and effort, and sales and other staff need to understand what’s in it for them. Unless there is a full understanding of and commitment to the concept of CRM, its value to your organisation will always be limited.
- Keep it fresh – Data has a use-by date, so it’s vital your team commits to keeping the data up-to-date and making the most of the latest information. “Start with something simple, such as just tracking every time you phone someone, until you begin to see value,” Shoeboxed’s Foster says. “Build on it over time.”