As much as Customer Relationship Management, CRM, is a Noun in that it gives a name to the practice of managing a company's interactions with current and potential future customers it is also an action in the form of a deliberate action or series of actions that are intended to improve a businesses relationships with its customers.
CRM solutions for Businesses
Under the Noun label CRM provides tools that capture the details (data) from a range of communications and activities channels, including in person and stores this data in a way that allows it to be used to better understand the interactions that take place between a business and its customers. When used appropriately the data will at any time provide an instant snapshot of the entire business to customers status and make it easier to identify opportunities to focus on managing the customer experience, ultimately driving up customer satisfaction, retention and sales growth for the affected business. When used correctly CRM solutions allow a business to better understand its customers and what things to do or what offers to make that will best suit the needs of both parties.
CRM as a Practice
Customer Relationship Management as a solution is meaningless and unlikely to deliver the expected benefits unless the organisation using it embraces it as a function of their business activities. When used correctly it can significantly improve the dialogue, activities and interactions between a business and its customers. This is where CRM is an action, a Verb. If a business only sporadically uses their CRM solution then it will probably not succeed to deliver benefits. As soon as the employees in that business find any evidence that key critical communications, offers, documents or interactions were not recorded in their CRM system then the trust bond breaks down and CRM solution use slows even further. It is therefore critical that a business using CRM does so with a full commitment and an enterprise wide approach. This will ensure success, or at least, less likelihood of failure to derive the full complement of benefits.
Customer Relationship Management is a state of mind. It is an undertaking. It is a promise. To deliver on its promise to improve a businesses relationships with its customers a business must commit to making CRM a function of process and that its use is routine and adhered to by all members of that business that have a role in managing or representing the client relationship. When used correctly the CRM data that a business builds over time with is entire base of existing as well as prospective customers is extremely valuable as it can be analyzed, questioned and begin answering questions that will focus the activities off the business leading to greater efficiency and improving sales or growth.
When used effectively CRM may result in a range of improvements felt by customers and employees of the business alike. These can include an increase in customer knowledge and knowledge of customers. Customers are offered relevant products and services on one hand whilst a customer reaching out to that business to ask questions, even if it is a routine customer service enquiry will be met by an organisation that appears to understand the status and value of the relationship.
CRM solutions can also save both the business and customers a lot of time. A business may find it easier to target groups of its customers and prospective customers with offers or campaigns, often in as little as a few minutes. Customers too may be able to use self-service functions to check on the status of their interactions with a business and avoid the need to call in, email or telephone as a result. Trivaeo has taken care with our CRM solution to ensure that workflow and timely communications forms a bedrock of the CRM practice so timely and effective communications can be delivered, even automatically.
A single view of the customer journey may be understood by the business who can take a complete top-down view of the journey that a customer went through from being a prospective customer to a loyal customer over time. Understanding the customer journeys that work versus the ones that don't will further assist a business in understanding how to maximise its efficiency and effectiveness in future. This can also include concepts like "Know me, Understand Me". When a business appears not to know the relationship to a customer the customer will quickly feel frustrated and undervalued. A simple example is if the customer has been loyal to the business for many years yet that appears not to matter at all when calling in or asking a question of the business. If the customer has to say "Look, I've been a customer of yours for 7 years....." then an opportunity to reflect on that value has clearly been missed.
Does business size matter with CRM?
No, a small business, say a sole-trader is busy day to day applying his/her business services or products. If their phone rings half way through a job whilst out on the customer site it is critical that they store and update their records so that they can follow up with the new enquiry effectively later on. It is often not enough to rely of 'memory' of each lead, opportunity, prospect and customer. Relying on memory will result in missed opportunities. Medium sized businesses operate partially on 'memory' but also with multiple people or resources dealing with customers often from multiple departments. If CRM is not embraced then the relationship to the customers is impacted too. Think of examples here, for example, a company sends offers for new products and services to a customer who is in the middle of an escalation or complaint about an existing product. This will lead to frustration at best!
For large businesses the problem is one of sheer scale. Being able to segment and target your customer base with relevant offers is one example, the other is having a customer services organisation that is able to support and engage with the client base effectively, handling requests for service and support and everything in between.
CRM is a state of mind. It is a practice. It is something that a business does and should do routinely irrespective of its size or complexity. As a Noun it describes the tools, as a Verb it describes the actions that take place with those tools. Business of all sizes and shapes can and should make relevant use of CRM as a tool as well as a business strategy. For maximum impact and benefit, indeed, to work at all CRM must be adopted completely by all stakeholders across a business.