CRM… any?

For some companies, especially those who deal directly with the public, even the most basic strategies involving CRM (Customer Relationship Management) are sometimes seen as passing fads designed mostly by those who really don’t know business. After all, in the real world, we don’t have time for stuff like that! “We’re too busy running a company just trying to hold on to the customers we’ve already got,” they say. And therein lies the irony. For example, a year ago I switched printers. I had been a small but a happy loyal customer for three years. So, what changed? Well, two things. First, I found that more and more, my printer and staffers stopped making me feel good about doing business with them. That’s to say, in the beginning, they were very friendly. They smiled and greeted me personally by name. I, like other customers, had come to expect that – and enjoyed it. But it stopped. Second, I found that the prices for the same work were going up unjustifiably. When I questioned the reason, I was given a take it or leave it response. So, I chose to leave it – and more specifically – them!

Now, a year later, I wrote a letter to the president of my new print provider. I told him how impressed I was with his employees. I appreciated how they took personal ownership of my printing needs, their helpful suggestions, and felt that my business was important to them with questions like “Did you get everything you were looking for today, sir?” I also wanted him to know that his CRM policies were the express reason why I continued to do business with him. I pointed out that I physically passed by three or four of his direct competitors that boasted “lower prices.” So, what’s my point?

CRM is not a passing fad. It’s real, it works, it separates the professionals from the rest, and it promotes business and profitability. And most CRM is FREE! A kind word, a sincere smile and a genuine concern for customers’ needs costs nothing! Reputable studies show that it takes 5-8 times more money, time and effort to get a new customer than it does to keep the one you already have! CRM is vigilant. It doesn’t take customers for granted – they have far too many choices. CRM strategies are not static.

Successful companies know three things

  1. Although strategies like common courtesy never change, how you deal with customers does. Simply said, a good CRM approach is something that evolves – in some cases to simply showcase a particular or unique value-add or a new customer-benefit program.
  2. CRM strategies must have unquestioned employee buy-in. If employees don’t believe that extra customer care is of value, they’ll lose interest and the strategy fails.
  3. Employees must be given architectural license for the success of any CRM program. Again, psychological studies show that employees who feel they have a vested interest in the success of the company, out-perform those who don’t!

The bottom line is that no one will ever argue about the importance of this, and that the not-so-new millennium is going through changes. There’s no argument either, at least for the foreseeable future, companies will have to be more diligent in the ways they acquire new customers – and even more diligent in how they keep them. My new print-provider, at least from my perspective, seems to have a grip on what it takes to keep my business, and no doubt, that of others as well. In summary, I’d like to share with you two conventions that will appear in my upcoming Thought Book. First, what you get out of business comes from what you put into your customer care. Second, it’s only in the quality of our service that we uplift the collective. Continued Success!