Customer relationship management (CRM) covers methods and technologies used by companies to manage their relationships with clients.
Information stored on existing customers (and potential customers) is analysed and used to this end.
Automated CRM processes are often used to generate automatic personalised marketing based on the customer information stored in the system.
Customer relationship management naturally focuses on creating and maintaining relationships with customers.
The software involved however can help a company at all levels including policies and processes, front of house customer service, employee training, marketing, systems and information management.
A small business might be able to manage their CRM in-house but as they grow they may need to buy a CRM system.
Companies needs will vary depending on their type of business, the products they produce and their target market’s needs but a basic CRM system should be able to:
• Identify factors important to clients
• Promote a customer-oriented philosophy
• Adopt customer-based measures
• Develop end-to-end processes to serve customers
• Provide successful customer support
• Handle customer complaints
• Track all aspects of sales
There are three fundamental components in CRM: Operational, Analytical, and Collaborative.
Operational CRM provides automated support to sales, marketing and customer service. Every time a customer interacts with a company, details will be recorded and added to their history, which can then be retrived by staff. The Gartner Group has idetified three key areas:
1. Sales force automation (SFA) looks after the likes of forecasting, sales administration, tracking customer preferences and demographics, performance management, lead management, account management, contact management and quote management.
2. Customer service and support (CSS) deals with service requests, complaints, product returns and enquiries.
3. Enterprise marketing automation (EMA) provides information about the business environment, including information on competitors and industry trends to improve marketing efficiency.
Have you heard the term ‘front office solutions’ being used?, This is another term for Integrated CRM software which deals directly with customers.
It’s used a lot by call centres to store customer information. When a call is received, the system displays customer information (determined from the number of the caller).
During and following the call, the call center agent dealing with the customer can add further information. Scary, Big Brother knows all about you.
Analytical CRM analyses data to help a company's relationship with its clients and help create more targeted marketing campaigns.
The data can be used to acquire new client and retain exisiting customers while providing them with information on a regular basis.
Other ways in which it can be used is for evaluating and improving customer satisfaction and sales, detecting fraud, financial forcasts and detecting fraud.
Analytical CRM is an on-going process - markets change, customers change and competitiors change. But with use it will help to refine business decisions.
Collaborative CRM focuses on personal interaction with customers such as letter, fax, phone, Internet and e-mail. It can work to provide online services to reduce customer service costs and provide access to customer information while interacting with customers.
When and why use CRM?
When your database is getting too big to manage in-house it’s time to start looking at CRM software. In addition to helping gain and retain customers it can also provide customer service round the clock. Clever, eh?
• Provide online access to product information and technical assistance around the clock
• Provide a user-friendly mechanism for registering customer complaints
• Identify what customers value and devise strategies appropriate for each customer
• Provide mechanisms for managing and scheduling follow-up sales calls
• Track all the contacts a customer has made
• Identify potential problems before they occur
• Provide mechanisms for managing and scheduling maintenance, repair, and on-going support
Top Tips for success
• Work out how you can sectionalise data as it gathers over time. This will allow you target customers more specifically.
• Determine what communcation channels you want it to interface with - phone, WAP, Internet etc.
• Ensure your CRM can track individual stages and transfer information between steps of company’s processes.
• Make sure you use CRM to get the right customer requests to the correct person or department
• Use CRM to track customer interests and requirements, as well as their buying habits to target customers selectively. If there’s any developments or improvements made to product they have already bought, there’s a good chance they will be interested.
• Use CRM findings on customers to improve customer satisfaction, which in turn will lead to return purchases.
Costs and benefits
Rather than a financial cost, there’s an ethical and legal one with CRM. The Data Protection Act (DPA) governs what you do with customers’ details. Although the act only came into effect in 2000 you can still be sued if in breach.
The Act is governed by eight principles, under which data must be:
1. Processed fairly and lawfully
2. Obtained only for specified and lawful purposes
3. Adequate, relevant and not excessive
4. Accurate and up to date
5. Not be kept for longer than is necessary
6. Processed in accordance with the rights of individuals
8. Not be transferred to countries without adequate protection for the individual.
The act can be difficult to navigate but what is important is that you can prove you have received ‘prior consent’ from customers ie. they have informed and consented to being contacted in advance.
Being honest and upfront will stand you better stead with your customers. Every time you communicate with them, they must be given the option to ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ – this can count as informed consent.
The Data Protection Act in full http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/19980029.htm
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