You Manage Customer Information not Customer Relationships

Customer Relationship Management or CRM is and has been a hot topic for quite a while.  CRM may be a popular acronym, but it is a misnomer since Customer (or other) Relationships aren’t ‘managed’, they are initiated, developed and maintained through quality interaction, good communication and the exchange of value.  CRM refers to a system of tracking information and is simply a tool or a ‘means’ to achieve the ‘end’ of great relationships with the right customers who are loyal, profitable and refer others like them.

These days there is no excuse for not knowing a whole lot of things about your customers that can help you understand them better and serve them more effectively (or let them go). It just take some thought and a bit of effort – and you don’t need a fancy system or a huge initiative to get going.  You probably have what you need already.  Nearly all basic accounting or operational systems provide designated or ‘custom’ fields where you can track things like:

  • Useful Attributes (Industry type, size, market. etc.) – to determine your reliance on (or opportunities in) different segments of your market
  • Source (referral, marketing campaign, web, phone call, etc) – to evaluate your ROI on different channels
  • Referred By  (i.e. another client or business associate)  – so you can track the total value the referring client or source and acknowledge and/or further develop the relationship
  • Related Companies/Organizations – so you can track your concentration with any one ‘parent’ organization of affiliated group to capitalize on additional opportunities or protect from over-dependence
  • Key Dates (initial, latest transaction / next follow-up date) – so you can contact those who have not done business lately and thank those who have (while offering additional value) and be sure to follow up in a timely way

And if for some reason your program really doesn’t handle this type of tracking, there’s always web based apps or good old fashion spreadsheets.

Most systems provide custom reporting or ‘ad-hoc query’ to access the database of information and/or export with transaction information that can give you a clearerpicture of your business and your customers (volume, frequency, average transaction, etc.).  You can also typically link information to Excel workbooks, other database programs and the many automated tools for marketing and communication  All this should be second nature for your information technology resources – internal or external (If not, it’s time to look elsewhere).

Use the resources you already have to understand more about your best, most profitable customers so you can develop the strong relationships that create more value at all levels.


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