Why we all need to be aware of the Customer Relationship2 May 2019
All businesses, whether they’re B2B or B2C need to keep one eye on the customer relationship. At all times. Even when you THINK they’re happy or at least content.
The reasons for this and our MD’s advice on the best ways to keep tabs on the relationship you are building and maintaining with your customers can be found in his latest article in Business Direction.
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It’s easy to think your customers are happy, after all, they’ve not come out and said that they aren’t. But how do you know for sure?
Let me give you an example.
You go to a restaurant and everything is fine…not great, but not terrible, just adequate. The wait staff asked if everything was ok and you said that it was, mainly because there wasn’t any one thing you didn’t like, it was more a combination. Or maybe you just didn’t want to cause a scene.
Either way, you don’t say anything. And then because it wasn’t a very big deal, you don’t review them online (positive or negative) or make any comments on social media. You never go back, maybe tell a few close friends and leave it at that.
As far as the restaurant is concerned, you were a contented customer who just didn’t tip very well. But they don’t get your repeat business. Or any recommendations.
Now of course Customer Relationship Management is much more than just monitoring the levels of complaints and negative feedback. Most people won’t say that they are unhappy – unless they’re REALLY unhappy – but they won’t stay as your customers.
So how do you know what they’re thinking?
Well, to be honest, most customers will tell you how they are feeling if you approach them in the right way.
Think back to the waiter or waitress at that restaurant, let’s say you knew personally or maybe they used to work at your regular coffee shop. Either way, when they asked how you were doing, you might have answered more honestly. And they could have acted to improve your evening.
By having a ‘real’ customer relationship, you are more likely to get an honest appraisal of your product or service. That’s why it’s so important to develop a strong bond between you and your customers.
Now of course different types of businesses will need different approaches to building their relationships.
Some have a very larger number of customers who will need easy communication channels that allow them to access large numbers of customer feedback in an appropriate way, building a customer community creating these touch points. Think Amazon or Apple.
Others are dealing with a less ‘vanilla’ implementation of their product or service and this will necessarily lead to a more customised conversation. Think about hiring someone to install your new kitchen, you want to get to know them a little bit more than the person ringing you up at the hardware store.
The point is that whatever your market and whoever your customer, a business needs a relationship management strategy.
Not something built ‘on the hoof’ that just fits the work pattern or personality of your sales team. Your business needs real, in-depth analysis of who, how, and why you should be communicating to deliver best value for your customer. Because this in turn strengthens the ties between you and your client.
Good customer relationships are built on value, which has a two way benefit.
Your customer wants to feel respected and know that their business is loved by you and all your team. You want to know that your customer is getting the appropriate value from your product or service and in turn will remain loyal and act as an advocate for your business with their peers.
How best to do this?
Being totally honest you can use a Rolodex, spreadsheet of your interactions, or a dedicated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
They all offer a level of management that will help you track how the relationship is progressing. Obviously a dedicated CRM system is going to offer you a wider range of features that have been written specifically for this task, but go with whatever works for your team.
But please please please, do find a way to record the information you will need to track and therefore improve your relationship with your customers.
It’s certainly worth taking a little time to assess your requirements, desired results, and options for meeting both.
From my experience, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- How much data are you going to be collecting?
- What do you need that data to tell you?
- Who should have access to what?
- What about outside the sales team?
There’s also GDPR to consider when you’re collecting personal data.
This is where a more dedicated system can come into their own, with a framework to start in and guidance as you expand.
Most CRM systems will save you much more time than their cost, ROI is generally recognised as at least 8 times the spend and in a lot of cases it’s a lot (lot) higher.