Monday, September 10, 2007

Customer Relationship Management - Get To Know Your Customers

CRM computer applications are also known as front office applications. They are to there to assist businesses to handle customer's relationships and to promote functionality that enables a customer focused approach. The systems can support sales, service related departments, marketing and business operations. Information that is stored can not only help define customer profiles, but they can assist by targeting customer needs and the requirements of those potential customers that an organization wishes to attract. The systems can often pull together a group of “like” customer information for campaigns simply at the press of a button.

Much of the data can be collected from in-house systems such as order entry applications; however, information about customers from journals and publications can be of equal value e.g. “ABC Limited proposes new investment of €1,000,000 in widgets in the third quarter of this year”. Whatever the source the CRM system can store this for later use.

The Customer

Marketing organisations whether they have large or small budgets are looking for the greatest return on investment (ROI). This means for every pound, dollar or Euro spent, a greater return is expected, with extra sales and prosperity for the company. As Michael E Porter describes in his “5 Forces”, the power of the “buyer” can be extremely strong. One way a company can stay ahead of its competitors is by the application of CRM methodology. Those suppliers who can target and pinpoint the true requirements of customers and can communicate in a positive fashion are the ones with the higher opportunity of closing a sale.

Business – Get More!

CRM is also commonly referred to as “Business Intelligence”. The detailed collation of data is extremely important but equally the ability to analyse and translate that data is of equivalent importance. The “business” has to have a strategic objective of where it wants to target its sales and services. The CRM data can then assist in the capability of achieving the end objectives. CRM is not just an Information Technology “add on”, applied in the right way; it can become a way of business life.

The investment in implementing a CRM system need not be expensive. Indeed on a limited budget and with some moderate skills in either excel or access applications, a company can easily start building up a CRM database. There are applications available online, many of which are priced at reasonable levels. Ensure that if you use one of these online services that they are of a reputable standing, the last thing you want is for your information to disappear overnight!

Customers Data

Many customers want to be assured that their information is kept secure and not distributed around to third party suppliers. The worst thing that can happen is for a loyal account to discover that their business data is being shared outside of their supplier’s organization without their consent. This will not only put the business at risk but could also seriously affect the credibility of a company in the market place, thus affecting its ability to trade with any new sales leads.

CRM Marketing

Marketing, with the right level of CRM intelligence can get some seriously good returns. Marketing can take base data collected in the system and incorporate this into more advanced statistical analysis applications, thus detecting trends and elements of the selling market place. CRM can make use of predictive analytics; this has been commonly used by the major search engines with their “pay per click” advertising. One can see examples of these on major search engines such as Yahoo and Google.

Conclusion

CRM can offer organizations a real competitive advantage over its rivals if applied in the correct way. The systems can store data from local sources and also acquire input from external sources. A company can start a CRM type system and methodology on a low budget simply by using some basic applications that are usually found on every basic personal computer (and even if they are not on the PC, they can be downloaded free from open source providers). The way forward is customer analysis, marketing plans and execution of sales. If you’re not doing it, your competitor might just be!

Nigel Penhearow is a Business Operations Director for a major blue chip company based in the UK. He is a member of various Institutional bodies and has given various speeches in the UK and the USA on business analytics, key performance measurement and best business practice. More information can be found on his website http://www.operations-director.com/

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