Opinion

Implementing a successful CRM strategy

7 min read

15 June 2016

Delivering the right message, at the right time, using the right method, has never been more important, and businesses are utilising customer relationship management (CRM) as a result.

As markets become ever-more competitive, consumers have greater choice than ever about who they do business with. The business-centric approach no longer works, and enterprises are truly having to place the needs of the customer at the forefront of their thinking in order to establish lasting relationships.

CRM is a strategy for businesses to stay in control of all prospective, existing and, in some cases, former, customers. It enables them to see the current status of the relationship so they know who to engage with next and with what message.

For example, if a customer is nearing the end of their contract and renewal discussions are yet to take place, they may begin to feel undervalued if led to believe that their business is no longer important and subsequently leave for a competitor. CRM tools not only flag such customers, but also indicate the communication channel that will generate the most success.

Contact management

Indeed, a big part of a CRM strategy is knowing how customers want to be contacted. Contact management is often underestimated, however, it has become crucial to a business’ success.

A lot of companies – particularly smaller companies – rely on nothing more than the address book in their mobile phone, business cards and their email inbox to manage their contacts.

However, this has limited long-term value. Even someone blessed with a very good memory would find it hard to recall every single person they have spoken to, what they have bought, and what their business needs are.

The lines between each department are beginning to blur and collaboration is now key. It’s important that everybody within a company – from marketing and sales, to post-sales and support – has access to existing customers’ account history, contact information, communication preferences and internal discussion notes.

This collective insight into the customers’ journey enables different teams to share, track and follow-up on all customer queries and needs, seamlessly and consistently, thus enhancing the customer relationship.

Good contact management depends on accurate, high quality data. It’s the cornerstone of delivering the right message to the right person in the right way. If data is duplicated or not maintained, communications may fail to reach their destination or they may be targeted badly.

If this is repeated by different departments on a number of occasions, it not only risks annoying the customer and losing business, but it results in the waste of a significant amount of money.

A customer’s needs should also always be kept on record and shared within a company. Customers not only want personalised communications, but they expect companies to know their preferences and interests. Research has shown time and time again that customer loyalties are largely tied to organisations that provide tailored communications based on what they need.

Furthermore, how they are contacted is important. Whether it’s by post, email, SMS or social media, multi or omni-channel communication, strategies are quickly making their way up the communication agenda.

Contact management essentially ensures that everyone within the organisations is “singing from the same hymn sheet”. The insight it gives enables every department to improve customer engagement levels and identify gaps that the company could fill by up or cross-selling new products or services.

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Maximising opportunities

Opportunity management is also key when implementing CRM. If a sales team consists of fewer than ten people, it’s not always possible to invest equal resources into each lead.

Having the ability to identify and qualify the “hotter” opportunities is therefore imperative. Visibility into the sales pipeline enables the sales team to see the current situation of any deal, but opportunity management allows them to rank them to ensure maximum returns.

Depending on a company’s size and portfolio, the sales pipeline will be a mishmash of opportunities, each worth varying amounts and at different stages of the sales lifecycle.

Staying on top of it requires constant review as the figures will be used to calculate the sales forecast. This means examining all the open deals and requalifying them or, if they are simply not going anywhere, removing them from the pipeline.

Identifying how long a deal has been in play can also help gauge the likelihood of it converting into a sale. If the traditional lifecycle lasts four weeks and an opportunity has been ongoing for nearly ten, the sales team must first discover the reason for the delay – as it may help close a future opportunity – and decide whether it is still worth pursuing.

Ultimately, CRM, including good contact management and opportunity management, enables businesses to implement truly customer-centric communication strategies.

Customers feel valued as they are receiving personal and relevant information, at a time and in a method which suits them. Yet, it undoubtedly provides real benefits for businesses as well.

With the ability to manage all relationships, organisations can ensure that they are engaging their customer base when and how it matters, aiding business performance and fuelling growth.

Erwan Kernevez is digital solutions director, Neopost

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