If you run a company, your single most important asset is your customers. Without customers, you can’t trade – and without trade, you can’t turn a profit.
In years gone by, there was a tendency for many companies to take their customers a little for granted – as if, once a business had already established a client base, its customers would just remain there forever. Of course, complacency on this level was never a good idea – although it could be argued client expectations were previously much lower.
However, in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive markets, business owners have been forced to realize the importance of their clients. With so many other competitors actively vying for client attention, they’ve had little choice – so much so that a whole new industry has been borne, that of Customer Relations Management (CRM).
A basicexample of the customer relations model and process
At its heart, CRM is best-described as managing every stage of the customer journey, from initial contact right through to after-sales follow-ups and beyond.
CRM is about managing client expectations to build a long-lasting loyalty and bond between customer and company. The key stages in a CRM journey might be:
Client awareness: The first time a client becomes aware of your company (through advertising, marketing, word of mouth, etc.) and tries to learn more.
Contact and discovery: The company identifies the client’s requirements and shares information to aid their decision-making process.
Client evaluation: No sector is without competition. The client evaluates your product or service and compares it against those of your competitors.
Preference/intent: Your product or service sufficiently convinces the client that they decide to buy from you.
Purchasing: The client buys a product, effectively turning them from prospectto customer.
Building brand loyalty: The processes of solidifying the emotional bond between client and company. The actions you take from this point forward are crucial in the process of maintaining brand loyalty and will largely dictate whether the client will buy from you again.
Previously, this kind of customer interaction would have been impossible, however, in our connected age, it is very easy for companies to stay in contact with clients via email, messaging, texts and social media, etc.
In particular, the e-commerce industry puts CRM to great effect with follow-up thankyou messages, customer satisfaction polls, prompts for clients to follow them on social media, email newsletter templates, and flash promotions, etc.
How can you build your customer relations?
As we’ve discussed, CRM is about putting your clients at the top of your priorities. Anything you can do to initiate, build and improve your clients’ (potential and existing) relationship with your company could be considered part of a CRM strategy.
To achieve this, it’s often very useful to play role reversal and experience how a client might initially discover your company and then interact with it. So, for example, you might first check your company’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to see how easy it is to find your business on Google or social media under key phrases your clients are likely to use.
After that, you could try and view your website through a client’s eyes (i.e. trying to be as impartial as possible), to see how easy it is to find important information like contact details or popular products. It would be best if you then went through the basic processes a client might make to engage with – and purchase from – your company, including after-sales interaction.
Making an honest evaluation of your customer processes is one of the best ways to assess how well your company performs at CRM. It will allow you to identify loopholes, failures and bottlenecks in your CRM to enable you to improve your customer relations.