Customer Relationship Management (CRM): It’s Really Pretty Simple!

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Customer Relationship Management is a concept that has been around for over a decade.  And the irony is it all boils down to common sense.  It is all about building, nurturing and harnessing relationships.  Take this simple concept. Say you lost touch with a good friend who you grew up with, and randomly ran into them at a coffee shop.  What does that conversation sound like? Maybe initially a little awkward because you feel guilty that you have not made the effort to keep in touch.  It will probably start out with generic small talk and overall pleasantries such as: Where do you live? Do you have a family? What do you do?

You may leave that encounter and revisit the conversation in your head. You think to yourself, “Wow, we used to be the best of friends and now I barely know what is going on in their life”.  It feels uncomfortable and distant so you make a commitment to stay in better touch. You pick up the phone and schedule lunch with them. Before you know it, you are telling stories, reminiscing and laughing about old times. You instantly realize everything you have in common and why you were drawn into a relationship to begin with.

How is the above situation different from any real world business scenario? Companies are made up of people, just like you and me. They have likes, dislikes, interests, hobbies, children, spouses, friends and family.  People don’t leave those things at the door when they go to work.  People usually display their personal lives within their professional world by decorating their offices with photographs and mementos.  After all, we spend more time at work than anywhere else so why not surround ourselves with the things that make us happy and inspire us?

When engaging a new client, you are also interacting with a person. Initial conversations may seem high-level and artificial until you begin to establish common ground. Of course the primary objective is to ensure the company goals and strategies are aligned but the real payoff is connecting with the individual. However, this requires investment. You need to build a rapport but more importantly, trust and credibility. This type of relationship is not built overnight but rather by displaying consistent, genuine interest over time. You know that famous saying “It’s easier to keep a customer than to go out and find a new one?”  Well the reality is people do business with people and more importantly with people they know and trust.

This may sound overly simple. If I make an effort to be observant, comment on a couple of photos on their office wall, my job becomes easy. It is much deeper than that. The real key to mastering the skill of building and maintaining relationships is being genuine. Be interested, listen, care,but most importantly be authentic.  Nobody likes a phony!

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a tool to harness all of that knowledge around companies, people, and the relationships you have with them. Your sales team may have a very strong relationship with your client but what about the rest of your organization? Relationship Management is a core competency you want to spread throughout your organizational culture.  The call center representative should provide the same level of personalized service as the VP of Sales. Clients should expect to receive a consistent experience no matter who they encounter.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM affords the ability to capture each and every customer interaction.  This information is invaluable. It allows the company to be proactive vs. reactive. It allows them to be more targeted with segmentation by measuring marketing activities. As a relationship evolves with clients the focus typically shifts to providing increased thought leadership. This includes inviting them to participate in the conversation with other experts through various channels (webinars, trade shows and conferences).  Who attends which event provides additional insight for your organization to understand what relevant content and messaging is valuable and resonating in the marketplace.

Knowledge is power. Use the data from your CRM system to differentiate your business, to stay current and relevant. Most importantly remember this is an on-going investment so stay engaged, interested and top of mind. This will ensure your clients never question why they began doing business with you in the first place.

Post by: Denise Henke, Customer Effective

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