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CRM 101:
The Essentials to eCustomer
Relationship Management

Customer Relationship Management, commonly known in the business realm as CRM, is a booming industry that large consulting firms are tapping into (especially during the current economic downturn), offering their high-cost services to any company who can “afford” them.  Does that leave the smaller businesses to ruin without a consulting firm's expertise?  What do you do if you can’t afford to bring in PwC or Accenture to clean up your Customer Relationship Management act? 

There’s actually quite a bit you can do on your own as a small business.  In fact, the personal aspect of your smaller business may be your best asset yet.  The industry is flooded with applications to sell and implement: despite its namesake, however, the “customer” of the equation is, ironically, still often lost.  All one really needs to know about Customer Relationship Management is common sense.  It may sound elementary, but putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and valuing them as individuals and not just a variable in the equation of the profit curve will already put you steps above a large segment of the rest.  Key concepts to keep in mind are: convenience, communication, and content.  

What does this mean practically?  Look at your business model and evaluate your business' Customer Relationship Management.  Before you can do that, however, you ought to be acquainted with the technical lingo so you can more intelligently explore the issues.  

Since convenience is always a high priority to Internet customers, offer various channels through which you communicate with your customers.  Statistics show that one-third of surveyed customers note the most important aspect of dealing with a company is having a variety of communication channels.  They also indicated that they would be 60% less likely to do business with companies who do not offer their preferred channel.   

With the increase in channels of communication, this may also contribute to additional problems with integration.  Integration can also be understood as data consolidation or communication between systems.  Studies show that this issue is currently the most important CRM concern for businesses.  When a business fails to efficiently integrate information from back to front office, across channels, and in real-time, customers who have been spoiled by the Internet’s ability to grant instant gratification will be displeased.  Although you may not have thousands of dollars to pay for the software to do this for you, your smaller business can improve on the various aspects of data integration simply by giving it more attention and thought.

With e-businesses, the importance of good and relevant content is still the bottom line.  No matter what you try to do to attract customers, if the content on your page is not dynamic, relevant and interesting, it is difficult to get them to come back for more.  The World Wide Web is not also called the information superhighway for nothing: be sure that you have quality information to offer.   

So what’s the point of it all anyway?  Increase the success and profitability of your business by promoting customer e-loyaltyDespite the lack of customer loyalty that the Internet seems to breed, consumers still yearn for trustworthiness.  Earn that loyalty by treating your customers well.  There is only so much you can do with discounts and promotions to attract customers, it’s good customer service that will keep them coming back for more.  In this new year, resolve to treat your customers well by investing in integration solutions and excellence in customer service.

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