Remember To Incorporate Customer Relationship Management
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Remember To Incorporate CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

Part of running a successful business is knowing your customers and they knowing you.

By Johnny R. Duncan

Do you know your customers and do your customers know you? You’re probably thinking “That’s silly, of course they know me and I know them. How else would we be able to conduct business?” Good point. But, do your customers know the extent of your products and services? Do they know that you were in the shop until 10:00 p.m. last Thursday to make sure their order was ready? Did they get wind of the sacrifices you made after one of your key employees just quit one day and left you high and dry? Of course you’re thinking that is none of their business and they probably don’t really care. Maybe they don’t, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to share it with them one day. Maybe in the form of a company newsletter or over coffee when you take them to lunch to get feedback on your performance. “Feedback? What is this all about?”

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  • How about what your customers think of you? Have they told you lately that they love you? Have you asked them? Many times business owners think that the customer they are serving, and have been serving for the past two years, is going to be the same one they will serve this year. As my uncle G.R. used to say with tobacco juice dripping down his chin, “That ain’t gonna happen”, (Thank me later for the visual). The wolves are knocking on your customer’s door and one day your customers are going to let them in.

    I know. The whole scenario sounds hokey and will work fine for you if you had all the time in the world. But, striving for CRM (Customer Relationship Management), not perfection, is the key here. In your busy world, there is barely time to just take care of the basics of running a business. The luxury of finding out about a client and his or her needs is just too complex and time consuming. Well, hopefully we can cut to the heart of the matter and simplify the process in just a few steps.

    The following is just an outline of some basic steps to begin taking to create a more manageable CRM program. Incorporate these slowly over time and watch your customer loyalty grow.

    Step One:

    Create a plan outlining how you will go about communicating with each and every customer that walks through your door or contacts you by any other means. This plan should include an instrument to allow the customer to evaluate you and your company. The two-way communication need not consume your productivity time. The time allotted for CRM should be no more than 3% or your day. (15 minutes more or less for most people). Your tools should include:

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    • Customer feedback forms
    • Contact information so customers can reach you personally located somewhere on your invoice and/or Website
    • Follow-up schedule to respond to feedback
    • Schedule to notify customers of specials such as inventory overruns, customer loyalty day (some companies serve hamburgers and hotdogs and free drinks on that day), and even birthday and holiday celebrations.

    Step Two:

    Look at each customer as a customer for life. Regardless of the order or the size of the customer’s business, treat them like they are your best and biggest. This takes some time, but once you formulate a plan and your own process in developing these customers, it will get easier.

    Step Three:

    Act on customer’s requests and needs. Actually read the feedback or suggestion cards you created and follow-up personally with customers. In the marketplace of the United States, follow-up and genuinely caring for the customer’s needs is almost obsolete. Our workforce as a whole has been spiraling down fast forming a dung pile of workers who care not about the customer or the future of the company. They are merely consumed with themselves and not the company that has graciously employed them. The below- average worker from the “whatever” generation has tuned out pride, turned off self-discipline, shunned hard work, and cluttered the work environment with their poor upbringing, non-respectful negative attitude.

    Your customers realize this and don’t take much stock in your comment cards or evaluation forms. Prove to them that your efforts are sincere. It is guaranteed to not happen overnight, but to earn anything takes time.

    Step Four:

    Never, never stop trying to gather input from your customers. As Marc Andreesen said in a recent Fast Company magazine interview, "You have to get real-world feedback, because every day that you're not hearing from an actual paying customer is a day that the market is moving further away from you." It is far better to keep your existing customers than to pay the expense of replacing them.

    That nasty C-word, Communication, is freedom from the bondage of cold sales calls and expensive marketing strategies. If you can develop the habit of communicating with your customers (which, by the way, involves 93.7% listening), you can avoid the cold calling and simply harvest your best customers.

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