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Fine-tuning customer relationships will sit well on balance-sheets

Investment in customer relationship management software can provide some answers

Gulf News

While customer relationship management has evolved in to a science, its very definition is the essence of any business — to nurture existing customer relationships and win new clients. In fact, brand management and CRM together add up to a model strategy for success, and are both increasingly important in the cut-and-thrust of today’s competitive marketplace.

And, while money is tight, choice is becoming wider and good CRM strategies are critical as a benchmark to assess how a company’s product or service is perceived in the world outside that closed corporate door. Traditionally, CRM has been about technology, about how to measure response. But a growing trend is to make use of contact centres to optimise customer service, to make it personal and effective, though in a cost-effective manner that enhances rather than eats in to the bottom-line.

For the chief information officer or IT director, who essentially controls the CRM process in any company, the trend is to move away from automated processes and focus on people, marketing and how the delivery chain can be enhanced to upgrade the customer experience. How does the brand card play in to this model?

Well, contact centres offer an unparalleled opportunity to reach out to the customer, to understand their requirements and aspirations, where price, service and increasingly brand can be on display to reinforce the sustainability and growth potential of any business.

Know your customer

At the very basic level, CRM can help build brand loyalty by enabling identification of loyal customers by the use of dedicated software which permits storage of pertinent customer data such as contact details and corporate history in one central location.

Being able to identify those clients who are most loyal and most profitable (not necessarily the same thing) then permits use of this information for targeted marketing, including perhaps an email shot that flags up a new product or service likely to interest a particular group of customers.

In essence, CRM is all about service and the information collated should not be just a pushy sales tool but used to analyse brand perception, with the results used to enhance standards, meet customer expectations and grow satisfaction ratings and brand loyalty.

What is new is the process by which data is analysed and used. It is important that even the smaller companies manage this information professional with the latest CRM software that permits the setting of targets, instantaneous updating of incoming data and the sharing of the relevant analyses with all necessary departments, from marketing and sales through to front-line staff.

The figures underline the necessity of this seemingly nitpicking approach to what is the very basic B2C relationship.

Rule of thumb perception is that any business tends to lose between 10 to 15 per cent of its customer base annually. While brand loyalty campaigns can shore up these losses, it is still vital to win new business.

With best practices in place, good customer relations and a deep understanding of brand appeal, the stage is set to win new, and hopefully, loyal clientele.

This can start with word-of-mouth recommendations. But such customer practices can serve to dent a corporate reputation if badly-managed incident becomes too public.

The CRM software can be used to track all actions relating to sales, marketing and service, permitting rapid response to any situation, whether the requirement for is positive PR, tactical sales at season end or in reaction to a competitor’s new product release or service upgrade.

Those companies that deliver the goods, maintain standards and work to understand and value their customers will build their reputation and boost turnover at the end of the balance-sheet.

The writer is a brand consultant.