Customer relationship management is an important part of your everyday entrepreneurial job. But, it is something you will need to do in the right way. It is not only the tool or technology you can buy and solve all your problems. It is much more than that.
As an entrepreneur, you will always need to be in contact with your customers. You want to ensure that everything your company is doing related to your customers is at the highest possible level. Also, you want to be sure it satisfies them because of your activities. You want to expand your business with new customers, contacting your potential customers.
How can you do this? It seems like a simple task. But, in reality, it is not so simple. You need to do a lot of things with a systematic approach if you want to succeed.
Customer Relationship Management Definition – What is a CRM?
It is hard to have a customer relationship management definition that will cover everything related to your customers’ relations.
The term cover topics related to marketing, sales, and analytics. So, first, when I want to describe to my clients what exactly customer relationship management means, I use the word “process.” Yes, I want to give a much broader description related to customer relationship management definition. Only in such a way can we cover everything that your company is doing related to customers.
So, as a first thing, customer relationship management is a process inside your company. You are implementing this process to manage relationships with your customers better. That means that this process will have practices, procedures, strategies, and technologies. Your company will use them to manage and analyze customer interactions and data in the customer life cycle period.
Focus of the CRM
Having this in mind, customer relationship management will focus on:
- Data collection from the internal and external databases will need to be organized in the right way so you can easily access and analyze them;
- Interactions with customers as any contact you are making with them. This includes interactions before they become your customers until the end of your collaboration with them.
- Analyzing each interaction will give you insights into the results of your efforts related to the customer relationship.
- Improvement of the next interactions will ensure continuous improvement of the process in your company.
You will need a strategic approach when it comes to your customer relationship management. The customer relationship management strategy will need to answer the following questions:
- What do you want to achieve with your relationships with your customers?
- How can you achieve that?
- How you can continuously improve your relationship with your customers.
Having this in mind, ask the following questions:
1. Who are my target customers?
Always start with your target customers. You don’t want to lose your time managing relations with customers who don’t matter for your business.
From the starting point, focus on your most important customers. They are persons who will help your business to make exponential growth.
For example, you can say that your target customers are young persons who work for healthy companies. They are persons with higher salaries that want to solve the specific problem that your company’s products solve. Understand who your target customer is. This is of crucial importance because different customers may need different types of customer relationship management.
2. What are my goals related to the relationship with them?
Next, when you know your target customers, think about the goals you want to achieve, managing relationships with them. Is it sales growth? Or, is it retention improvement? Is it improved relationships? These are the most important things you will need to translate into SMART goals.
For example, your goal can be to improve customer satisfaction by 30%.
3. How can I achieve those goals?
Now, it is much easier. Start brainstorming all the things you will need to do if you want to achieve goals related to the customer relationship management process you want to put in place.
In most cases, you will have two general activities when it comes to the customer relationship management process. They are interacting with customers and learning more about them from all possible available data.
4. How can I put in place the systematic approach to achieve these goals?
When you know what you need to do to achieve your goals, you can create your own customer relationship management system for your small business. These processes will shape your efforts in your company. Put all your activities on a piece of paper and connect the dots. A useful tool here can be the Scapple app. By doing this, you will come to more ideas about how to improve all things related to a better customer relationship management system for your small business.
5. How can I continuously improve relationships with my customers?
And the last question you will need to answer here is related to continuous improvement. Because you already have your process maps related to your customer relationship management system, consider checking points (as quality control and feedbacks) that will enable continuous improvement.
When you have the right answers to these questions, you will need to create a customer relationship management plan. The plan doesn’t need to be something complex written on 50 pages. It can be the list with the bullet points you will need to implement in the next period.
Customer Relationship Management Tools
Now, you have a customer relationship management strategy for the system you are trying to integrate inside your company. The next question is, what tools do you need to use to implement your strategy?
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen entrepreneurs make is when their focus is on the tools instead of focusing on the strategy. Why? Because they think if they find the tool (technology), they will succeed. But, in my practice, it is not true. It is not true because different businesses have different customers. Even in the same market or industry, they have different customers. They have different needs, wants habits, etc. In such a case, you will always need to do something different from your competition.
Some Free CRM Tools You Can Use
As I already mentioned at the beginning of this post, customer relationship management will need to focus on data collection, interactions with customers, analyzing each interaction, and improving the next interactions. So, as you can see, you don’t need some specific customer relationship management tools to implement this process in your company. You can use what you already have most times as I have already explained how to use Gmail as a CRM tool to collect contact details and make notes about interactions with each of the contacts.
You can also use Evernote or DEVONthink. For example, if you don’t have too many customers, you can create a notebook related to customer relationship management. Each note will cover all data associated with the specific customer, interactions with them, and results from each interaction. You can also create a one-note as a table of contents note where all your note titles with customers will be linked from that one note. Probably I will write more about Evernote as a CRM tool in some next posts.
There is also a great app called Notion that can be useful for this purpose. Even you have the availability to create a CRM tool from the templates. The template is based on the Kanban Board layout and process, but you can easily customize it according to your own needs based on the things you have covered in this article.
For analytics purposes, you can use Excel or any tool that allows you to analyze spreadsheets. You only need something that can give you possibilities to calculate basic statistics with data collected as a part of your customer relationship management efforts.