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Technology enabled customer relationship management

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) used to amount to little more than remembering a client’s name (bonus points if you remember the kids’ names) and sending them a Christmas gift usually with a bottle of wine and your company branded calendar. Today, with the opportunities that technology and increased usage of the internet has brought us, the customer relationship can now be better managed. What is now needed is for an organisation to first understand that without the customer and more importantly, without the customer relationship, the level of success will be very limited. An organisation now needs to treat investments in CRM as one of the key arms of the business and technology can be used to improve the business to customer relationship.

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Believe it or not, the technology tools are there and in the developed world it has become the norm that marketers, customer service personnel and their organisations have their CRM efforts being managed through use of technology. A lack of usage only reflects a lack of will and even worse it represents a mind-set that is stuck in traditional thinking.
Bringing the discussion back home, we need to start by understanding and making good use of the simple tools that we have at our disposal. Let’s start by discussing the company website and the company social media platforms. Our websites need to move from being static places to becoming more dynamic. The primary reason is that a website has no geographical boundaries unlike your offices/shops which require your customer to move. A static website is one that allows a customer to only view information and does not allow for interaction with your customer. To allow a better relationship with our customers, we must have our websites being able to accept customer information and at the very least an acknowledgement that their information has been received and a response will be given in the shortest possible period of time. Our websites should allow for personalisation, whereby a customer keys in their account details and the website begins to show information that is relevant to them. We all appreciate when our suppliers or service providers remember our name and even better our last purchase, the same can also be done now using our company websites. The beauty of website personalisation is that it increases lead conversion and customer retention.

Personalisation can even be brought into how we communicate with our customers, especially in organisations that deal with large volumes of customers. Simply speaking personalisation gives a company the ability to be able to automatically state that the customer name in all communications such as e-mails. When a customer returns to the company website, personalisation concepts support the site to remember where the customer had left off. Personalisation through technology does great at achieving customer delight and loyalty.

Social media has basically taken over the lives of our customers and as businesses we need to be present where our customers are present. There is a great need for every business to find ways of leveraging on the power of social media to improve how they manage their relationship with their customers. Tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram just to mention but a few, have given businesses a chance to have a social appeal to their customers. Over traditional media, the beauty of social media is that it has no geographical limitation, it is traceable, it is cheaper and communication can be targeted. As we move to improve our CRM using technology, we must combine the old with the new. A business trying to promote its new product or conduct a customer survey can use traditional media to inform their customers and then point them to social media where customer feedback can be traced, obtained cheaply and further discussions and engagement can be done.

Technology tools such as Microsoft excel and Microsoft word have helped us get rid of cabinets of papers and help us keep institutional knowledge and experience that our executives take with them when they leave the organisation. Our customer data can now be kept in a central database that is predictive and can be queried any time for all sorts of information. It is very easy for our customers to know more about our businesses, but it is more difficult for a business to get to know more about its customers. Linked to the company website and other technology tools, the company CRM database can be used to gather and provide more customer information to the business.

The value of a thinking customer database is that repeat tasks such as customer invoicing or communication can be largely automated, lifting the burden of your employees and freeing them up to focus on other activities such as customer complaints and/or lead closing. Through a CRM database sales, marketing and customer service teams can share key information about clients down the funnel in order to achieve either closure of a sale, new product knowledge or customer service satisfaction. A thinking CRM database enables the analysis and reporting of your customer data helping the business to understand and move towards to being able to predict their customer behaviour. The key to giving customers what they want lies in understanding them, and a CRM database that is not only a store of information, but one that is thinking and predictive allows for this to be achieved. As business, we must be encouraged to invest in a CRM database software that helps us to improve our CRM efforts through better knowledge and better communication with our customers. There is now need for business to invest in CRM database software either through purchase or through in-house development.

Technology innovations have helped to bring people closer to each other, a business can also be brought closer to its customer through leveraging on the technological tools that are now present in the world. The main goal of any business when it comes to customer relationship management should now be to find ways on how to use technology to better understand and serve its precious stakeholder, the customer.

This article was contributed on behalf of the Marketers’ Association of Zimbabwe, a leading body of marketing professionals promoting professionalism to the highest standards for the benefit of the industry and the economy at large. For any further visit the website on www.maz.co.zw or contact mazmembership@mazim.co.zw

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