Customer Relationship Management Is Not Just Software

Ray Eibel ·

Recently, I was researching different Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software systems. At one point, while making the comparisons, I just shook my head thinking customer relationship management is not software, it is a philosophy. Sure, CRM software can be a good tool, but that is all it is, a tool.

I think the key word in this philosophy is “relationship” and I can promise you, no software system out there develops relationships; people develop relationships. Developing business relationships is not much different than developing personal relationships. It takes time, trust and respect to build any kind of relationship. Once you have this mindset, I think the rest comes easy.

Speaking just from a business perspective, according to the book Marketing Metrics, businesses have a 60 to 70% chance of selling to an existing customer, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5% to 20%. A whopping 68% of customers leave you because they perceive you to be indifferent to them. Any business owner will tell you their success is based on loyal customers.

You often hear the term “word-of-mouth marketing.” Most people want to share positive experiences with friends and colleagues and will readily give your company and sometimes more importantly, you, a positive recommendation. Adversely, if your customer has had a bad experience with you or your service, they will be just as quick to tell this to friends and colleagues. According to statistics from an allbusiness.com report, nine customers will tell others about a positive experience they had, while twenty-two customers will tell others of a bad experience. OK, now that we all know that customer relationship management is important, here are some steps to develop relationships:

Put In the Time

As we discussed earlier, relationships take time to build, so put in the time and work. In today’s social media-crazy world, it is not hard to find out about our customers. Check out their LinkedIn and Facebook pages for a wealth of information. Once you know what interests them, you can start to build the rapport that is so important moving forward. According to Entrepreneur magazine, communication is a contact sport, so do it early and often.

Don’t be Selling All the Time

I know you will think I am breaking the cardinal rule and could be considered sacrilegious by the gurus of sales, but not every interaction with a customer has to be a sales call. Keep it casual. You don’t want your customers to feel like you are pushing them to buy every time you call. Once the relationship is in place, the sale will come naturally. For example, you may call a customer and get voicemail. Maybe the message says something like, “I will be out of the office form May 10th to May 17th on vacation.” One approach you might try is to wait until he or she comes back, allow a few days for him/her to catch up, and just call to ask about the vacation. Get him/her to tell you about it. Most people love to tell you all the details. End the call with no sales implications and just say something like, “glad you had a good time, we all need a break.”

This one is a little off the wall, but I had a very good customer who I had known for years who was a great referral source and a very nice great person. Unfortunately, his father passed away, so I attended the funeral. He has never forgotten that small act of courtesy and he continues to be a great customer and referral source.

Don’t Wait to be Asked

It is easy to help when asked and most people do. Very few people offer help before they have been asked, but usually, this is when it makes all the difference. People with good customer relationships sometimes know a customer is struggling. Call him/her up and discuss possible solutions, even if some of the solutions are not services you provide. I think two things happen in a case like this – you show you care and you build a better business relationship.

Shut up and Listen

How many times have you seen a sales person go on and on telling the customer how he or she can help them without even knowing what the problem is? I know we always ask, “what is the customer’s pain point,” but don’t stop there, find out what makes the customer happy and satisfied and let him/her know you care about that, too. If we listen to them, customers will tell us all we need to know about new services we could be providing.

Take the Hit

We all make mistakes. The customer is not happy, something went wrong with the product or service, and what you promised didn’t happen. 70% of the time it had nothing to do with you. Rather than throw another person or department under the bus, just take the hit. In the long run, the customer will have more respect for you.

Don’t always rely on technology as a means to manage relationships with your customers. Instead, rely on yourself; it really is as simple as that.