CRM’s Softer Side

CRM is not about your bottom line – it’s about how you make the customer feel. The rest will follow, says Jim Barnes, executive vice president of St. John’s, Newfoundland-based Bristol Group. Fast-loading Web sites and picking up the phone within 15 seconds are all very well, but how does the customer feel when he does business with you? Does he leave delighted? Frustrated? “There are many organizations that have gone down the CRM road without being focused on customers,” says Barnes. “Very often, the customer gets left out of CRM.”

Building customer relationships is very different from focusing on customer retention. Don’t confuse the two. You’re not focused on customer relationships if you’re simply worrying about how much more revenue you can squeeze out of those customers; you are focused on customers if you’re concerned with the health of their relationship with your company and how they feel about doing business with you. “There’s a big difference between having a customer focus and having a relationship focus,” Barnes says.

There are several things that get in the way of a genuine customer-relationship focus these days, says Barnes. Management’s focus on a short-term fix of CRM challenges and on the behavioral side of the relationship rather than looking at the long-term, softer measures; a bias toward measuring the success of CRM in conventional financial terms; shuffling CRM responsibility to the marketing department, or worse, the IT department; and a view that customers have to be bribed or rewarded for a relationship to be established. So where do we go from here? Barnes says things will only improve. “Firms will realize that becoming customer-relationship focused is a long-term process involving a major commitment,” he says. “And enlightened firms will concentrate on what the customer wants to get from the relationship and plan accordingly.” When that happens, the other measurable benefits – increased revenues, customer satisfaction and customer retention, as well as a faster sales cycle – won’t be far behind.

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