Enhancing Customer Information to Improve CRM Return

Originally written for CRM Guru; By Justin Hitt, Strategic Relationship Consultant, https://iunctura.com/

A database applications key function is to store data, usually to support the understanding of some specific objective. Many companies who first implement Customer Relationship Management (CRM) miss this most valuable point. In the case of CRM, you are storing data about your customer.

The average CRM application contains 17 standard fields, plus the ability to add hundreds more. These core fields cover everything you need to initiate a contact with a customer. If you have already come that far, are you ready to enhance basic customer information to improve your CRM return.

CRM Is a Guardian of Customer Data

CRM is your central repository for your customer contact information, as simple as it seems, all changes to this type of data should start in CRM. Not in your accounting software, some help desk tool, or a users email address book. When something changes in the details you need to contact a customer, centralized data management reduces errors.

Why should CRM be the guardian of such information? CRM has this honor because it is designed to reach customers at each point where your company interacts with them. This makes it easy to verify key information and changes made are available to the largest number of people.

You know about basic contact information like company name, point of contact, simple postal information, phone numbers, and perhaps email addresses. It is obvious what can be done with this data, where it comes from, and how you keep it up to date. This is the level of detail contact management software provides (CRM's little brother.)

As CRM software improved, it introduced the ability to track and store additional information that can describe customer preferences. Leveraging customer preferences has proven a powerful tool to increase sales, improve marketing effectiveness, and increase quality in areas of customer service. How do you know what kind of preference information should be added to basic contact records?

Ask What the Customer Wants

In determine what kinds of data you need to enhance your basic contact records, first start by asking your customers about what they want from your products or services. Use this information to determine how close you meet their expectations and how your products are being used. As your questions get closer to revealing product preference, you will find customer responses become more industry specific. In fact, customers will go beyond mere product attributes to describe their expectations in terms of the problem they want solved -- if you listen long enough.

Documenting customer information and making it available for easy recall can do some remarkable things for your company. For example:

Comparing information gathered about customer expectations and preferences with departmental data can identify trends. By knowing preferences you have a benchmark for comparison. CRM helps centralize relevant information; in a sense cross-pollinating your company helping you better understand customers' needs.

What Preferences Should We Consider?

Seek first preference information that helps you improve your customers' experience, then those elements that give you a competitive advantage. The more useable information you know about your customers the better you can serve them. Extensive data collection becomes expensive, so each element should justify its own existence through how you use it to serve the customer.

Documenting customer preference is similar to market research except it is done on an individual level. It measures points specific to each customer and is tracked primarily to enhance their experience. While preference information can support market segmentation enhancing basic contact information goes beyond sales prospecting it becomes a critical tool for meeting customer expectations after closing the sale and providing a deliverable.

Small Increments Generates Big Results

Start small when collecting customer preference information by using the following steps:

  1. Identify three key preferences that contribute to a purchase of a particular product. Eventually you will develop traits common to all products as well as three traits specific to each line. These items are from a customer perspective, not what you feel their preference should be.
  2. Identify points where you interact with your customer and can gather more details about key preferences. Even while serving the customers current needs, you can learn more about their wants. At these customer interaction points ask each customer about these key areas and record their responses in your CRM software. This can be as simple as a "call script" your support department uses to determine how customers prefer getting help with a particular product.
  3. Engage alternative data collection methods appropriate to your market place or industry. Some of the strategies used to identify prospective customers can help you learn more about existing ones. Consider traditional items like surveys or trade shows, as well as strategic methods, like third party data verification.

If the local dry cleaner can remember "no starched shirts" or your florist knows you "prefer roses," then you can integrate preference collection into your own CRM strategy.

Imagine the satisfaction your customer will feel when you ask, "Would you still prefer that shipped overnight?" or "Would that be your California warehouse or some other location?" When you use what you have learned about their preferences, customers appreciate it. Instead of the usual, "Where would you like it?" you will know enough about the customer to give them more than just a transaction.

Building on your basic contact information, start by tracking only the information you plan to use. Next, use every customer interaction point to learn more about customer desires that characterize the experience they expect. What else do you need to know to serve your customers better?

Look Beyond the Obvious Preferences

You will need more than the obvious "features of the product" to truly understand a customers desires. Ask questions to verify existing data, and put the customer in charge of how they get your products. Even be on the lookout for product enhancements that differentiate you from the competition. Start small by testing three key preferences and building up from there.

There are no hard fast rules that apply to all products. Use current selectable features already attributed to the products then move into fulfillment process, through customization in the product received. Remember, one-step at a time, and data quality always wins over quantity.

High quality data improves your ability to make decisions, reduces errors in delivering, and greatly improves customer satisfaction.

Consider All Parties Involved

A small Home Healthcare agency discovered families of elderly patients preferred learning about home care prior to their loved ones release from a hospital. With this knowledge in hand, they arranged for hospitals to have booklets about home care available to target patients' midway through recovery.

Besides being educational, these booklets lay out care options, insurance needs, and provided a contact for more information. While hospitals could not recommend a particular home care provider, this provided a service gave the provider years of direct access to prime prospects.

While reducing their marketing costs, they doubled their closure rates. Even saving customers, weeks of frustration and stress usually experienced when a loved one cannot take care of their own health. All around a win-win situation for all involved.

Eventually these same booklets where provided to other facilities. This home healthcare agency now works directly with Hospitals, Nursing Homes, and Retirement Centers tracking both the preferences of facilities and their patients as it pertains to the service they provide. Their materials are available prior to the point of need. This simple action makes them first in mind and sets the standard for others to come.

What could you learn about your customer preferences that could help you realize a greater return on your CRM investment? Maybe, even dominate your marketplace.

© 2003 Justin Hitt, All rights reserved.
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Justin Hitt speaks frequently on developing business relationships with both customers and employees for greater profits. He is the author of "27 Ways to CRM Return on Investment" (workbook). Order your copy today at https://iunctura.com/re/crm-roi

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