Customer Data


Tap CRM to Give Your Customers a Pleasant Surprise

So you have your CRM application in place and humming, collecting information about customers and potential customers and organizing it so you can use it. That raises a question: How are you using it?

Most companies pour it back into sales, marketing and support to keep feeding those machines, which is good. It’s the way you realize the value from your CRM investment.

Yet to the customers — y’know, the people that all this relationship management is supposed to be about — the ready flow of data within your organization is invisible. It may lead to a smoother set of sales and service interactions between them and your company, but is it really building the relationships you yearn for? Is it cultivating customers who are so eager to buy from you they would never think of ditching you for a competitor?

Probably not. That requires your business to start thinking about CRM in a really customer-centric way.

The Personalized Approach

It’s really easy to get fixated on information about your business when it is your business. It’s another thing altogether to turn your thinking around and look at that information in terms of how it could help reach customers in new ways that inspire loyalty and increased business.

The way this can manifest itself depends on your creativity and your customers. For example, many businesses — especially in B2B — thank customers for their patronage over time with rewards or gifts. A lot of times, these gifts are fairly generic, purchased for a whole group without a lot of thought about the people receiving them.

While these gifts are nice, how much impact do they have?

Compare that to what can happen if you use your CRM information about these customers to divide them into discrete groups with particular interests. If your sales team has been adding details about customers, you may know enough to make those gifts more personalized — like golf gear for an avid duffer, or a family pass to the local zoo or amusement park for customers with kids.

Tailor the Experience

By providing a gift that leads to an experience rather than a tchotchke that ends up in a wastebasket, your effort to build a relationship will have a far better chance of success.

The same approach can help you build better experiences in a B2C environment. For example, if you run a hotel, what amenities do guests use, and which of those that you don’t already offer do they ask for most often? This information should be recorded and used to help tailor the experience of your customers — and not just in a literal way.

If you think carefully about this data, you may be able to think of other ways to delight customers. For example, if you find that guests suggest that they’d like more snack vending machines, perhaps you could start providing bags of chips or small servings of candy in common areas of the hotel. If reservations are frequently made via mobile devices, it might be smart to make sure that there are chargers in your rooms.

Go Beyond the Basics

I could go on, but you get the point: Your customers, through their behavior and their interactions with you, are filling your CRM system with intelligence about their desires and their needs, and how you can tap into them to help cement your relationship with them for the long term.

This requires businesses to think more like their customers. What do customers want as the basics of the relationship, and what actions can businesses take to go beyond the basics and surprise and please customers in ways that keep them coming back? That requires imagination and the willingness to delve into the data for reasons other than sales — something that many businesses lack.

That means the door is open for your business to go deeper with your CRM data and make your creativity a competitive advantage. After all, “relationship” is at the center of CRM.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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