There are loads of benefits when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM), and it isn’t just about making people smile when they communicate or transact with you. CRM is about the entire lifecycle – from initial interaction, through sales conversions and all the way to strategic analysis.

By creating better relationships and analysing the results of customer contact, you can continue to develop and hone your processes and procedures, so that your customers’ experience of your company subsequently continues to evolve and improve.

Customer relationship management for beginners!

Of course, if you really want to get down to the nitty gritty of CRM, and you have internal or external resources to delve deep, you probably already know the basics. But if you’re an SME with limited time and budget, there are still some pretty simple ways to start the ball rolling.

Creating a feedback loop, maintaining contact and listening to the people that line your tills or tax accounts will teach you some valuable insights about how your business is perceived from the outside – and of course, there are plenty of CRM software tools and marketing agencies that can help.

Our top 10 CRM tips are…

1. Internal attitude – unhappy staff are not the best ambassadors for your brand, so if you want your customers to feel valued, respected and appreciated, you need to make sure your staff do too. If they enjoy coming to work, they’ll enjoy helping your customers. Simples.

2. Internal processes – even if you don’t feel able to develop anything too involved just yet, at least make sure there’s a simple process in place that guides staff consistently throughout the customer experience lifecycle. A lot of this will depend on the size and nature of your business, but focus on consistency and make sure everyone knows the rules of contact!

3. Frequency of communications – Along with the above point, also think about how you manage enquiries via phone/email/website, at what stage you send follow up communications, how you show thanks for their business and how you request feedback. If you’re sending out newsletters or special offers, try to balance it out. If you send emails several times per week, people will opt out pretty quickly, but if you leave it too long, they’ll disengage. Around once every week or two should strike the right balance.

4. Quality of communications – Are you touchy-feely friendly, corporate and clear, or somewhere in the middle? Tone of voice is important, so work out what style best reflects your brand, and never underestimate the importance of well crafted copy when it comes to CRM. It needs to be clear to avoid misinterpretation, engaging and relevant – don’t just chat to your customers for the sake of it!

5. Be proactive – part of being a great business to do business with is showing that you care about your customers, even if it doesn’t bring immediate financial value to you. If an event or news item is relevant to them and has some significance to the product/service you offer, let them know about it via an email, or announcement on your social media channels.

6. Dedicated team/contact point – sometimes things go wrong, either within or outside of our control. If this happens, always be willing to help – assign your best customer service advisor(s) to dealing with aggrieved customers. Also make sure that every complaint is handled consistently by the same person if possible, so a rapport can be established and confidence and trust can be regained. Bad news travels farther and wider than good, so you need to stop ill-feeling before it has a chance to bed in!

7. Personalise – most systems can offer the functionality to personalise certain elements, so if you have the capability, use it! We’re immediately more receptive to marketing or CRM communications if we see our name at the top, so even just that little extra could make a big difference. If you can’t personalise, ensure any auto-response comms are well crafted and engaging, written in line with your brand guidelines.

8. Man your social media – people are connected to digital channels almost constantly these days thanks to mobile, and lots of consumers like to use social media as a way to send thanks, queries and complaints. Managing your social media well could make all the difference in being recognised and respected above your competitors, so do it well. This doesn’t mean checking in once a week, it means assigning this as an actual task to the most appropriate member of your team. If someone tweets you or leaves a comment, you need to respond quickly, so have someone keeping an eye on things.

9. Give something back – nobody wants to give stuff away for free, but play it carefully and you can soon earn a positive ROI from this. Have your CRM system flag up customer birthday’s and send a voucher as a gift – it only needs to be £5, or 10% off. Or select some of your biggest spenders and send something to them as a ‘thank you’ for their business. Don’t forget to slip this info into your social media activity too, so people can see what a generous business you are!

10. Above all, act with honesty and integrity – in such a closely connected world, poor practice and dishonesty is quickly found out and spreads like wildfire! Always be honest when communicating with customers, otherwise your relationship is immediately compromised. Don’t promise unless you can deliver, and be willing to say ‘I don’t know, but I’ll do my best to help/find out’ – then make sure you do!

These tips are a great start in terms of the principles and activities needed to instigate your customer relationship management journey, but if you need any further advice, please give us a shout and we’ll be happy to help.