Opinion: The key to successful business

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Jo Buxton, director of Business Development at Experian, looks at the role of CRM in ensuring customer loyalty and retention in the current marketplace, and says that there is no room for mistakes.

The impending recession as well as huge competition within the CRM marketplace mean that companies need to take extra care of their existing customers to sustain business. Assuring customer loyalty is more important than ever before.

Customers today are more discerning and demand quality service at all times. For companies to maintain a competitive advantage and ensure long-term loyalty, their relationship and contact with each customer must be completely error free, emphasising their commitment to superior customer service.

Consistently good treatment
A company can spend millions on technology to implement CRM strategies, but without being able to fully recognise the customer, this imoney is wasted. Every channel within an organisation should hold the same data and offer a single view of each customer, so that the customer can rely on consistent treatment at every point of contact with the company.

Customer loyalty schemes are devised to ensure long term customer loyalty and satisfaction. This, however, is not possible if the company neglects data quality and the ability to recognise its customers in the first place.

Individual worth
If a company can fully recognise each customer as an individual, it can use its CRM strategy to provide its customers with effective service. Accurate and time-critical decisions mean the customers receive the best possible service at all times.

Once there is assurance of data accuracy of customer information (that is available to the entire company), ROI can be achieved from the CRM strategy. Whether the customer is contacted via the phone, in-store, through the internet or by direct marketing, it is essential that all information represents one customer view. This means, they feel that all their individual needs are understood and the company is committed to offering them the best service possible.

For a single customer view to become a reality, businesses need to create a foundation for integrating customer data where all information can be managed and distributed in real-time throughout the corporation. The foundation is called Customer Data Integration (CDI). CDI means customer information can be linked across an organisation to ensure a consumer is recognised at all times.

Tagging the customer
This technology tags each customer with an a ÔkeyÕ or ID, allowing each individual to be recognised and tracked over time and across different data sources.

This takes direct marketing to another level. CDI ensures that the correct customers are targeted with the correct marketing correspondence. CDI can help a company retain its competitive advantage within a highly competitive market place and ensure long-term customer loyalty.

What the Butler says
According to Butler Group, 70% of CRM projects are not successful due to a lack of communication and consolidation of a companyÕs vision and goals. So it is essential for a clear understanding of the objectives of the CRM strategy throughout the company.

There is little point in having a highly advanced CRM technology that costs the company a lot of money, if the IT department and marketing department for example, do not communicate their goals for the CRM project.

Sales hooks and messages come via a company's marketing team, so it is essential for this teamÕs needs to be communicated along the Ôfood chainÕ and involve the IT manager. IT managers must liaise with the board when developing its CRM strategy, and marketeers must communicate their needs and vision to the IT team.

Together they can agree the technological deliverables and expectations in line with the companyÕs overall goal and requirements. Only then will a successful CRM implementation take place.


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