The fundamentals of building and retaining a good network of customers remain timeless, and all four of the most crucial of these happen to start with the letter C, writes John Oechsle.
Walkmen were all the rage, cell phones were the size of eggplants, and Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody was the number one hit. The year was 1987, a time when technology was advancing at a tremendous pace. Just imagine — in four more years, some Americans would begin communicating via SMS text.
Enter 2017. Driverless cars are cruising the streets, and high school students are Skyping with astronauts in space.
New technologies are shaping the world around us, and small- to medium-sized businesses have a tremendous opportunity to capitalise on these advancements.
This is especially true with customer relationship management (CRM), an area that businesses were smart to pay attention to 30 years ago in 1987, but can no longer afford to ignore in today’s competitive environment.
As the technological complexity of customer relationships evolve, so must our approaches to them.
The area is best tackled through the four Cs of customer information, which are crucial components of any business plan: currency, correctness, consistency and completeness are – and, arguably, have always been – the most effective path toward forging intimate, long-term relationships with customers.
Currency and correctness
These two go together like the PC and mouse. After all, data only has value when it’s up-to-date and accurate.
While the internet makes it easy to link up with others, it’s important to ensure connections are managed properly.
Remember, customer information is constantly changing. People move, switch jobs and update email addresses. Social media accounts might be inaccurate or outdated. This all underscores the importance of maintaining current and correct customer information.
If customer information is kept accurately and up-to-date, it can prove to be invaluable when used with predictive analytics technology.
It can help an organisation learn a lot about customer trends and who to reach out to for a sale, at what time and via which method of contact to give the company the best chance for a successful interaction.
Clearly, this gives the business its best chance to retain existing customers, while growing by developing new customer relationships as well.
We’ve come a long way since 1987, when the first version of Microsoft Excel was released for Windows.
Excel was preceded by programs such as Lotus and VisiCalc, which were used to store customer data and other important company information. Before then, punched cards were a popular way to save information. Oh, and don’t forget the infamous Rolodex, the original CRM.
It’s truly incredible to think of the advances information management has made in such a short time period.
Consistency has always been a hallmark of helping businesses grow. After all, success is impossible if a business can’t maintain positive and long-lasting relationships with its customers.
We have infinite options for storing detailed customer information. We use mobile apps, cloud servers, customisable CRM software solutions, email, Google docs, Excel spreadsheets and – gasp – pen and paper when we’re in a pinch.
If the customer information is not consistent across all of them, currency and correctness go out the door!
It wasn’t always so simple to store all that information on a computer. Apple’s 1986 enhanced Macintosh computer had limited capacity and could store just 4MB worth of files. To put that in context, the ’86 Mac had enough space to store about one decent quality mp3 song file today.
Completeness is not just about knowing a customer’s address and birthday, it’s an across-the-board collection of customer information aimed at documenting every individual customer interaction.
And complete record keeping wasn’t always easy to accomplish through technology.
In the late 1980s, computers were only beginning to make their way into mainstream life. By 1989, just 15 percent of US households owned one and customer records were often kept tucked away in filing cabinets.
Today, we’re fortunate to live in an age where we can keep an effortless record of emails, web analytics and online sales with the right technology.
We can detail each interaction a customer has with any point of contact at the business, and that information can then be stored and shared so everyone has the same, complete information about the customer’s experience.
It’s easy to make notes of face-to-face meetings and phone calls, too, with tools that have been developed for just that purpose.
With such effective and reliable technology available at our disposal in 2017, we are wise to take advantage. Bringing the four Cs together gives businesses the ability to mine information, examine trends and forge lifelong relationships with their customers that enable the business to grow and thrive.
And, at the end of the day, isn’t finding ways to connect and form relationships with our customers what it’s all about – both today and back in 1987?
John Oechsle is the CEO of Swiftpage.
Opinion: Why do so many claim to represent small businesses?
By Adam Zuchetti
Opinion: House prices not all doom and gloom
By Adam Zuchetti
Analysis: How can SMEs realistically stay competitive?
By Adam Zuchetti