Customers are one of your business’ most precious assets and if you don’t understand them, you’re flying blind.
Considering businesses tend to live or die depending on how many customers walk through the door, many businesses know surprisingly little about what makes their customers tick. Going on a gut feeling will only get you so far — there comes a time when you need to take a more systematic approach to understanding your customers to ensure you’re making the most of each other.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is no longer just for the big end of town, with a new generation of cloud-based services designed to put enterprise-grade features within the reach of the smallest of businesses.
Rather than just offer a centralised way for your people to manage your customer contact details, a well-rounded CRM system lets them handle everything from marketing, lead generation and prospect nurturing, to sales, order tracking and forecasting. It can bring you closer to having a single holistic view of a customer, making it easier to transform all that data into insight.
You can also use a CRM system to manage a customer loyalty program that goes far beyond simply stamping a loyalty card and giving customers their 10th coffee for free. Electronic loyalty programs gather invaluable data regarding customer behaviour, which can help with business planning by giving insights into purchasing trends, peak demand times and staffing requirements.
This information can also help with cross-selling and upselling — which is not a dirty world if handled delicately and selectively, rather than taking a shotgun approach and risking alienating some customers. Customer behaviour data also allows you to look at the big picture, including conversion rates, customer lifecycles and customer lifetime value.
Once you move into data analytics you can also look for indications of customer dissatisfaction and tell-tale signs of impending churn. Churn is not necessarily a bad thing; once you map customer lifecycles you can better appreciate that sometimes losing a customer is for the best. Once you understand your customers, you can focus on attracting and retaining the right kind of customer, with a better appreciation of what they actually want from you.
If you don’t know which are your most valuable customers, or even how to measure true customer value in your industry, then it’s time to do your homework. Once you have a better understanding of your customers, you can start focusing your efforts to ensure you keep the right customers coming back for more.