Lessons on Customer Service: Tips on Making the Most Out of Your Customer Database

The power of computers has taken us such a long way in improving customer service management. But how can business owners like us take advantage of having customer data on file? Which information is best to ask from customers? Email, home address, or cellphone? (Or Facebook,  LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype?)

It may seem ridiculous to ask at first, but CRM, or customer relationship management, is a game changer. How smartly we answer these questions turns data gathering and analysis into an exercise of harmony.

Get everyone focused and excited about a targeted and well-managed database. Much like writing your customer service playbook, coordinate first with your CMO, HR, and COO. You must ask: what is our desired outcome? Business teams, suppliers, employees, and especially the CRM developers should all be aligned, with required data agreed upon, and with KPIs (key performance indicators), and milestones taken note of.

What is the goal? This is something that only you and your marketing staff can answer. What are your business objectives? Do you want to grow or strengthen your market share? What is at stake when you get your CRM program populated? Common answers include “loyalty program,” “direct response,” “lead generation,” and “client re-acquisition.”

Begin with the end in mind. What is your metric for success? Phrase it with as clear and as single-minded an outcome as possible. The importance of this will be revealed in the subsequent points.

Why? Hire a CRM developer and this is the first thing they will ask. “Why are you collecting this data, and how will it be used?”

Different CRM objectives have different technical—and cost—requirements. Loyalty programs have a constantly updating data set; points, referrals, credits, past purchases all need to tracked. This means ballooning server space.

Is direct response what you had in mind? This is for reaching out to your customers when you have new products or deals. The technical requirements of this will depend on how frequent, targeted you want your emails to be.

Remember, these answers will be important once you have a discussion with your CRM guy, who won’t be as interested in the creativity or branding as you will be. They need to foresee challenges and complexity in data organization and access.

How can you afford a CRM program? By setting the goals early, and as specific as possible, you can already project your ROI. Knowing how much income you foresee will come in, you can better gauge your marketing budget.

Your CRM costs will differ on which goal you have. How much server space will you need? What kind of technology will make accessing this database better? Are you using POS (Point of Sale)? Do you have an extensive catalog of products or services? Do you want to track your registered customers’ interests or clicks on your catalog? Is there an existing database, or do you have to grow it? Who will update and regularly clean the CRM program? Are you managing/accessing the database in-house?

Unless you’re an expert on CRM and database management, choose your CRM developer wisely. That means someone who will ask you a lot of questions, and can agree with your vision on how your program will unfold. The further you can visualize the lifespan and usefulness of your CRM program, the more potent it becomes as a revenue booster.

Get a CRM that takes the time to educate you, not just someone who jots down notes and says ‘Yes’ to everything. What you intend for your database may not be feasible, or sensible, so make sure you thresh out the issues, and come to solutions cooperatively.

CRM is accessing pertinent information that surprises and delights your customers when you remind them of your attentive and supportive customer service. By being clear—first with your business teams, then your suppliers, and then to your employees who will be collecting, and possibly using the database—you can deliver service from behind a computer screen, spotting opportunities and problems before anyone else. Remove ambiguity by planning ahead by knowing and remembering these customer service tips.



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