Customer Relationship Management (CRM). That’s not a piece of software. It’s not a procedure. It should be a way of life. If you step back and think about it, every action you undertake in your business should be about customer relationship management.

If you don’t manage your customers you can’t expect them to stick around. If you lose your customers your business will suffer and it is commonly accepted that recruiting new customers takes far more time, effort and invesment than looking after your existing ones properly.

So why don’t people take CRM seriously?

Admittedly, more and companies appear to be investing in CRM software but too few understand it properly or how it should integrate into their business. It’s something of an accepted business trend to give a label to a function and then pigeon-hole it, yet that isolates it and immediately decreases its effect.

Just as social media should not be run as a separate small sub-division of a marketing department – it needs to be integrated with the whole business – so CRM should not just be a tool and action from a division of customer service, it needs to be adopted and embraced company wide.

How can CRM become company wide?

The obvious answer is to give everybody in the company access to any company CRM software and encourage them to use it. Training on it will also help but so much of it I second nature, few people struggle to pick it up once they start using it. The key to successful CRM is every department and every employee sharing knowledge, so the more using it the bigger the knowledge base becomes.

Why go company wide?

Successful busineses are based on informed decisions and they are made on the back of intelligence and information previously collected. CRM should be the place that pulls it all together. As the number of ways in which companies interact with customers continues to grow, CRM systems will play a bigger role in building quality relationships.

Centralise customer data – pulling all strings together about what you know about your customer will help you understand your existing base much better. By knowing how each customer best responds to marketing campaigns, or prefers to communicate with you, it is much easier to target future campaigns and that clearly should have a positive effect on their success.

So that’s the who, why, where and how, so how about when? Well pretty much as soon as you can. People expect you to know a lot more about them than ever before, especially if they have given you the information in some form to one division of your company. If you then don’t use that information you risk frustrating your customer and losing them altogether.