Are you using a CRM? Do you know what a CRM is? Most of us do, but for those that are frantically searching the acronym database, it stands for Customer Relationship Manager. And it is one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal.
Let’s look at the words. Customer—we need them to survive, No customer, no business. Relationship—this is what we are striving to create so we have loyal customers. Manager—like any relationship, we must manage it properly or we divorce.
A CRM system keeps your leads, contacts, and clients controlled and arranged for easy access and to further understand your customer (or vendor).
You will know the basics like names, and contact information and with a little diligence, it will be up to date. But you can take it further based on conversations. Did your client mention it was an anniversary cruise? Note that down so you can send a Happy Anniversary card next year! Was that client a PITA? Make sure you note that as well.
A well-run CRM is a thing of beauty. Look at Papa John’s Pizza. I go online and they know who I am, how I like to pay, where I live, and more importantly that I do not want pineapple anywhere near my pizza! For icing on the cake, when the delivery person arrives at my door, I am greeted by name. All this from a place that makes mediocre pizza.
CRM is not only a customer relationship manager. It also affords a lot of increased productivity. No more looking up information. No more asking the exact name on a passport. No more digging out a file to see if they last traveled in an interior cabin or a suite. And this information is now widely accessible to anyone in your organization if you set it up properly. When you are on vacation, your backup can now see exactly where you were with the client that called up with a question.
And of course, there are reports. How many prospects did you close? What was the percentage? Who was your top supplier sold? Who was the top supplier requested by clients? Who has birthdays, anniversaries, or other milestones this month? You get the idea!
Beyond that, there are several other benefits:
- Increased income. Allows you to identify the most profitable clients and vendors.
- Customer satisfaction. The more seamless you can make doing business with you the better. When your butler at Sandals is anticipating your needs before you ask, it is a great vacation. Be the butler!
- Marketing help. Use the CRM to determine trends and market to them. You might find that your customers all cruise in the summer rather than spring break. So why waste money marketing a spring break cruise to them?
However, there is a drawback. Like any database (and that is exactly what this is), if it is not maintained, it becomes useless. Many moons ago, I instituted ClientBase in my office as the CRM. There was resistance from some employees (you know—old school) and they decided not to “bother” the client by asking for an email address; so, they just put in some random letters along with an “@hotmail.com” at the end. How effective do you think the email broadcasts were that I sent out? That was a tough hurdle and ultimately, they were not paid full commission unless a valid email was present.
While a CRM does not need to be industry-specific like ClientBase or the new TRES, it is helpful as they tend to be designed to work for our industry. But anything is better than nothing. Access (Microsoft Suite) is adequate. I have even seen agencies manage with Excel spreadsheets (I cringed, but it was working for them), and while I have not tried it, I suspect Evernote or another note-taking application might suffice as well since most now have pretty powerful tagging and searching features.
If you are working out of a Rolodex or a file box on your desk with contact cards, make a mid-year resolution to change things up!