Managing customer relationships

Managing customer relationships means understanding which customers the company wants to attract and keep, what they want from the company, and how this can be achieved.

Few financial institutions can be characterized as "customer-centric"—meaning, they differentiate customers according to their life-time value to the company and present a consistent experience to customers regardless of the channel of communication used, the type of contact, or the day and time of contact.

Most companies operate in silos with separate responsibilities and systems and even if there are customer owners and relationship managers, the systems to support the management techniques may not be fully integrated. To manage customer relationships effectively, it is important that the company has one view of the customer and, even more importantly, that the customer has one image of the company.

Overall, companies with an integrated approach to CRM who combine marketing, sales, and service are often more successful in achieving two key objectives: selling more to current customers and creating new revenue streams.

So - how can this be achieved? Systems can help by integrating information and allowing detailed analysis, but the main things that have to happen are:

  1. Developing a customer strategy. This should identify which customers the company wants to keep and how to keep them and expand the relationships with them as well as how to attract more customers with similar attributes.
  2. Co-ordinating the sales, marketing and operations functions within the company so that the customer sees one view of the company giving him consistent messages.
  3. Ensuring that the company (with all it's faces) is listening to the customer and giving him what he needs.

This sounds simple but it is not quite that easy. Getting different functions to work together requires objectives to be synchonised and communication to flow smoothly. This requires good information flow and performance targets to be balanced to ensure that everyone is working to a common goal. It also requires good feedback loops. These will ensure that the company begins to get a better understanding of what the customer needs and values so that these can then be reflected in the new products and services which can be provided.

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