How To Keep Customers Satisfied

As published in the Sunday Business Post on 25th March 2012.

Customers should be for life, and your relationship with them needs to grow and evolve as their needs and the economy changes. That’s the message fromTom Nolan, head of strategic account management for Sage,who believes that during times of economic hardship it makes sense to hang on to the customers you have at the same time as trying to find new ones. The challenge for Irish mid-market companies under pressure to keep their customers happy is how to make the most of those relationships. The answer lies in customer relationship management (CRM) and, according to Nolan, it’s not enough to simply have access to customer information in a database, it’s more important to be able to make that information work hard.

‘‘There are companies out there that think they don’t need separate CRMsystems, they keep their customer data in their enterprise resource planning [ERP] systems but that’s manifestly not enough,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s vital that mid-market companies invest in CRM to grow their business.You need to have focused systems within your organisation that allow you to implement your best practice processes against your customer base to deliver the right level of customer service.  CRM at its most basic is a tool that allows companies to maintain an ongoing relationship with their customers throughout all parts of the business,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s about maintaining a 360-degree view of your customer and understanding all the dealings you have with them.’’

Sage CRM is a mid-market solution developed in Ireland but distributed globally. It’s used by companies as diverse as Musgraves, Cartrawler and Brown Thomas in Ireland, as well as BMW, Honda, Parcelforce and Ricoh internationally. ‘‘Most people are familiar with CRM in terms of its usefulness in sales, marketing and customer service  – all of those groups find it extremely helpful to be able to see all the information the company has gathered on its customers in one place,’’ he said. ‘‘However, there’s also a fourth pillar to CRM, the finance function. The people who work in the finance department typically also need to contact your customers, and will have information about themthat should be shared.’’ According to Nolan, Sage CRM product offerings are designed to work well with existing IT systems, allowing them to slot into a company IT infrastructure without needing large redesigns. ‘‘For companies that are existing Sage customers, perhaps using Sage 200 or Sage 1000, we have out-of-the-box integration that can give additional visibility between the front and the back office systems for no additional cost.You can actually get the value of owning two Sage systems by having a view across those two systems out of the box with zero implementation costs,’’ he said.

‘‘You can then go further and build that out if you want to further model your processes and workflow engines to get the most benefits of hooking up the front and the backoffice. ‘‘If you’re a non-Sage ERP customer, you still have the ability to do a lot. Sage CRM has all kinds of integration built into it, such as web services and other ways that allow you to hook into your existing business systems. It’s not just about plugging your ERP system into a CRM system, it can be any of your business systems,’’ said Nolan. ‘‘We have a lot of mid-market customers hooking up CRM into their back office systems to essentially accelerate their productivity levels and save reps or telephone operators needing to have multiple systems open on the desktop when they deal with a customer.’’ Nolan suggested that the two major ways CRM could deliver benefits to any organisation positioning itself to using it were in the area of creating efficiencies and helping to generate new income. ‘‘It should allow you to do things faster and in a more standardisedway. At a basic level, it influences how you communicate with your customers, send them emails or letters and the blike.You set up templates and forms so you have a guarantee that what’s going out from your company is drip marketing that is tightly controlled and highly focused – the opposite of spam,’’ he said. ‘‘CRMalso gives you visibility into your opportunity pipeline. How do you make money? You sell more. How do you sell more? You focus your resources in the most effective areas.CRM allows you to evaluate your staff in terms of their performance, how long it’s taking them to close deals on average, for example.

‘‘It allows you to look at the information being put into the system by your best sales person, and then see if there are aspects of their daily practices that can be replicated to improve everyone else’s performance.’’

Interested in what Sage CRM solutions can do for your business, visit Sage CRM or call 1890 88 25 22