Processing & productivity
Fenestration Forum December 2016 – Consider CRM software
December 5, 2016 By Brian Burton
Over the past decade, client relationship management (CRM) has become a common industry buzzword like social media marketing. These relationship management tools in the form of computerized programs were designed to automate interaction between you and your customers, however, in the window and door industry, automating personal interaction can be complex.
It’s complicated because you’re dealing with individuals and personalities – not computer programs – and you need to pay close attention, keeping in mind what makes each customer special. If your approach to client relationships is haphazard it can actually be counterproductive. That’s because if an existing or potential customer gets the impression that they are being treated like a commodity there can be an adverse reaction, as one might expect. The ultimate goal is to maximize your current and prospective client relationships to match your company goals and ideally to improve profitability.
I spoke with several consultants that provide training on optimizing the use of CRM tools and some of their comments and observations may be of benefit as we close out what has hopefully been another busy year. Most of the important benefits gained from using these programs are critically dependent on the data that goes into the program at the front end when you are populating the database. That’s just one of the reasons CRM training is so important. Often, resources are invested in introducing these automated programs only to find they are useless if employees don’t use them, or don’t use them correctly. Executives report that this is the most significant single limitation. There are some rules of thumb that have, in my experience, proven helpful. You need to do your best to determine exactly what it is you want your CRM system to provide. In-house brainstorming is a good way to start that discovery process. Make an effort up front to consider your options. Do you want to build your own made-to-measure CRM program or buy one off the shelf? If you do chose to purchase, take full advantage of any and all training opportunities. Then encourage your employees to practice. Listen carefully to your customers as you go. Innovative companies have found ways to make sure their employees understand their customers’ perspective. Some have even sent their employees out to simulate the customer’s perspective. For example, Harley Davidson sent their employees out on the road with some of their customers to get the full experience of using the products they provide. Find a way to test your system to find out if it’s achieving your objectives. Obtaining feedback is sometimes a challenge. At the minimum, monitor your progress and the results of your CRM efforts. Populating and maintaining client relationships data is important even for industries that rely on one-time purchases or where there are long intervals between purchases. Even one-time purchasers can provide a glimpse into market trends, general purchasing motivators and feedback on your sales, installation and service standards.
Some other arguments for using CRM include improving your ability to evaluate your response time to inquiries and questions. You can determine whether clients that did not buy did find the product or information they were looking for, or whether they went away for some other reason. You can find out how potential clients discovered your company and what factors contributed to their decision to contact you. Purchase motivation can also help you assess your perceived strengths and weaknesses. Circling back to happy clients represents the possibility for a reference or testimonial. Those customers can generate word-of-mouth promotion if they are kept aware of your existence after the sale. Unhappy clients can be even more useful by providing feedback on your service. And it is possible that a client will move and purchase again, renovate or upgrade the property or purchase another property, becoming a repeat customer. If this is the case, it should be recorded in the client relationship management file or program.
Don’t fall into the assumption that you know how your company is performing and what your clients think. CRM can help you organize and structure your data collection and yield new insights.
Brian is a construction writer from Ottawa Ontario who served on the CSA’s Fenestration Installation Technician Certification Program Personnel Committee. You can contact Brian at Blueblade49@gmail.com or learn more by visiting burton’s-pen.com
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