In our global, extremely competitive business environment, holding onto your
customers has never been more critical, says Ashley Ellington, MD, Softline
Enterprise. Many businesses spend a lot of time and money on finding new
customers – an extremely important goal if you're trying to grow your
business. But what are you doing to keep the customers you already have?
It is much cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a new
one. Customer retention should, therefore, be a focus of the entire company,
Ellington says. "If you keep your customers happy, they will not only buy
more from you but it will also cost you less to sell and market to them."

A business wanting to effectively run a relationship marketing programme
needs to find a CRM solution that offers a full spectrum of information
relating to its customer base. A CRM solution which enables the company to
track the lifecycle of a customer is core to relationship marketing.
At a high level, CRM is designed to improve customer satisfaction by
enabling a business to better understand its customers, their habits and
their needs. Data gathered from CRM tools is also analysed by business
owners to identify levels of customer satisfaction, buying patterns, the
success (or lack thereof) of a particular marketing or sales promotion with
customers, and more.
A successful CRM solution integrates marketing, sales and customer service
functions, making it easy for everyone inside the company to work together
and share critical information. "It also empowers customers to do business
with you in the way they choose to, while increasing your staff's awareness
of the customer's needs," says Ellington.
Any company that has customers, prospects or competitors needs a good CRM
solution because without it you're just guessing. "Before you implement a
CRM solution, make sure everyone in your organisation has bought into the
idea," Ellington says. There is no point to a CRM system that only 20
percent of your staff is using.
"CRM is a customer-centric business strategy which is aimed at maximising
profits, revenue and customer satisfaction," says Ellington. Technologies
that support this goal include the capture, storage and analysis of customer
information, while functions that support this business purpose include
sales, marketing and customer service. If the supporting technology is not
integrated as part of a company's overall customer strategy, the business
will fail to maximise its CRM function, Ellington warns.
"CRM was originally developed to assist companies with their customer
relationships," says Ellington. "It has evolved into a software solution
that provides a 360-degree customer view via consolidation of information
from sales, marketing, customer service and support."
Today, CRM needs to be part of and integrated into the rest of the business.
More broadly, it is aimed at helping users resolve customer questions,
issues and requests, quickly, while also capitalising on new selling
opportunities. Further to this, Ellington says, CRM helps extend customer
service delivery through 24/7 self service solutions, reducing the time and
resources it takes to support and service customers.