Keeping Customers Loyal; Case Studies Show the Way: We All Know That Competitive Companies Have a Strong Customer Focus-But How Do They Show It? Vikki Bland Looks at How Three Local Companies Manage Their Customer Relations

By Bland, Vikki | New Zealand Management, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Keeping Customers Loyal; Case Studies Show the Way: We All Know That Competitive Companies Have a Strong Customer Focus-But How Do They Show It? Vikki Bland Looks at How Three Local Companies Manage Their Customer Relations


Bland, Vikki, New Zealand Management


Customer relationship management (CRM) is big business. It is if you re a software marketer specialising in CRM software, but it's also big for, well, bigger businesses.

Despite the hype around the technologies, and the many mistakes made by companies on a CRM learning curve, research shows CRM planning, strategies and initiatives remain high on the wish list of many sizeable companies. And small-to-medium-sized (SME) businesses are catching on fast.

For example, a customer study by SME software specialist JD Edwards reveals that although less than five percent of SME customers have implemented CRM systems, nearly 30 percent will consider it over the next two years.

Quite simply, CRM strategies and technologies can provide a competitive edge. If you can manage your customer relationships better than your competitors, you'll not only keep your own customers, you'll probably start to win some of theirs as well.

Further, CRM initiatives which have been properly strategised and coupled with careful internal change management almost always increase internal job satisfaction and company profitability.

Of course, achieving all of this is hardly about buying the right computer equipment and software. Companies that previously believed CRM was about smart software, preferably lots of it, have learnt the hard way. True CRM is perhaps best defined as: the bundling of customer strategies and processes, supported by relevant software, for the purpose of improving customer loyalty and eventual profitability.

Note the phrase "supported by". Software is often essential to the success of an ongoing CRM strategy, but it's not where a CRM strategy should start.

It has been noted by CRM specialists that effective CRM starts with good old-fashioned segmentation analysis. In other words, knowing what you want to achieve, identifying which customers are important and what they want from your business, and then working out strategies to refine all internal business processes to meet and exceed those expectations.

The remainder of this article provides three case studies of New Zealand businesses which have managed to get their CRM strategies and projects right. This is no mean feat, with confusion surrounding CRM still high.

How these companies achieved CRM success, and the things they learned along the way, make valuable reading for any business interested in catching the CRM wave and ensuring its positive impact for customers and internal profitability into the future.

UBix: Early movers

In June 2001, document-imaging specialists UBix (a brand division of the company Onesource) decided radical changes to its call centre and service dispatch areas were required.

Tony Day, general manager of services for Onesource, says jobs were logged, queued and then dispatched by voice, one at a time. The average amount of time it took for a technician to get to a customer was between four and five hours.

"That's a long time when you are standing over a machine fuming," he says.

The old system was also highly error prone. Not only would UBix technicians record customers' names incorrectly and so incorrectly address the customer, 14-character part numbers were frequently confused between the technician and call centre staff. Information was handled up to three times before reaching UBix's central database, which made it less reliable.

UBix began an overall CRM strategy by implementing business process changes in tandem with technologies. These included management discussions at which technicians were asked how they wanted to work, what would enable them to better service customers, and the information technology tools they thought would help.

UBix also talked to key customers ("Pick your toughest customer," advises Day) then assigned each technician a specific set of customers, thereby transferring the responsibility for customers to the technicians themselves. …

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