Customer Relationship Management is a new buzzword for a very old concept: customer satisfaction.

Here’s how Gartner, a research and advisory company, defines it: “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” It’s referred to as CRM or CXM (Customer Experience Management).

Keeping Customers Happy

Distilled down, it simply means consciously keeping your customers happy, because their loyalty is priceless. Happiness matters. Emotional reactions are critical to marketing, sales, retention and loyalty.

CRM was pretty simple back in the old days. When a single hardware store or dentist or drycleaner served a community, these businesses faced few challenges to good CRM. They simply knew their customers.

Today, it’s more complex because businesses are bigger, spread over multiple departments, states, and countries. Different functions are siloed and they struggle to communicate well with each other. Customers in the B2B world are bigger too. They’re often siloed, and priorities vary among their many departments.

We found some short-and-sweet instructions for optimizing CRM by SAS.com, an analytics company:

  1. Create and maintain complete customer profiles.
  2. Personalize all customer interactions.
  3. Get the right information to the right place at the right time – every time.

Once again, this would be a simple low-tech enterprise for that small-town dentist. For today’s business, it’s much more high-tech: Dependent on big data, data analytics, software, and most importantly, a well-integrated interdepartmental approach.

Excelling at CRM Is Key to Competitive Advantage

When you are competing with bigger companies, mastering CRM is a way to shine. While the bottom line always matters, customers are seldom willing to save a few pennies in exchange for recurring frustration. Boost your CRM game, and you’ll find lots of customers are willing to pay a little more for a satisfying experience with a responsive company.

In today’s complicated world, data plays a big role in all aspects of transactions. While we’ve often talked about focus on internal digital strategies, it’s equally important to focus on external strategies. Both use many of same tools such as leveraging data analytics. We’ve talked before about data overload – but since gathering data is easier than it’s ever been, make sure not to overlook gathering important details about your customers so you can customize their experience.

Many other elements that may be viewed as internal also have external, customer-facing aspects. For example, continuous improvement is not simply about making sure your parts are flawless 99.9% of the time. Your continuous improvement can and should be trained on customer interactions as well.

Customer Satisfaction Is Good Business

It’s far more costly to earn new customers than to retain existing ones. Investing in customer satisfaction has always been an essential strategy. Maybe it’s higher tech now, with a fancy new acronym, but it’s still good business.