Most companies with a staff of salespeople now rely on customer relationship management (CRM) platforms to keep track of customer information, including names, contact information, and notes about the account. But there’s a potential problem here; most platforms encourage you to reduce most of your customer relationship information to objective, definable terms, and that can be limiting when trying to understand, preserve, and improve your relationships.
In reality, customer relationships are much more subjective and complex, extending beyond the form fields that your CRM provides for you. So does this make your CRM less effective, and if so, what’s the solution?
How Does Your CRM Work?
First, you’ll need to understand whether your platform is effective at capturing and preserving information about the subjective qualities of your customer relationships. For example:
- Can you create new fields? Many CRMs offer administrators the ability to create new fields within each account, allowing a greater degree of customization that can help salespeople define what’s most important to them. It’s still hard to take something subjective and make it objective, but this feature can help.
- Is there room for expansive note-taking? Some CRMs try to reduce every field to a number, or make note areas as small as possible. This may work for some account reps and some clients, but if you want to make the most of your relationships, you should have virtually unlimited room that you can use to expand on those relationships.
- Are your accounts assignable? Within your platform, you should have the ability to assign each client account to one or more designated reps, to define the boundaries of those client relationships.
Improving Subjective Relationship Qualities
If your CRM platform leaves something to be desired, or if you simply want to do more to document and preserve your subjective customer interactions, there are some strategies you can use:
- Keep your brand top-of-mind. Your customer relationships manifest and grow outside the reach of your CRM platform. If you want to keep it intact, you’ll need to make personal efforts to keep your brand top-of-mind, such as printing and sending your customers new materials, making more phone calls, or otherwise finding excuses to have more direct interactions.
- Encourage more personal relationships. Train your account managers and sales staff to have more personal interactions and relationships with your customers. If you focus too much on the process of recording numbers and objective notes, you’ll take away from the magic here. It’s hard for your sales staff to be “friends” with your customers, but there’s no reason they can’t be on friendly terms.
- Keep account managers dedicated to specific accounts. If you keep your account managers dedicated to specifically assigned accounts, you won’t have to worry as much about having universally accessible notes on every client. It’s a good measure to have in place for redundancy and backups, but for the most part, your managers’ client relationships should flourish naturally and over time. Let them develop those connections as they see fit.
- Allow more flexible tracking. As much as possible, allow your salespeople to take notes however they wish. It may be easier to make calculations and objective comparisons when everything fits into pre-arranged, defined boxes, but it’s easier to capture the nature of a client when you don’t have those parameters.
If you’re looking for a new CRM platform, with more flexible options and with a greater capacity to define and store information on your customer relationships, consider trying one of SAP’s CRM products.