How can your company walk the talk of being customer-focused? Here's a recommended course of action:
1. Involve your customers in defining programs and their ideal experience.
2. Understand your customers' definition of a job well done. Understand what they consider unacceptable, a must-do, a nice-to-do and what would wow them. Do this before you roll out a CRM program or an e-commerce site.
3. Keep the customer involved throughout the ''define and design'' stage. This will help you hone the program and work out the kinks in a preventive way, before the program or service is introduced.
4. Remember that customers at different stages of their relationship with you should be treated differently. Communication with your customers is like dating: They find you or you find them. The first interaction you have with them -- e-mail, in person, on the Web, or over the phone -- is pivotal.
5. Learn from others. Great information on best practices for e-mail marketing, customer loyalty, Web site development and CRM is readily available from books, magazines, conferences and on the Web.
6. Focus on continuous improvement. Track what is working and what isn't with your customers. Understand their priorities and identify three things you can do that would most dramatically improve your customers' satisfaction, repurchase habits and loyalty (and your bottom line). Make incremental and regular changes. Show customers you are listening and learning from them.
CRM initiatives can affect all aspects of provider behavior and related customer behavior. Costs can be reduced and revenue increased. If your efforts can influence even a single behavior or customer-related metric, the payback can be enormous.
Your investments in CRM initiatives will result in exponential returns, provided they are executed well.