It’s impossible to leave a customer alone. They’re either yours, or they’re somebody else’s. In fact, in the course of doing business, the constant struggle is for the acquisition and maintenance of as many good quality customers as you can get-those that fit your prescribed profile of what it takes for them to need you in terms of product or service.
This needs-based connection between vendor and customer is what in business we’ve come to know as the “relationship”, and it is at the heart of customer relationship management software systems, otherwise known as CRM.
There are many approaches to CRM, but ultimately when a company talks about the process they’re almost always referring to sales force automation or customer campaign management. When you’re a one-person shop operating out of a garage or truck, CRM might be as low-tech and informal as keeping customer names, addresses, and orders on a inked-over yellow legal pad. On the other hand, when you’re working out of a 100,000 plant with thousands of customers and ten’s of thousands of orders each month, you had better have a more formal way of keeping track of everyone. CRM software, often part and parcel of enterprise resource planning software (ERP) is required in manufacturing today to build strong ties to customers and their needs.
A robust CRM software system is, in fact, a database of just about every tidbit of information that can be harvested and stored about a customer. It’s designed to maintain an on-going checks and balances approach to customer satisfaction. Loyal customers, in particular, have considerations such as order frequency, order type, issues, complaints, service, needs, and even economic forecasting built into a quickly produced analytics report. These reports are used to enhance cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, and to generally reciprocate loyalty with added value benefits as they are created. While these reports take many forms and means of outputting data, a most interesting CRM format gaining popularity is the geographic CRM.
Geographic CRM, or GCRM, takes customer location into account and connects that information with other data in the traditional CRM system. Interestingly, GCRM looks at local, regional, national, and global location considerations such as roads, populations, topography, and geographic notions to inform relationship management considerations of trade, supply chain reliability, and even economic/political predictability.
With this information at hand, a vendor or manufacturer can ascertain the chance of on-time delivery, customer needs relative to his ambient conditions, and other relationship management issues. GCRM is a novel way of adding additional levels of relationship building that go beyond the pale of ordinary sales force assessment. In short, GCRM looks at where the customer and his employees live, and how that locality, region, nation, impacts-and is impacted by-the place in which they work. In turn, GCRM data becomes the basis upon which improved relationships can be built between customer and vendor through a sense of cultural understanding between the two.