Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can have many different definitions, and can sometimes cause confusion. Does CRM include correspondence before a company becomes a customer, such as sales and marketing? Should CRM extend to all areas of a business, including internal IT teams who don’t interact with customers? Drawing the line of what is and isn’t part of the CRM experience can be difficult.
Instead of focusing on who does and doesn’t fall under the term CRM, let’s take a step back and evaluate what CRM is really about. Customer Relationship Management. It's about managing your relationships with your customers, and in B2B (Business to Business) this means the entire customer. To use another, perhaps more current, term for this - it's about customer success, or putting the success of your business customers as the top priority. Let's examine why B2B customer success and CRM are so important...
Without the customer, you don’t have a relationship to manage – One area where traditional CRM solutions can falter is they don’t focus on enough on the human elements of customer relationship management. Notes and custom fields are great for keeping track of hard data but to keep customers happy and engaged, focus more on human elements such as mood and tone of voice. Customer success software with a built-in sentiment analysis solution is excellent at providing this extra layer of customer data so you know immediately how a customer truly feels about your business and interactions. Accurately understanding the true meaning of every customer communication is vital to a successful relationship.
All relationships (including with customers) are about communication and trust – The key here for achieving customer success is maintaining a workforce that has high ethical standards when assisting customers. It can be difficult to tell a customer they’re wrong, even if it’s the truth, but always spin these negative conversations into positive interactions. Instead of just saying “that’s wrong”, an employee should tell a customer “we're unable to complete the project that way, but here’s an alternate way we can get the job done to meet your standards”. Keep the focus on the customer, talk to them with empathy, and follow through on what you say you’re going to do. CRM tools can help here, but you’ll only receive authentic trust through the personal touch you put forth with customers.
Remember a B2B customer is a company, not one individual – An interpersonal relationship in business can be fantastic and is often why a customer exists in the first place. But, far too often, when that internal “champion” at your customer leaves so does the revenue from their business. To avoid this, focus on customer relationship management and not individual relationship management. Educate as many employees as you can for each customer to ensure the stickiness of your product throughout the organization. Don’t hesitate to offer multi-employee discounts as needed to increase your organizational footprint within a customer account. In addition, leverage customer success software to work in tandem with a traditional CRM system so you get a 360° view of your customer at both the individual contact and the company level. For example, if all support tickets are being funneled through one main employee, it may be time to offer an on-site meeting to review their customer account. At the same time, suggest training other employees at your customer’s office. Pitch that you’ll already be there so you may as well conduct training at the same time, and offer to provide lunch for the team so it's less of a time burden and has a built-in perk as well.
To summarize, the true meaning of CRM in relation to B2B customer success is that, always without exception, customers should be the core focus of your business. When your customers are successful it improves your bottom line, so utilize your customer success and CRM solutions to create impactful human conversations to empower all parties. Don’t forget that a customer is more than just one personal relationship to manage, instead strive for widespread buy-in to your business as the ideal goal. CRM and customer success may both be “buzz terms” in the industry, but their focus on the customer unites them and aligns their efforts for long-term success.