Running a business without consistently adding new customers is like a non performing employee who does not get further increments every year and is satisfied with the current level of salary. Sooner or later, that employee will get fired and the current salary will also become history. Similar fate will happen with the organization which is not focused on adding new customers as it directly implies that all is not well and slowly the existing customer base will also start eroding by moving towards competition. Even the vice versa is true, which means that if you are not able to retain your existing customers by a good margin (I know “good” has different meaning in different industries, but let us not go there) then getting new customers will also become a challenge especially in those industries where references play a major role.
I will focus on usage of ERP and Business Intelligence in retaining your customers instead of ways to get new customers and I am driven by the fact that every organization will do its best to increase the satisfaction level of their customers if they know that customers have this issue and as long as it is not hard hitting their balance-sheet. If, as a customer strategy leader I want to know that what is my on-time delivery rates for customers in Alaska or how much time did my organization took to resolve customer complaints for a digital device product, and my staff is taking its own time to dig this information, then it is high time that I start looking at this aspect now. It is ripe time now (rather you are late) to implement a 360 degrees view of your customers and start not only measuring but also have those measurements available real-time so that quick decisions can be made. Also, this will save the staff time in regularly digging information about customers and utilize that time in some other more value added work. This all can be achieved with the help of you existing ERP and BI system and a dashboard can be designed to show critical metrics for our organization. Most BI systems are very strong to deliver required data at our screens and the need to be configured to maximize the value of all data sources and achieve a better flexibility and customer responsiveness. We must combine strategic actions and new technology to:
Integrate all your data source systems and bring them into a single dashboard
Identify the customers that are “at risk” and put a process in place to do this regularly
Enable customer support infrastructure to drill down to lowest transactional level details
Proactively inform sales and service managers about potential issues in delivering a product or service
Provide customer history on regular basis
In addition of helping us in maintaining customer satisfaction, lot of awkward situations can also be avoided by taking above actions. For example, take a case when a sales representative called an existing customer for renewing a soon to be expiring contract and as soon the formalities of renewing the contract were finalized, it was communicated from the credit department that the customer’s account has been sent to an external agency to collect payments due to long delinquency. If a 360 degrees view is available to staff, these mistakes can be avaoided.
Follow a simple rule that if we spend less time in digging information and spend more time in actually resolving the customer issues and even potential issues in near future, we will be more likely to retain/grow our existing customers, bring new customers and finally grow/expand our business.