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CRM: Getting Back to Basics

Technology plus core customer relationship principles should spell success.



By Jill Ambroz
12/23/2009

Customer dissatisfaction can be a costly affair. Not only might poor customer relations cost you an actual customer, but it has a real impact on your bottom line. Poor customer service costs an aggregate of $338.5 billion every year, according to a study by Greenfield Online & Ovum titled, “The Cost of Poor Customer Service: The Economic Impact of the Customer Experience and Engagement.” In fact, each lost relationship costs a business $243, according to the study, which was commissioned by Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories.

There’s lots of talk about CRM and these days it usually has to do with a software solution. Perhaps relationships with clients would be better if publishers adhered to some basic tenets of actual customer relationship management—and then empowered them with the high-tech solutions they’ve been chasing for years.

Here are some of the best customer care practices and how they can be used in media publishing:

1. Know Thy Customer
First and foremost, this essential rule of customer relationships is as critical today as it was decades ago. This principle can have several implications throughout the fast-changing world of on-demand media. Thanks to today’s technology, it’s also never been easier. “From a content marketing perspective, brands are using their customer databases to develop highly targeted and relevant content to customers on a consistent basis,” says Joe Pulizzi, founder of Junta 42, an independent content marketer and custom publisher.

Pulizzi offers the example of airliner KLM’s digital magazine, iFly. KLM has dozens of versions of it, depending on the travel habits, personal and business activities and buying patterns of its customers. “In the past, we used to have one customer magazine or e-newsletter,” Pulizzi says. “Today, we can create highly targeted content that is more engaging—because the content is that much more relevant to the customer.”

Buying patterns have changed which makes it all the more important to know customers better, Pulizzi says. He notes that customers are generally more open to receiving content from a brand, which opens many opportunities. “There are so many more channels available now as well—mobile, social media, a range of digital products—brands can gather more information about customers, but can use that for good, delivering better information to customers that will help them make better decisions.”

2. Nothing Compares to Face-to-Face Customer Care
Everything is automated these days and sometimes, all customers want is to hear a human voice, in a call center, for example. And for closing a sales deal, nothing compares to the in-person meeting. That’s why at Hanley Wood there is no expansive CRM solution running the day-to-day show.

“Frankly, we rely far more on old-fashioned face-to-face contact with customers and direct communication between our own salespeople and executives than we do state-of-the-art CRM principles or technology,” says president and CEO Frank Anton. “Yes, we maintain customer databases—approximately 27 of them—but fundamentally, we believe knowing your best customers (and the 80/20 rule applies to our business) is the key to success.”

Some of the reasons Hanley Wood has resisted implementing the latest in CRM solutions is because it felt the cost would outweigh the benefits, adherence to a system would be impossible to enforce and setting the whole system up would be disruptive over a long period of time, Anton says. However, it is currently researching CRM options to help fuel its old-fashioned approach, not to cut back on its personal touch with clients.

Along these lines, it’s also important for brands to show a human side. “If Twitter has taught us anything, it has taught us that success in new platforms means we actually need to be human as a brand,” Pulizzi says. “Nothing less counts anymore.”

3. Give Customers What They Want
“Today, brands need to concentrate on what customers want, not necessarily what we have,” Pulizzi says. Technology makes that possible, he adds. “We now have the ability to learn as much about our customers as we know about our products and services. In the past, basic demographic information was the best we could do. Now, brands can deliver information on demand as we need it because our transactions can be followed.”

Part of knowing what customers want is knowing and understanding their buying patterns. Bluewolf, an enterprise software consultant, has worked with several clients to provide this information in a format that is easily digestible for the sales representative, says Kristi Nomm, a CRM expert at the company. Bluewolf touts its CRM solutions as delivering a 360 degree view of customer, improved customer service, real-time information with media-specific software. The company was recently named “CRM consultancy to watch” by CRM Magazine’s Market Awards.
As many media companies are moving toward centralized databases, tracking customer behavior is easily accomplished. After some analysis, a publisher can offer up a more targeted media choice for the consumer.

4. Experience Goes a Long Way
In today’s economy, everyone is looking for an experienced partner to help navigate through the storm, but also to ensure a return on investment. “CRM has not changed that much,” says Corinne Sklar, vice president of marketing for Bluewolf. “People expect ROI from CRM and you need to be able to prove results.”

The various CRM technologies enable increased productivity and define how publishers work in an on-demand world, Sklar adds. “It allows enterprises to become more responsive to the changing landscape.”

5. Be Accessible
One of the areas of CRM that Bluewolf sees customers demanding is accessibility. That can also translate into visibility, transparency and collaboration. There are several ways to achieve this across an enterprise. Just think of the myriad of ways publishers reach out to readers every day: in print, online, via social media, through mobile devices and lastly, the old fashioned way, in person.

SIDEBAR

What Are You Involved In Selling?

The question of “who sells what” seems to be finally resolved: everyone sells everything. Most publishing salespeople are selling multiple forms of media. Just 3 percent of respondents to FOLIO:’s 2009 Sales Salary Survey say they sell print only, while just 1 percent sell digital only.

Magazines: 92%
Magazines-Only: 3%
E-Media: 85%
E-Media-Only: 1%
Events: 41%
Events-only: 0%
Sponsorships: 58%
Directores/Guides/Books/Catalogs: 36%
Custom: 34%
Other: 8%

By Jill Ambroz
12/23/2009







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