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The customer relationship management process includes all activities surrounding the development and maintenance of a customer account. This includes activities from initial sales and marketing, to product delivery, to customer service and follow up. In order to ensure the best possible customer experience, this process should be seamless, simple and effective. Benefits of a good customer relationship management process include increased add-on sales, positive customer opinion and referrals.
Many experts agree that the customer relationship management process begins with sales and marketing. It is at this early stage in the relationship that first impressions are made and that expectations regarding performance, quality, price and other key factors are set. A salesperson or advertisement may oversell or misrepresent a product in order to obtain business. If the promises made in the beginning cannot be delivered upon, however, the customer relationship will suffer, causing possible loss of future sales and, potentially, bad publicity.
Product delivery is a critical stage of the customer relationship management experience. During this stage, additional details about the client and his needs are often uncovered. Account managers, installers and other points of sale professionals have opportunities to make positive impressions on customers by selling suggestively without overselling and by finding ways to address previously unstated wants or needs.
Once a product or service is delivered, customer service and follow up functions begin. This can include the functions of a customer service representative, help desk team member, account manager, warranty technician or project manager. It is during this stage that problems are most likely to occur, making interaction with customers critical. Many companies, however, make the mistake of assuming that this is the least important part of the process, as the product is already purchased. In fact, it is during this important part of the customer relationship management process that lifetime customer relationships can be made or broken and that referrals can be earned or lost.
A good customer relationship management process will address all stages of the process and will provide all critical workers with best practice guidelines for working with customers. Some argue that managing customer relationships is as important as providing a quality product. While an outstanding customer relationship management process may be unable to make up for a terrible product, it can affect the buying decision between two comparable products. A bad or poorly executed process can also sink a good product.
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