woman laughing standing in front of a man
PHOTO: Tanja Heffner

A few years ago, I decided to upgrade my century-old house with some new windows. Windows weren't the same sizes one hundred years ago as they are today, which meant each window had to be customized. In other words, it wasn’t a cheap upgrade — I will be paying for years to come. 

The company I used did an incredible job. At the time I was marketing for one of its competitors and I still chose this company because of its reputation. 

Fast forward to present day and I opened the front door to a salesperson who wanted to sell me new windows. He was from the same company that replaced my windows only three years ago.

Why is this story relevant? It wasn’t really an inconvenience for me to answer the door, just as it’s rarely an inconvenience for me to delete useless marketing emails (aka SPAM) out of my inbox. The fact is, it was a missed opportunity by the window company. Instead of trying to sell me something, imagine if he’d knocked on my door to ask me how my windows are treating me? So simple, yet so personal.  

Every interaction with customers should be treated as if we’re in that very difficult word to use: relationship.

Related Article: Customer Relationship Management as a Customer Experience Differentiator

What’s a CRM?

I realize I’m preaching to the choir here. I know you are likely nodding in agreement rather than shocked with realization and probably wondering why you clicked into an article to read the same thing you’ve read a thousand times before. But, before you move on, hear me out ….

A CRM is a sales tool, plain and simple. Sure, marketing, customer service and many other ancillary departments touch the CRM, but sales really get the most out of it — and that’s where we’ve gone wrong. CRM stands for customer relationship management, yet it’s used for prospect management far more often than relationship management. We talk about the customer experience (CX) so much, but we don’t even use the most basic tool that’s already in most of our companies’ technology stacks.    

A CRM isn’t meant to be just a sales tool, but that’s what it’s become. A CRM has become a symbol for what’s wrong with the customer experience: we’re so focused on attaining new clients that the ones we’ve already won are often forgotten. 

Related Article: Do Marketers Really Need a CRM?

The 'R' in CRM

Obviously B2C companies that sell a perpetual service such as banks can’t sign a customer and forget about them. They have to rely on sophisticated CX tools that allow demanding customers to be serviced 24/7. But most companies, from startups to enterprise sales, don’t have that demanding of a client base. 

Why do we make the customer experience so complicated? I’ve written about it many times: the technology, the human aspect, the expenses that go along with it, etc.  It’s easy to concentrate on the complexity of CX because simple things don’t require as much of a word count to write about. But CX can be really simple. It’s as simple as acknowledging you have a relationship and then taking the steps to nurture it. 

Related Article: Rethinking Customer Engagement: Put Your Relationship First

The Hard Part: Relationships  

I am not a psychologist, but I'm going to go out on a limb and posit that most relationships are complex. Being a human is hard work. We brought this on ourselves with the development of language. Animals don’t have to deal with the tribal eccentricities we’ve developed over the years. We humans are stuck dealing with each other. We’ve made it a big deal when we click that relationship button on Facebook. Do it too early or don’t acknowledge it at all, and well, you know the consequences ….

It’s only natural then that a client relationship is just as complex. In the client/customer relationship it doesn’t have to be. You simply have to care.  

According to one recent study, 68 percent of customers stop doing business with companies because they believe they aren’t cared for. You know as well as I do that that’s ludicrous. Of course you care, but as with every relationship, showing you care is the hard part. The more relationships you have the harder it is to focus on what’s important, and why CRM software was developed in the first place. 

Increasing your customer retention rate by only 5 percent can increase profits by over 25 percent. The stats clearly tell the tale that companies focus more on acquisition than they do relationships, which is why the R in CRM has been forgotten and why it would also be simple to continue the relationship once they’ve come on board. After all, you already have them loaded into the right software. 

Don't Overcomplicate It

I understand the value of great software. The internet has become as much of a physical place as the desk your computer is sitting on. It’s necessary to invest wisely in it. But while the solutions can be complex, there’s no reason to make a relationship any more complicated than they already are. It starts with knowing your customer base and taking the time to acknowledge them — before you try selling them a product they’ve already bought.