How Much “Customer Insight” Do You Need To “Lose Sight” of the Customer?

When you’re about to make a decision about a CRM system, you don’t need, and can’t afford, to get bogged down in customer data. It’s about putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, and using just the information you really need.

Many years ago when I started my CRM consultancy and gained one of my first clients, my starting point was to take the existing data collection forms the firm’s salespeople used and add in every single question I could think of about the customer. I took their form from 1 page, to 4 pages! It was an absolute work of art – trust me.

Two key things happened – thankfully.

  1. None of the salespeople used the form. (It was far too complicated and they could see no relevance to their job – which was to sell houses. They could not see how taking all that extra time would benefit them.)
  2. The company had no way of utilising the data even if they had!

It was a great experience to learn. I lost sight of the customer through too much “insight”.

I went back to their one page form, and simplified it further. I only added one question – “What is this person interested in?” The salesperson simply had to tick a box as to whether they were looking to sell or buy a residential property, or looking to sell, or buy, an investment property.

Then, as Jim Barnes – author of Secrets of Customer Relationship Management, states so succinctly, it was a matter of putting yourself in the shoes of their customers, and thinking, “What would I want to know about if I was in their shoes?”

If a salesperson was trying to gain a listing to sell a house, a key thing their prospects wanted to know, was that whomever they chose as their agent, would follow through with them, and their leads, diligently. So we implemented a series of letters (before email days then) that kept in touch with them throughout the evaluation period.

Interestingly – the agency made a profit on my fees from just one of these letters. If the agent lost the listing, the prospect received a letter thanking them for the opportunity and that although they were sorry to lose the business, all going well they would be moving house within 3 months, and they would need a good cuppa! We enclosed a gift wrapped tin of Twinings tea with the agent’s compliments. All too often, another agent would win the business based on an unrealistic appraisal – ie – they led the client to believe their house would sell for more than its market value. When the house didn’t sell, who did the prospect come back to?

The second key group of people, were those who had bought a house from them as an owner occupier. This agency also had a Property Management Division, managing properties of behalf of investors. What do we all want to do when we buy a new house? Put our own stamp on it. And that means tradespeople. And tradespeople are notorious for not turning up on time if at all – with too many horror stories around as to “dodgy” jobs.

This agency had been through all that process finding reliable and trustworthy tradespeople to handle repairs on their own investor properties. So we sent a letter out to new purchasers within a week of them moving into their new house, offering the name and direct contact details of their key property manager – “please feel free to contact them if you would like us to pass on the details of the people we deal with. We’ve been through this exercise many many times, and are more than happy to help.”

The next key group, were those looking to buy an investment property, and those who had recently bought one. Here in Australia, there are strong taxation incentives available to those who buy investment properties. So we teamed up with a major accounting firm who specialised in property taxation advice, ran joint information evenings, and posted each new investment property owner a copy of their specially prepared booklet “Taxation Issues for Property Investors”.

We had a number of other key segments, but suffice to say, it was really all about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.

When we have a business which sells products or services, we have so much more knowledge in our area which we rarely impart. And yet, people have bought from us because they perceived us as having the best or most convenient product at that time, to suit their needs. It is easy for us to build on that relationship if we take the time.

Most businesses today already have some accounting or point of sale system in which we record those details – and we have their contact details. There is not a whole lot more we need to know – we just have to use what we already have, and think about “Customer Insight” from our customers’ viewpoint.


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