Customer Relationship Management: The Corporate Memory

February 12th, 2021

In times of crisis, trust is an invaluable asset for maintaining and expanding customer relationships. The information that nurtures such trust should be consistently collected in a central, easily accessible CRM database. What does it take?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is an attitude, a leadership task, and an important component of a good corporate culture. CRM is also the common name for a software solution, such as SIPPO's "B2BTrace". In such a database, the employees of an organisation manage all the data about their customers, or in the case of a BSO, about partner organisations and members. They do this in a systematic way, with clear guidelines and processes. Thus, the CRM system contains information about very different facets of the relationship.

The corporate memory

A good CRM system is an important part of the corporate memory and thus an extremely valuable asset. It is timeless and independent of individual employees. Even if they leave the company, the information about clients or partner organisations remains. If all employees consistently record their information on partners or customers in the CRM system, a broad, multi-faceted and informative picture of them and their needs will emerge over time.

Crucial indicators in a CRM system

The data stored in a CRM system therefore include:

  • Exact name and exact designation of the company or organisation, its legal form, its structure with all business areas important for export, its strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Important contact persons with their function, with all telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and social media contacts.
  • Facts about the history of the company and its product portfolio, information about past quantities of deliverable products and their quality, current customer relations, existing or targeted certificates.
  • Customers' demands, e.g., for new markets; customers' plans, e.g., to expand their product range or to increase production volumes; fundamental changes, such as the discontinuation of a production line.
  • Personal details that build trust – birthdays of your contacts, their hobbies, special events, topics from a former exchange which you may want to refer to at the beginning of the next conversation.
  • And very important: notes of every interaction and every conversation with your partners or customers. This includes outlining possible next steps that could further strengthen the customer relationship.

Customer Relationship Management in Trade Promotion

Trade in general, and important trade promotion programmes such as the Import Promotion Desk (IPD) in Germany, rely on professional CRM systems to support their core business (e.g., export-import matchmaking activities). The core idea here is to address potential prospects as specifically as possible by systematically bringing together information on (current) concrete needs and conversation anchors (e.g., from documented conversations in the past). We already know the questions: What are the needs of importers? Which offer from export companies can meet them?

CRM is a core business processes

With this wealth of information, BSOs or companies identify new business potential of their partners, members, potential importers or customers faster and more precisely. However, contact relationship management must be lived as a team task and must be closely integrated into the processes of the core business (e.g., annual trade fair visits). Only if a CRM system is constantly kept up to date, in the sense of a "give and take" of information from different areas of the organisation, it can offer added value.

In the third article in this series, we will discuss how Customer Relationship Management helps to overcome the current crisis.

For SIPPO: Martin Elbel