The crisis as a catalyst for successful customer relations

February 19th, 2021

The COVID 19 pandemic is shaking us all. Personal contacts have been cut off. Aren't customer contacts suffering the most? No - if we use the time now to systematically capture our customer relationships in a CRM system.

The COVID 19 pandemic has severely restricted the smooth functioning of the global economy.  Trade chains are disrupted, relationships with previous suppliers and customers are blocked. Buyers of products are in trouble; they withdraw from the market or they buy less. The customer base is crumbling.

Of course, we do everything to keep the contacts alive. In doing so, we rely on well-rehearsed processes and on a relationship of trust that goes back many years. At the same time, we have to look intensively for new contacts. We look for new suppliers, new customers in new markets, new partner organisations.

Asking critical questions about existing customer relationships

The pandemic offers a good opportunity to put established relationships with customers on an even firmer foundation and to document them in detail in a CRM system.

Ask yourself the following self-critical questions:

  • Who exactly are our partners, members, customers? Have we perhaps never considered segments of them, although we could well fulfil certain needs?
  • Do we have a clear picture of the difficulties they struggle with? Do we know their new needs as a result of the pandemic (e.g., sustainability, supply chain traceability)? What new trends are emerging?
  • Can we gain information from our own network about market needs and opportunities in buyer markets, which we as BSOs can make available to our members and partner organisations or as a company to our customers?
  • Can we find substitute forms for the currently unfeasible activities such as study tours or trade fairs, substitutes that offer surprising perspectives? After all, in contrast to on-site trade fairs, virtual events make it far more difficult to get into conversation with new potential customers. This means two things: firstly, it is even more important to assess knowledge about current customers and existing relationships even more accurately. Secondly, it is important to systematically develop previously unexploited contacts and leads. For both, a functioning contact management or CRM system is needed.

Push ahead with the development of a CRM system now

Parallel to this new intensity in customer processing, now is the time to plan and initiate the development of a CRM system. To conclude with an example: with the development of 'B2BTrace', SIPPO commissioned an external software development company to design a software solution geared to the specific needs of BSOs. It has been introduced at SIPPO itself and is also used by some BSOs.

So, isn't the crisis just the right moment to jump in? Isn’t it the moment to remind everyone in the team that a CRM system can only develop its full potential if it is continuously maintained, if everyone adheres to clearly defined processes and assumes their responsibilities? Because only then a CRM system becomes THE winning tool for retaining customers and acquiring new ones.

Martin Elbel for SIPPO; our partner Import Promotion Desk (IPD) supported us with its CRM expertise in the preparation of the three articles.