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These days, basically all businesses employ CRM and ERP software – that's a given. Yet all too often, businesses use these systems as a crux – over-relying on the technology, while failing to consider the crucial customer retention and relationship strategies that underpin the successful usage of these dynamic software tools.

Because, put simply, CRM and ERP software must be used in tandem with a strategy (or, more accurately, a set of strategies) to underpin it. Without that, all you end up with is a fancy new ship without a rudder.

Here, I want to quickly illustrate the power of the principles and processes that are inextricably intertwined with good CRM, and outline 9 top strategies for its successful implementation and execution.

1. Behavioural analysis and associated marketing

Understanding the total purchasing patterns and associated behaviours of your customers is critically important in helping to develop new marketing models and sales propositions to deliver to them.

For example, knowing that one person is purchasing both your fashion and sports footwear might suggest that they would be receptive to targeted marketing relating to other types of sports equipment.

With SAP Marketing Cloud, you can create a segmentation profile based on your customer's interaction with your product, services and brand. This allows you to group them by their likes, dislikes, and other purchasing preferences, enabling more personalised, effective targeting.

2. Decision support

Making decisions related to the total credit limit of customers purchasing from you is not always easy. That's why credit scoring can be a powerful tool to help (see this article for more details), though it may be less effective in situations where you don't have a single consolidated customer view.

For example, failing to identify a new applicant for credit as being someone you have previously had difficulties recovering debt from, simply because they had changed address, might restrict your ability to make an informed decision.
The integrated single customer view is often a fundamental prerequisite of automated decision support systems of a type frequently associated with internet commerce.

3. Customer service integration

Contacting a customer or sending them a sales proposition can prove to be extremely embarrassing in situations where you have simply misunderstood the totality of your engagement with them.
So, responding incompetently and incompletely to customer enquiries simply because you are not able to see the totality of their transactions with your organisation can be easily avoided.

Remember that reputation damage can arise in situations where your sales staff are asking customers to explain to them just how they, the customer, are dealing with your business at the present time!

The SAP Service Cloud is the most effective way of automating, expediting, and optimising your customer's journey, and providing superior, more personalised support.

4. Customer relationship identification

Whilst an individual has a legal right to their privacy (and we don't want to mess with that!), it's still important to understand when someone you're dealing with has some form of professional or personal relationship with another one of your customers.

For example, being able to identify that a customer has two young children resident at the same address might be important both in terms of marketing potential but also to avoid major embarrassment, such as sending inappropriate sales propositions to under-aged children(!)

Customer relationship identification is also key when it comes to customer referrals. How else would you know who to thank when a brand new lead lands in your lap!

5. De-duplication and data cleansing

Unfortunately, the media regularly covers stories about organisations trying to communicate with customers they should have known were long-deceased, or continually addressing communications to a married couple that have been divorced for a while.

This is usually a characteristic of duplicated customer entries on different systems, but is occasionally due to updated information in one system not being correctly populated into another.

The bad news is that even when you're already using SAP's intelligent CRM software, multiple customer entries for the same individual can still arise. It's usually due to the negative influence of legacy systems, or departmental data silos blocking off access to the correct information.

The good news? De-duplication and data cleansing should eliminate this.
More importantly, being able to consolidate all your sales and costs by customer (something that effective data migration should help with), will assuage the oft-thorny concerns regarding customer and customer segment profitability analysis.

6. Legislative compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), introduced in May 2018, mandates that businesses storing information about individuals must ensure that it's accurate and up-to-date. It also ushered in your customer's right to be forgotten.

Failure to uphold these stricter data processes may leave you liable to prosecution (or at the very least, serious damage to your reputation), particularly in circumstances where you have used incorrect data as the basis for flawed decision-making. SAP CRM can help you remain GDPR-compliant, while empowering you to build trustworthy experiences with your customers' personal data.

7. Improved customer retention

Acquiring new customers is useful – but not if you lose them almost as quickly as you gain them.

Understanding your customers in detail – and avoiding the egregious service errors outlined above – should help you improve the overall customer service experience. Customer surveys are an effective, direct route to understanding your customers. You should also take steps to familiarise your business with the metrics and mathematics of measuring customer loyalty, to ascertain the individual and lifetime value of your (best!) clients.

With SAP Marketing Cloud, you can integrate your existing customer loyalty solution, to streamline the way you collect, process, and use customer data. This will involve proactive customer servicing activities, that might include things such as birthday greetings, loyalty rewards, tailored deals and discounts, and more.

8. Shareholder, stakeholder, media, auditor and accounting credibility

All of the above professional bodies may, in certain circumstances, expect you to be able to deliver an accurate segmented view of your customer base.
SAP CRM allows you to do this quickly and efficiently. It'll also make a much more powerful impact than the traditional (non-CRM) approach, which involves trying to merge spreadsheets extracted from several different sources.

9. New proposition development

Of course, maximising your share of wallet percentage with your existing customers is important. But, equally, developing sales propositions to attract new customers is critical.
Understanding what is or is not working with your existing customer base is super important (particularly in product/service development activities) – after all, you can't make good decisions for the future without first considering the past. SAP CRM should always be an important part of this lifecycle.


We won't sugarcoat it – the difficulties in moving an organisation away from a conventional vertical silo approach to a horizontal CRM integrated view shouldn't be underestimated.
But, with the right ERP and CRM software, and a cultivation of the 9 strategies above (or a mixture of those espoused by other SAP community writers, too – whatever works for you!) you should be able to drive growth, and develop a more holistic, nuanced view of your customer base – and what makes them tick!
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