Whether you are working for yourself, as part of a small business or even running your own enterprise – you will probably have heard the phrase CRM being bandied about – but what does it mean and why is it so important?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and seeing as the customer is at the heart of any business, it should matter a great deal. Customers are what make your business a success, so ensuring their trust and loyalty is key.

Bigger companies tend to have sophisticated software to help them manage customer data and customer communications, but what if you are part of a small business, or are working solo? For the time being, you can forego the expensive kit and go back to basics. Here are some tips to get you started:

Remember – word of mouth is still important

Even though a great deal of marketing now takes place online, it doesn’t negate the importance of word of mouth. This form of recommendation carries the highest amount of trust and there are very few other tactics that provide the same return on investment.

In the digital world, word of mouth typically relates to reviews and testimonials. To help foster word of mouth conversations, encourage feedback using your online presence. Social media is a fantastic way to do this – ask your customers for feedback, and if they provide a glowing testimonial, ask if you can publish it on your website.

Address negative feedback

When you open the channels of communication between yourself and your customers – be prepared for the odd negative comment. Rather than sticking your fingers in your ears and singing, “la la la, I can’t hear you” be brave and face up to them. Addressing negative feedback in the right way – especially when communicated in a public arena such as Twitter – will show onlookers how dedicated you are to making your customers happy.

Get some training

If you are unsure of how to deal with negative feedback, or simply think you would benefit from a little more understanding when it comes to customer service – why not invest in a training course? This can also be useful if you have staff (or assistants) who could benefit from some professional training.

Keep track of customers

When your business begins to grow, you may find yourself juggling several different customers at once. Rather than relying on the power of your memory every time the phone rings, look to keep a database of customers – including when you last got in touch with them and whether they are a new or returning customer. This can be as simple as some handwritten notes or as complex as a shared spreadsheet depending on the size of your business.

Compare yourself to your competition

If you want to find out what your customers expect from you, take a look at your competition. See how they interact with their customers (a little social media stalking can go a long way here) and see if there are any approaches/tips you can employ in your own business.

Don’t forget to say thank you

If your customer relationships are blossoming and you have a loyal customer base – you should consider rewarding them. If a customer comes back to you again and again, why not offer them a discount? Another option here is to offer a referral reward – if a customer recommends someone to use your services, offer them a reward or discount to say thank you.

We hope now when someone at a networking event mentions the letters CRM to you, not only will you now know what it means (huzzah!) you will be able to reel off a list of ways you are effortlessly managing your own customer relations.