Implementing a customer relationship management programme in an emerging market

The success of any strategy is determined by the success with which it is implemented. This is also true in the case of CRM strategies. Implementing CRM require that the organisation and the associated business processes be in place in order to facilitate its success (Brunjes & Roderick, 2002).

The risk in implementing any CRM strategy is that the organisation is not ready to do so and relying on technology to implement the strategy (Brunjes & Roderick, 2002).

The role of customer service in CRM strategy

In order to implement a CRM strategy, a key dimension is the question of customer service and the way in which it is perceived by the recipient of the service. Customer service can be defined as a task, other than pro-active selling, that involves interactions with the customers in person, by telecommunication, or by mail. It is designed, performed and communicated with two goals in mind: operational efficiency and customer satisfaction (Lovelock, 1991).

The quality of customer service is determined and evaluated by the customer, and this affects the desirability of a relationship with the organisation. Customer service creates the moments of truth with the customer, and these service encounters need to be managed by the organisation (Payne, Christopher, Clark & Peck, 2001). Service encounters and CRM are thus associated.

The steps in the implementation of CRM strategy

Successful implementation requires specific actions on the part of the organisation. The implementation of a CRM strategy as proposed by Peppers, Rogers & Dorf (1999) comprises four steps, namely the identification of customers, the differentiation of service, interaction with customers and the differentiation among customers

Step 1: The identification of customers

The identification of customers enables the organisations to select those customers that they regard as being strategically significant and who they believe can contribute to the success of the organisation. These customers have unique needs and due to their value to the organisation, will have products developed to meet these needs. It must be possible to identify these customers and so obtain as much detail as possible. This involves collecting as much data as possible in order to obtain as clear a picture as possible of the customer and their profile.

This may require the development of a database or the continued maintenance of a database in order to ensure that the data stays as recent as possible. Having this information enables the organisation to determine those customers that have been with the organisation for a long period and those that have recently started using the products and services of the organisation.

The hypothesis regarding this aspect is formulated as follows:
H1: Identifying new and existing clients increases the level of customer service.

Step 2: The differentiation of service

The differentiation of service implies that different customers receive a different level of service and a
different product from the organisation, depending on the value to the organisation and their specific needs.
This requires the organisation to identify the top (or most significant) customers and adapt service accordingly.
Identification of these top customers takes place using sales figures or by calculating the CLV associated with
each customer. As the organisation is aware of the value of their customers, service levels can be adjusted

The hypothesis regarding this aspect is formulated as follows:
H2: Differentiating between the services offered to new and existing clients increases the level of
customer service.

Step 3: Interaction with customers

This step refers to the importance of interacting with the customer in relationship building efforts through a variety of communication tools and technologies. This is necessary as the relationship can only develop and be sustained if there is communication with the customers regarding their needs, perceptions and desires. This involves developing methods of communication proactively with customers regarding the organisation’s products and attempting to initiate dialogue with customers. Use can be made of technology, but this is not essential (Brunjes & Roderick, 2002). The customers with whom communication takes place are not
necessarily all the customers, but only those that the organisation regards as being strategically significant.

This interaction with the organisation increases the expectations of the customers regarding the service received as well as the quality of the relationship.
The hypothesis regarding this aspect is formulated as follows:
H3: The level of customer service is increased if there is an active interaction with potential and
existing clients.

Step 4: Customisation of products, services and communication
Customisation is carried out by the organisation in order to ensure that customer needs are met. It requires that the organisation adapts its product, service or communication in such as way have something unique for each customer. Communication can be customised to address the specific needs and profile the customer, and organisation also makes use of personalisation as part of this process. Products can be customised as to the specific desires that the customer has of the organisation. In the case of the financial services, it refers to the product package that is offered to the customer. The purpose of customisation is to
increase customer satisfaction, and the loyalty that is exhibited by customers.

The hypothesis regarding this aspect is formulated as follows:
H4: The level of customer service is increased if customised service is offered according to each
individual client’s needs.

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