Businesses generally underestimate the importance of contact management, make sure you aren't one of them.

A lot of companies – particularly smaller companies – rely on nothing more than the address book in their mobile phone, business cards and their email inbox to manage their contacts. There is more to contact management than the simple maintenance of a list.

Three elements of contact management 

As businesses become increasingly competitive, good contact management has become crucial to their success. According to Gartner, 65 percent of a company’s revenue comes from existing customers, with new business costing between five to eight times more than retaining customers. This isn’t particularly surprising; over the course of a business lifetime, loyal customers will buy more, cost less to sell to and likely refer a number of other people to the business. The payback is clear. 

Despite this, many businesses underestimate the importance of contact management. A lot of companies – particularly smaller companies – rely on nothing more than the address book in their mobile phone, business cards and their email inbox to manage their contacts. However, this has limited long-term value. Even someone blessed with a very good memory would find it hard to recall every single person they have spoken to, what they have bought, and what their business needs are.

As the business world becomes increasingly customer-centric, the lines between each department are beginning to blur. Collaboration is now key. It’s important that everybody within a company – from marketing and sales, to post-sales and support – has access to existing customers’ account history, contact information, communication preferences and internal discussion notes. This collective insight into the customers’ journey enables different teams to share, track and follow-up on all customer queries and needs, seamlessly and consistently, thus enhancing the customer relationship.

With this in mind, here are three elements of a good contact management strategy:

1- Maintaining data quality

Good contact management depends on accurate, high quality data. It’s the cornerstone of delivering the right message to the right person in the right way. If data is duplicated or not maintained, communications may fail to reach their destination or they may be targeted badly. If this is repeated by different departments on a number of occasions, it not only risks annoying the customer and losing business, but it results in the waste of a significant amount of money.

Over years, customers will cease services, move house or premises, change their name or email address, and alter their payment methods. Customer data is never static; it is dynamic and the methodology for managing it needs to take this into account. Ongoing data maintenance is essential and it’s important that everybody has access to the most up-to-date information.

2- Acting on customer preferences

A customer’s needs should always be kept on record and shared within a company. Customers not only want personalised communications, but they expect companies to know their preferences and interests. Research has shown time and time again that customer loyalties are largely tied to organisations that provide tailored communications based on what they need. Furthermore, how they are contacted is important. Whether it’s by post, email, SMS or social media, multi or omni-channel communication strategies are quickly making their way up the communication agenda.

Timing also needs to be taken into account. As well as their chosen channel, customers are increasingly demanding that they be contacted at times that best suit them. If a customer states they only want to be contacted via email, 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, it’s important that everyone within the company is aware and adheres to this. The key to good customer service, improved retention and successful up and cross-selling is identifying how and when to interact with customers, and subsequently rolling out a communication strategy that exploits this.

3- Facilitating account mapping

Targeting the right person within the right organisation is often the difference between a sales win and a sales loss. Collecting proper contact data can subsequently help businesses improve and speed up their sales process while eliminating potential mistakes.

Contact management makes it much easier for businesses to pin-point prospects with account mapping, which involves the creation of a map that includes a company’s description and hierarchy so that decision-makers are identified from the offset. By creating a centralised database that provides detailed insight into the contacts’ employees and history will enable sales teams to work out who they need to engage with to successfully close a bigger, and potentially more lucrative deal. 

Contact management essentially ensures that everyone within the organisations is ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’. The insight it gives enables every department to improve customer engagement levels and identify gaps that the company could fill by up or cross-selling new products or services. This improved collaboration, ultimately, helps businesses provide a much more consistent and positive customer experience.

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