BUSINESS MARKETING: Customer relationship management before there was CRM

2013-08-10T11:12:00Z BUSINESS MARKETING: Customer relationship management before there was CRMLarry Galler Times Business Columnist
August 10, 2013 11:12 am  • 

Customer relationship management) has been a marketing hot button for at least the past two decades. The bare bones of CRM is the desire to not leave the customer or company relationship to the whims of chance but to actively manage it by impressing the customer with services, information and perks they can’t get elsewhere.

Now, with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, I can recall as a child watching my mother hand-writing and addressing reminder post cards for customers of my parents' flower shop. This was well before anyone created the acronym CRM.

Back then my parents used a simple script whenever someone ordered flowers for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays: “Ms. Jones, we have a free service that will remind you of this event next year. Would you like to get a reminder postcard next year?” If the customer answered “yes,” then they were asked if there were other events they would like to be reminded of. There was a form for this purpose next to every telephone.

Every night, my mother would sit in front of the TV, entering the information from these forms onto recipe cards and filed each event in a little recipe box. Then she would hand write out the postcards and mail them at the appropriate time. This early CRM project was popular with their customers; they knew there was no other florist they could get these reminders from and it increased sales and customer loyalty substantially.

Today, with computers making this job easy, you would think every company would embrace CRM, but that isn’t the case. Those that do it (and sending reminders is just one small manifestation of CRM) profit greatly in increased sales volume and customer retention by serving their customers better.

My mother passed away two weeks ago at age 99-plus. When thinking about her life, the mental image of her sitting in front of the TV with her recipe cards, recipe box and a pile of post cards kept coming into my head. She was a CRM pioneer who set many wonderful examples. Good job (and a good life), Rose!

Opinions are solely the writer's. Larry Galler, of Larry Galler & Associates, is a marketing and management consultant for small and mid-size companies. Take Galler’s free self assessment by email to determine whether your company has a culture of excellence. Send an email to put “Excellence Assessment” in the subject line.

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