The Five Stages of Customer Relationships
A.T. Kearney advocates thinking of customers in terms of a lifecycle, much like a product lifecycle.
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Even while on a ski vacation in Telluride, Colo., Mike Gorsage still lives and breathes CRM. After a day of tackling the slopes, Gorsage, vice president and global practice leader for CRM Solutions at management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, is busy on conference calls with colleagues and clients. For Gorsage, this type of overdrive behavior is normal, because for him it is all about the customer. The customer is a main driver for A.T. Kearney's approach to CRM consulting. "Most companies don't really know their customers. They talk about it, but don't have a customer strategy, and that is a real building block for corporate success," he says. That is a central theme for him in a recent white paper titled, "Your Customer, Your Boss. A Lifecycle Perspective of Customer Relationship Management." The study points to the approach that A.T. Kearney is taking when it comes to discussions with C-level executives at global companies. And those discussions raise several issues on one critical factor they are missing: the customer strategy. "Most of our clients are in the process of implementing some technology around the customer. They have the technology plan or strategy, but they don't have a broad customer strategy as to what are customer expectations," Gorsage says. A.T. Kearney's CRM solutions team is taking a lifecycle approach, much like the approach taken by solution providers in the PC space when it comes to lifecycle services that include product refreshes, upgrades, and a slew of other services. Gorsage advocates a five-stage agenda of the CRM lifecycle that pushes executives to think of their relationships with customers in terms of a lifecycle, much like a product lifecycle. For instance, when asking clients to think about their customer strategy, Gorsage asks how will that customer strategy impact the behavior in the collections or accounting department. He says he wants clients to look at the lifetime value of a customer and that will be a good gauge to determine how to deal with them. "We really push hard with our clients for a cultural shift from siloism. If I were the accounting department, I'd ask, How would the customers want their invoice? Sent over the Web with a way to collect payments electronically? It's all about how you can personalize the [experience] and about knowing customers in a different way," Gorsage says. A.T. Kearney's CRM strategy is centered on delivering top-line revenue growth for its customers. That means growing existing customers, retaining current customers, and how to interact with customers in the most profitable way. Basically, CRM is all about common sense, he says.
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