Clients of a business are considered the most important asset a company can have. A company may repeat sell to the same clients on an ongoing basis. The business potential can be substantial.
What is a Customer?
A customer can be either a single person or a business which purchases goods/services supplied by a company.
A customer is the end consumer of a product/service. This differentiates actual customers from resellers, who complete purchases with the intent to forward sell to their own client base.
“When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.”
John Wanamaker, Merchant, Religious Leader and Political Figure
What is a Client Database?
The method a company utilises customer information is very important.
A customer database is the collection of information that is gathered from each client.
A database commonly includes contact information, name/addresses and past purchases.
Maintaining a client database is an important approach to keep up-to-date client information and records. It provides access to clients, can establish and build loyalty, supporting repeat business and assisting with any regulatory requirements for example Health & Safe regulations/Anti Money Laundering Directives etc.
Also customers can be defined by their purchasing habits – customers can be studied and results analysis to aid focus on the business’s marketing approach, potential revenue streams and to support tailoring of inventory requirements.
Why does the business require a database?
A Database can store all the required information of the business’ clients. It makes it simple and efficient when the business needs to:
- Contact the clients by telephone, email or post.
- Understand what the client’s preferred contact method is.
- Generate marketing campaigns.
- Review job order both current and historical.
- Record special notes on file.
Analyse and report on trends across your whole client database.
In summary, a Client Management database is an invaluable tool for any business. It supports follow up on new business potential, aid generation of repeat business, establish and maintain information about your current and previous clients quickly and easily.
Benefits of a Customer Database
Maintaining a customer database provides full access to contact information. In business we are impacted by external factors, for example a bank changes their policy on a key element of their service and your business clients needs to be informed as a matter of priority as you have a duty of care to them. By accessing your customer database, you can successfully complete this task easily and efficiently.
Operating a database can support a business in keeping in contact with the client base. It can assist in identifying clients who have not purchased from the company for a period of time. This can be an excellent marketing tool for the business.
Better Service opportunities:
Obtaining information from the clients regarding their service requirements can determine how to improve the business, diversify the product & service range of the business and better satisfy the needs of the client.
Regulatory Requirements Completion
By tailoring your database, the business can easily satisfy the regulatory requirements within the industry e.g. within the financial industry, anti money laundering regulations must be adhered to.
Establishing & Maintaining the Client Management Database – The Challenges
Common method utilised by small businesses for client management is Microsoft Excel. As with most systems, there will be advantages and disadvantages e.g. spreadsheet not being saved properly, can only be accessed by one person at a time, data being over written etc.
Establishing a Client Management system:
Some key questions which you must consider:
- Where is my client data currently saved? Do you have this data in many different locations?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of the current methods being used?
- What is the business trying to achieve with the database?
- Which technology should be used for the business database?
- Who will access and utilise the system?
- What does the business need from the client management system?
- Which records are necessary?
- Which required fields are necessary to avoid users omitting essential information?
- What built-in duplication check can be included to avoid client data repetition?
Maintaining a Client Management system:
A database that is inadequately maintained impacts negatively on your business in many ways.Substandard data quality can result in an exasperating situation for both the business clients and staff, as actions and decisions will be taken based on the inaccurate data.
Hence the importance of maintaining the client management database must not be understated.
- What are the daily operational needs from the client management system?
- What real time requirements are necessary for the smooth operation of the business?
- Who/which department(s) will be responsible for the data contained within the client management database, will there be an individual or team of custodians?
- Who will be responsible for updating the client management database and how will they be advised of updates/changes required?
- How will staff be trained on how to operate the client management database system and by whom?
- How can the business reduce the risk of human error?
- What regulatory requirements can be incorporated and maintained within your Client Management database?
- Regularly, at intervals appropriate to the business back up the entire database.
How accurate can a database truly be?
Data integrity and accuracy is always the most important goal of any database. Whilst the system can do most of the work, human interaction and effort is essential for data quality.
Human Error Avoidance & Accuracy Strategy Hints & Tips
- If you can identify hotspots within your organisation you can take steps to evade the area.
- Detail and make available to all staff the company’s policy and procedures linked to data gathering.
- Establish mandatory data fields.
- Within the system have incorporated the functionality of merging duplicate records.
- Create pre-defined drop-down lists of standard data and abbreviations, which staff can select for inputting data e.g. UK can be selected for United Kingdom, Britain, British, Great Britain.
- Define Roles which will aid control of the access rights of users, whilst operating the database – users will create/modify/delete only those records that are relevant to them.
- Maintaining data quality is not a one-time task, consistency is the key.
It is human behavior to make errors and they can never be 100% prevented.
A mixture of strategies will assist reduce potential human error.