Successfully Managing Your Customer Relationships

Successfully Managing Your Customer Relationships
Eben Esterhuizen, Founder and General Manager of OnShelf.

Founder and General Manager of OnShelf, Eben Esterhuizen, says that businesses are looking for powerful ways to promote their goods and make more sales. This should include beefing up customer relationship management (CRM) systems to streamline communication with potential clients and encourage more sales.

Here are steps to make your CRM smarter:

Defining CRM

CRM is the technology for managing a company’s relationships and interactions with customers (and potential customers). It is perceived as boring and functional compared to the new technology of the customer experience, however, without having the basics of CRM right there’s no solid foundation to communicate, build on and sell to customers.

CRM questions

A few years ago, Harvard Business Review defined four important questions which businesses need to ask themselves as they embark on CRM initiatives:
• Is it strategic?
• Where does it hurt?
• Do we need perfect data?
• Where do we go from here?


After asking the strategic questions, focus on your goals as that will allow you to identify ways of reaching the customers you have in your sights. Breaking down targets into bite-sized chunks will make planning and mapping out the CRM journey easier. Be agile here so that you can implement changes where necessary.

Map the journey

Have an integrated customer view – overall behavioural analysis of the customer is fundamental. This helps to prioritise them (new, returning, purchasing across segments etc.) as well as credit scoring and making automated decisions on credit quickly and effectively.

Know your customer – CRM software can help identify a potential shopper by what they share via social media. This allows insights into customer needs, delivery expectations and future needs.

Involve employees – according to, when evaluating your CRM software options, it’s best to give your employees the possibility to work anywhere and ‘on the device of their choosing’. Customer service integration means employees are in on the sales specials being offered and can meet shoppers’ needs accordingly.

Make changes – This note by SalesForce speaks to the point above, cautioning against being too responsive when feeling pressurised to change technologies quickly: ‘Keep your workforce in mind, and whenever possible, introduce your new CRM policies gradually.’

Continuous improvement – with reference here to Expert Marketing, while it’s important to leverage maximum wallet share with customers, it is equally important to develop sales propositions to attract new ones. CRM helps you understand what’s not working with your existing customer base and be an integral part of product development and a new target marketing lifecycle.

CRM and informal shoppers in SA

‘There are about 120,000 informal spaza stores with sales estimated at between R100bn and R200bn,’ stated marketer, author and entrepreneur GG Alcock. He noted that in South Africa, ‘Informal sector businesses are designed to be completely fitted to people’s needs based on lifestyle and it solves ‘pain points’.’ In the same way, to capture informal shoppers – businesses need to align with their lifestyles and pain points.

Informal shoppers’ lifestyles

As the informal sector is increasingly disrupting the formal sector, established businesses need to help meet more of the requirements of people shopping at spazas. As Alcock noted, ‘Municipalities, governments and financial institutions have to adapt their regulations, laws and products to suit the market, instead of knocking the hawker off the pavement. If we didn’t have the informal sector, we would have a revolution on our hands.’

Here are two ways in which businesses are successfully tapping into the shared economy targeting the more ‘informal’ shopper:

Loyalty programmes – A survey of the loyalty habits of 25,369 adults with a gross monthly household income of R10,000 or more showed 75% of South Africans are using loyalty programmes, with Clicks being the highest. The Clicks Clubcard has remained at the top as the most used loyalty programme at 72%, 12% points ahead of no.2, Pick n Pay Smart Shopper at 60%. Offering great deals to loyalty programme customers will increase sales as well as potential new customer sign-ups.

Empower stokvels – as South Africa’s R45bn stokvel industry grows, it would be wise for businesses to be in on finding solutions to the ‘pain points’ of the nation’s stokvel groups – which are estimated to be over 800,000. Examples of big business getting it right are Pick n Pay partnering with Absa to launch a new stokvel account and providing people with a safer and easier way to save.

Another innovative example is replicating the idea of a stokvel via a mobile app such as Franc – launched by Dr Thomas Brennan, the former head of digital innovation at Discovery Health. The app allows access to both the money market and an exchange-traded fund via people’s smartphones.

I’m excited about the opportunities getting CRM right will afford businesses and consumers. We have an obligation to get to know our customers as well as we can and to give them the best deals possible.