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September - October 2002

Jim Naas

Customer Relationship Management
Crucial in the Window and Door Industry
by Jim Naas

According to one industry view, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) consists of the following: 

    • Helping the manufacturer to enable its marketing department to identify and target its best customers, managing marketing campaigns with clear goals and objectives and generating quality leads for the sales force;

    • Assisting the organization to improve sales management by optimizing information shared by multiple employees and streamlining existing processes (for example, taking orders using mobile devices); 

    • Allowing the formation of individualized relationships with customers, with the aim of improving customer satisfaction and maximizing profits; identifying the most profitable customers and providing them the highest level of service; and 

    • Providing employees with the information and processes necessary to know their customers, understand their needs and build relationships effectively between the company, its customer base and distribution partners. 

Implementing CRM
To achieve these objectives, the window and door manufacturer should have a desire to link the business processes of their customers with their internal processes as seamlessly as possible. This integration will extend from the point of bidding on a job through to the timely fulfillment of sales orders and on to shared sales profitability information. Your customer base is your most valuable asset and all business processes should aim to strengthen your customer relationships. There are a number of specific steps that can be taken to strengthen your connection with customers. 

    1. Educate customers about our products and their features by providing them access to catalogs, both online as well as the traditional hard-copy catalogs. These catalogs will provide customers with not only descriptions of products and features, but with both inventory availability, lead-time and delivery information;

    2. Make it easy for customers to conduct business using customer-based quoting and ordering systems as well as Internet-based ordering systems; 

    3. Provide timely support for the product warranties that are placed on the product; 

    4. Provide 24-hour-a-day access to the status of orders including when the order is promised for shipment, where the order is in the manufacturing cycle and how and when the order is shipped;

    5. Provide direct access to a customer’s credit position, including his payment and cash application history;

    6. Provide constant online access to customer service personnel via both e-mail as well as traditional phone support; 

    7. Ensure that all customer support personnel have real-time access to the sum of all information that has been collected over time, enabling you to maximize the sales and servicing activity with the account.

We should always place ourselves in the position of our customer and work to provide him with the same level of satisfaction that we expect from our own suppliers. Our goal is to foster a long-term partnership through maximized profitability for both our customers as well as ourselves. 

Jim Naas serves as strategic product director for the Friedman Corp., based in Deerfield, Ill. 

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