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Presenting recent books: “The art of the customer relationship: Top tips for a lasting, profitable CRM” by Nils Hafner

Presenting recent books: “The art of the customer relationship: Top tips for a lasting, profitable CRM” by Nils Hafner

Many people talk about profitable customer management, but only a few master it. With his latest book “The Art of the Customer Relationship,” Nils Hafner aims to find a remedy, compiling 60 entertaining real-life stories that show how to identify and recognize customers and their needs, initiate interactions and thus dialogues, and therefore make relationships profitable for both sides.

Right in the foreword Hafner presents readers with an ‘instruction manual’ for his advice, into which various theories and thoughts from business administration, psychology, and information science have been incorporated. Each of these suggestions is dealt with in a short chapter. At the end of each chapter is a reputable source for more in-depth information (“For further reading”) as well as a short, easy to understand note (“What we can learn from this”) for long-term, profitable CRM. Hafner defines good advice as follows: It’s relevant to implementation, it’s emotional (and therefore packed into a story), and it helps manage complexity in the company.

And so the reader embarks on a journey through the anecdotal little book, in which Hafner presents his view of successful CRM and its facets mostly casually in tone, but always convincingly and enriched with recommendations and interesting analogies. He presents stories and advice firstly on establishing relationships, secondly on strategic customer management, thirdly on analytical customer management, fourthly on operational customer management, and fifthly on implementing customer orientation. In the end, everything revolves around the key question: “What would my customer want if he knew what he needed?”

In doing so Hafner questions CRM wisdoms that have grown popular, but that in his opinion are obsolete, such as “We believe the customer is always right!” “Nonsense!” says the author. “The customer doesn’t want to be always right. They don’t believe that, either. A simple partnership would be enough for them. After all, they do pay money and provide data.” He also calls out to the doubters and critics – at another point – with self-confidence: “If you’re thinking, ‘Hafner’s writing nonsense again,’ I can understand that, but I would like to teach you otherwise. That’s what I need. After all, I have become a professor for a reason.”

While elaborating the possibilities in CRM, Hafner also addresses the potential of new technologies, for example how artificial intelligence is changing the service world. Digitization offers ways and means to systematically access customer data, evaluate it, and address the target group precisely. The necessary closing of the knowledge gap is a pure handiwork task nowadays. The much more difficult problem is closing the management gap, i.e. what the company does with the information. The implementation of one of the fundamental marketing and CRM principles is also within reach: “Treat different customers differently.” Hafner is critical of the omni-channel issue, however. Customers don’t think in channel logic, so companies should also get away from this mindset.

Conclusion: An entertaining, practical, easy to understand, but very important book.

The book:
Nils Hafner, “The Art of the Customer Relationship: Top Tips for a Lasting, Profitable CRM,” Haufe Fachbuch, Freiburg, 2017, 26.99 euros

The author:
Nils Hafner is an international expert in building long-term, profitable customer relationships. He teaches customer relationship management at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. He established the first CRM Master program in the German-speaking world, and is a sought-after keynote speaker.

Author: Editorial team at “Future. Customer”
Image: Jakub Jirsák

Tags for this article CRM (108) Customer Journey (20) Marketing (3)


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