A designer jewellery brand's take on customer relations

The founder of Larsen Jewellery talks through its deployment of a CRM platform and the company wide transformation efforts it required

“It’s incredible valuable because there’s nothing that falls through the cracks.”

That’s how Lars Larsen describes his customer relation management (CRM) system. For this jeweller, CRM is almost like a marriage celebrant bringing people together with their jewellery and ensuring the custom-design, bespoke pieces meet their expectations.

Lars and Susie Larsen, husband and wife team behind Larsen Jewellery, boast a background in investment banking. Using their business and finance nous, the pair developed the idea of a jewellery business offering a unique, personal touch where customers can be actively involved in designing their own pieces, such as wedding rings.

“The hands-on process takes about four hours under the guidance of your own personal jeweller and you literally craft the wedding rings with them,” Lars Larsen told CMO.

Over the years, the custom-designed jewellery offering has grown substantially and today the ‘wedding ring experience’ is a relatively small percentage of turnover. The business prides itself on creating bespoke, high-quality jewellery using fair trade gold and a transparent supply chain and its business values extend to being carbon neutral and donating a percentage of profits to charities.

Bringing on CRM

While the Larsens have run an organised set-up with lots of systems, in the early years they relied heavily on paper.

“That works for businesses like ours because it’s a low-volume business and you can make do with any manual processes and systems,” Larsen said. “But we eventually got to a point where we thought, ‘this is ridiculous, we need to go digital’. We would add information, but it was just done in a manual, paper-based way.

“We did a lot of analysis and looked at different options from off-the-shelf products out there. But as we were researching those, we realised they weren’t really doing things exactly the way we wanted them to.”

The pair began investigating a custom-built customer database platform. “We were very close to opting for a completely custom-built system, but we got busy with other things,” Larsen said. “When we came back to it, we looked at SugarCRM and realised it was a happy medium between being customisable and yet built on a powerful engine with all the bells and whistles.”

Larsen is glad the business didn’t follow the custom path and wound up stuck with a legacy system. “On the other hand, I’m glad we didn’t go with an off-the-shelf product because this business and its processes are very complex being all custom-made,” he said. “We are the manufacturer and the retailer and no two products identical.”

Digital change

Larsen said the single biggest change – and single most beneficial part of the process – has been having a central repository where all customer information is stored.

“In turn, it allows us to provide better customer service. It also reduces errors because it is much more than a CRM system,” he said. “This platform helps us with production, entering all the specs for any piece so we can capture all the details we need to have when designing and creating a piece of jewellery. We’ve been fine-tuning things. That’s one of the benefits: We keep coming up with ideas and as we learn things, change things.”

While implementation was straightforward, a comprehensive adoption process was needed to ensure everyone uses the system fully and in the same way. Much like creating a piece of jewellery is about balance and one piece complementing another, Larsen said a smart, effective CRM system doesn’t always work if it’s too complicated and fussy.

“One of the things we’ve learned is to keep it simple,” Larsen said. “There’s a fine line. You can add complexity with rules and it can help you with getting information out of the system in better ways. But it might also reduce productivity and hinder it being used. It’s about striking a balance. Increasingly, we are trying to simplify and make it more user-friendly.”

With so much analysis capability at their fingertips, the Larsens are also able to drill down into the data in many ways, allowing them to make better business decisions.

Beauty in simplicity

The CRM has been heavily customised, from custom forms that capture detailed, important information going into crafting a piece of jewellery, to the “checks and balances” needed in such a process that fit with the rules-based processes of SugarCRM.

“There are also things that need to be remembered during the sales process. One simple example is we don’t start a job until we’ve taken a 30 per cent deposit. So there are some rules in the system that alert us if we haven’t taken a deposit,” Larsen explained.

“Things like that keep everyone on the right track with the with policies and procedures.”

The system also enables Larsen to market in clever ways. This is achieved by drilling down into the customer database and extracting a relevant subset to use for targeted campaigns.

For example, as customers’ lives mature, this often translates into key moments represented with jewellery. Just think of the engagement ring, followed by wedding ring and provided things are going well, anniversary and eternity rings.

To engage more personally, Larsen is using automated emails via Sugar, thus encouraging repeat sales, for instance. “With customers who have purchased wedding rings, we can remind them about anniversaries and that can mean new pieces of jewellery,” Larsen said.

While they might not be able to quantify the benefits in dollar terms, Larsen said adopting technology has been beneficial in multi-faceted ways. “There’s definitely been a productivity improvement in many ways from having the system,” he said.

Looking ahead, the next step is to link the platform with Larsen’s accounting software as well as its website. As a specialty business without a high street shopfront, Larsen noted it relies heavily on its website for outreach marketing. Currently, there is a lot of back and forth via email coming out of the website for these early-stage inquiries.

Having inquiries go straight into the CRM would streamline the process, provide more marketing analysis and help “join the dots on what’s working and what’s not working”, Larsen said.

Larsen’s top advice for others looking at a CRM solution is to do thorough research because the platform will sit at the heart of your business. His second recommendation is to choose a vendor with great customer service to help step through the process.

“There are lots of other detail, but if you get those two things right, the rest will follow,” he concluded. 

This article originally appeared in CMO magazine, Issue 1, 2020. For more details on how to subscribe to CMO's print edition, please click here.

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