Customer relationship management (CRM) basics for business managers
In a world where customers expect service anywhere and anytime, business owners need efficient customer relationship management (CRM) processes to stay ahead of the curve. Here’s how.
To build a successful business, one of the most important elements is exemplary customer service.
This involves more than just answering the phone quickly or responding to emails on the fly.
Effective customer relationship management (CRM) means having a strategy to manage relationships and interactions with current and potential customers.
In this article:
- CRM systems in a nutshell
- How you can use CRM
- Choosing the best CRM for your business
- Integration with other systems
These days, when people talk about CRM, they’re usually referring to the use of a CRM system, a technological aid that businesses used to manage, analyse, and streamline a variety of factors, including contacts, sales, workflow processes, productivity, profitability, and more.
Here’s what you need to know about CRM today to help move your business forward.
A CRM system is software that takes customer data (and sometimes other information, like supplier, inventory and sales data) and turns it into useful, actionable insights.
Business managers can use the information to foster better business relationships, to grow their venture and improve profits.
A CRM system is a platform for you to store information about prospects and clients, as well as updates about all the interactions you have with these people.
As a centralised tool, the tech enables users to easily share data between colleagues and teams.
In the past, businesses often missed out on valuable insights when employees left or when details were lost or forgotten.
Today, though, thanks to CRM, information is retained, organised, and always on hand to drive activity. It’s there to make note of when anyone in the business interacts with a customer, whether on the phone, in person, via email, during a meeting, on social media, at an event, or elsewhere, and what’s been learned. As such, data stays up-to-date and relevant.
Not only does this mean relevant details about every customer are at your fingertips any time, but you also better understand your client types and what they’re looking for.
Opportunities won’t be lost as frequently either, as follow-ups can be scheduled and delegated within CRM systems.
By better understanding customers, you’ll be able to win business, more easily up-sell and cross-sell, and receive referrals from current clients.
CRMs were first developed to act as a place to file and share information.
But over the years, the systems have become increasingly feature-rich as developers have listened to businesses about the functionality they require.
Now, CRMs act as a contact database, track and store customer emails (many integrate with programs like Outlook and Gmail), and log calls.
They can be used to schedule meetings, help handle client complaints and set up to remind you when to make customer calls or send emails.
The technology can be programmed to automatically send an alert when a customer hasn’t been contacted for some time or when an event, such as a birthday, might be acknowledged (with a birthday gift voucher or discount code, as an example).
Advanced CRM uses:
- Track results of marketing campaigns, determining which are most effective in different markets
- Identify potentially hot new leads and come up with cross-selling or up-selling opportunities
- Track the performance of sales employees and use data insights to support training
- Create special offers for clients who haven’t bought from you recently
- Sales forecasting
- Internal instant messaging
This is a sample of some of the applications of a quality CRM. But functionality differs from product to product, which is why we’ve provided the below guide to choosing the right CRM for your purposes.
To decide on the best software for your venture, get clear about your needs.
There’s no point paying more money for a comprehensive system if you only want it to do the basics.
What is best for a large, multinational firm will be overkill for a smaller organisation.
On the other hand, if you think you want access to certain tools in the future as your business grows, consider a feature-rich program now that can scale over time.
Price is going to be a big factor, too. Compare costs between the programs on your shortlist and try to make forecasts about the benefits the software will bring you.
Ensure the advantages you’ll enjoy from a system won’t be wiped out by its expense.
As mentioned above, scalability should be a consideration. If you know you’re going to hire many employees in the coming months, consider how much extra users will cost on a program and if the features you’ll need once you have a bigger team will be available.
Hot tip: If you wish to stick with a simpler product to start with, check that you’ll be able to export your important data in a useful format later, when it comes time to upgrade.
Adequate customer support is another necessity. Choose a program that looks after clients by providing local customer service via numerous communication methods.
Ask about security, too. You’ll be storing incredibly sensitive and valuable information on a CRM system. As such, choose a program that takes security seriously and releases updates regularly to plug risky gaps.
A quality program will also have considered data recovery plans in place.
Something else to think about when it comes to CRMs is how and when you can integrate what you choose with other solutions.
Integration with other systems, where they all ‘talk’ to each other, saves time and avoids the need for data to be entered and managed twice.
It’s essential for the product you select to easily integrate with accounting, document and contract management, marketing, sales, scheduling, and email software, plus various other cloud-based apps.
Many integrations these days are ‘native’. This means they come built into CRM software by the developer and can be turned on with a single click or two. These are the easiest integrations to use and implement but are typically limited to just a small number of the most popular business tools.
Third-party integrations, on the other hand, are developed by independent developers.
Since CRM software platforms can’t integrate every feature themselves, they often enable others to set up connections between tools.
There are specific integration marketplaces selling hundreds of third-party integrations for different systems.
Your other option is paying for custom integrations. In this case, you’ll have a developer use application program interfaces (APIs) to develop specialised features to work with your CRM.
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