Everything you ever wanted to know about CRM but were afraid to ask
What is CRM?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. Based on the well-known marketing theory that it is more profitable to keep existing customers than to go out looking for new ones, the CRM concept is based on forming and developing relationships with customers in order to enhance customer satisfaction and maximise profit.
So it’s just for our sales team, right?
Wrong! Although CRM systems began as simple contact databases to help salespeople track prospects and leads, things have moved on over the last decade, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM systems now encompass virtually all business functions:
Of course, CRM was originally created as a tool for sales teams. A good CRM system allows salespeople to manage their appointments, manage their contact databases, produce quotations, target customers, and generate reports. Sales managers can implement processes and check that they are being followed, and record all vital sales data.
Marketing teams can use CRM to maintain and manage customer/prospect lists and subsequently coordinate marketing campaigns, as well as monitoring their effectiveness. A powerful CRM will also allow marketers to prepare, generate and send mail/email campaigns. A CRM can even help with online marketing, by recording the buying habits of customers and using web analytics to help you see which parts of your site are popular/unpopular. Monitoring the different ingredients of your marketing mix will help you learn what’s working and what isn’t.
Customers don’t just talk to your sales or customer service people – they also deal regularly with your accounts department and, in the case of complaints, they may need to talk to supervisors, managers or even directors. A CRM system which records every interaction between you and your customers means that whoever talks to your customer has all the information they need to hand – no need to put that customer on hold while you track down the information you need.
Whatever you’re selling – a service, a bulk off-the-shelf product, a one-off customisation – your delivery team need to know exactly what your customers have ordered, and when they’re expecting to receive it. Delivery problems often occur when an important piece of key information isn’t communicated to the delivery team, and can cost you money. A CRM system means delivery staff can see exactly what the customer wants and when they want it, and also allows them to feed useful information back to the sales team which could result in increased business.
Taking care of customers after they’ve bought your products is a vital part of the CRM concept, and for many companies, particularly in the service industries, it is where the majority of interactions with customers take place. A CRM system will help your customer service team to constantly monitor customer relationships, contract management software and make you more money by helping them identify further sales opportunities.
I already have a lot of information about my customers. What can CRM tell me that I don’t already know?
You may already be storing a lot of details about your customers – where they live, what they do, their age, their interests etc. – but are you joining the dots and getting the most out of that data?
Typical organisations store customer data in information “islands”, i.e. isolated in several different software applications (accounts, ERP, Outlook etc.). CRM allows you to collate all this information in one central location, and thus to possibly see connections you didn’t even know existed.
Another key benefit of CRM is easy customer segmentation, allowing you to see which types of customer are buying which products, and then to group and target them accordingly. All companies know that the easiest sale to make is that of a new product to an existing customer, and using customer segmentation will help you improve your cross-selling figures in no time.
What can CRM do for my employees?
Giving your staff access to greater amounts of information gives them the power to make quicker, better-informed decisions. This can speed up your business processes, make your service more efficient and effective, and consequently impress your customers. And when your staff have all the information they need, they feel empowered and in control.
Also, as we saw in the previous answer, collating the information from your various information “islands” into one central location saves your staff time they would otherwise spend hunting down information.
Are there any benefits to the customers themselves?
Of course. As well as the obvious improvements to your efficiency, service and delivery, CRM allows you to involve your customers in your business. CRM systems facilitate customer satisfaction surveys, online ordering and account management, and online order tracking. Greater levels of customer inclusion in your business processes create collaboration, loyalty and trust.
OK, I’m nearly ready to invest in a CRM system. What areas do I need to consider before I make my choice?
Before you choose your CRM system there are several points you need to consider.
- Compatibility – as we have seen, CRM pervades throughout all areas of your company, so you will need a CRM system that can talk to your existing applications (accounting, ERP, email etc). If you are migrating from one CRM system to another, check how easy it is to transfer your data.
- Future IT strategy – what are your future IT plans? You will need to make sure any changes or new applications you plan to introduce will integrate seamlessly with your CRM system.
- Customisation – no two businesses work the same way, so you will need a system that can be customised to your requirements. Pay special attention to areas such as screen layout, security, data fields, reports, and workflow. A cheap out-of-the-box system may save you money in the short term, but will inevitably prove to be a false economy. Your way of working should dictate how you use CRM, not the other way around, so think about YOUR processes first and find a system that can handle them.
- Provider – from the outset, you need to be very clear about the role of the software provider who is supplying your CRM system. Are they simply selling you an off-the-shelf product, or are they designing a customised system? Will their involvement end after the system is installed, or will they be responsible for training? Are they just a software supplier, or will they be taking a consultancy role and advising you on your business processes?
- ROI – ask your supplier for feedback from customers already using the CRM system you intend to buy, to find out what measurable benefits the system has brought them, and over what timescale.
- Installation – how long will the installation process take? How much training will staff need? In general, how much disruption will be caused to your business while people get used to the new system?
- People – for most of your staff a new CRM system will mean a new way of working. Whilst some people embrace change, others prefer to stick with the ways they know, inefficient though they may be. So make sure everyone is on board by effectively communicating the benefits that the new system will bring to them and the business. Make sure everyone using the system is properly trained both in its use and in your processes – if some people are entering incorrect data or not contributing at all, the system will soon fall into disuse. Ensure that all users share their knowledge rather than protecting any special relationships they might have with individual clients. In short – involve, encourage and educate.
- Remote access – some employees, particularly those who travel a lot, may need to access your CRM system from outside your offices. Make sure the system is compatible with your staff’s remote devices and your contract management software communications technology, and ensure that your security isn’t compromised.
What CRM system does TRG International recommend?
CRM isn’t suitable for all companies. Indeed, smaller companies or companies with just a few key customers can easily get by using the contact management functions of MS Outlook.
However, when a company is clearly in need of a CRM system, we recommend Microsoft Dynamic CRM – in fact, we don’t just recommend it, we use it ourselves! Obviously, being a Microsoft product it is fully compatible with all the other Microsoft applications you’re probably using already, and as a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner you will benefit from our expertise in implementing Microsoft products and training your staff to use them.