First of all what does CRM stand for? CRM = Customer Relationship Management.
The concept of CRM has been around for a long time. The original form of CRM was a manual card system kept by a sales person that usually sat on the sales person's desk or alongside them in the car. These client cards sets were very valuable to the sales person as this is where they kept important customer information such customer contact details, key contacts in the company, a running commentary on their activities, personal and product preferences, buying patterns,best CRM system business connections and so forth. Each card was a dossier on each client. To successful, well managed sales people, their client cards were gold.
However, often times, this vital data resided with the sales person alone. The company, the sales person worked for, did not have ready access to this important information and when the sales person left the company more often than not so did the client information, client relationship and sales did as well.
The 'softwarising' of CRM for businesses is seen as a major breakthrough in being able to capture important client information and better manage client relationships. CRM promises faster customer service at lower costs, higher customer satisfaction, better customer retention and ultimately customer loyalty and more sales. However many companies still believe that CRM is simply software, or technology and the full benefits of CRM are not being fully realised by business. CRM is much more than just a data-mining tool.
CRM is not (just) technology.
CRM is a business strategy!
Your CRM has the potential to and should be your corporate memory. It can be the archeological record of your business. In fact, if introduced and applied correctly, one of the most significant benefits of having and using a CRM in your business is being able to fully realise and map the true value of your clients as company assets. Besides the obvious benefits to you and your business, if ever you chose to sell your business, having a CRM with all this valuable information tracked and mapped can be valued and sold for premium.
This trail of information becomes a real asset in itself. A potential buyer can see your business in real client terms and understand the value of the client relationships to the business. Therefore instead of the wisdom and knowledge going out the door with the previous owner it can be captured and retained with the new owners to be further cultivated and developed.
NB: Not all data is good data. You must make sure you have the right information in place. Too many CRM's are filled with rubbish data and the wrong stuff making them a liability not an asset.
As a CEO, you can't make the right decisions if you don't have the right data/information foundations in place. If you are going to get the best benefits from a CRM strategy and CRM tools you need to know how to you are going to align your key business objectives between your clients, sales people, suppliers and the rest of your business so every piece of relevant information and action adds value to the client fulfillment process.
The interconnectedness of clients to your business can begin to be truly mapped and you will then see how everyone in your business can affect the retention and growth of your clients, not just your sales people.
What does an effective CRM system look like?
An effective CRM system should be what your strategy needs and wants it to be. These days you can get access to open source CRM software where you can configure what you want in your CRM so you do not have to be tied to proprietary CRM's that cannot be customised to your needs. Also CRM's do not have to be prohibitively expensive either. Many people have put off getting CRM's in the past due to their high cost and focus on big corporations. But now good CRM's systems are available for SME's and home based businesses at very cost effective rates. For instance we use SugarCRM at Barrett which is an open source system we can configure to suit our business needs.
This means you need to think carefully about what you want your CRM system to do and be and who you partner with to make it work for you.
A good place to start is to:
Know your business strategy and key outcomes you want to achieve and work backwards from there.
Know your customer, their needs, wants and motives and your path to market
Appreciate the length, width and depth of the relationships between the customer and your organisation
Understand how you properly manage of all interactions with your customer
Know what your sales and service people need to do make sales happen in your business.
Aim to build a business system that manages prospects, clients and projects.
Look at what data, behaviours, and outcomes you want to track:
Client data, sales person activity data, product sales data, effectiveness of marketing initiatives including your website, direct mail/email campaigns, etc.
What behaviours do you want to encourage and reinforce in your sales and service teams as well as your clients and prospects?
What do you want to measure by way of lead and lag sales indicators?
How do you want to communicate data internally and externally?
Important point: you do not want you CRM to turn your salespeople into glorified desk jockeys. We need to make sure any CRM is easy to use, doesn't take necessary time away from vital interpersonal sales activities. If you think your CRM can replace your sales team best CRM systemyou will fall short in your efforts. If your business needs to be in personal contact in some way with your clients you need your CRM to enhance these relationships not replace them.
Here are some ways a CRM system can serve you well:
Provide immediate insight into prospect and customer leads originating from any channel
Provide deep visibility into the sales pipeline and opportunity details which quickly produce accurate sales forecasts.
Allow for a consistent, informed, and personalised customer communication approach i.e. automated emails relevant to the specific customers
Give sales people and everyone in your business access to a consolidated view of the customer across your organisation - this will allow everyone in the organisation to know how they can help play their part in taking control of every opportunity and managing it to a successful conclusion
Encourage, enforce and track best-practice sales methodologies you want in your sales teams i.e. logging of Lead Indicator Activities such as: # of prospecting calls made, # of client meetings had; # of real deals in the pipeline, # of sales made: # of cross sales made, # of sales made with new clients, # of sales made with existing clients, # of follow customer service enquiries, # of service calls, etc.
Encourage, enforce and track best-practice service methodologies you want in your customer service and support teams i.e. logging of Lead and Lag Indicator Activities such as # of follow customer service calls made post sales, # of service calls made, # of customer service calls and complaints received, etc.
Monitor and map effectiveness of have automated sales and marketing activities that are specific to the customers and markets
Steamline and automate those customer activities that can go online i.e. confirmation emails, automatic emails sent out at periodic intervals for things like renewals for instance
Map work in progress with clients and staff allocated to client projects
Have the ability to integrate with your website and keep track of web activity
Support your entire frontline sales and sales lead management team with the right information they need to quickly and efficiently fulfill all of their daily requirements.
Deliver knowledge at the point of action
Keeps vital customer data in the business whether the sales person stays of leaves thus creating a valuable company asset.
Word of caution: Before you even think about integrating Twitter or Facebook into your data mix and CRM, which is a hot topic at the moment, make sure your current data is clean and relevant because if it is not then you will be piling more garbage on an already big garbage heap and there's no value in that.
Remember CRM systems are tools that should support, enhance and grow the customer relationship by giving your sales team and others in your business access to vital information they can act upon with purpose and in the easiest manner possible.