What is CRM?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and it is exactly what its name says, a collection of technologies, means, rules and processes which ensure creating and maintaining a good relationship with your customers and potential customers, by making sure they get a quality experience at every touch point and by adapting your (marketing) communications and (product) offerings to the particularities of each of them.
Each action from the Customer Relationship Management has well-defined objectives that ensure information regarding the customers is gathered, stored, updated, shared with stockholders, available in the right place at the right time and used wisely. Everything a company needs, from this point of view, to be able to truly delight its customers is here and it is a huge amount of information that in many cases are transferred from system to system, from database to database including via human actions – emails, manual data-entry, data-imports. Certain issues can occur in this model: information loss, lack of data transparency, duplicate information, data conflicts etc.
CRM dedicated software systems come to help eliminate the drawbacks of a huge amount of data, both standardized and unique for each individual customer, that travels with huge speeds around an organization and between the outside and an organization and that is, besides all these, manipulated by humans (and here human errors might occur).
CRM is not supposed to be just another module, that no one has time to use properly, inside a complex ERP system, but rather a complex system by itself (independent or within a larger, ERP system), that adds value to an organization and helps the sales, customer service, and marketing reps (but not only) get all the information they need, in an effective and user-friendly system, collaborate, track and visualize different metrics and take their customers’ experiences one step further.
Common business issues and the way a quality CRM system can overcome them:
- Data transparency
Many times, especially sales representatives step on each other toes, due to various interests, like a commission or other benefits. But there are also cases when this just happens without anyone being conscious of it initially.
Think about a company that does not have an established CRM system: a lot of information and leads (potential customers) are coming from various sources (email, phone, survey, landing pages, chat, LinkedIn prospecting etc.) and they must be put together somewhere and each potential customer should get an Account manager. Each sales rep contacts a lot of leads via phone, email or during a face-to-face meeting and gets even more information about that individual (or business) and the products (services) of interest for him. And you end up with a tremendous amount of information.
The next question is, where do you store it? Presuming that you don’t have a dedicated CRM system, you would probably go for spreadsheets or local files. Spreadsheets are a great and free tool for storing and sharing information but a “system” that consists of spreadsheets is not an effective one. It requires a lot of manual labor (data-entry), it requires people to pay a lot of attention to the structure of various tables and the place they need to introduce every piece of information.
A spreadsheet does not allow you to automatize the data filling process, many times people forget to introduce or share the updates or they get to large or to restrained levels of access to certain information. Or maybe they have a CRM system in place, but if it is a poor one and requires a lot of navigating between windows or pages, with a poorly designed UI/UX.
This means that getting all the relevant information (about a certain lead for example) requires a set of time-consuming actions and due to the lack of time and the need for the sales reps to concentrate on the sales efforts, once more, essential information can be missed. But this issue disappears when you implement a high-quality CRM system. First, it displays information coming for a single database and in constrains users to enter the information (by using its interface) in that database (as it is the only existing one); this means that you get all the information in a single place. Besides that, every user gets the so much needed transparency and gets, in an intuitive and easy to use interface, all the information he needs regarding both the potential customers and its colleagues from the same department and other departments activities regarding each lead/potential sale/order.
It is essential that this data gets updated in real time for every user. And this is not all. Analytics and reporting are also essential for every organization. With a tailored CRM system, you can, with little effort, choose which information to get in every report or data visualization.
- Reporting flexibility
In case you need to extract data, both in tabular format, as a matrix or as various visual reports and dashboards, you can use the built in CRM capabilities or an integrated analytics software that can connect directly to the internal CRM database and get real time insights.
There are many software solutions that require additional developments each time a new type of report must be generated. And calling an IT specialist each time you need a new column in a table or to change the layout of a graph becomes very annoying and it can lead to high costs too. But with the power that CRM gives you, you can take full control over the information exported from the system, and its layout.
First, you can choose what columns to extract from the CRM and which filters to apply (for any existing column). Let’s take an example. ABC Consulting wants to extract each potential customer that has no sale opportunities recorded in the last 3 months and it is coming from United States of America or Canada and is working in the Oil & Gas or Water Utilities industry. And they need the following columns: First Name, Last Name, Job Title, Country, Industry, Company, Email, Secondary Email, Phone, Mobile Phone. This whole information can be extracted in a single report by using simple point-and-click, drag-and-drop actions within CRM, NO PROGRAMMING NEEDED. This is how a business can take full control over the information extraction from CRM and easily generate this information and use it later in other systems.
Second, you can generate any type of visual report using any of the information available in the system. The CRM solution has efficient and effective reporting capabilities and once you create a data analysis model, it always gets updated based on newly added, deleted or modified data. The visuals you generate can be later used in various dashboards that CAN BE ACCESSED by non-CRM users too. Think about management: they do not sell or offer any other customer related services directly, but they want to have access to information to evaluate various metrics and take facts-based decisions. By leveraging the features of a connected data analysis software, a professional can share the results with anyone who has access to the internet and these results also get updated with the new data on a daily-basis or hourly-basis. And the best part is that to connect an analytics app directly to CRM all that is needed are the credentials from the CRM account because the software solutions offer out of the box integrations.
- Data formats and standardization
Another common issue is that of data standardization and format. If we are thinking about a date field in a worksheet, it can be formatted as date or not. In case it is formatted as date-field, the user is constrained to write-in a corresponding value (for example: mm/dd/yyyy). This represents an essential feature for any system and the CRM systems are offering various data formats that work just the same. And this is not all, CRM offers other types of validations too: in the “email” type fields, spaces are not allowed and “@” is mandatory within the introduced value. This is essential because it does not allow reps to make common mistakes when it comes to working with data (2 different email addresses in the same field with a space between them).
Another helpful feature is represented by the drop-down option sets. They basically allow the user to select only certain values for a field, values that have been previously configured by a system administrator. Let’s take countries for example: what happens if some employees type “USA”, others “United States” and others “United States of America” in the same field? The results are incomplete or inefficient reporting, involuntary data missing, lack of transparency. But when everyone can select just one, standardized option for a country’s name, let’s say “United States of America” things get clear and reporting as well as data searching and bulk data operations become effective and painless.
These are just three of the main benefits a highly customizable, quality oriented CRM system is bringing to any organization, no matter the size, industry, business particularities and number of CRM users. You can get standardized, interdependent, transparent data that can be easily accessed, updated or manipulated to generate high-quality reports and data exports even for non-users. And all this happens in a beautiful user interface that offers you facile access to every piece of information that you need in a certain point, with minimum effort.
To fully benefit from the power and advantages a CRM system can bring, it is essential to identify the right software, to have a very good understanding of the system and its capabilities in relation with your sales, customer service and marketing processes and to get the right set of customizations that truly fit your organization, its business model and bring a positive impact for everyone involved into the Customer Relationship Management area.