Customer Relationship Management—or CRM for short—is exactly what it sounds like, just with the added help of technology to simplify the process. When a business or company relies on a dedicated customer base, it’s important to have a system in place to help manage current customer interactions and relationships, and attract new ones. The more a company can improve their business relationships and expand them, the better chance they have of making their business a success on every level.
Technology can be a huge help in running an optimal customer relationship management approach, with numerous CRM software platforms available that can manage customers throughout every kind of process or interaction they have with a company. It can start with them signing up for e-mails and monitoring which e-mails prompt interactions, advance to keeping track of their purchases, elevate to helping them with returns and queries, and so much more. From the business side of the equation, good CRM systems will support a variety of departments in a company including sales and marketing, digital commerce, and customer service. These CRM software platforms can also help sales teams and other customer-facing business professionals organize tasks such as scheduling appointments, making sales calls, and following up with clients.
But it’s not just about managing customers who buy things from a company. The overall goal of a good customer relationship management platform is to support business relationships right across the board, including suppliers, service users, colleagues, and more. Having the right CRM solution and strategy is key. It’s important to have a plan that will support the technology that’s managing those customer relationships and interactions. The data from CRM systems can be very helpful to this aspect of the customer lifecycle, as data can analyze customer patterns throughout the lifecycle. This can determine sales opportunities or new ways to explore customer retention. The data is collected across every touchpoint a customer interacts with, such as a company website, e-mails, social media, customer support calls, and any other way that they may communicate with a business and its team.
While customer relationship management can be a big part of what drives a marketing department’s efforts or support a PR outreach that can entice new customers, CRM solutions differ from marketing and PR in that it’s the distinct practice of addressing customers and nurturing their needs throughout their entire lifecycle with a company. Customer relationship management can help with marketing campaigns and PR efforts, but those efforts couldn’t exist without the important data that a solid CRM software system or CRM tools can provide.
Once a business secures the right CRM software and CRM tools, it helps to personalize it to the company’s needs. Each company has specific datapoint requirements that may be addressed by the software’s basic approach, but most systems offer additional functions that can streamline the CRM process and really zero in on the functions that matter. Some of those system additions include:
- Marketing Automations: This makes a marketing team’s life easier by automating tasks throughout the customer lifecycle, like customer e-mail communications. From potential customers to contact management and customer experiences, marketing automations can control the entire customer relationship.
- Analytics: Effective tracking of user data can help marketing professionals create stronger campaigns and promote customer satisfaction. Customer experiences can be tracked easily using analytics.
- Sales Automations: Similar to marketing automations, there are automated options that can help the sales team track their interactions and follow up on leads.
- Artificial Intelligence: This tech is an integrated part of a CMS and can be used to identify customer patterns and automate repetitive tasks. This helps take potential customers to returning visitors and enhances the overall customer experience.
- Contact Automations: Customer support teams often have to deal with repetitive communications. Tools like pre-recorded audio or chatbots can minimize the amount of time service reps spend on the phone and make it faster and easier for customers to get support, improving customer relationships and enhancing overall contact management.
- Project Management: Not all CMS platforms offer project management tools, but the ones that do can help teams keep track of their processes across marketing, sales, customer service, and other departments.
- Workflow Automation: CRM systems are great for managing external communications for customers, but the right platform can also be great for managing internal workloads to free up employees from routine tasks.
- Software Integration: If a business uses more than one kind of software to manage different departments or customer outreach methods, a CRM can be integrated with that software to assist with various automations, management, or communications.
- Geolocation Technology: Location-based services can help marketing teams make more targeted efforts with their outreach, and sales teams zero in on prospective customers. Understanding customer data like this is crucial for marketing campaigns.
- Lead Management: Another great tool for the sales team, a CRM software system can be used to track leads and analyze data that can lead to closed deals.
- Tech Targeting: Using CRM tools that are dedicated to social media can help with more direct interactions—and monitor what’s being said about a brand across a variety of platforms.
- Human Resources Management: Because they deal with such a large amount of employee information and data, human resource professionals can use the CRM solution to track performance reviews, contact information, benefits, and more.
Companies or businesses who are interested in implementing a CRM system may know the basics of what the platform can do for them, but its capabilities extend far beyond the expected role of managing consumer relationships. Companies and businesses should also know that:
- A company platform that’s shared across departments can connect business silos and reconcile disparate data to create a more complete view of a customer and how they interact with the business. This, in turn, helps each department to strengthen customer communications and interactions.
- Having a centralized CRM platform supports employees no matter where they’re accessing the system from, so they can stay connected and work from anywhere, and know that everyone else is on the same page.
- Adding a CRM can boost a business’ bottom line and make a significant improvement to productivity across departments such as marketing, sales, customer service, IT, and digital commerce.
- CRMs have also been shown to give sales teams extra insight to leads, with the capability to identify and categorize them quickly, easily, and accurately. This allows for a more focused approach by zeroing in on specific characteristics, which can lead to sales success.
- Using targeted CRM data can help sales teams improve customer retention and quickly address their specific needs, which can streamline the sales process.
- CRM data is built on customer information that’s spread across their various interactions with a company, which can share valuable insights on what products or services may need to be improved or developed.
- The right CRM system can identify patterns and opportunities for cross-selling or upselling, which can increase visibility and sales from the existing customer base.
- As more customers rely on personalized support across a variety of touchpoints, CRMs go the extra mile in ensuring they get what they need, when they need it. Whether it’s through automated features or giving call center personnel immediate access to a customer’s account so they can see the big picture, a CRM system can make all the difference in a business’ service approach.
A solid CRM system can change the functionality of a company for the better. Some of its functions include:
- Creating the opportunity for employees to work from anywhere, particularly when using a cloud-based CRM that can easily be accessed remotely.
- Helping teams to more effectively nurture streams, whether they’re sales-driven or marketing focused.
- Tracking customers through their entire lifecycle, providing a complete picture of purchasing habits, company interactions, returns or exchanges, and more.
- Getting the entire company on the same page in terms of customer messaging and outreach, regardless of department.
- Culling data in one easily accessible system can help departments collaborate on their customer outreach, and also strengthen approaches that result in sales.
- Encouraging a streamlined process both internally and externally.
- Offering more opportunities for collaboration, particularly between departments.
- Amping up productivity within specific departments, as well as company wide, by creating actionable goals driven by customer data.
- Strengthening the sales process with strong consumer insights.
- Building more customer loyalty by addressing specific needs and responding in ways that directly connect with them on their level.
- Connecting the company voice across a variety of platforms to speak to consumers in their language.
- Identifying opportunities to strengthen marketing messages, increase sales, and create more consumer loyalty.
- Allowing for scalability, so the company or business can grow with support from data.
- Offering more ways for consumers to communicate with the company, and more ways for the company to connect with consumers.
As helpful as it can be to implement a CRM platform at a business, there can be significant challenges that could derail intentions of strengthening consumer communications. Some of the challenges that may arise include:
- Storing disconnected data sets, which can splinter the customer view. Having a skilled IT specialist who is well-versed in CMS platforms can help set the system up to connect disparate data, allowing for a complete view of the customer.
- Having outdated data, creating issues with customer outreach and standard communications, such as handling customer service issues. It’s important to ensure the integrity of company data before migrating it to the CRM system.
- Duplicate or incomplete data sets, both of which can lead to complications, especially when working with sales leads. Some platforms will allow for merging of duplicate data, or specializations that let IT professionals create scripts to address this problem.
- Not managing the CRM system so that it connects, organizes, and distributes data as needed. This can render a CRM system mostly useless. Automated scripts can handle certain kinds of data classification, while skilled IT professionals can address the rest.
- Lack of training for employees using the system. It’s important to determine who needs to have access, what level of access they need, and the kind of training that will support their level of access to ensure they’re able to successfully use the system to support their department’s needs.
There are numerous different kinds of CRM platforms to choose from, and not all are created equal. Different businesses have different needs, and a CRM system isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Some of the CRM systems companies may work with include:
On-Premises CRM: This kind of CRM system works much like licensed software, in that a company would buy a license for a platform and load the software onto their own servers—a process that can take a long time, depending on the amount of data involved. This method relies on the company’s employees to maintain the database and information, and monitor its security functions. That also means any updates need to be handled by the company internally. WorkWise and Salesforce are two CRM companies that have on-premises CRM system options.
Cloud-Based CRM: When people think of CRM platforms, they’re often thinking of cloud-based CRM systems from companies such as ZenDesk or Salesforce. This kind of system stores company data on a remote network that gives employees access from anywhere, at any time. Cloud-based systems are considered more cost-effective, as they tend to be subscription-based, offer easy deployment, and often put a third-party in charge of installation and maintenance. However, there can be security challenges—not only is all the company data information stored in the cloud, but the company doesn’t have direct control over it. And depending on the company, subscription fees may cost more in the long run than an on-premises option. However, for many businesses, the benefits outweigh the risks.
Open-Source CRM: Using source code that’s publicly available, open-source CRM platforms allow companies to manage and maintain their own CRM system at no extra cost—not counting the skilled IT professionals needed to deploy it. The good news is, the code can be customized to better fit a company’s needs. Some open-source platforms include Suite CRM and OroCRM.
Even with the technological advancements offered by CRM platforms, there’s always room for improvement—which is where talented and knowledgeable IT professionals come in. Those who are skilled at working with code, implementing software systems, training employees on usage, and securing and maintaining these systems are invaluable to companies who rely on CRM to drive their business.
Whether you’ve been working in IT for years and want to brush up on your know-how, you’re new to the world of tech and aim to become an expert, or you’re a marketing whiz who wants to get more involved in the world of CRM, education is the key to unlocking your capabilities. Taking an online course is a great way to sharpen your skills on your timeline—and become an invaluable asset to your company.