Customer relationship management (CRM) is a technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers.
The goal is simple: Improve business relationships. A CRM system helps companies stay connected to customers, streamline processes, and improve profitability.
When people talk about CRM, they are usually referring to a CRM system, a tool that helps with contact management, sales management, productivity, and more.
A CRM solution helps you focus on your organization’s relationships with individual people; including customers, service users, colleagues, or suppliers, throughout your lifecycle with them, including finding new customers, winning their business, and providing support and additional services throughout the relationship.
Who is CRM for?
A CRM system gives everyone — from sales, customer service, business development, recruiting, marketing, or any other line of business — a better way to manage the external interactions and relationships that drive success. A CRM tool lets you store customer and prospect contact information, identify sales opportunities, record service issues, and manage marketing campaigns, all in one central location — and make information about every customer interaction available to anyone at your company who might need it.
With visibility and easy access to data, it’s easier to collaborate and increase productivity. Everyone in your company can see how customers have been communicated with, what they’ve bought, when they last purchased, what they paid, and so much more. CRM can help companies of all sizes drive business growth, and it can be especially beneficial to a small business, where teams often need to find ways to do more with less.
Why is CRM important for your business?
If your business is going to last, you know that you need a strategy for the future. You have targets for sales, business objectives, and profitability. But getting up-to-date, reliable information on your progress can be tricky. How do you translate the many streams of data coming in from sales, customer service, marketing, and social media monitoring into useful business information?
A CRM system can give you a clear overview of your customers. You can see everything in one place — a simple, customizable dashboard that can tell you a customer’s previous history with you, the status of their orders, any outstanding customer service issues, and more.
You can even choose to include information from their public social media activity — their likes and dislikes, what they are saying, and sharing about you or your competitors. Marketers can use a CRM solution to better understand the pipeline of sales or prospects coming in, making forecasting simpler and more accurate. You’ll have clear visibility of every opportunity or lead, showing you a clear path from inquiries to sales. Some of the biggest gains in productivity can come from moving beyond CRM as a sales and marketing tool, and embedding it in your business – from HR to customer services and supply-chain management.
Though CRM systems have traditionally been used as sales and marketing tools, customer service teams are seeing great benefits in using them. A CRM platform lets you manage the inquiry across channels without losing track, and gives sales, service, and marketing a single view of the customer.
What does a CRM system do?
A customer relationship management (CRM) solution helps you find new customers, win their business, and keep them happy by organizing customer and prospect information in a way that helps you build stronger relationships with them and grow your business faster.
CRM systems start by collecting a customer’s website, email, telephone, social media data, and more, across multiple sources and channels. It may also automatically pull in other information, such as recent news about the company’s activity, and it can store personal details, such as a client’s personal preferences on communications. The CRM tool organizes this information to give you a complete record of individuals and companies overall, so you can better understand your relationship over time.
A CRM platform can also connect to other business apps that help you to develop customer relationships. CRM solutions today are more open and can integrate with your favorite business tools, such as document signing, accounting and billing, and surveys, so that information flows both ways to give you a true 360-degree view of your customer.
Types of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Technology:
Special CRM software aggregates customer information in one place to give businesses easy access to data, such as contact data, purchase history, and any previous contact with customer service representatives. This data helps employees interact with clients, anticipate customer needs, recognize customer updates, and track performance goals when it comes to sales.
CRM software’s main purpose is to make interactions more efficient and productive. Automated procedures within a CRM module include sending sales team marketing materials based on a customer’s selection of a product or service. Programs also assess a customer’s needs to reduce the time it takes to fulfill a request.
CRM Cloud Solutions
Cloud-based systems provide real-time data to sales agents at the office and in the field as long as a computer, smartphone, laptop or tablet connects to the internet. Such systems boast heightened accessibility to customer information and eliminate the sometimes complicated installation process involved with other CRM products or software.
The convenience of this type of system, however, has a trade-off. If a company goes out of business or faces an acquisition, access to customer information may become compromised. A business might have compatibility issues when and if it migrates to a different vendor for this kind of software. Also, cloud-based CRM programs typically cost more than in-house programs.
CRM Human Management and Artificial Intelligence
All of the computer software in the world to help with CRM means nothing without proper management and decision-making from humans. Plus, the best programs organize data in a way that humans can interpret readily and use to their advantage. For successful CRM, companies must learn to discern useful information and superfluous data and must weed out any duplicate and incomplete records that may give employees inaccurate information about customers.
Despite this human need, industry analysts are increasingly discussing the impact that artificial intelligence applications may have on CRM management and the CRM market in the near future. AI is expected to strengthen CRM activities by speeding up sales cycles, optimizing pricing and distribution logistics, lowering costs of support calls, increasing resolution rates, and preventing loss through fraud detection.
Tangible AI applications for CRM, however, are in the early stages of adoption, although Salesforce and Microsoft have already started to integrate AI components into their existing CRM systems.
Do small businesses need a CRM tool?
CRM isn’t just for enterprise businesses or Fortune 500 companies. Using statistics to improve customer relationships has become an essential function for businesses of all sizes and niches. In fact, there’s no better time to do contact management than when you’re just starting out.
From the moment you create an online presence for your business, you start gaining access to valuable info about your customers and potential customers. CRM can help you lay a strong foundation for building and tracking relationships with those customers, collecting data about their preferences, and setting up marketing automation processes for consistent, personalized touchpoints over time.
CRM doesn’t need to be a full-time job: Whether you have a small sales team or you’re a solo entrepreneur relying on occasional marketing campaigns to sell your brand, putting your data to work for you can help you stay on customers’ radar, find new sales opportunities and save time. It also allows you to make knowledge-based decisions about where to focus your budget to reach customers on whatever channel they prefer—so however or whenever they’re ready to make a purchase, they’ll think of you.
How to choose the right CRM for your small business?
Your specific needs for CRM will vary widely based on how your business operates and sells to customers, so you should always take the time to figure out how your strategy will look based on your goals. Here are 4 key questions to ask yourself when evaluating your own needs:
- Who will use your CRM tools? Will your CRM tools primarily be used for marketing? By a sales team? Both? Consider everyone in your organization who could benefit from access to customer insights (whether it’s just for visibility, or to use data for a specific purpose) to find a tool that will accommodate what you need.
- How much complexity do you need to get started? Keep in mind that you likely won’t build a complex CRM strategy overnight. Find a tool that will allow for a simplified approach, so you can adjust your strategy and add complexity gradually as you learn.
- Which marketing channels are you using to talk to your audience? Find a tool that integrates directly with the channels you use most, so that info can quickly be turned into action, and insights are unlikely to get siloed or lost.
- Will your CRM scale with you as you grow? Over time, you will find new ways to use your audience reports and automate CRM processes, so it’s important to find a tool that allows you to add this functionality as you’re ready for it. But keep in mind that if there are CRM processes you’ll never need, you don’t want to be paying for (and working around) unnecessary complexity.