Customer Relationship Management, in its most basic form, is software employed by a business to manage its customer information. The software tracks communications with customers, customer enhancements requests, the effectiveness of marketing campaigns aimed at the customer, sales and satisfaction rates. CRM software is capable of more, but these are the basics.
At the heart of any CRM system is its database. Each customer has an entry, and the basic customer information is maintained here – Customer’s name, address, phone number, fax number, email address and possibly a picture. CRMs also are used for business-to-business (B2B) contacts. The basic information is still the same, with additional fields for the business’s name and the contact information of the people dealt with at the business.
These databases are integrated with any call-center software a business may use in handling customer service issues. Cases are assigned numbers and are associated with the customer’s record in the CRM databases. This allows a business to pull up all relevant information about a customer, including outstanding issues the customer is having with the company.
Will a Small Business Benefit from a CRM?
While it’s hard to see the benefits of a CRM if your shop is small, you can still get benefits from a CRM, and it may actually help your business to grow. The marketing tools incorporated with a CRM target leads as well as existing customers, and you may increase your customer base through marketing campaigns directed from your customer information.
It pays to plan for the future as well. A small business can get a head-start on managing its customers if it employs a CRM that will grow with the business. It’s a much harder task to key in paper customer records and to retrain personnel when a business realizes it needs a CRM than it is to start out with a CRM and have the information stored directly on the computer by the employees from the beginning.
CRMs also allow you to have a distributed workforce. Your employees can be scattered across the globe, but if they all have access to your CRM, it’s just like they were in cubicles right next to each other.
Customer service is a big part of CRM. Every business, regardless of its size, will have problems with its customers. A CRM allows the business to record all aspects of a complaint. This can be useful, especially if the matter escalates to lawyers, courts and lawsuits.
Choosing a CRM
Every business is unique, with its own quirks and twists. A business must choose a CRM package carefully in order to ensure it fits their needs. CRM packages are like all mass-marketed software packages – they all cover the essentials, but will they cover your unique needs?
Develop a list of the things you expect a CRM to do for your business. Don’t do this in a vacuum – involve the departments who will be using the system and get their input. Once you have a list of must-haves and it-would-be-nice-ifs, get a team together and charge it with finding an appropriate package and implementing it. You will need IT’s involvement, but you also need customer service’s input. The customer service person provides the input on what is needed and what would be nice to have; IT provides the practical point of view – will it work with the business’s current systems, will it require upgrading hardware or software, and what kind of training is involved.
Once you have purchased and implemented a CRM, make sure you use it to the fullest. Your business will benefit from the information, and your customers will be happy – a win-win situation!