When working in specifically the retail, finance, and manufacturing (sales) industry, one often comes across an unavoidable tool namely: customer relationship management or what is abbreviated to CRM. Now what really astonishes me is when people ask how a CRM can help their business. Often one gets asked what CRM stands for or even means!
Now granted, it is a technical or industry-specific jargon depicting a tool (software used on hardware like PCs, tablets, scanners, point-of-sale devices, and modern cash registers), but what it does is something many businesses both small and large take for granted – mostly to their detriment.
We use CRMs a lot more than we think. Take our Smartphones for instance: they are basically miniature customer (data or content) managing tools and albeit personalized, they serve the same function. Now to put this into perspective very quickly and simply because – that’s what we do here: our phones store and manage all our contacts (friends, family and businesses, and clients) primarily to help us access and communicate with them quickly. Mobile phones, have also evolved to now enable you to not only manage your contacts to just make calls or SMS them but to share content with via the various social media platforms – each with its own purpose and account. Android phones, for instance, come with (need to be activated by) a Google account, which you can use to access many applications other than just your email.
CRMs manage a company’s accounts in a similar way and enables one to quickly get a hold of people to either sell directly to, create or follow-up on a lead, or nurture a deal until it becomes a sale. This is done by software that sits on the front-end of a database that is stored on a local server or on the cloud. The software is usually (and hopefully) user-friendly for it to be adopted and used frequently by end users – enhancing their productivity and thus increasing revenue for the business.
They are used more by salespeople and staff of companies that offer a service via their customer support services or front-end teams. So, when you call your local phone company because you are behind on a payment or would like to hand in a product for repairs, for instance, it is a CRM system that is used to log, track and manage the case till is solved. The transcript, along with the call logs and resolutions are kept for a later date or time for if you make a follow-up call, request a new service in a database or records or what is called an instance. Depending on how the company is, it will have several (national or regional) instances to help access data even faster.
A CRM can help you manage a healthy relationship with your clients to ensure that you are not calling them several times a day to put them off, forgetting to follow-up on scheduled calls or emails or worse yet, sending them the wrong product or information about your offerings.
A good CRM package will additionally come equipped with a means to store brochures, create effective and targeted marketing campaigns, generate quotes and invoices (PDFs) and with a built-in knowledgebase – a stored pool of resources containing processes and scenarios to help one quickly resolve a problem, prescribe a product or log a case. And nowadays, like a mobile phone, the better CRM software out there can seamlessly integrate with social media platforms to follow, service or attract customers from there.
There are several CRM tools out there that offer different functionalities and depending on the size of the business you can get a basic one that just manages your contacts and interactions with them to ones that hand full-scale operations (back-office processes like warehousing, inventory, accounting, finance, Payroll, and HR). Those fall under another high-level category of CRMs known as Enterprise Resource Planning tools or ERPs. A topic for another blog perhaps as they are a totally different animal altogether – though often used in conjunction with CRMs.
So you see these useful tools really help run companies and are now being even more automated with the help of Business Intelligence and AI, making it easier for the average man on the street to use them to grow their business to levels where ERPs are needed.
Many CRM suppliers offer free trials and even free online software, so take a shop around to see which one fits your needs. The current industry leaders in CRM solutions are Dynamics (Microsoft), Salesforce, Oracle, SAP CRM and Zoho.