Introduction to Customer Relationship Management Software
Customer relationship management (CRM) software has come a long way since its days as a glorified address book in the 1990s.
Today, CRM systems not only help companies organise customers’ contact information but also:
· Track customer journeys
· Streamline customer communication
· Analyse sales and marketing campaigns
· And more!
Ultimately, CRMs have become the one-stop shop for companies of all sizes to manage the entire sales process from lead generation through to customer advocacy. While customer service, sales, and marketing teams are often the ones who use CRM systems the most, the beauty of CRM software is that it can enable anyone within an organisation to access real-time, up-to-date information on customers.
That means that essentially all departments, including non-client-facing ones, can benefit from using CRM software. For example, finance teams can use CRMs to track deal flows to get a better sense of estimated revenue. Or, IT teams can collaborate with sales and marketing departments to analyse how leads and customers are interacting with a company’s website.
However, not every company uses CRM software to its full potential. Those with existing CRM systems might not understand how all employees can use these tools, or a company might need to upgrade its CRM software to one with more features.
In this introduction to CRM software, we’ll help you determine which of these categories you fall into, so you can then either replace or better utilise your CRM system. Or, if you’re new to CRMs, we’ll help you learn what to look for in CRM software.
What are the main features of customer relationship management systems?
While there are many types of CRMs out there, several categories of features tend to be present across CRM systems. These features may look a bit different from system to system, but, in general, modern CRMs offer features such as:
Bells and whistles aside, all CRMs should excel at contact management. You should be able to easily store contact information for leads and customers. Ideally, you can go beyond storing data like name and email to also include more detailed information like current roles and responsibilities, birthdays, or even favorite restaurants if you want to be able to connect with customers on a more personal level.
Customer Journey Tracking
As the name implies, a CRM should help with managing customer relationships. That includes being able to track where you stand in these relationships. A good CRM can help you track how and when customers move throughout the customer journey or sales process. They might enter your CRM as a warm lead and progress all the way through to becoming a passionate customer who advocates for your brand.
Your CRM should be the hub of your communication strategy with leads and customers. You don’t necessarily have to actually conduct all communication through your CRM — though some allow for sending emails, communicating on social, etc. — but you should be able to organise interactions and determine ways to improve your communication.
What Are the Top Benefits of Customer Relationship Management Systems?
When evaluating CRMs, it’s important to not only look at the top-line features but also consider the benefits these systems can provide your company. A good CRM should provide benefits such as:
Your CRM should help your company increase flexibility, rather than making you feel like you’re chained to the whims of that system. That means you should be able to easily switch between features as needed, such as to quickly go from looking up contact information to analysing customer interactions.
Ideally, your CRM also provides the flexibility to organise lead and customer information in ways that employees can use to either personalise interactions or mass communicate. For example, a marketing manager might want to send out a mass email to all new leads one day, and the next day they may want to get more granular by only reaching out to leads who entered the sales funnel via a specific ad campaign.
A good CRM should also provide mobile and cloud-based access so your team gains the flexibility to work from anywhere. If you’re not using a Software as a Service (SaaS) CRM, you may want to upgrade to one that offers this flexibility. SaaS CRMs can also easily be updated and scaled as your company grows.
Good CRM software should be more than just a database. It should also provide analytics that help your company improve areas such as sales, marketing, and customer experience. These analytics might cover areas such as:
· Lead sources
· Lead conversation rates
· Time spent in each stage of the sales process
· Average sale size
· Revenue growth
These are just a few of the many areas of analytics that CRMs can provide. Ultimately, a good CRM should provide you with insights into how your company interacts with leads and customers in ways that can lead to growth. For example, a CRM that integrates with your email marketing software can help you analyse how different types of emails correlate with actions that turn into sales. From there, you can focus on sending more of these high-value emails rather than ones that leads don’t respond well to.
As alluded to above, CRMs often have integrations with other types of software, such as email marketing tools, marketing automation systems, customer service platforms, accounting software, and more. A good CRM can centralise all this information and even help you analyse data from other systems in a streamlined way. Ultimately, your CRM should be a central tool within your company, with every employee knowing they can rely on it to find any type of customer-related information that they need.
When do you need to upgrade your CRM?
If your CRM doesn’t provide the features and benefits mentioned above, then you probably need to upgrade to a better system. Even if it does offer these baseline features and benefits, however, you still might not feel like your CRM is pulling its weight. Or, you might simply want a more advanced type of software to help you manage customer relationships.
Consider the following questions when deciding if you should upgrade your CRM:
Do you have a single source of information? Your CRM should be your central customer-related tool. If you still have multiple databases and spreadsheets with information about leads, customers, and your overall sales process, you may need to upgrade your CRM. Your new CRM software should break down data silos and give all employees a clear view of what’s going on with your customers.
Is your CRM integrated into your technology stack? As part of avoiding data silos and making your CRM a convenient, one-stop shop for customer information, your CRM should be integrated with other tools in your technology stack. If you find that you lack integrations between your other software systems and your CRM, then take a look at other options in the market to see if you can find a system with more integrations.
Have you been using the same system for more than five years? Age isn’t the only determinant, but if you’ve been using the same CRM for over five years, it’s worth at least exploring your options. Technology changes so quickly that what may have seemed like advanced features several years ago doesn’t even come close to what new tools offer. Some CRM providers automatically upgrade their tools, but others have been leapfrogged by competing software companies, so compare what’s out there now.
Why is it so important to select the correct CRM for your business?
With so many CRM solutions on the market, it may seem like they’re interchangeable. If you have one already, you may assume you can stay put. But that’s not always the case.
For one, company size can make a difference. Some solutions are geared to small and medium-sized businesses, whereas some enterprise CRMs are targeted to large conglomerates. While you might get some use out of any CRM, if it’s not geared to your company size, you might find it inefficient or overly expensive for your needs.
In addition, CRMs can differ greatly based on usability. Some tools are easier for those who are less tech-savvy to use, and while they may not offer quite as many features, they can be used widely throughout your company. Other CRMs might have more advanced analytics capabilities, but they may only be appropriate for organisations with more technical employees.
Finding your ideal CRM
Overall, CRM systems can help your company better understand your customers, improve your sales process, and ultimately grow. But there can be many differences between systems and different ways to use CRMs that affect how much you get out of these tools.
If you’re ready to explore your options to buy or upgrade a CRM system, Software Advisory Service can help. We're a technology consultancy using procurement best practice and data insights to save companies time and money. Our goal is to make business technology procurement simple, transparent, and cost-effective. Click the button below to book a consultation at your convenience. We won’t charge you anything, and we won’t share any of your project details without your explicit approval.
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