Technically, CRM has been there in the business world for more than two decades now. However, it is only since the last few years that companies have realized its immense potential as a strategic tool and started implementing it with a dedicated focus. Some corporate pundits still consider CRM as an extension of customer relationship management. But the CRM experts view CRM as a holistic approach to delivering enhanced value to the customers, backed by corporate philosophy and technology. CRM also acts as a relationship management enabler by gathering, organizing and storing customer data and disseminating this data to every functional area of the organization. Using this data, different departments act in collaboration to build customer trust, engagement and long term relationship.
There are several definitions of CRM. But all these definitions focus on one single aspect – managing and tracking everything that relates or pertains to customers with a common goal to retain them. Here is a quick look at more specific definitions.
CRM software is an integrated tool comprising customer service, sales, marketing, strategy, technical support and social media, aimed to back the CRM strategy.
Businessdictionary states a very precise definition of CRM software – ‘An acronym for Customer Relationship Management software, which refers to software products that allow organizations to
store, organize, synchronize, and search records relating to customer interactions. CRM Software
may also include automation for business rules and business processes, such as contacting
customers or sending out inventory replacement reminders.’
CRM and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) are the two sides of the same coin. Both systems are developed to help business grow and earn profits. Although they share a lot of common ground and appear similar at first glance, both CRM and ERP have different core functions. ERP is used to streamline business processes, whereas CRM is used to acquire and retain customers and improve customer relationships. Not all businesses require both these systems. A small business might benefit more from CRM and a large manufacturing firm might benefit more from ERP. The decision for using either or both systems depends on the specific needs of the business. If required, CRM and ERP can be integrated, but initially it is best to view them as separate entities.
Acquiring new customers
New customer acquisition is the means to survive, grow and sustain the business. A customer management software can help you to acquire new customers by maintaining a database of customers, their preferences and buying behaviour. This database can be used for analytical purposes to employ marketing strategies; launch new products and services; and take other initiatives to build a loyal customer base.
Enhancing existing customer relationships
In this phase, CRM supports the businesses by providing tools and features, that can help provide better sales, up selling opportunities and after – sales services. For instance, automated e-mail or sms alerts. This way, businesses can consolidate their relationship with the customers by constantly staying in touch with the customers and keeping them involved with the organization in some way or the other.
Retaining existing customers
Retaining existing customer means increased brand visibility and more sales. However, it takes conscious efforts to ensure that the customers return for future purchases to the same organization. A CRM can pinpoint returning customers and a business can reward such customers through initiatives like discounts or offers. This is the phase where CRM can make your relationship management the most profitable.
Before you implement a CRM software, you must list down your business objectives and expectations from the CRM. This will help you to evaluate the success of CRM for your business in the long run. Broadly, CRM objectives for most of the organizations revolve around the three phases of CRM and sales life cycle. These objectives are:
Using a CRM system has several significant advantages for any company. The numerous benefits of CRM for any organization are:
Improves customer satisfaction
A loyal customer is the best marketing strategy. For fostering customer loyalty, resources are prioritized for most profitable customers. Customer attrition is significantly reduced since CRM users gain access to all the required customer information so as to engage with customers and deliver better product or service.
Quicker decision-making process
A CRM system provides real time pipeline reports, which can be used for forecasting future sales and production, thereby making the organization more efficient and predicting business opportunities.
Targeted marketing strategy
Targeted marketing strategy brings in leads that have a higher chance of being converted. By letting the management target the most profitable segment of customers and create purpose-driven campaigns, CRM improves contact with customers. CRM system users can access ordering history of customers for analyzing buying patterns.
CRM enhances productivity through elimination of duplicate processes between various functional departments. Workflow automation removes the need for relatively inefficient manual procedures, thus decreasing administration efforts and letting each team focus on its intended and profitable purpose. Performance bottlenecks can be pinpointed accurately so that punctual preemptive measures can be taken to remedy them. It also helps identify high performing teams so that they can be rewarded.
Sharing and security of information
Updated customer data is available simultaneously on-site and remote locations, round the clock. This makes real time information sharing easier and quicker for various teams serve the customer efficiently. Also, since the customer data is administrated centrally, it can be protected against theft or unauthorized access better.
Business processes like customer relations, sales, marketing, accounting, finance, etc. can be aligned and integrated in a single system. Since all teams across the company use a common CRM system, it is easy to keep everyone updated and work as a cohesive unit.
CRM can be related to communications can be in two ways:
Communicating CRM strategy to all stakeholders of the organization.
When you are implementing a CRM strategy, it is crucial to communicate to communicate to your employees, customers and third parties as to-
Using CRM to communicate with all stakeholders
Once CRM software starts functioning in the organization, it can be used as an effective tool to strengthen and address internal communication (with employees) as well as external communication (with customers and third parties).
CRM brings together all functions, processes and applications of your organization to collaborate in giving the best services to the customers. Through CRM software, each department, whether it is sales, marketing, IT, finance or customer service; can track at what stage a prospect / customer is and what needs to be done to acquire / develop/ retain him.
CRM software can allow you to collect and manage more data on customers as well as third parties, than is humanly possible. Sales people can have a detailed profile and history of customers at their fingertips to help them service the customers better. Similarly, CRM has certain features, which allow the organization to send automated, scheduled emails or sms alerts to the customers.
CRM is an end to end system to manage a company’s interaction with its customers on an ongoing basis for a win-win relationship. Companies need to understand the benefits they can reap from deploying a good CRM system in their organization. Some of the key features of a CRM system have been discussed in brief below:
A good CRM system should be easy to use for employees so that the right person gets the right information at the right time. Since, CRM is a huge repository of customer information; it needs to be integrated with other business systems to pull out and push in data to keep all information in sync.
CRM should be accessible 24 by 7, 365 days a year, from any location, over the cloud. An employee should be able to update it at a seminar or pull out real time customer information during a sales call.. It can have integrated access to mobile systems and other portable devices used during business or transactions.
Business process automation
CRM should be able to automate the business process in the way intended. Organizations should choose a CRM which is the best fit for their processes to minimize the time, cost and manual overhead. It should provide end to end automated support with minimal maintenance.
Seamless tracking and reporting
This is probably the most important feature any company would look for in a good CRM system. Centralized database, tracking and report generation capabilities should be real time and accurate for enhanced operational performance. The system should filter data and categorize customers, according to business association for quick search options. It should be able to track sales schedules, proposals, enquiries and progress. All these together helps in sales lead generation, prompt decision making and better service for repeat customers.
CRM, if deployed in any organization, should act as the biggest database of customer information and the single-point reference. The updated information at any point should be accessible enterprise wide, thereby minimizing the turnaround time for future resolutions.
Enhanced security and access privileges
Not all data is meant for everybody. A good CRM system should take care of access privileges at different levels to ensure complete security of customer data. This also leads to customer retention when they know that their information is under proper security. A good system should be able to scale-up its security standards with proven, up-to-date security measures and advanced technology.
Customization and scalability
A good CRM system should be able to automate alerts and generate quotations based on customer history and current inputs. Many organizations opt for systems which can provide them with customizable features like seasonal greetings or internal mails to name a few. A good system is the one which grows with an organization to match up to its business vision, requirements and sustainability.
Stronger multichannel support
As the need and specification from customers grow each day, it is very important for a CRM system to support growth plans and communicate in more than one channel. It should be able to integrate all possible modes of service and maintenance options for a customer to track and resolve their issues in the least possible time.
Earlier, only large companies acknowledged the benefits of CRM because they had the money and the right resources to tap the potential of CRM. However, due to the increase in the number of web based, customized and affordable CRM software, even small and medium enterprises have jumped on to the CRM bandwagon. CRM can help these organizations to:
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