If you are not using a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) then you are going yourself, your customers, and your business a dis-service. You are also compromising your employee’s ability to service your customers.
CRM can be a card-file, but more than likely it is a software package. It includes information such as basic customer information, but can also include information such as legal entity name, trading name, address, contact details (phone, email, IM, skype), owner(s) details, website, key staff, turnover, industry, value of purchases, products purchased, quotations, CEO birthday, CFO wife and kids details, campaigns participated in, funnel dynamics, stock exchange code and price, news articles and other announcements, records of previous discussions, account manager(s), other staff dealing with this customer and their interaction outcomes,
CRM’s evolved from basic bookkeeping software, so there are really no surprises that all CRM’s contain a strong financial link to a complimentary accounting package, or indeed, include complete accounting and stock control within the software boundaries.
CRM’s are typically cloud based, however stand-alone and enterprise versions are popular. You may actually see the same CRM being offered for mixed platform as well across multiple configuration models. All CRM’s include some sort of role based access as an owner you can see the lot, your account managers can only see their own customers, and no one besides the accountant and yourself can see the company confidential accounting information.
CRM & You
A CRM lends itself to a large organisation with a corresponding large number of customers. There are obvious reasons why you would incorporate a CRM into a corporate environment – no Einstein moment here. CRM implementation into all size organisations, including small, is equally as important to the overall wellbeing of a business.
The information that is collected in a CRM becomes more valuable over time as additional information is collected. Unlike a medical history file, CRM related information increases in value over time rather than have a historical diminishing importance effect. Implementing a CRM during a business birth moments ensures that all customer data is collected and therefore becomes a valuable sooner. It is difficult to retrospectively enter customer data (besides financial data) so the sooner this information is entered, the sooner it is saved and not forgotten, and the sooner it can be used by all business employees.
CRM’s may seem like an un necessary overhead whilst customers are easily manageable. The problem becomes obvious as soon as customer data is no longer manageable and needs to be shared with additional employees. If the data is not readily available, your employees who may now be managing the customer account, will need to rediscover all the information about a customer that has previously been given to you. Some data will be lost and some data will not be re-offered by the customer. The sooner a CRM is utilised, the sooner this data can be captured and used, and the less data that will be lost.
Generally speaking, all CRM’s will allow captured data to be stored into defined fields. These can be as simple and obvious as <Company_Name>. More specialised fields or customisable fields will allow the capturing of very specific or transactional data; i.e. <Affilliated_Businesses>.
Once data has been captured, you can now export the data based on your predefined filters. This effectively allows you to tailor marketing campaigns to certain types of customers. For example, you may be launching a new style of skateboard. Your initial marketing push might be to teenagers, so these might be the data that you filter first. You might then want to market these boards as a wholesaler, so you might then filter data that includes your current client businesses that operate in this retail space, and you might also extract data of affiliated companies that might also occupy this space.
CRM’s will also allow for the capturing of free text data, however it’s use is diluted because it is difficult to auto-extract information or apply appropriate filters to the data when mining it. Free text has a more useful micro function, allowing account managers to record (typically) more personal information. This might include personnel details such as “Careful when socialising with the CFO as he is currently having an affair with the product manager. Tread carefully around this, especially when his wife is around.”
There are industry leading CRM packages on the market. They can be stand-alone, cloud, or both based. They may be a free, one-off purchases with upgrade paths or monthly/yearly subscriptions. They can be single or multi user or enterprise wide applications.
Google “CRM Reviews” to get an initial feeling for what is out there. It is probably more important to get into a CRM (any CRM) rather than none. If there is an export function, you could move between different CRM’s without losing any data.
CRM’s are a valuable business tool, and should be weaved into all business activities. If it can interface with your accounting system then better still. CRM’s provide a mechanism to capture business intelligence that may be able to be leveraged in the future. Obviously, CRM effectiveness relies entirely on the data that it captures, so allocating appropriate resources to this function is just as important as implementing an appropriate CRM system.