Customer Relationship Management

Using CRM as a Business Strategy

Sugar CRM CRM stands for customer relationship management which is a business strategy that helps you learn more about your customers needs and behaviours, so that you can develop stronger relationships with them. And of course, good customer relationships are at the heart of any business success.

A successful customer relationship management strategy depends on bringing together lots of pieces of business information about customers and market trends so you can sell and market your products and services more effectively.

With an effective CRM strategy in place, your business can increase revenues by:

  • Providing services and products that meet your customers needs and expectations.
  • Offering a better level of customer service to both new and existing customers.
  • Cross selling your products and services more effectively.
  • Helping your sales staff to close deals faster.
  • Making it easier to retain your existing customers and discover new ones.

A CRM software solution will not produce these results straight out of the box. For customer relationship management to be truly effective, businesses must first understand who their customers are and what their value is over a lifetime. A business must then determine what the real needs of its customers are and how best to meet those needs.

When a CRM software solution is working well, it improves the internal processes within your business and personalises all your external business relationships. The overall benefits of CRM software will spread throughout your company because of effective data integration, better customer retention and loyalty and being able to respond quickly to competition in the marketplace.

In the last few years, the market for on-line CRM has soared particularly among small and mid-sized companies, largely because of fears about the expense and complexity of a large-scale software implementation. And indeed, on-line CRM is often a good choice for companies that want to implement standard CRM processes, are able to use out-of-the-box data structures with little or no internal IT support, and don’t require complex or real-time integration with back end office systems.

However, on-line CRM is not always as simple as the vendors would have you believe. For instance, customisation can be problematic and hosted CRM vendors’ API tools cannot provide the degree of integration that is possible with local applications. Getting a hosted CRM system working shouldn't take as long as a traditional software package, but larger and more complex rollouts can still take a long time. And while the hosted option reduces the need for in-house technical support, upgrades can still sometimes be a problem. In addition, some companies with particularly sensitive customer data, such as those in financial services and health care, may not want to relinquish control of their data to a hosted third party for security reasons.

The Keys to a Successful CRM Implementation

You must develop your customer-focused strategy first before considering what kind of CRM solution you need to invest in.

It's a good idea to break your CRM project down into manageable pieces by setting up pilot programs and short-term milestones. Start with a pilot project that includes all the necessary departments but is small enough and flexible enough to allow fine tuning along the way.

Think carefully about what is best for your company - either a solution that ties together software from several vendors via web services or, an integrated package of software from one vendor.

Don't underestimate how much data you might collect and make sure that if you need to expand your systems you'll be able to do that easily, without any complications.

Be thoughtful about what data is collected and stored. The impulse will be to grab and then store every piece of data you can, but beware of storing too much. Storing excessive amounts of data wastes both time and money.

Management and Departmental Responsibilities

The biggest returns come from aligning your business processes, a customer relationship management system and IT strategies across all departments and not just leaving it for one group to run. In fact, it’s best for the business departments who actually use the CRM software to take ownership of the project, with IT and management playing an important advisory role.

The Causes of Failure

Lack of communication between everyone in the customer relationship chain can lead to an incomplete picture of the customer. Poor communication can also lead to technology being implemented without proper support or buy-in from the users of the CRM Software.

If the sales force isn't completely sold on the system's benefits, they may not input the kind of demographic data that is essential to the program's success.

Listed below and opposite are seven specific benefits that can result from the successful implementation of a CRM strategy.

Increase your revenue and profits

Finding the right online or offline CRM software that matches your companies' strategies and objectives allows management to develop a plan for increasing sales and profits for the long term. A good CRM solution makes sales data and forecast information immediately accessible and permits decision-makers to accurately study revenue and expenses to decide where to cut costs, decide how much inventory to stock, and determine what discounts may be allowed.

Improve the capture of sales leads

When companies generate a large amount of leads, they can then increase their sales and revenues. With an automated workflow system that includes set timers, CRM software enables the sales team to view leads on the computer screen and then see those leads disappear when they become customers. A seamless flow of information that increases customer satisfaction for your company.

Gain flexibility through scalability

Scalability is an especially important factor for your business CRM if you plan to expand and develop your customer offerings in the near future, but don't want to outlay a great deal of money up front. Many CRM solutions offer a package that requires no software installation on your company's computers and gives your employees the confidence to slowly build their system to match their departments needs.

Some CRM solutions for small businesses use a web-based CRM to share data with other applications, such as Microsoft Outlook. This can help you to integrate a CRM solution into your business plan, while lessening your administrative time.

Improve your customer service levels

Your selected CRM software should include access to centralised customer data as well as e-mail templates that allows all CRM users to quickly communicate with your customers, especially when they need assistance with their services or products. This customer data will usually be captured from either point-of-sale (POS) systems or through sales and purchase data.

Increase your companies cross-selling opportunities

All businesses tend to make money when they have a large and loyal customer base that they can sell to.

With sales leads from call centres, advertising and other enquiries you can easily find new customers to add to your CRM database. This will help your sales force, who can use the CRM data, to offer expanded services to your customers.

Benefit from vital business information & reports

When the CRM software solution contains a competitor tracking function, management and the sales team can access these reports to identify trends, measure and forecast sales, track sales processes and evaluate their own business performance. This top of the range CRM software usually includes access to important resources such as brochures, white papers, social media and competitor reports.

Improve customer profiling & target marketing

In order to know your customers and serve their needs, your CRM software system must be able to capture customer details like present accounts, pending orders and payment history. A centralised and detailed customer database is also needed for customer profiling and for predicting what services that customer may need in the future.

Making Customers Count and Stay

The concept of CRM has existed in the business world for a long time, but in recent years CRM use has grown because of better technology access and database integration. Companies should investigate CRM solutions to keep their existing customers and serve their unique needs. If companies focus on delivering exceptional service that is tailored for these customers, then, they will build loyalty, which will in turn build revenue.

Finding the right CRM solution is an investment for the company and the company's management need to wholeheartedly support the new CRM solution. This solution must fit within the company's objectives and staff must be trained, or the CRM solution will go to waste if sales leads aren't captured correctly, or if additional customer windows of the CRM software aren't accessed by the right people in a timely fashion.

A CRM solution used by trained staff who have your company's goals in mind will promote shorter sales cycles, reduce administrative costs, require less time to track down information, improve reporting and give quicker issue turnaround time, increase sales closing rates and improve customer retention. As a result, CRM software solutions allow companies to escape revenue plateaus by capturing new customers, retaining existing ones, and by better managing their business.

Here are a few CRM solutions for your company to consider. The links go directly to their respective website's so you can take a look around and get free demos of their CRM solutions.

Goldmine

Maximizer

Software on SaleBoats

Sugar CRM (QBS PC Help have tested the open source version of this CRM and it certainly impressed us!)

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