When someone in your organization mentions CRM—often—they are referring to just the database of contacts, information, and whatever recorded history of interactions your system has logged. But for a small business—a CRM is so much more than just the database.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is ALL of the activities, strategies, processes, and technologies that organizations use to manage the interactions with their customers throughout the life of the relationship.
When CRM is properly implemented and managed within an organization—it drives and automates marketing, streamlines the sales process, delivers reliable data that enables strategic decision-making, reveals trends, and serves as a cornerstone to your customer experience (CX). It also helps your small business engage and nurture leads through the buyer’s journey.
When CRM is neglected, poorly maintained, run on outdated/archaic systems—or missing entirely—internal operations, transparency, and communication all suffer. As does the customer experience.
In the digital age (2020 and beyond), organizations should be leveraging CRM to drive effortless customer experiences that leave lasting positive impacts with their customers.
CRM: The Engine Behind Best-In-Class Customer Experiences
Great customer experience is critical to success. To deploy best-in-class experiences, your organization needs tools and systems that promote consistency and enable continuous improvement through measurement. CRM technologies accomplish both of these—while also enabling automation to remove rote, repetitive, and manual tasks.
A versatile, well-managed CRM can serve as the engine to your customer strategy—driving automation, empowering personalized experiences, and improving your ability to make customer-centric decisions.
Of course, your CRM needs to provide the data and features to meet your current businesses —but it should also be flexible and feature-rich enough to help you actualize your future vision and growth.
Here is a shortlist of the significant benefits a versatile CRM enables:
- Sales funnel management
- Accurate forecasting
- Automation of sales operations
- Analytics on sales win/loss record
- Seamless workflows between all customer operations
- Data and analytics on customer experience
- Source of truth on data and reporting
- Easy to understand trends and metrics through visualization (dashboards, reports)
- Segmentation customers to enable personalization
- Marketing automation and lead generation
- Comprehensive customer history to empower customer support
- And more…
In addition to these, the right CRM for your business will support interoperability with other tools and systems that enable seamless experiences that drive customer engagement and loyalty. With a modern CRM as a hub, you have the capability to create data ecosystems that power your integrations and ensure continuity. By choosing tools that can communicate with one another, you reduce the number of disparate systems (silos) in your organization, and empower departments to work together towards a common goal… To deliver best-in-class customer experiences.
When you see the “Big Picture,” you’re able to make better, customer-centric decisions that impact your products, features, sustaining efforts, and more—to continuously improve across your organization.
Is Your Small Business CRM Strategy Helping—Or Hurting—You?
You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t have concerns or questions… So, how do you know when your CRM is helping your business and teams vs. stifling collaboration and growth?
Here are some questions to ask and signs that your CRM is actually hurting your business:
Is your CRM easy to use?
Is it easy to access relevant customer data quickly and on the company devices (desktop, tablet, mobile) you use for the task at hand?
Your CRM shouldn’t be getting “in the way” of your team member’s daily tasks. It should be automating efforts and empowering them to deliver personalized support and experiences.
Is your CRM data accurate?
Your CRM should be helping you curate a “gold-standard” repository of data for your customer interactions. If you regularly find that data is inconsistent, incomplete, or missing entirely—you won’t be able to deliver, timely, personalized, best-in-class customer experiences.
Is Your CRM secure?
Your CRM should be easy to interact with—but it also needs to be protected. Passwords, biometrics, and two-factor authentication are important measures for ensuring your organization’s customer data is kept safe and secure. Remember, your customer data is the lifeblood of your organization and customer experience strategy.
Is your CRM run/hosted on physical hardware at your place of business?
On-premises CRM systems are outdated and expensive to maintain when considering the physical hardware and the personnel/skills necessary to operate.
If your CRM is hosted on-prem, are those systems being regularly patched for security vulnerabilities? Regularly backed up?
Think of the additional costs you’d incur if your data was lost or stolen.
Modern, cloud-based CRM tools guarantee easy access, back-ups, interoperability, and security—with those providers staffing entire teams to focus on delivering the best SaaS solution possible. All at a competitive price.
Is it easy for your organization to update and release new CRM features?
A great way to tell if your organization is experiencing CRM-led challenges is if your IT teams have difficulty—or are slow—in managing and/or deploying new features.
If your organization runs on proprietary CRM technology—feature development is slow and expensive.
Think about it… Are you in the business of selling products and services? If that’s not a CRM, then why are you spending valuable resources on a homegrown solution?
Shouldn’t you be maximizing resources on systems that empower your team to focus on delivering your core value to customers?
Do you have dashboards and tools that quickly tell you when incidents occur or operations are outside of tolerance?
Successful CRMs make data available to everyone who needs to see it. Transparency helps everyone understand and identify what’s working and where you have gaps in service or experiences.
If it’s difficult to visually represent customer data, there could be a number of factors at play:
- Sensitive data may be restricted
- Customer data may be unstructured—making it difficult to see trends
- Your CRM may be outdated and missing key analytics tools
- Your CRM may not support interoperability (Open APIs enable communication with other systems)
Building KPIs, performance metrics, into your CRM strategy is a powerful way to continuously monitor and improve your customer relations. If there’s a good reason why some information isn’t available to certain groups—that’s fine. But if your conversations and decisions aren’t regularly being empowered by your customer interaction data, you’ve got bigger problems.
Does your CRM integrate with other systems?
Modern CRM tools now run securely in the cloud and offer open APIs as well as entire marketplaces of integrations to help you make the most out of your data. Your CRM should be empowering your team members with the critical business intelligence (customer interaction data) to deliver outstanding experiences—not getting in their way.
If your CRM won’t play nicely with other systems when you need it to—it’s costing your organization in time and money.
Is your CRM helping your business generate leads?
Your CRM and website together make for a powerful engine to help turn website visitors into engaged leads and then into customers. However your systems are structured—your organization should have the capability to monitor and understand website traffic for intent so that you can drive new leads into your CRM, sales funnel, and other engagement workflows.
If your CRM isn’t in the mix—your strategy has a major flaw.
Does your CRM empower your sales and marketing automation?
Your CRM should be promoting efficiencies for your sales and marketing teams.
Funnel management tools, email sequences, playbooks, and intelligent workflows are all examples of automation driven by successful CRM strategies. Does your CRM enable you to create requirements, triggers, and automated workflows?
Does your CRM provide your organization with reliable forecasts for new sales and renewals?
Successful CRMs provide a central “golden” repository where a sales team can effectively manage and communicate critical information related to sales and renewals.
Without a proper CRM and funnel management in place, how can executives and finance personnel effectively plan for and fund critical business operations? Without an understanding of sales in the pipeline and reliable forecasts—organizations tend to make knee-jerk reactions, lose opportunities, and waste time and resources circling around trying to implement band-aid solutions to a core problem.
Does your CRM empower your customer experiences across all devices and platforms?
Does your CRM help you identify which communication methods, channels, and devices your customer prefers? What about their regular traffic on your systems—or the platforms they most frequently interact with you?
Effective CRMs empower your customer-facing teams to engage and deliver value to customers based on the devices and specific context they prefer. Proactive service and support that is personalized makes for memorable, effortless customer experience.
Overall, there’s not necessarily a straightforward, easy method of determining if the challenges your organization is experiencing are related directly to your CRM implementation. However, we hope these questions and insights have spurred you to think critically about the systems and strategies you’re deploying to gather and leverage customer data to deliver amazing customer experience.
In the Market for A Small Business CRM? Which Technology Is Right For You?
If you’re looking for a new small business CRM solution—you have a lot of options to choose from in today’s SaaS market. A few of the most popular CRM platforms and solutions today are:
The licensing costs for these solutions can vary significantly—as can the additional costs associated with implementation.
Each of these offerings has their own pros and cons. It’s important to pick the solution that best fits your organization in terms of industry, budget, workforce, as well as your current and future needs. SaaS CRM solutions allow you to implement the features you need today while providing the scalability for your growing business.
Choosing the right CRM technology for your small business needs can be a difficult task. Even if you “have a pretty good idea” of which solution is best for you—it’s definitely worth it to identify your current and future needs, build a business case, and evaluate your options.
Making the wrong decision can be costly—both in time and money.