CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, or Client Relationship Management. It’s a methodology for handling leads and existing customers. There’s a good chance that you’re employing some of the techniques of CRM, even if you’ve never heard the term before.
Don’t think you have CRM? Think again:
- Post-it notes all over the sides of your computer screen, whiteboard or wall with customer details? That’s your CRM.
- Client folders in Outlook with a separate folder for Invoices? That’s CRM too.
- Excel sheets filled with details, or timesheets, or products/services? You guessed it – CRM.
The above might not be the most efficient way of managing your clients and leads, but it brings some semblance of order to your business, and helps you to chase – and hopefully close – deals.
Why Should You Care?
I’m not going to try and push our CRM solution here; we have a page dedicated to that already. We’re going to highlight some of the benefits of expanding your CRM efforts, and discuss some of the options available to you.
You should care because the optimisation of business processes leads to greater efficiency, wins more business and keeps existing customers happier for longer.
You should care because you care about your business and want to see it flourish.
You should care because customers are your business’ lifeblood.
Benefits of Good CRM
If you didn’t secretly crave organisation and order, you wouldn’t have all those Post-its, emails and spreadsheets. You probably wouldn’t be running a business either! Effective CRM takes your existing systems the next level.
Lets take a look at a fairly standard business process in manual and automated CRM.
This is a pretty typical scenario of a client requesting something – it could be information, a change request on a project, a support ticket – anything really.
- The first step is the client sending you an email. It could be a call as well, but for the sake of this example, we’re going to use email.
- If you have project managers, or a generic catch-all email address that your clients use to contact you, you’ll need to ensure that the appropriate staff member knows that the email has arrived. With project leaders, this probably means forwarding the email on. With a catch-all email, you might need to alert the staff member to the existence of said email.
- Follow up on the email in the next meeting. If you only get a few emails, and everyone knows about it, this is not a problem. Imagine you get hundreds of emails a week; not so easy to remember what each of them is about, is it?
- If you remember, then between you and your team, you need to establish if the email was fielded correctly – were any required changes applied? Has it been reviewed? Is it ready to send back to the client for approval? If more changes/information is required, the relevant staff need to make a note of it.
- Any required further actions are then applied.
- The client is contacted. If changes have been applied, this is a client-review stage. If it was a support ticket, then this is common courtesy to inform them that the issue has been resolved.
- Your records are then updated to reflect the work/support work done. This might mean firing up Excel, or *gasp* using a whole new Post-it note!
Obviously, it sounds a lot more convoluted on paper than it is in reality. We, as creatures of habit, get used to things as-is. So while you may have a similar system to the one above, the actual ‘doing’ of it will feel more natural, because its what you’re used to.
Automated (or computerised) CRM solutions simplify the process mentioned above.
- Emails from clients are automatically logged against their account.
- If a staff member is assigned to a specific client, they are sent an alert letting them know that there has been a request.
- The progress of the task (where appropriate) is logged by the staff member, and marked as complete at the end.
- Once complete, staff email the client. This is also logged against the client’s account.
- Reports are generated when required and emailed to team leaders/managers prior to any regularly scheduled meetings.
By having everything logged as and when it happens, and automatically assigned to the correct clients and staff, your turnaround time will improve. As will your customer satisfaction; happy customers are more likely to spend more money with you, and less likely to go to ‘the other guy’.
It also allows you to start doing things like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), where you can analyse the performance of different processes and staff members. While I don’t want to go into too much detail about KPIs here, a great application of them is in telemarketing:
Jane and Bob log 100 calls each in a week. Jane arranges and books 10 sales meetings, whereas Bob only books 1. You can analyse these trends and establish if Bob is just having an unlucky week (hey, it happens!), or you need to thin about reviewing his employment.
The Long and Short of It
We all know that the customer is king. But knowing more about your clients and being able to effectively field their queries and requests makes them feel like a king as well.
If you want to grow your business, then you need to evolve beyond your Post-it notes and Excel worksheets. You have all sorts of data, so why not exploit it?
Since the dawn of the age of the ‘paperless office’, more and more solutions for CRM have emerged; from a humble Microsoft Access database, to free self-install online solutions like SugarCRM and subscription-based services like Salesforce. There’s a lot of options out there, but here’s the main types to consider:
These systems are developed specifically for either your company (fully bespoke), or your business sector (partially bespoke). They are usually more expensive initially than subscription-based CRM due to the cost of purchasing the software or programming.
The key benefit to bespoke, or custom-fit solutions are that they mould perfectly with what your business does; there’s not a collection of features that you’ll never use.
Usually, this is the option we propose to our clients. An option that’s tailored specifically to your business brings greater focus to what you do, and causes less frustration from wading through unwanted ‘extras’.
Most software development companies would be more than happy to create a CRM for you, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the CRM we provide is in this category. You can find out more by clicking here.
There are a lot of free (and a lot that aren’t free) software solutions for your CRM. You usually need to host these yourself. The problem with this, is you take a lot more liability for the data you hold. The CRM is 90% of the time installed online, which leaves it vulnerable to attack, and unlike subscription-based offerings, data protection is 100% down to you.
For smaller businesses just starting out, self-hosted CRM is a good way to get off the ground. They afford you the data complexity you need to get the most from your business without the potentially heavy cost of bespoke, or the ongoing payments of a large subscription service.
The downside to self-hosted systems is that they’re the ‘scattershot’ of the CRM world. They’re built to be useful to 9/10 business types, which means you’re like to end up with a lot of bloaty, confusing extras that you’ll never use. They’re also not completely free, in that you are likely to incur costs for hosting.
A few years ago, there were only a couple of big players in the cloud-based CRM market. These days there’s a lot more choice. The key thing with most of them though, is that they’ll (usually) offer a free or cheap option, but it will be severely limited in functionality. For example – you can have 10,000 clients for free, but if you want it to capture email, it will cost £35 per user per month. I’ve found that email capture is the #1 most requested feature, or asked-about topic when it comes to CRM.
But that’s how they make their money; providing basic functionality to improve your workflow and sales process, while teasing you with high value extras.
Subscription-based CRM may be cheaper month-by-month than self-hosted, but in order to maintain that edge, you lose a lot of valuable functionality.
In this post, I’ve talked about CRM and the benefits it can provide. There are a whole lot more besides these, but a lot of them will vary from business to business and sector to sector. If you’d like to know more, or to discuss your current CRM, give us a call on 01522 519197. We’d love to hear from you.
Alternatively, fill out a quick comment below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.