Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a system for managing a company’s interactions with current and potential customers. It involves using technology to organize and automate sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support, by syncing all of them, increasing communications and bridging the gap between your business’ departments.
What comes to mind when people think of CRM is often a database with clients and prospects information, as well as some very capable software solutions that people have been using for years. These usually keep basic customer details (name, surname, date of birth, age, company, contact details), order history (how many products, product IDs, type of products), invoicing details (invoicing ID, price, tax, issuance date, due date) etc. in one place, to ensure you make the most of them.
What is essential for the basis of good customer relationship management is not only the way your customer information is organized, but how you use it and the benefits it brings your business.
Why do you need a CRM database?
If you have a small business you might be asking yourself whether you do, indeed, need a CRM at all, or whether you are doing everything you need on your own, instinctively.
After all, you have all your contacts’ business cards, you have their names and addresses in your email archives and notebooks, you know your clients by name and talk to them on the phone on a regular basis, so why would you need to invest time and money in a CRM database?
Well, here are some reasons that come to mind:
- Software enables you to store information more efficiently than paper notebooks, business cards etc,
- CRM systems also provide security to make sure your contacts are well protected.
- A CRM database reduces your chances of permanently losing important details.
- When consistently updated a CRM also helps you prevent loss of information if one of your employees leaves your company.
- Keeping your contacts in your email archives or Rolodex makes them difficult to access / share and easy to forget.
- CRM databases make sure you and your colleagues have access to your company’s contacts with just a couple of clicks.
- Your CRM database helps you and your employees stay organized, as it includes all the benefits of task managers, calendars, agendas etc.
- When all information is together, it is easier for you to have a clear view of the overall picture and take decisions without losing track of the overall performance of your company.
- Your CRM database gives you a thorough understanding of the market and the industry, as, by centralizing all consumer information, you start to distinguish seasonality and trends among your targets, prospects and customers. This helps you predict customer behaviour and stay one step ahead of your game.
- It helps you assess your efforts and those of your employees, by determining the success rates for each project. This way, you can improve your work and make it more efficient.
- Your CRM systems will help you understand your contacts’ needs and buying potential, by keeping a clear track of the products they buy, frequency and price ranges.
- You can use your centralized client information to get a better image of your customers – who they are, what they do, what their industries are etc, so you can understand them better.
- It helps you see your customers’ previous orders and keep track of those you need to follow-up with.
In a nutshell, what the CRM does is make you distance yourself from your business, so you may see things from an objective, simple perspective, which helps you take measures to make your company more efficient and generate more income.
How to use your CRM
Once you have added all your contact, customers, targets and prospects to your database, you may think you are finished, but the truth is you are just beginning!
Once all the information has been entered, the whole company will need to make an absolute commitment to being consistent with its implementation, and to keep updating the CRM database with every new contact you reach and every piece of information you learn about existing customers.
Here are some metrics you might want to pay attention to:
- What percentage of your current customer pool is made of returning customers
- How many active customers you have and how their number fluctuates throughout the year
- How many times a year on average a client places orders with you
- How many referrals from satisfied customers were turned into sales
- What percentage of leads are turned into sales
- Who is your best sales representative
- Do you have any customers that have stopped buying your services / products? If so, why
- Who are your biggest customers and what are their buying patterns
- Are any changes in customer behaviour that should alarm you (clients dropping their orders, average order decreasing etc.).
Study your database, nurture it, help it grow and evolve and ask yourself what more you can do to for your clients. CRM is not just about organizing things and putting them together, but about using centralized information to improve your customer relationships and see the results in sales.
Start looking today at how you are going to manage your customers and leads on a day to day basis. If a customer says to you … “can you call me next spring” how will you make that happen? Or if someone says “I would like this done again in 3 years time on 27th April”, how will you remind yourself to follow up with that customer?