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What is CRM? Guide to customer relationship management

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CRM stands for customer relationship management, and typically refers to a kind of business software used by customer-facing staff – or relationship managers – in a business’s sales, marketing and customer support teams.

The purpose of a CRM is to give you a single place where all your company’s customer relations and interactions can be logged. This allows your employees to view all the latest information about each customer, so you can offer better customer care and, ultimately, generate more sales. One research found that the CRM market in the Middle East is projected to grow to $0.8 billion in 2019.

So, let’s look in more detail at what a CRM system is, and explore how you can make a success of your investment with a winning CRM strategy.

What are the benefits of CRM?

The most obvious benefits of using a CRM are increased sales and higher customer satisfaction – one recent study found that the average return on investment on a CRM is approximately $5 to every dollar invested. As a CRM gives you a central view of all your customers and leads, your sales teams discover more opportunities, your marketing department can send the most effective messaging to leads, and your customer support reps can resolve problems faster.

Here are the top benefits of using a CRM for Small and Medium Businesses:

  • Reliable information on customers

A CRM provides a place where all your employees can find detailed information on your existing customers and leads – from contact details to the size of their business, to the details of previous calls and email exchanges with them.

  • Open data for all employees

In many organisations, information about customers is stored in the heads of key staff or in files that only people in one department can access, making it impossible for other employees to find out what is going on. A CRM makes this kind of information available to everyone.

  • View interactions from all channels

Today’s customers make contact through a huge range of ‘channels’ – or contact points – whether that’s by telephone, email or social media. A CRM gives you a central place where employees can get up to date with all interactions, regardless of channel.

  • Save repetition for customers

A recent study found that the biggest bugbear when it comes to customer service is having to repeat the same information to different service reps. As a CRM stores all information from previous interactions in a central place that all staff can see, this problem disappears.

  • Understand problems in your pipeline

A CRM gives you a full view of all marketing communications sent to clients, and can track how customers move down the pipeline, how they interact with sales people, and how long it takes for deals to be closed. CRM analytics allow you to pinpoint problems in the pipeline and change your strategy.

  • Ensure subscriptions are maintained

A customisable CRM can be designed to automate various stages of the customer lifecycle – such as triggering automatic reminder emails to clients when a subscription is about to expire, or reminding sales teams to follow up.

  • Identify and categorise leads

One of the most important CRM concepts is the ability to categorise leads. A CRM can automatically work out which of your leads is ‘warmest’. For example. if someone on your mailing list is frequently opening marketing emails or downloading brochures from your website, the sales teams can tailor their messaging to that customer based on his or her level of engagement.

  • Data-driven view of your pipeline

CRM analytics means your sales and marketing decisions are not made on gut feeling. Instead, you can use concrete data to decide on the best approach.

  • Always up-to-date with mobile

Your sales staff will be visiting customers and closing deals. A mobile CRM lets them record the outcome of meetings in real-time.

  • Reports and insight

A CRM can provide you with a powerful dashboard where you can understand exactly how your customer-facing teams are performing – from sales calls logged, to marketing emails sent, to customer enquiries resolved.

An example of CRM in the workplace

Imagine a firm that provides storage solutions for expats who work part of the year in the Middle East. Without a CRM, different teams would store customer information in different ways:

  • The customer service team has a spreadsheet that staff update each time they receive a call from a customer asking about their storage space.
  • The marketing team tracks email blasts sent to existing customers in a different spreadsheet.
  • The sales team cold-calls clients, while ‘warm leads’ are written on a whiteboard in the office.

There are countless ways that this storage firm could lose clients, while also missing out on opportunities. The customer service team might not notice that an account has come up for renewal; the sales team cannot see which customers have read emails sent by the marketing team; and different members of the sales team often call the same client multiple times, which only irritates the client.

By introducing an easy-to-use CRM, the company would avoid all these problems while boosting efficiency, improving the customer experience and increasing turnover.

What is a CRM strategy?

A CRM strategy is a plan to make sure you deploy a CRM in the most effective way for your business. Like most technologies, employees may be averse to trying something new if they can’t understand how it will benefit them. A CRM strategy is about making the tool easy for your employees to use, and ensuring it supports your wider business goals.

Your CRM will evolve with your organisation – if you’re just starting out, you might only need a very simple platform. However, by the time you have 50 employees using the tool every day, you will need something highly scalable, sophisticated and customised to your needs.

Here’s our six-step plan for creating your own CRM strategy that is tailored to your business objectives:
  1. Review how your customer-facing teams are currently working. Map how departments interact, identify break points and communication issues.
  2. Set goals for your CRM project. You can only have a plan if you know the destination, so set goals that you can easily measure, whether it’s improving customer satisfaction or customer retention by 50%, decreasing customer complaints by 50%, or doubling the number of conversions.
  3. Map out steps towards full deployment. Work out a clear plan for achieving your longer-term business objectives.
  4. Train employees on how to use your CRM. Provide CRM training sessions that are tailored to the different teams in your business, so they get the most out of using the CRM software.
  5. Start small then deploy to other teams. Trial your CRM with a single department – typically within a sales team. This can generate curiosity from other teams when they see the success sales is having and motivate them to use the tool.
  6. Monitor CRM success. Have you achieved your original goals with your CRM?

What is the difference between ERP and CRM?

Whereas CRM is all about managing customer relations, ERP (enterprise resource planning) focuses on managing the business and improving business processes. Both software programs allow for rapid sharing of information across the business, streamlining processes and planning for problems before they become an issue. Both tools can directly integrate with one another and can be used across the board.

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