CRM: It’s a BFD (big freaking deal).
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term that encompasses the strategies, workflows, and technologies your team uses to build lasting, profitable relationships with customers.
Why is CRM so important? As research shows, retaining existing customers is far less expensive than finding new ones—especially in periods of economic uncertainty when new prospects may be less willing to spend.
A key aspect of any successful CRM strategy is using the right technology to aid your efforts. However, this software doesn’t come cheap—and those advocating for CRM software might need to justify its expense to their higher-ups.
So, let’s explore the benefits of CRM software and how it can make customer-facing teams more efficient.
In case you’ve been transported here from the Stone Age, let’s start with the basics.
What is CRM software?
Think of it like the engine that fuels your customer interactions. CRM software keeps all customer and prospect data in one central location, making it easier to manage relationships. This data includes account details, product information, records of support calls, marketing emails sent, etc. Having one, cohesive view of each customer’s history with your brand helps sales, marketing, and customer support teams work more efficiently, armed with accurate information.
Salesforce and Hubspot are just a few popular examples of CRM software providers.
A business without happy customers is…not much of a business. CRM software is critical to establish and maintain successful customer relationships.
Especially since the number of channels available for customer communications is multiplying. Your brand might communicate with customers and prospects over email, social media, SMS, branded search ads, and more. So, having one central view of customer communications is a must.
But, like most major additions to your tech stack, it doesn’t come cheap. Software plans for CRM solutions come in all shapes and sizes. Although vendors generally charge per user, per month, they have various pricing models, packages, and feature tiers.
When reviewing these options, how can stakeholders decide if the juice is worth the squeeze?
By becoming fully acquainted with the specific benefits of CRM software. Let’s explore a few.
Nobody wants to feel like a low priority—especially when they’re paying good money for your team’s products or services. But keeping track of every customer relationship and giving them the care and support they need can get chaotic quickly, particularly for larger, enterprise businesses.
CRM software equips customer-facing teams with visibility of every customer’s journey with your brand—including demographic information, past purchases, support issues, and more. The result? Your team can use this information to make every interaction with customers more informed and, ultimately, more productive.
Say a customer calls with an issue they’re having with the marketing automation software they purchased from your company last year. Knowing their specific product version, how long they’ve had it, and prior support issues can help you deliver the help they need quickly.
Better customer service and higher customer retention go hand in hand. Having an innovative product or service isn’t enough—most customers today expect white glove treatment from their vendors. If they don’t get it from you, they just might take their business elsewhere. By delivering stellar customer service consistently, you’ll be able to minimize customer churn—which is the name of the game during a recession. By having complete account details available for every customer interaction, like in the example above, you’ll be able to keep customers happy. More importantly, you can keep them loyal.
Okay, so we’ve talked about the importance of CRM software for keeping existing customers happy. But the same logic applies to prospective customers. Say a sales representative calls a new prospect for the first time and has a great conversation. Your product offering seems like a great match for their company, and the prospect is interested in signing up for a demo. Nice!
But without CRM software to log this call information, the sales rep might lose track of where they are in their relationship with this prospect.
The prospect might join the next call expecting a full product demo when the rep thinks they’re scheduled for a quick introductory call. They’re in for an awkward meeting, and chances are the rep won’t land the sale.
A well-maintained CRM ensures that every sales representative has the information they need to approach prospects confidently. Boom: more CRM benefits unlocked.
News flash: People like to feel special. Nobody wants to feel like just another name on your list of emails to send or prospects to call. Consumers want to feel seen and understood by your brand—and the best way to give them that warm, fuzzy feeling is through personalization. In fact, 76 percent of consumers get frustrated by brands that don’t offer personalized experiences.
Your CRM houses information that maps who each customer is, including names, ages, and addresses, and how they interact with your brand, including usage trends, survey results, and more.
Armed with comprehensive, up-to-date information about each customer, sales and marketing teams can create distinct customer profiles or personas, and nail down a strategy to best engage each one. Even something as simple as making sure to send marketing emails in each segment’s time zone can have a measurable performance uplift.
Using CRM software for reporting provides much-needed visibility of the sales and marketing teams’ performance and helps team leaders make data-driven decisions.
By tracking key metrics like the number of sales calls made, deals closed, etc., leaders can gain a better understanding of where each team’s strengths, weaknesses, and bottlenecks lie.
Most CRMs will give you the ability to save certain views, automate data entry, and create custom dashboards to eliminate human error and reduce the time your team spends pulling information.
But the benefits of CRM software should go beyond simply housing data—the right solution will also help your team contextualize this data and break it down into digestible reports.
Accurate reporting and accurate forecasting go hand in hand. Eighty-six percent of CRM users say their company depends on CRM data to create sales forecasts, which in turn drive business decisions.
Organizational leaders need the data housed in the CRM to predict the expected revenue of a business over a certain period, so they can make decisions accordingly.
These CRM benefits are game-changers for growth-minded companies. But remember, CRM software typically comes with a hefty price tag. So, how can you make sure this investment doesn’t go to waste?
Managing the CRM shouldn’t feel like a game of hot potato.
To fully realize the advantages of high-quality CRM data, companies need to appoint a full-time owner of the CRM and its contents.
Validity research found that lack of ownership for a CRM system directly correlates with data quality: Those who rated the overall quality of their CRM data as “poor” or “very poor” were 450 percent more likely than those who rated their data as “good” or “very good” to say there is nobody responsible for managing the data in their CRM system.
It should be the CRM owner’s responsibility to establish a cross-functional data management team to ensure the software operates as expected on an ongoing basis. While many think of the CRM as a tool meant primarily for sales teams, its reach, impact, and utility extend far beyond that. Members of a successful data management team might be a combination of sales, marketing, operations, and IT professionals.
Even a solution with all the bells and whistles won’t provide the desired CRM benefits if employees aren’t able to use it properly.
As with any new software, dedicate time to help users learn a new system’s unique workflows and functionality.
Taking advantage of your software vendor’s initial training materials, documented tutorial guides, or even live sessions is the best place to start. If there are still knowledge gaps and adoption issues, there are many third-party consultants that specialize in CRM training—though this will be the most expensive route.
If you have the internal expertise to facilitate these training sessions, get cranking! CRM training sessions won’t be complete without an emphasis on data security and privacy. Work with other teams to formalize company-wide privacy and security training to educate employees on how to safely and legally handle CRM data.
For example, you can start by making sure current privacy regulations are included in existing security courses—particularly as consumer privacy laws evolve. Managers should also implement strict permission structures within the CRM to ensure the consistency of data and prevent it from being misused.
The learning shouldn’t end after onboarding is complete. To help your organization realize the full benefits of CRM, the CRM owner should schedule and run routine training sessions or office hours to review common processes and give employees the opportunity to ask questions.
Data can only be useful if it’s entered accurately and in a consistent format. Work with other CRM stakeholders to formalize company-wide training to educate employees on how to best use the CRM.
This should include guidelines for inputting data so it’s in a consistent format across teams. For example, determine if team members should write out phone numbers with dashes or spaces between numbers. A helpful first step of the standardization process is to perform a data mapping exercise, which will help your team identify where your data originates and any applications that use your data.
No matter how great your CRM software is, adding additional tools to your tech stack can help you get even more value from the solution.
CRM vendors indirectly admit their systems are not built for the end user. Instead, they rely on add-on software vendors to build apps that unify customer data into simpler views and workflows. To address end-user complaints and make accessing data as easy and efficient as possible, consider implementing a solution from a trusted software vendor that partners with your CRM provider, rather than spending countless hours building an in-house solution that only achieves part of the requirements.
For example, a data cleansing tool like Validity DemandTools helps users rid their CRM databases of duplicate records and purge outdated or invalid contacts.
So now you see the advantages of CRM software. The right solution will unlock better team productivity, more efficient customer outreach, and ultimately, a higher bottom line.
Let’s say you’ve taken the plunge and decided to invest in a CRM software solution, like Salesforce. The next step is making sure your team actually uses it!
For foolproof tips to boost Salesforce user adoption, tune into our on-demand webinar: Sure-fire tips to Drive Salesforce User Adoption.