What Can CRM Do For My Business?
1. The quick answer….
What can CRM do for my business? Quite a lot actuallly. CRM systems today form an integral part of the machinery of business. Far from just providing a receptacle to store customer contact details, they can now provide a range of powerful features which integrate and boost the efficiency of vital functions within your business. In summary, CRM systems can…..
- ….help your business to grow efficiently through workflow automations for recurring processes, centralised data sources, improved communications and integration with other business software.
- support and bolster the sales effort by automating prospect communications, providing accurate quotes & proposals and constructing live, targeted information to the sales force.
- …enhance customer engagement by controlling company communications to give customers that feeling of maintaining a single, intimate conversation with your company. This is achieved by ensuring that all internal staff can see the live, complete dialogue with each customer whilst ensuring the brand is represented consistently through centralised control of all branded material; letterheads, invoices, brochures, promotional material etc.
- ….keep your business data safe through cloud based storage, automated backups etc. This ability to maximise resilience allows the business to operate from anywhere at any time.
- …promote business intelligence by providing live reports, metrics, dashboards and analytics across multiple company departments.
…..or 2. digging a little deeper…
Having pondered the question “what is CRM?”, a reasonable next step would be to consider “what can CRM do for my business?”. To answer this question, it is worth stepping back for a moment to consider the operational setup within your business.
Shopify describes operations as “Everything that happens within a company to keep it running and earning” [shopify.co.uk]. This is logical because a CRM system is primarily designed to support the operational processes within a business.
“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants.
The question is: What are we busy about?”
HENRY DAVID THOREAU
At Logical Business we are dedicated to a search for small business simplicity. As such, we break down business operational activities according to what they are intended to produce, not according to the type of activity that they represent. In other words, we are always reminded of the reason we are carrying out an activity – outcomes which achieve something meaningful.
The Five Key Outcomes of Successful Operations:
- Growing Efficiently
- Bolstering Sales
- Enhancing Customer Engagement
- Maximising Resilience
- Promoting Business Intelligence
Below we have taken each of these outcomes and summarised the type of operational activity that falls under each. We have also highlighted how the typical functionality of a high-end CRM system would be able to support that activity. By the end you will hopefully have built a clearer picture of what a CRM system can do for your business.
1. How CRM can help my business: Growing Efficiently
Businesses grow, sometimes they contract but they rarely stand still. Growth can lead to higher profits, greater security and more self-esteem. Whatever the motivation, businesses don’t normally plan to get smaller.
A common growing pain occurs where the entrepreneurial spirit which created the business suffocates as the increasing burdens of managing that business take hold. It can be difficult to release that spirit again to lead future stages of growth.
“A rising tide lifts all boats”
Operations looks to take the strain of growth away from the entrepreneur. With diligent planning, growth should not so much be a series of discrete steps but a continuous rising line into the future.
As such, efficiencies will be driven throughout current business activity and maintained through periods of rapid growth.
Specific objectives supported by CRM:
- applying workflow automation where appropriate
- turning repetitive tasks into recurring processes
- centralising and controlling all data sources
- improving consistency of internal/external communications (e.g. meetings, emails, events, opportunities, projects etc.) by recording and sharing outcomes centrally (e.g. with colleagues, customers, suppliers, banks, stakeholders etc.). This encourages collaboration, speeds up decision making processes, enables mobile working etc.
- looking for integration opportunities with other systems within the organisation
2. How CRM can help my business: Bolstering Sales
Where an Operations team have responsibility for product/project delivery, they may be affectionately labelled the “sales prevention department”. It may be felt that they provide (perhaps too) rigorous controls over sales orders received from an ambitious and enthusiastic sales team.
This tectonic plate, where sales order meets operational control, will always be a point of contention. However, Operations can also play a positive role supporting the sales effort.
Specific areas supported by CRM:
- Interrogating data to better understand the customer; applying various metrics to highlight valuable accounts, identifying cross-sell, up-sell and renewal opportunities etc.
- Supporting sales service through efficiencies as identified under Growing Efficiently. Typically; automating responses and communications with prospects, notifying sales force of changes etc.
- Ensuring availability of data systems which are simple, functional, easy to use, consistent and error-free; relating to opportunities, quotes, proposals and order tracking across multiple territories.
- Managing tailored dashboards to provide all stakeholders in the sales process with easy to access, real-time, ‘quick win’ data.
- Facilitating marketing integration through targeted lead generation, efficient management of campaigns and allocation of cultivated leads to appropriate salespeople according to predefined business rules.
3. How CRM can help my business: Enhancing Customer Engagement
Customer Engagement is exactly what it says on the tin. Although it has been a focus for companies for as long as companies have existed, the advent of the internet seems to have raised the stakes considerably.
Customer Engagement is now high on the priority list of most businesses. This is either because the capability of interacting with customers has escalated exponentially or because the likely public humiliation of not doing it very well would be unbearable. If 75% of all revenues come from existing customers, this would seem to be a good thing wouldn’t it?
The stages of a customer’s interaction with the brand/product/company from original prospecting through to perhaps years of contented repurchasing should be seen by business as a single journey. This is, after all, how the customer would see it. This view has ramifications for the way the company is structured and the systems it has at its disposal to manage that journey effectively.
In the past it would be common to find sales, marketing, purchasing, production, distribution, finance etc. as siloed entities within the company. Today, the emphasis is to bring them much closer together, achieved through a combination of training, shifting working practices and systems capabilities. For systems capabilities, think CRM.
The big first impression now needs to be followed through with consistent, unprecedented levels of customer service from all departments. Real emotional connection between company and customer is possible.
This can only be achieved if the customer sees the company as a single entity, personified by key attributes such as “friendly”, “reliable”, “trustworthy” etc. To be seen as that single personified entity, the conversation with the customer must be seamless, regardless of who within the company is having that conversation.
By ‘conversation’, we don’t restrict ourselves to the actual physical conversations held, but also to the numerous touch points that the customer may have with the company (e.g. emails, blogs, social media, website, events etc.). It is the extraordinary capabilities of modern CRM software that are largely responsible for the raised levels of Customer Engagement we see today.
Customer Engagement looks to CRM to support:
- the day to day actions which build relationships: bringing all company data into a single server (g. marketing, sales, production/product delivery, after sales service etc.) and providing tools to analyse and present this data accurately, visually and in real-time.
- the consistency of the brand throughout the business: using the single source of data to hold and protect a full suite of branded documents. These could be letterheads, invoices, quotations, brochures, sales material, promotional material, email templates, social media templates etc.
- the drive to continuously improve the first two: key customer engagement metrics can be extracted and presented in easy-to-digest and meaningful formats.
“REAL PEOPLE – REAL ENGAGEMENT – REAL TIME”
4. How CRM can help my business: Maximising Resilience
Broadly stated, resilience (sometimes referred to as ‘Business Continuity’) is the test of a business’ ability to act and respond quickly, decisively and securely to all eventualities. Operations should be able to react to any disruption to ensure continuation of all business operations. This is a broader brief than simply ‘fixing the problem’.
For instance, a central server meltdown would most likely be addressed by the I.T. department. Operations would look to co-ordinate that activity whilst keeping business operations running as close to normal as possible.
Disruption can take many forms and often the root cause will fall outside direct operational control (e.g. fraud, cyber attacks, weather, I.T. outages, flooding, loss of key employees etc). However, a business with a strong operational core should be able to mitigate any effects of disruption.
Operations will typically look to CRM systems to support the following issues;
- Can business be carried anywhere? This will include considerations of remote working, re-establishing central control in an alternative location (power cuts, extreme weather etc.).
- Is the Data safe? CRM proves to be an excellent data management tool, catering for the requirements of cloud-based storage, automated backups, controlled access (who can see/ edit/ approve/ export data), guarding against viruses, Trojans, accidental deletes etc.
- How well are recurring processes and systems documented? Businesses who are meticulous in recording core processes are better able to manage disruption, particularly relating to loss of key personnel, I.T. outages, cyber attacks etc. The process of developing a CRM system will ensure this issue is well covered.
5. How CRM can help my business: Promoting Business Intelligence
All businesses seek the very best live and targeted business information to support their efficient systems, processes and decision making. Directors/management will be looking to monitor key metrics as laid out in the business plan against actual (real-time) performance.
Are objectives such as gross profit, turnover and net profit on target? Is performance data available to all staff at all times who need to know? Is it reliable? On a day to basis, do staff have access to a full spectrum of information to allow it to perform efficiently? Is it reliable, easy to understand and available in real-time all the time?
As the guardians of the organisation’s data and ultimately responsible for ensuring well-oiled systems and processes throughout, Operations will look to provide the very best business intelligence for all stakeholders in tailored, clear-to-understand formats.
Business Intelligence takes many forms, but tends to fall into two groups, performance monitoring (PM) and forecasting (F) which can be produced through CRM quickly, accurately, reliably, securely and in real-time.
Typical CRM outputs would include;
- reports (PM): e. keeping score; how many widgets sold, new accounts, returns etc.
- metrics (PM): monitoring key performance indicators; e.g. gross profit, customer acquisition cost etc.
- dashboards (PM): visualising performance data in meaningful way, tailored to individual needs in real-time.
- analytics (F): gaining insights from performance data to predict outcomes and support decision making.
Hopefully by this stage you are starting to build a picture of how your own business could benefit from the introduction of a CRM system. If so, then you may be in the mood to get a bit more granular and investigate all the key features of a CRM system to help you start to recognise specific CRM functionality that can take your business forward.
After that, you may well have learned enough to start some preliminary planning; finding other businesses with CRM systems, sharing ideas with a wider group within the business and digging deeper for more information.
It is certainly worth understanding in some detail how to implement a CRM system as there is a lot to consider even before approaching your first CRM vendor. Getting a CRM implementation right can bring massive efficiencies to your business but skimping on preparation can be extremely time-consuming and expensive.