What Makes a Good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Solution & Why?
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution provides the tools and capabilities needed to manage your interactions with customers and clients - from your first contact with them to purchase and retention.
Incorporating the latest technologies, a CRM solution organizes, automates, and synchronizes any business process related to these customer interactions; primarily marketing and sales, but also customer service and support. CRM solutions have gained widespread adoption in organizations of all types and sizes: both business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C), for profit, non profit etc. regardless of the industry. The objectives of using a technology-based CRM solution within your organization are to:
- Locate, attract, and win new customers;
- Nurture and maintain existing customers;
- Reengage with former customers;
- Reduce costs associated with marketing, selling, and maintaining customer relationships;
- Analyze customer relationships to determine and quantify the overall value of these interactions to your organization
Business Benefits of CRM Solutions
The best CRM solutions enable you to quickly and efficiently establish strong relationships with your customers on an individual basis. Using this information, you can then use it to identify new opportunities and develop products and/or services that drive additional opportunities and also to support your existing customers' needs.
Developing stronger relationships with your existing customers can result in:
- Increased sales by anticipating needs based on historic trends.
- Proactively cross selling other products and/or services by highlighting and suggesting additional options or alternative ones.
- Targeting your profitable customers by offering new or additional products or services.
- Identifying and addressing customer expectations more effectively by understanding specific requirements.
This leads to more effective marketing of your products and/or services by targeting communications, programs, and activities specifically at your customer's needs. Ultimately, this results in a personalized marketing and sales approach and improved products and/or services which helps secure future business.
From a functional perspective, a strong CRM solution that supports your business processes directly impacts core areas of your organization in the following ways:
- Marketing: helps identify and target potential customers with offers from your organization. A critical need by Marketing is to be able to track and measure the effectiveness of any type of program or activity that's conducted, including: email, direct mail, search, social media, events, telephone etc. Metrics that are measured include but are not limited to: responses, leads, "click throughs", "open rates", opportunities, "conversions", revenue etc.
- Sales: CRM is used as the system which defines and streamlines all aspects of the selling cycle within your organization, and minimizes the time that sales people need to spend on each phase. As a result, your organization uses fewer sales people more effectively to drive new business and manage existing customers. CRM solutions not only track and record every stage in the selling cycle, but also provide you with insights into business opportunities, selling territories, revenue forecasts etc.
- Customer Service and Support: using the native tools embedded within most CRM solutions, individuals within your organization can create, assign, and manage customer requests. These are used to identify, address, and quickly resolve any issues that customers might be experiencing with your products and/or services.
Underlying the benefits to these three functional areas are the reporting and analytics capabilities that are provided with many customer relationship management solutions. These reporting or "business intelligence" tools enable Marketing to improve segmentation and targeting, and include features for measuring the effectiveness of web/online/inbound activities, and offline/outbound programs. Sales analytics allow you to monitor and understand client actions and preferences, through sales forecasting and quality controls.
Social Media and CRM
Emerging marketing and sales channels now include social media sites. These channels not only provides your organization with direct input from your target audience, customers and users, but they are also having an effect on how the market views your company and the purchasing cycles of customers. Your customers can now research your organization online, ask for recommendations through social media channels, as well as share opinions and experiences on your company, and products and/or services. Since many social media channels are not moderated as widely as "mainstream media", your target audience is free to say anything they want about your company or brand.
Many organizations are finding ways to gain access to these conversations and participate in the dialogue. Increasingly, the latest CRM solutions are integrating social media capabilities, including links to social networking sites such as: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Noted business advantages include using online communities as a source of high quality leads and a way to identify new opportunities. Companies can also leverage habits and preferences found in these social media tools to "hyper target" their communications and utilize comments to proactively address issues that may negatively impact the organization.
In short, your Sales, Marketing, and Service employees are tasked with realizing your ambitions. Every time they plan a marketing activity, contact a prospect, close a sale, or engage with a customer, the process should be consistent and fast moving, and accountability tracked through measured analysis.