In business, the customer is king. That’s the first rule of many a successful business, which makes it all the more important to keep your customers happy.
To this end, many businesses have chosen to integrate customer relationship management (CRM) software into their everyday operations, whether they are running a small local restaurant or a large international corporation.
But what is a CRM, and is it the right choice for your business? Why would you need one? And how to choose the right CRM software for your business? Read on for answers.
What is CRM software?
First, let’s delve a little into what CRM software actually is. As previously established, it stands for Customer Relationship Management.
The goal of CRM is to provide a means to collect, organize, analyze, and implement customer interactions and data in order to keep customers satisfied, increase efficiency, and (ultimately) maximize profit. CRM software is not the sum total of this approach. Some businesses still get by with more rudimentary record-keeping, but it is a major part of a 21st-century business model.
There are several different types of CRM software:
- On-premise CRM, which is installed on a company’s in-house servers. Having on-site CRM provides complete control over the software, but also requires the IT infrastructure and support to run it.
- Cloud-based CRM, which is often hosted on the software vendor’s servers (or some other third-party provider) and accessed via the internet. This doesn’t offer as much control over the software as an on-site install, but also doesn’t require the considerable IT infrastructure and expense. It also tends to be more flexible and scalable.
- SaaS CRM software, short for Software as a Service, is a type of cloud-based CRM which works on a subscription model. SaaS CRM software is often more affordable and accessible, which makes it flexible enough to appeal to businesses of all sizes.
Why Your Business Should Have a CRM
But does your company really need a CRM?
If you own a small business, you might think there is no real point to having customer relationship management software but you also might be wrong. A CRM lets you glean valuable insights about your customers, build a solid relationship with them, and keep them loyal through outstanding customer service.
Think of a CRM as a giant information sponge. It takes in data from phone calls, emails, social media, and other sources and compiles it in one place, so everyone in your business can see it.
With a CRM, you can build complex customer profiles, identify spending habits, and predict what they might buy next. And if you can predict it, you can suggest it, increasing the likelihood of the product being added to your customer’s cart.
All that organized data also makes it much easier for you to provide next-level customer service, not only by keeping track of interactions, but by letting you personalize and target future interactions in order to both attract prospective customers and entice existing ones. A good CRM will also let you identify high-value prospects, so you know where to put most of your work.
But a CRM does more than just keep an existing customer happy. It also improves team efficiency by automating boring or error-prone tasks, whether it is sales, marketing, or support. This leaves your human agents much more time to deal with more complex and nuanced customer issues, as well as wipe out those little mistakes that can end with you losing business.
This automation also makes marketing easier by handling the more dreary aspects of it. CRM software can be used to automate online marketing, send materials to prospective customers, follow up on leads, and more.
Not only does the organization aspect of a CRM keep everything together, automation also helps keep things from slipping through the cracks.
Finally, you should be aware that CRM does not necessarily involve a major investment of IT infrastructure, or laborious and expensive training. Many CRM solutions, most notably the cloud-based or SaaS options, are friendly to novices and require relatively little overhead.
And because there are so many software options, chances are you can find one that’s especially well-suited to your team in terms of complexity, budget, usability, and more. In short, no business is so small that it won’t benefit from a CRM.
How to Choose the Right CRM Software Solution
Now let’s take a look at some of the best strategies for choosing the right CRM software solution for your small business.
First, think about the size of your business. A smaller business might find an on-premise CRM system enough for their needs, but this can grow more burdensome as your business expands, meaning you might benefit more from a cloud-based solution.
You might also look at what kind of businesses a CRM software seems particularly well-suited for: the needs of a small local restaurant and a national cybersecurity company are going to be very different in terms of customer needs.
It is also beneficial to clearly define what you want to achieve with your CRM system. Do you want to improve customer service? Increase conversion rate? Improve efficiency among your sales and support agents? Collect and analyze data with advanced metrics? All of the above? Knowing these objectives ahead of time will help make the selection process easier.
With that in mind, here are some crucial features to look for when choosing a CRM:
Obviously, you want something that has solid contact management. It won’t be much of a CRM without that. If you plan to use your CRM for sales as well as customer service and support, you’ll also want to look for lead management, and pipeline features that help your team direct themselves easily through the entire process of sales or support.
A good CRM should have an intuitive user interface, including a dashboard that can give you all the data you require at a glance.
Ideally, your CRM software should also have the ability to customize that dashboard, as well as other features of the CRM, so that you can tailor it to the specific needs of your team or business. That also goes for integration with other software applications such as email marketing, e-commerce, and so on.
To get the most data on your customers that you can, your CRM should have multichannel functionality, so you can draw from phone calls, email, social media, and other sources. The more ways a customer has to get in touch with you, the better.
Your CRM software should also have solid data analytics and metrics capabilities, so you can measure and track that valuable customer data and gather insights from what you’ve collected.
The next step in choosing the right CRM software for your business is to compare various systems. Zendesk and Salesforce are two of the most popular choices, though there are many alternatives available. You should also consider requesting a free demo or finding software with a free trial period, so you can test out the software before you make a major commitment of time and money.
While you may not think your business needs a CRM, you might be surprised at the benefits the software holds for your company. A good CRM suite will grow as your business grows, keeping your bottom line in good shape for years or decades to come.
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