WHAT IS A CRM?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a software solution designed to organize information to share information within the organization as well as to communicate with existing customers and prospects. CRM applications can reside in on-site servers or operate in the Cloud, and most effective ones integrate via the web to share information quickly and easily. Common uses for CRM are to manage marketing campaigns, channel prospects through the funnel, customer service and technical support. They may also be used to recover lost customers and may even be available to the customer themselves to learn of new offerings and upgrades as well as self-service.
Open source and industry specific templates permit customization. Many, such as vtiger and SUGARCRM, are open source to allow businesses to modify the application to fit their needs while others provide a more off-the-shelf solution. Some, such as Salesforce, offer industry specific templates consolidating best practices for manufacturing, financial or retail etc. These templates help in mitigating development time and costs.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

The benefit of using a CRM over a simple database is the automation that CRM can offer through varying technologies. CRM not only collects data, but presents it in a usable format to the different people and departments who need it. Automated work flow and integration with email systems and social networking can help keep your company in view of your target audience. Manage follow-up to never let a sale fall through the cracks. Smartphone apps provide mobile workers such as sales reps and technicians instant access to information to close the deal and provide support. Customer interaction history can help identify opportunities for up-sales and customer appreciation promotions.
Departmental collaboration can improve with full utilization of a CRM system as well. Marketing can key in on the most recent tests from development. Sales can improve based on customer service feedback. Management can make decisions through the use of enterprise wide dashboards.

ARE THERE RED FLAGS TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT?

Care must be taken prior to choosing a solution and during its implementation. Goals must be defined, the risks assessed and cost is always a concern. Ease of use must be considered because large, complex systems may create confusion, frustration and may not be fully utilized. Many failed implementations result from a lack of training and buy-in from end users.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

From a one-man show to large corporations, CRM solutions assist in organization, automation and dissemination of information. A properly chosen, implemented and utilized CRM that is embraced by marketing, sales, support and management alike can be a revenue generation solution that enhances your professional image, provides valuable data and creates customer loyalty.

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