Forming and maintaining relationships with customers is one of the most important aspects of any business. Without positive relationships, it’s hard to thrive in any industry and long-term success can be jeopardized. That’s why it’s so advantageous to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system  into your operations.
Let’s discuss the basics of how this technology works, the benefits of CRM and some guidelines for choosing a CRM platform.
The primary purpose of CRM software is to streamline all major areas of customer interactions. This can include managing contacts, setting appointments, monitoring a marketing campaign, handling customer service, and numerous other tasks.
CRM software makes use of a dashboard, analytics and reporting tools to provide business owners with an all-encompassing vantage point of operations. By spotting patterns and identifying trends, this puts you more in control of customer engagement so your business can run more efficiently.
With that being said, there are some major benefits of utilizing CRM software.
Meeting deadlines is very important in today’s business world. By inputting information like scheduled appointments and important tasks, it takes the guesswork out of project completion. Many platforms also allow this data to be synced with a calendar to keep you informed of upcoming tasks and deadlines.
For instance, if you have a sales call scheduled with a valuable lead, CRM software would send you an email in advance so you remember to make the call. Whenever a customer has an upcoming birthday, you or a sales rep would be notified so you promptly send out birthday wishes. Consequently, you can make customers feel more valued and build deeper relationships.
This way you can juggle all of your tasks while ensuring that each customer gets the attention they need and nothing is forgotten.
Sales Rep Management
If you have assembled a team of sales reps, it’s important to keep tabs on their progress and know just how effective they are at nurturing leads and closing sales. Using this type of software will provide a firsthand look into each team member’s sales statistics, including information like average lead contact time, task completion time and conversion rate. This way you can reward the top performers and coach individuals who need some extra help.
Over time, your sales department should operate like a well oiled machine where sales are maximized.
When dealing with hundreds or even thousands of customers, it’s easy to become disorganized and overwhelmed. Fortunately, the right CRM software makes it simple and intuitive to keep customer information organized and retrievable. By maintaining a contact list, it gives you quick access to a wealth of information like customer email, telephone, buying history and birthday.
Performing a search will provide an overview of this information so you can extract what you need without the hassle of searching through paper folders or using other outdated techniques. Since many platforms incorporate metadata, you can search via broad terms instead of highly specific ones.
This is beneficial because you can find the customer you need by entering general keywords instead of a specified term.
More Selling Opportunities
As information on customers accumulates, it’s common for more opportunities to present themselves. For example, keeping track of a particular customer’s buying patterns would make it clear what they are most interested in.
When launching a new product that’s similar, you could make it a point to contact that customer and let them know. Consequently, this makes it possible to increase sales without having to constantly advertise to new customers.
By capitalizing on an existing customer base, you can get more repeat sales while keeping customers happy.
Improved Social Media Marketing
Another feature that most platforms offer is the ability to integrate with social media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest. This can have major advantages because it allows businesses to track all aspects of their social media campaign . For example, business owners can identify which networks are resulting in the most traffic, what followers are saying about their brand and the overall customer experience. As trends emerge, adjustments can be made so you get the most from your efforts and boost your brand’s presence across the Web.
Now that we know the benefits of CRM software, let’s talk about how to find the ideal product for your business.
Determine Individual Needs
Prior to checking out any products, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve. According to Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret:
You need to get a package that’s tailored to your company’s size. At the most basic level you have simple contact management. Then you have contact management with a shared database. You can have sales tracking or opportunity tracking or customer service functionality. Match the capabilities of the software with what your business goals are.
After identifying specific needs, it should be easier to choose a suitable software platform.
Besides immediate needs, it’s important to consider long-term needs and take future growth into account. That’s why software that’s adequately scalable is so critical. Ideally, a platform will be Cloud-based to accommodate increased data storage and more contacts as they are acquired. It will also have the option to conveniently purchase upgrades as needed.
Otherwise, getting locked into a lengthy contract with a vendor with limited scalability can be detrimental to your efforts.
Integration with Existing Platforms
One issue that businesses run into is when the CRM they choose isn’t compatible with programs like Outlook , Microsoft Excel and Quickbooks. If you already have some form of an existing infrastructure for monitoring customer interactions, it’s smart to find software that can be integrated with relative ease. This should reduce your learning curve and help you put the software to use quickly.
Otherwise, the integration process can be arduous.
In the modern business world, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have become the norm for many businesses. They make it possible to complete tasks and stay up to date on projects regardless of location. If your business uses any type of mobile technology, it’s necessary to look for CRM software that can be accessed on these devices.
This should help all team members boost their productivity and get things done on the road.
Even if you’re tech savvy, it’s not always easy to figure out all of the components and features of a CRM platform. Consequently, a comprehensive support system with easy access to technicians can save you from a lot of headaches during the transition and afterward. This might include phone support, online chat and email correspondence to resolve issues.
While 9 to 5 support is helpful during the regular hours of the workweek, it’s best to have 24/7 support in case of an emergency at an odd time of day.
Finally, the vendor you choose should have a positive reputation for providing a quality product and professional service. This should reduce the possibility of having to jump ship and find another CRM software provider in the future. Generally speaking, the longer they have been in business, the better.
Reading some reviews and/or contacting a few references should give you a good idea of a vendor’s reputability.
CRM  Photo via Shutterstock