Customer Relationship Management (CRM), is really a business culture, based on customer focus. It is about identifying, acquiring and retaining profitable customers.
CRM is often thought of as software, but the real mix for a ‘CRM Solution’ is, in my opinion, approximately 15% software, 25% business process and the remainder is people.
Key Ingredients of a CRM Solution
Without ‘buy-in’ from the staff of a business, the software and even process can be rendered ineffective. As opposed to a CRM System which is really just the software element.
The ‘problem’ with CRM is it such a wide-ranging subject. The real value of CRM is that it can impact the whole of your business.
CRM will predominantly affect the normal customer facing areas such as Marketing, Sales and Customer Service, as you might expect. Done properly, a CRM solution will also bring into play what are normally considered back office functions.
A CRM system should hold all relevant information on a customer, including a communication history and there is no reason that your accountant, operations or manufacturing staff should not also have access to this information, so that regardless of who the customer contacts (or who contacts the customer) they will have all the relevant information at their fingertips.
Likewise, back office information, e.g. account and order status should be available to the front office staff so that the need to contact accounts is reduced.
Therefore a CRM system can give a business-wide view of customer (and supplier) interactions and becomes very much a team tool, allowing all of the staff in a business to present a coherent experience to the customer. Because it reminds people about tasks they need to carry out, and can be monitored by supervisors, there is less chance of forgetting to deal with customer requests and issues, which will obviously assist in enhancing the relationship with the customer.
For anyone thinking of implementing a CRM Solution there are a number of considerations:
Who will need access to the system?
What sort of information do I need to hold on our customers?
How will I engage the staff in the project to facilitate buy-in?
Is it feasible to implement a company-wide solution immediately?
And of course, what are the likely benefits for the company?
There are, of course a lot more questions you should be considering, and an article this size cannot hope to encompass those, but we will focus on how to make the transition less painful than it might otherwise be.
You might be encouraged to initiate a company-wide project immediately, and in some circumstances this can be feasible. The more sensible approach though might be to run a pilot scheme, preferably with a handful of your less technophobic staff to iron out how the system will be used and to write some procedures for using it.
Once the basic system and processes have been vetted, the system can then be rolled out in phases, perhaps starting with some basic functionality, which can be upgraded once the staff are used to the basic system. This transitional approach will often result in a smoother implementation, less disruption and an easier learning curve for your staff.
So CRM can work, it does not have to be terribly expensive or disruptive and should easily be able to pay its own way, all it needs is a little planning and forethought, like much else in life.