Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions are used by large enterprises as well as small and midsized businesses. CRM systems allow companies to enhance productivity, reduce costs, increase revenues, and improve customer acquisition, service, satisfaction, and retention.
Today’s business world has become more dynamic and competitive, and organizations of all sizes face the challenge of increasing revenue while expanding their market share and finding new avenues to attract, acquire, support, and retain customers. Additionally, organizations must maximize efficiency, minimize overhead costs, and increase shareholder value. Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, is a valuable tool to help with these efforts.
CRM software is a tightly integrated set of applications that span all client-facing operations and that help shorten the sales cycle, improve customer service, and enhance marketing efforts.
CRM solutions are composed of modules for contact management, sales force automation, marketing automation, call center management, help desk automation, and advanced business intelligence. These modules are designed to coordinate and streamline the disparate, repetitive, manual processes that often exist across multiple divisions and business units that lead to errors and inconsistencies in service delivery.
With CRM, companies can enhance the accuracy, timeliness, and success of all customer interactions and their related processes. This includes enabling:
- Marketing teams to gain greater insight into the behaviors and preferences of their target audience, intelligently plan and execute highly targeted and sophisticated campaigns and promotions through multiple channels, and closely monitor and analyze the results.
- Sales representatives to efficiently prioritize and manage hundreds of new leads, prospects, and opportunities through enhanced collaboration; quickly close existing sales cycles; and boost the value of each deal through cross-selling and up-selling.
- Call center agents to provide a greater customer experience through faster response times and quicker resolution to any customer issues and problems. Customer Relationship Management solutions can also transform these cost centers into profit centers by helping staff to actively participate in up-sell and cross-sell initiatives and other sales and marketing promotions.
- Support staff to promptly address customer issues by leveraging a comprehensive knowledge base, coordinating and dispatching field resources when needed, and tracking the progress of every problem from the time a job ticket is opened until it is resolved.
- Management to gain complete visibility into all customer-facing processes across multiple departments and accurately assess performance.
Most importantly, CRM empowers teams across multiple departments to collaborate with each other in real-time to unify sales, marketing, and service to provide an unparalleled customer experience.
CRM software solutions enable organizations to consistently deliver the highest level of service and quality throughout the entire customer sales cycle, while simultaneously increasing productivity and reducing the costs associated with sales, marketing, and customer service activities.
Most of today’s CRM software systems provide:
Sales Force Automation
CRM software allows sales professionals to more quickly convert leads into opportunities and to close more deals. By leveraging CRM software, sales reps can manage their accounts, pipelines, and other tasks and activities more effectively. Additionally, CRM software enables sales teams to generate more accurate and timely forecasts and provides the tools needed to measure performance across teams and territories.
Today’s CRM software can even provide comprehensive access to the CRM system through cloud computing and can also be accessed with mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad, Android devices, and other tablets.
CRM software enables organizations to have more complete control over their marketing activities and to easily implement lead generation strategies.
With CRM software, marketing teams can track and manage prospect databases, organize and launch marketing campaigns across different channels, and gain greater insight into customer behavior through campaign results and performance analytics. These tools can help marketing teams boost response times and conversion rates while reducing cost-per-lead and increasing the return on marketing investment.
Customer Service, Help Desk, or Contact Center/Call Center Automation
Businesses can use CRM software to drive higher quality customer service and to increase response times for customer issues and inquiries, while offering accurate tracking and reporting capabilities.
CRM software can also help turn your customer service departments into profit centers by providing the tools they need to actively participate in up-sell and cross-sell programs and more.
Reporting and Analysis
CRM software contains business intelligence tools that enable organizations to maximize the value of their customers by providing greater insight into customer behavior to enable informed decision making.
Reports, performance management dashboards, and analytics provide users at all levels with complete visibility into customer-related activities within and across multiple departments.
Effective customer acquisition and retention requires collaboration across multiple customer-facing departments. CRM software provides features that enable sales, marketing, service, and support staff to work together by sharing information, coordinating activities, and eliminating overlapping or redundant functions.
Purchasing CRM software can be a difficult task, but with these seven tips, you can find the right solution that will bring the highest return on investment.
Tip 1: Conduct Needs Assessment
Determining which features you need – and which you don’t – can help simplify the CRM-purchasing process.
By identifying the primary business drivers, key stakeholders, potential bottlenecks, and critical success factors, as well as any future plans for expansion or growth, you can begin to understand and define your requirements.
Tip 2: Create a Vendor Short List
Take your vendor research seriously, and make sure to review each vendor’s CRM software features and capabilities. Also check customer references and the vendor’s history and background information.
Tip 3: Take the CRM Software on a Test Drive
Taking advantage of a CRM software trial will help you see how the solution will operate in real-world situations. During your trial, you’ll be able to assess whether the software will be able to meet your needs.
Tip 4: Negotiate the Best Deal
CRM software negotiations have become increasingly complex. You can cut the best possible deal with your vendor if you:
- Know what the standard discount is. Use this price, not the list price, to begin your negotiations.
- Continue to evaluate other CRM software solutions. This will let the vendor know the deal is not a “lock” and that pricing may be a factor in your decision.
- Avoid being swayed by free stuff. Vendors may offer additonal modules at no costs, but unless they are included in your initial needs assessment, there’s no need to take the bait.
- Try to negotiate lower implementation, consulting, and maintenance costs, and push for free upgrades or training sessions.
If you’re in negotiations for a cloud CRM solution, then you can bargain down your monthly fees if you opt for a longer contract.
Tip 5: Closely Manage Your Implementation
Create detailed workflows of existing activities, and restructure inefficient processes. This will help you understand what areas of your CRM software will need to be customized.
Before your IT department installs the CRM software or any additional hardware, it would be wise to create an architecture diagram that displays how the CRM software will fit into the existing infrastructure and how it will work with existing systems.
Once the CRM software is installed, it is ready to be customized and delivered to your end-users. While some companies opt for “big-bang” deployments, other businesses prefer a phased implementation to minimize disruption.
Tip 6: Promote Widespread User Adoption
In order for your CRM implementation to be successful, you’ll need to involve your sales, marketing, and support staff in each step of the project to maximize user adoption. Offer them continuous training and support to make them as comfortable as possible with the new system, and seek out feedback for continuous improvement.
Tip 7: Measure Your Success
Did your CRM software help you achieve your goals? Are there any customer-facing activities that may need some additional refining?
In order to answer these questions, you need to track results against objectives. Remember that performance management is an ongoing process – key metrics must be analyzed periodically to ensure continued success.
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