Companies seeking a contact management or customer relationship management solution need to consider one aspect of their business before diving into the evaluation of products. Ask yourself one simple question – do you work with individual people, companies, or both? The answer will put you on the right track.
Contact management software is designed to manage individual contacts, hence the name contact management. You run reports by contact and search information by contact. Everything you do is related to that person or contact. This can create limitations that CRM software simply doesn’t have. For example, how do you track referrals and relationships between contacts? Are you able to store multiple physical addresses and email addresses for each contact?
How CRM is different
CRM software is designed to manage accounts or customers. An account can be any business entity with one or more contacts. Contacts are often associated with a company name, but this may not always be true. Here are some recent examples of customers that expressed an interest in contact management software then determined CRM software would be a more flexible and better fit for them.
- a university that wanted to manage students and do fund raising
- a chain of Health Clubs that wanted to manage memberships
The University only deals with people or contacts so they felt that contact management software would be the best suited for them. They could simply enter the student name “Michael Jones” and they’re done. What they did not initially consider however is that they are also doing recruitment and fund raising. Michael has two younger sisters that may be candidates to attend the University in a few years. They also want to solicit Michael’s parents for what are referred to as “boosters”.
CRM software offers the flexibility to manage groups and relationships that contact management software does not.
With CRM software they are able to enter the family name as an account, list the siblings under the account name and keep track of any donations the family may have made. Everything is all under one umbrella. In addition, reporting also becomes more flexible allowing you to generate reports by individual contact or by the account (or family name).
The Health Club while a completely different business was able to do the same thing. Contact Management software would have addressed these organizations’ basic needs, but what they discovered was that CRM software offered more flexibility today and into the future.
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Many small to mid-size businesses continue to manage their business using basic contact management tools and an Excel spreadsheet. They have become so comfortable with this process that they may have overlooked the value offered today through the use of CRM or customer relationship management software.
Why should these businesses consider CRM? The answer is clear. In order to respond quickly to customer inquiries and new sales opportunities, follow-up on leads and get proposals out the door your staff regardless of their position needs immediate access to vital customer information.
The strength of today’s CRM software is that it provides you with a single consolidated database that enables you to capture, track, manage and share information throughout the organization. This allows sales and support personnel to become much more efficient and productive in their jobs.
The second reason is that CRM software programs have become very affordable and easy to use. Online, or what is commonly now referred to as cloud based CRM systems, require no IT investment and there is no hardware or software to install. Many of these systems are operational in just a few hours or less, and there are dozens of alternatives that have been specifically designed for small to mid-size businesses.
The link below lists a group of the top cloud based CRM solutions.
Building quality customer relationships is critical to maximizing the lifetime value of your customers and with the right customer management software this doesn’t have to be a chore.
The key to building quality customer relationships is ensuring that all employees have immediate access to the data they need when a customer calls. Today’s customer management software solutions offer the ability to capture, manage and share vital customer information with the people who need it to provide world-class customer service. Using a single consolidated database of customer information allows both sales and service personnel to access a complete 360 degree profile of customer information including what they purchased, when they purchased it, and if they have had any service history associated with the purchase. More importantly the information is current and consistently updated by the people who are interacting with the customer.
While some businesses attempt to manage their relationships using Microsoft Outlook and an Excel spreadsheet, the problem is that the information cannot be shared or easily updated. Sure you can send over a copy of the spreadsheet to your staff, but it will be obsolete ten minutes after you send it and require each staff members to update it and forward it back to all employees. This is quite a task and completely inefficient.
Customer Management software solutions are available for small, mid-size and enterprise level organizations, and are not only affordable but easier to use then they were several years ago. A simple search of Customer Management Software or Contact Management software will provide you with a list of available companies and systems.
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Customers using Commence CRM Software will soon have Google maps integration built right into their CRM system. This feature is an addition to the account and contact management application and allows users to quickly map and get directions to their customer addresses saved in the system.
The Google Map icon is conveniently located on the Account, Lead, and Contact detail screens next to the Postal Code or Zip Code field. Clicking the icon connects to Google maps and displays the location of the customer.
This new feature enables sales and customer service personnel to map the location of an account and plan their travel arrangements accordingly. They may also wish to visit other accounts in the area. For additional information about Commence CRM software, visit the company’s website at http://www.commence.com/.
This discussion about which functional area should own CRM has been debated by hundreds people in Internet based discussion forums over the past year, but I am not sure why. CRM is a philosophy adopted by the management of well-run companies. It is not about ownership by a specific department. Yet based on the results of the survey below completed in 2011, it is clear that people disagree with my position and believe that CRM should be owned by a functional department, or be co-owned.
In smaller businesses, the use of CRM software is typically driven by the sales organization for managing the sales cycle and used by other departments for contact management. In larger organizations it is typically used throughout the organization.
Regardless of the company’s size, the objective of CRM software is the same and that is to ensure a better buying experience for the customer.
There is no ownership issue here. Creating a better buying experience for the customer occurs before, during and after the sale. As such, CRM software often plays a vital role not only in the management of the sales process, but also in the efficient management of projects, and providing high quality customer service. It’s a corporate initiative driven by senior management with the goal of maximizing the lifetime value of every customer relationship and it should be shared by all.
Contact management is an increasingly difficult task. Through the development of technology such as smart phones and tablets, contact details are now increasingly elaborate and across many platforms, like social media, email addresses, residential addresses, cell phone numbers, Skype details, twitter accounts etc. Therefore managing your contacts can be a time consuming task. Within these varying types of contact details it can be challenging to decipher whom to contact and on what platform. This is where the concept of Contact Management is brought into play.
Contact management software provides users with the ability to easily store and find contact information safely and coherently. These contact-centric databases enable users to track all information and communication activities linked to contacts, so why is it important to have a fully integrated CRM system rather than just a contact management system?
A fully integrated customer relationship management system extends the features a contact management solution can provide. CRM establishes a comprehensive record of each interaction and this then provides organisations with a greater overall knowledge of their customer needs. An amalgamation of both CRM and Contact Management can provide organisations with the fully integrated customer relationship management system they need.
CRM software packages are a vital tool for businesses in the global economy. Varied customer locations and interactions with your organisations sales funnel can cause difficulties for your sales team when they are recording vital customer information. However, through the implementation of a fully integrated online CRM system your company can benefit immediately due to the availability of customer knowledge at a moments notice. The relationship that can be developed with your customer through the use and maintenance of an amalgamated CRM system will ensure the continued growth and success of your organisation. The availability of enhanced customer knowledge will have a positive effect on sales, establishing the prospect and production of business growth in the long term.
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CRM software provider Commence Corporation has added new functionality to their cloud based CRM software that is attracting users of traditional contact management products. What is unique about Commence is the ability to manage information at the account level or the contact level with the click of a button. Traditional contact management software products require the end user to enter contact data followed by the account they are related to. Commence enables you to add an account then add all the related contacts in one area. This allows you to select an account and view all of the related contacts on one screen. It’s a much more efficient way to manage customer information. In addition, under the account view you can capture multiple addresses, notes, e-mail history, sales opportunities, pending and completed activities, documents, and project information all on the same screen. An added feature is an automated organization chart that graphically displays all contacts, who they report to along with their title and e-mail.
Companies that are still using desktop contact management software are looking for the next generation of software that provides additional functionality, better reporting, and anytime anywhere access to data via mobile devices. Commence CRM’s robust functionality coupled with its ease of use and affordability has proven to be a nice step up for companies still using desktop contact management programs.
[Image "Inverted Cheerleader Pyramid" by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr under Creative Commons license]