The concept of CRM or Customer Relationship Management Software has actually been in existence for more than two decades. The term has evolved over time from contact management software to sales automation software to customer interaction software and now Customer Relationship Management software or CRM. But the business application of CRM has remained the same and that is to capture, track, manage and share information throughout the organization. The idea is that by providing employees with immediate access to customer information they can improve sales execution and customer service, thereby giving their organization a competitive edge.
The evolution of CRM was brought about by advanced technology such as cloud computing, and the introduction of specific departmental software solutions for sales, marketing, and customer service. Today, social networking is an important component that continues to expand the use of CRM software to help businesses market, sell and provide services to their customers.
Finding a CRM Solution that works for you
There are essentially three levels of CRM software and even the most basic offerings can provide value to your business. Selecting the right solution has a lot to do with the maturity of your business and the objective you have going forward.
The most basic CRM offerings enable you to manage accounts or companies and contacts or people. If you own a small business and have been operating it using an Excel spreadsheet and e-mail, a basic CRM solution would be a nice step up from what you are doing today. It will allow you to capture vital customer information including notes and history, track activity, and share this information with your staff – something that is difficult to do using an excel spreadsheet.
More advanced CRM systems traditionally add marketing, sales and lead management features and are designed for companies that want to build brand recognition via bulk e-mail programs, capture and manage leads or new opportunities and automate the sales process. Companies that have used automated systems in the past such as contact managers often find these more advanced systems appealing for their business because they are a natural next step up from contact management programs. These programs are often quite affordable and easy to use and can add substantial value to your business.
Comprehensive CRM programs, often referred to as enterprise level systems, are designed to automate and integrate both front-end and back-end business processes such as accounting and ERP. These are robust and complex solutions that require a strong commitment from management to implement and use. Companies that have automated their marketing, lead management and sales management processes look at enterprise solutions as an important component to closing the loop between front office and back office business processes. Instead of operating disparate silos of information, these companies strive to integrate all business processes into one universal system or database. These solutions are typically only found in larger organizations that have the staff and expertise to implement and manage them.
The good news is that there is a large selection of CRM systems to choose from and traditionally free trials and demos so that you can test them. The best advice in selecting one is to document your requirements. Then seek a few offerings that can support those requirements.
While all the recent hype and fanfare seems to be focused on cloud based CRM software, IT departments of larger companies are still very much interested in on-premise business solutions and for good reason. Cloud based CRM systems are traditionally offered as generic products with a set of predefined features and functions. They may be a good fit for smaller organizations with limited business requirements, but many larger corporations need more flexibility than these systems offer. While a few cloud based CRM systems do provide some customization it’s often limited and requires a high level of programming expertise which can be quite costly.
On-premise applications have been traditionally designed with a high degree of flexibility in mind making customization easier and less expensive for the IT department. There is no right or wrong solution here, but it’s important to be aware that if your organization requires complete control of the customer information in your CRM system, a cloud based CRM offering may limit your ability to achieve this.
The number one request from small to mid-size businesses evaluating CRM software is ease of use. This is because CRM systems have traditionally been over engineered and simply too hard to use. Delivering the right combination of functionality and ease to use has been a challenge for many CRM software providers, but according to customer testimonials Commence CRM seems to deliver the right balance of functionality coupled with a simple design and navigation.
Commence CRM is a robust offering that rivals many higher end solutions. In addition to the standard account and contact management, sales, leads and marketing modules, Commence CRM adds optional applications for project management, customer service or help desk and integration to disparate software programs. Even with this level of functionality customers report that the product is extremely easy to use. What makes this possible is a clever design and use of a digital dashboard that enables the end user to perform 90 percent of their daily tasks without ever leaving the initial screen.
The CRM dashboard can be configured by each user with a click of a button and may include all or a subset of the following features or portlets:
- Today’s Calendar
- Monthly Calendar
- Today’s Activities and To-Do’s
- Overdue Activities
- Company News
- Favorite Reports
- New Leads
- Project Tasks
- Sales Performance
- Sales Pipeline
- Schedule Opportunities
- Support Tickets
Sample Dashboard Used by Sales Staff
Each portlet enables you to perform that task right from the dashboard and even provides a shortcut to additional functionality. The Leads portlet for example allows you to enter a new lead right from the dashboard. You can view all the leads you are currently working on by clicking a button labeled more … it’s that simple.
With Commence CRM you can add a new account or contact, a new lead, a new sales opportunity, schedule follow-up activities add or update a project or a service ticket; even view your favorite reports without ever leaving the screen. Learn more with an online CRM demo or free trial of the CRM software.
An article on ecommercetimes.com discusses how to use the customer information captured into your CRM system to build strong customer relationships: Tap CRM to Give Your Customers a Pleasant Surprise
Customer relationship management may lead to smoother sales and service interactions between you and your customers, but it can also help you go above and beyond. Your customers are filling your CRM system with intelligence about their desires and their needs; it’s time to use that data to help cement your relationship with them for the long term.
So you have your CRM application in place and humming, collecting information about customers and potential customers and organizing it so you can use it. That raises a question: How are you using it?
Most companies pour it back into sales, marketing and support to keep feeding those machines, which is good. It’s the way you realize the value from your CRM investment.
You can read the full article here, courtesy of ecommercetimes.com.
Companies that do not currently use CRM software are often concerned about user adoption. They fear that CRM programs that are too hard to use will become shelfware, and they are probably right.
The problem with CRM solutions that are very easy to use is that they don’t do very much, and for the most part are nothing more than glorified contact managers on the web. Those that provide a high level of functionality are designed for larger companies and are often overkill for small to mid-size enterprises.
Becoming a top choice among small to mid-size enterprises
One company that seems to have addressed this concern is Commence CRM. This online CRM system strikes a nice balance between simplicity and value. Commence is a robust product offering that rivals many higher cost solutions and is modular in design. This allows customers to start with the basics for managing accounts and contacts, calendar, notes, activities, history and even integrate your e-mail. Then add additional functionality when you are ready.
Companies that wish to manage sales can add a lead management and sales pipeline management module for just a few dollars more per month, and those that want to do bulk e-mailing can add the marketing module as well. What’s unique about Commence CRM is how easy the additional applications are to use. The product is also available for use with an Apple Mac, PC or any mobile device or tablet. Commence CRM seems to be the perfect fit for those companies that want more than a simple contact manager on the web, but not the cost and complexity of higher end solutions that are cumbersome to use.
Image courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
CRM software is now becoming an important component for companies that wish to improve sales execution and customer service. The recent rise in CRM utilization is due primarily to two factors.
- First, there are now a plethora of easy to use low cost solutions for businesses of any size.
- Secondly, businesses are seeing a return on their investment and actually improving how they market, sell and provide services to their customers.
CRM is working, but it requires more than just the CRM software itself. Many small to mid-size companies struggle to implement internal business processes for improving sales and customer service and look towards CRM software as a way automate these functions. Today’s CRM systems are designed to do just this, but they require experienced professionals that can couple the features in the CRM software with best practices for managing sales and customer service. Here is an example.
The ABC company wants to do a better job in managing leads and their sales process. They select a top rated CRM solution that has all the bells and whistles for streamlining the sales and lead management process. The problem is they don’t have a process. Leads are loosely distributed based on territory and every sales person, while having a monthly quota, still has their own personal process for how they sell.
So how do you automate and streamline a process that does not exist?
You have got to get some help. Look for a CRM solution provider that has an experienced team of people to ensure you realize the maximum value from their solution. I am not referring to end user training here. I am talking about business process automation. An experienced team of people can help you define your processes and then automate them using CRM software. This is a one-time investment, but one that makes a significant difference in improving how you manage and conduct business into the future.
Image “Flowchart And 3d Character Shows Process Or Procedure” by Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
CRM software programs designed for small to mid-sized companies are used primarily for contact management and sales pipeline management. This is because the lion’s share of CRM solutions sold in this market only offers this level of functionality and that’s it.
One company that is differentiating themselves from the pack is Commence Corporation. Commence has an online CRM solution that offers advanced functionality for customer service. This is appealing to mid-sized companies that have mastered the use of CRM for managing account management, contact management and sales, and now want to focus on providing world class service to their customers.
Excerpt from ‘Sales, Customer Service, and Marketing Top Technology Investment Priority List’ | Forrester Blog
To do this, businesses need the ability to assign and manage service tickets, and maintain a historical view of customer service interactions. Commence CRM software does just that. The customer support application is seamlessly integrated with the account and contact management database. Simply open an account detail and view the complete service history as part of a 360 degree view of their customer profile.
Customer service and support solutions are typically unavailable from low-end competitive offerings servicing this sector of the industry. Other mainstream and enterprise products offer this, but at almost double the cost. Learn more about the customer support and project management features in Commence CRM at http://www.commence.com/crm/crm-software/.
During the past decade the CRM industry has seen a consistent migration from desktop CRM solutions to CRM online. There are several technology and business changes that are driving this migration beginning with the growth of the mobile workforce. The economy has created an environment that often includes sales and service personnel who work from remote or home offices. In addition, many of these people travel quite a bit and require access to customer data while on the road. They are not tethered to a desktop PC like office personnel and as such, access to customer data can be very difficult.
Another challenge facing companies today is a lack of standardization. Unlike years ago where people standardized on desktop PCs running a Microsoft operating system, today’s workforce may be using Apple Macs, tablets or smartphones like an iPhone or Android device. New devices are entering the market every six months and people simply expect that they can use these devices to access their data. It’s not an unreasonable request but it’s much more difficult to achieve with desktop software than with CRM online systems that are designed to support remote data access.
Is desktop CRM dead? Of course not, because not every company has remote employees or requires remote access. In addition, many desktop database applications have been tailored to meet unique business requirements that CRM online solutions do not provide without additional programming. As the industry continues to evolve and new mobile devices enter the market it does appear that CRM online software programs will continue to be the solution of choice into the future.
An article on Forbes.com provides advices on why you need CRM and how to get everyone in the company to use it: Why Your Small Business Needs CRM
A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is probably one of the most valuable systems that any small business can implement. It is as important as the people that are hired and will have a more significant effect long term than any one employee.
Recent studies show that companies with a fully utilized CRM system can increase sales by 29%. But, any system is only as valuable as the information that goes into it. How do you get everyone in the company to use it and provide real time data?
You can read the full article here, courtesy of Forbes.com.
Contrary to popular belief all CRM software programs are not alike. Everyone wants a CRM solution that’s easy to use. But let’s be honest if the solution is that easy to use, could it be because it simply does not do very much? That is perfectly fine if you are a very small business or have basic CRM requirements. What if you need more? Let’s say you want to:
Follow-up on Leads – automate how you capture, distribute and follow-up on new business opportunities or leads
Manage the Sales Process – implement a formal sales structure and manage the sales process from introduction to closure
Access Customer Information – provide high quality customer service and store the complete customer service history by implementing a ticket management system
This is all possible, but you need to select a CRM solution that can offer this level of functionality. Then once you find one you may quickly realize that you cannot expect to achieve a high level of results without getting some help. These systems offer robust functionality and often require some training and professional guidance.
Commence Corporation has created an onboarding program that consists of their top rated CRM software complemented by customer specific training and professional services. These are live interactive coaching sessions with an onboarding rep who can advise you on how to implement the system for your specific business workflow. The onboarding program is a small investment in time that really pays off with faster implementations, a personalized system that’s easier to use and increased user adoption. With results like these, customers quickly realize the maximum value from their CRM software.
If you really want to improve how you market, sell and provide service to you customers don’t expect to get it by downloading some cheap CRM solution over the Internet. You need a functionally rich top CRM solution matched with world class customer service. What differentiates Commence CRM from other solutions servicing the small to mid-size business sector is the company’s professional staff. This team averages 15 years of industry experience in marketing, sales and customer service. Very few CRM solution providers can provide this level of experience to their customers. This is the reason so many customers have realized extensive value with Commence CRM.
Image “Motivate Written On Blackboard” courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net