ABC of CRM
It's a simple enough concept: treat your customers with care, and your bottom line will feel the benefits. So why aren't more companies making customer relationship management (CRM) work for them?
There's a big difference between having a CRM philosophy in your business and actually making it work, says Mark Annett, general manager of Camsoft Solutions: CRM. “You can have all the right CRM methodology in place, but you also need the tools to make it work, and this is where the right software for the job really makes the difference”, he points out. “CRM as a concept is nothing new, after all. It's all about how you look after your customers, which has been relevant ever since the time when humans discovered that they could sell products or services to others who didn't have them but would find them useful,” says Annett.
If your customers are important to you, it makes sense to keep them happy so that they continue to do business with you and tell everyone else how well they get looked after by you organisation. It goes without saying that it typically costs far more to find new customers than it does to keep on generating revenue from existing ones. There are several aspects of CRM to consider, however, before you can start smiling all the way to the bank. CRM has a role to play in each of your organisation's activities. A good CRM system will not only be able to inform you of business opportunities with your existing customer base and prospective customers, but should also be able to tell you how long that customer who has just lodged a complaint has been doing business with you for and what they are worth to your company.
It is in situations where you need to understand your customers' needs better that a good CRM system proves invaluable. As the name implies, customer relationship management is about managing all aspects of a customer's experience with your organisation. Using an effective CRM solution will enable you to do this by providing employees with the necessary permissions in the organisation with a global view of all the customer interactions. Whether in marketing or sales, you will have instant access to records such as how many times and what the customer has made enquiries for, what they have historically purchase from your business and in what quantity as well as any other information that you consider important in understanding your customer better. “The implications of maintaining a good understanding of your customers goes beyond improving efficiency – it can only benefit your customers too. Who doesn't enjoy doing business with a company that views them as an individual and not simply an addition to the bank balance?” Annett asks.
Of course, just as companies provide different products and services, so they require different information about their customers. Fortunately, CRM solutions providers are aware of this and are eager to understand how a customer can improve their systems. “Previously, solutions were fairly rigid and pretty much based on what CRM solutions providers considered customers would need, rather than their actual unique requirements. That's all changed for the better now though. Solutions providers are keen to gain a full understanding of what makes a particular company tick and are responding by providing CRM solutions that are user-friendly, more robust and reasonably priced,” maintains Annett.
CRM has come a long way since the days of contact management which enabled you to keep track of basic information on a customer as simple records in fields and notes associated with the customer. With CRM came marketing, sales opportunity management, customer services such as a helpdesk, data mining and sophisticated reporting. “All of this functionality can be found in best-of-breed CRM solutions such as Maximizer Enterprise which has the added benefit of having evolved with business needs over the past 20 years and continues to be a leader in CRM,” comments Annett.
Getting it right
Clearly, CRM holds huge rewards for those who get it right. But how can you be sure your company's investment will produce the desired results?
“The implementation of any CRM solution should be based on a lot of planning,” Annett advises. Before consulting a CRM solutions provider, a company's management usually has to address some important internal questions before they can start defining their own CRM strategy, such as: Why do people buy our particular product?; How are we different to our competitors? What can we do to improve our marketing?; How effective is our current marketing effort? How effective is our current marketing effort? How should we go about increasing sales?; What makes our best sales staff successful?; What market should we be targeting?; How are we measuring our current performance?
This raises another important point. Many CRM strategies fail because they lack the support of an organisational leader. The strategy must be driven by someone who can influence company thinking and who can encourage staff buy-in.” This can be one of the biggest challenges, because change is very often resisted because of the unknown so good communication at all stages is of the utmost importance. But show employees how the CRM strategy has the ability to increase their revenue they will be sure to see its value.
It is also a lot easier to win employee buy-in when implementing a CRM solution if the new way of working is user-friendly. Similarly there would be no point in investing time, effort and money in a new, improved way of doing things if the very people expected to make it successful view it with suspicion and wariness due to ignorance. Adequate training on a CRM solution is therefore essential and will ensure that the company gets the most out of their investment from the start. Training shouldn't also necessarily be a once-off endeavour. After all, new employees join the business over time and a good CRM solution should be flexible enough not to stop growing. As soon as you've reached your initial CRM goals you should evaluate what you have achieved and set further goals rather than rest on your laurels. It also makes sense to appoint a CRM consultant who can be tasked with improving the company's CRM experience by providing the amount of consultation that the company can afford and feels is appropriate.
How will you know when you've found the perfect CRM solution? “It's simple really– you will start seeing bigger profits as a direct result of increased customer satisfaction,” says Annett who firmly believes that we are only beginning to realise the value of this important tool.
Importantly, use of CRM software will also become more widespread. Most companies already have a CRM philosophy of some sort in place, but very often they lack the tools to convert their philosophy into everyday practice. This is a pity because great ideas can get lost by the wayside and it's less likely the company will thrive as well without a proper customer management strategy. “Every company – no matter how small – should really have some form of CRM solution,” Annett opines. One of the reasons they don't, he adds, is because of misperceptions surrounding the price of CRM systems. “Although large sums are often bandied about for an over-the-top solution, a small company can install an adequate CRM solution for less than
Other stumbling blocks which have traditionally stood in CRM's way include outdated IT infrastructure, which sometimes proves unable to support the latest operating systems, let alone additional applications such as accounting software or CRM applications, and the high cost of telephonic communications. But these obstacles pale in comparison to the threat of competition, says Annett, “Your competition will always be there, and the only way to keep ahead is by continuously improving the way you go about doing things.”
Tips for implementing a good CRM strategy
Before investing in a CRM solution, Camsoft advises that you:
1. Plan, plan, plan. Be sure of your strategy before you invest.
2. Appoint an organisational leader to drive the strategy and ensure staff buy-in.
3. Do your research, so that you can be sure that what you are wanting to do can be achieved.
4. Consult a reliable solution provider that has experience in CRM, and remember that the most expensive is not always the best.
5. CRM is a long-term investment and while you might experience some intial teething problems as employees become acquainted with the system, it's worth the effort and ultimately the results will speak for themselves.
About Maximizer Software
Maximizer Software is the world's leading provider of affordable and easy-to-use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software applications. The Maximizer line of products help companies develop more responsive, personalised and profitable customer experiences. Built on a modern, Web-based architecture, Maximizer is easily integrated with existing corporate systems and features the latest in sales force automation, marketing automation, email marketing and customer service technologies in a single mobile-accessible business management system. Maximizer Software has sold more than 1 million licenses of its award-winning software solutions to companies ranging in size from entrepreneurs to multi-national organisations. Customers include: Siemens, Playground - an Intrawest Company, HSBC, Cathay Pacific, TD Securities, Brian Tracy International, South Carolina Department of Commerce and Lockheed Martin.
Maximizer Software is a global business with an ecosystem of more than 8,000 corporate customers, 400 business partners and offices in the Americas, Europe/Middle East/Africa and Asia Pacific.
Camsoft Solutions is a Maximizer Business Partner and has actively been involved in the sales, support and training on Maximizer Enterprise Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions in southern Africa since 1995. With full service offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town and a technical office in Durban, Camsoft provides a wide range of technical support services including software customisation and development solutions.
Camsoft's customers using CRM solutions and services provided through Camsoft include banks, insurers, manufacturers, retailers, recruitment agencies, manufacturers and call centres, among others. www.maximizercrm.co.za For more information please contact
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