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The effective use of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) 2

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Jovana Stevanovic
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Extensive use of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software across modern businesses places it as the number one solution for businesses aiming to maximise their performance. CRM software helps companies organise, access and manage easily all the existing and prospective customer information. With this software, it is possible to create a client profile that keeps records of all contact information and customer interaction history accessible across the entire company. It integrates customer data from the initial contact collection, through the process of lead conversion and the finalisation of the sales process, as well as the details of ongoing support or follow-up. Marketing, sales and support departments yield results from CRM platforms by networking more effectively and ultimately driving more sales and generating more leads. CRM intelligently accumulates the valuable information that can be utilised to identify, attract and sell values that customers need.

The benefits and challenges of CRM

Businesses can benefit greatly from CRM software since they reduce the overall costs of acquiring, retaining, and serving customers. Furthermore, they increase sales to the existing customers by enhancing marketing effectiveness through campaign tracking, result and cost analysis. In effect, the competitiveness is raised while better product insight and improved customer loyalty result in pure profit. According to TechTarget, the real goal behind CRM use is to deploy the aspects of increasing profitability and revenue-generation.

In order for the CRM software to act as a potent tool for your business, a well thought through strategy and planning is required for its successful implementation. The importance of strategic planning cannot be stressed enough as nearly one third of businesses fail in implementation. The main reason is the lack of a comprehensive approach to understand the particular organisation’s needs and the CRM itself. Organisations mainly focus on the implementation of technology and not the business process itself. Specific marketing, customer support or sales goals and objectives that organisations are trying to achieve by CRM implementation need to be clearly and timely defined. Enforcing discipline, training and motivating the staff to use the software are also very important factors. To have fun in this process, the software must not be too complicated to use. Choosing the right CRM application that is simple and that can be easily integrated with other applications your organisation requires will help you meet your expectations and increase your profit.

Common features of CRM platforms

Over the years the CRM software delivery method has evolved, from client/server – based software to the current SaaS model. The SaaS pricing model is based on the utilisation and delivered to users as an on-demand service via their Internet browsers, as opposed to charging for ownership. Common features of CRM platforms include a multi-user environment, the automation of calls, at least 10MB of space, hourly backup and encryption of data, sharing of documents, communications and calendar, easy management of contacts, leads, customers, e-mail marketing and reporting, tracking of tasks and support. In addition, the CRM platforms should have the ability to customise the knowledge base, import data from other applications like Outlook and of course be built with enough flexibility to integrate other applications that business use on a daily basis. CRM systems should be flexible and customisable, having the features or capabilities that will be able to solve the problems that you may be experiencing.

3 popular CRM options

Highrise is basic CRM software that works great in coordination with Basecamp and its use is contract-free. Its main features include sharing contacts, assigning tasks, keeping history and making cases. However, customisation options are somewhat limited and it doesn’t have any reporting capabilities.

SugarCRM cloud computing services are in expansion and the applications currently serve over 800,000 end users and 7,000 customers. Sugar features include lead, account and opportunity management, campaign and case management, email marketing and incident tracking among others. It is also customisable and complex, but at the same time user-friendly. It is an open source CRM that allows users/community to develop third party applications, which can be found on their SugarForge site. Sugar offers Community Edition, which is free, and it is a good way for users and developers to learn how to use the software and be able to decide whether it suits their organisation’s needs or not.

Salesforce has transformed the enterprise software market with cloud computing. Their business apps and platforms are easy to use and are very social, almost like Facebook. It offers third party applications, such as AppExchange that can provide several types of broad solutions to complement your salesforce.com CRM subscription. The vast use of the third party apps means that users are not charged for what they don’t need. Salesforce.com achieves great customisation through apps and continues to evolve by putting emphasis on innovation in platform development, content management and user community. Saleseforce.com Professional Edition is perhaps one of the best customer relationship management subscription values in the SaaS market.

The basic versions of these three options are similarly priced. Highrise basic subscription price starts at $24 per month per 6 users and includes 5 GB of storage and 5,000 contacts. For $30 you can get basic SugarCRM license for 5 users and 15 GB of storage, while Salesforce.com pricing starts at $15 for 5 users. The buying decision will not be based on price primarily; it will greatly depend on the type and size of your business.

Making the right CRM choice

It is of paramount importance that the solution you choose is customisable and flexible. Do not get seduced by the latest and greatest features in a CRM system, as the sole features will not be the key benefits for your business. The CRM platform should support your organisation’s processes or you will not get the full value out of your purchase. Strategic planning, the specifics of your business and motivating your staff should be the three pillars you base your CRM platform choice and implementation on. If the foundation is set effectively you can relax and enjoy the benefits of making the right decision for your business.

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About Jovana Stevanovic

Jovana Stevanovic
Having studied, worked and lived abroad for a number of years, Jovana has developed a diverse set of skills and a unique perspective into the business world, which she applies in her current role as Marketing Automation Consultant. Her passion for online marketing and a keen interest in global marketing trends are what drives her to produce effective online campaigns for international clients in the IT sector. Jovana graduated from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and a minor in Public Relations. Jovana enjoys learning languages and is fluent in Serbian, English and Italian. Her other interests include social media, travelling and cooking.
  • Peter Thompson

    The decentralisation of workforces is making it harder for management to understand the interactions that happen between the business and the customers. A lot of information is lost over phone calls and email as the information transfer is one to one. Through effective use of CRM, its possible to track, manage and understand whats going on, even when the company is decentralised. I think company wide discipline is a great challenge for effective implementation of CRM.

  • Jovana Stevanovic

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Peter.
    Yes I agree, successful implementation of CRM can be quite challenging as the migration from current systems isn’t always simple. There is also the learning curve involved. However, most of the CRM systems are pretty easy to use. Also, the ability to keep the entire communication with customers in one place gives greater visibility to both the sales team and the management.