What Is CRM? – A Comprehensive Guide On CRM

What Is CRM? – Customer Relationship Management ( CRM ) software is a tool that organizes data, streamlines workflows, and manages your lead and lead pipeline. This comprehensive CRM guide will drive through all the important elements of CRM using six sections. We are sure that after completing reading this Codingcompiler guide on customer relationship management, you will be in a comfortable position to understand what is CRM and what it is used for, and other aspects of CRM. So, let’s get started.

Table of Contents

Section 1: What is CRM? – What it does do and what it can do for your business?

This section discusses what is CRM and what it can do for businesses.

What is CRM?

“ CRM ” is a short acronym for “ Customer Relationship Management ”. This phrase can convey two related meanings:

  • A process that allows you to manage and optimize customer relationships
  • Software used to automate the customer relationship management process

This guide will focus on CRM software, but to better understand what the software does, it’s important first to discuss the processes that CRM technology can automate.

CRM as a Process

As a systematic process, CRM manages all stages of your customer relationship. It brings together all the business functions that interact with the client, so there is one central view. These include:

  • Information management
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Support
  • Finance

CRMS manages and improves how you:

  • Gather information about prospects and customers from the first interaction to the end of the customer’s lifecycle.
  • Segment your customers for effective marketing campaigns.
  • Use the information collected from customers to optimize the sales process.
  • Track and manage customer interactions to maximize customer satisfaction and retention.

An integrated approach to CRM includes managing all of these processes and more.

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 CRM Software

CRM software automates the customer relationship management process for efficiency and maximum productivity. To support customer relationship management, CRM software automates the following processes:

  • Collection, storage, analysis, and use of customer information to develop strategies and tactics
  • Using Ideal Buyer Profiles to Identify Hot Leads
  • Track lead interactions throughout the sales cycle to personalize touchpoints and increase close rates
  • Optimizing sales force management for better talent utilization
  • Track and improve customer service performance
  • Identify dissatisfied customers at risk of churn to create customer retention opportunities
  • Providing relevant customer information to field service agents to improve customer service

 

What does CRM software do?

CRM software simplifies routine customer relationship management procedures that would be time-consuming, time-consuming, inefficient, or costly to perform manually. This allows your team to improve customer relationship management efficiency while spending less time and money on CRM tasks. Here are some of the key tasks that CRM software automates.

Customer data management

At one time, sales representatives stored customer contact information manually on index cards using Rolodex (rolling index) files, invented in 1956 and introduced in 1958. With the advent of personal computers in the 1970s and 1980s, companies began storing contact information in spreadsheet formats such as Excel. Software designed specifically for CRM started to appear in the 1990s and soon migrated to the cloud and mobile devices.

CRM contact management software offers several advantages over spreadsheets when it comes to managing customer data:

  • Collection, storage, analysis, and use of customer information to develop strategies and tactics
  • Using Ideal Buyer Profiles to Identify Hot Leads
  • Track lead interactions throughout the sales cycle to personalize touchpoints and increase close rates
  • Optimizing sales force management for better talent utilization
  • Track and improve customer service performance
  • Identify dissatisfied customers at risk of churn to create customer retention opportunities
  • Providing relevant customer information to field service agents to improve customer service

These benefits have made CRM software increasingly popular as an alternative to spreadsheets for managing customer data.

 

Organization of marketing campaigns

When marketing teams use CRM data, they perform many useful functions for their campaigns:

  • Segment leads and customers to determine which demographic profiles are most likely to purchase a particular product.
  • Assesses and ranks how closely prospects match ideal buyer profiles to prioritize profitable opportunities and minimize wasted effort.
  • Allows marketers to deliver personalized content to customers based on individual customer data, improving the conversion rate of marketing campaigns.
  • Analyze the success of marketing efforts to replicate high-performing campaigns and avoid repeating wasteful campaigns.

 

Sales optimization

CRM software has become especially popular as a sales performance optimization tool. CRM sales pipeline management tools  allow sales teams to:

Improving Customer Service Efficiency

Companies are increasingly using CRM tools to improve customer service efficiency. CRM software can help customer service teams:

  • Proactively anticipate customer needs based on historical information gathered from customer interactions across multiple channels.
  • Reduce customer wait times by making customer data available to human assistants, automated IVRs, and chatbots.
  • Identify opportunities to attract customers at risk of churn.
  • Reduce the workload on human agents by using CRM data to pass routine tickets that do not require human assistance to automated tools.
  • Provide personalized assistance to customers based on their account information.
  • Improve service delivery by gathering customer feedback and analyzing trends.
  • Provide on-site customer service representatives with information to improve their level of support.

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How CRM Software Works

  1. Collection
  2. Storage
  3. Analysis
  4. Application

1. Collection

Customer data can enter a CRM system from several sources, including:

  • Personal conversations with clients
  • Phone calls
  • Letters from clients
  • Letters
  • Digital marketing like PPC
  • Online forms
  • Social networks
  • Direct Marketing Mailing Lists

The first step in the CRM process is to collect data from these sources.

2. Storage

As customer data is collected, it is entered and stored in the database of your CRM program. Entering data into a CRM program typically involves two types of procedures:

  • Digital files are imported into the CRM program
  • Non-digital files must first be digitized before they can be imported.

Typically, the digital data that needs to be imported into a CRM program is in a spreadsheet program such as Excel. Spreadsheet programs can be formatted as a comma-separated value (CSV) file. 

This changes the spreadsheet into a text file, using commas to separate data fields instead of cells. This makes it easy to import customer data from a spreadsheet into CRM.

It is also possible to transfer data directly from one CRM to another using third-party data migration services such as Data2CRM.

3. Analysis

Once the data is stored in your CRM system, you can begin to analyze it and use the information to make better business decisions. 

You can easily track key performance indicators (KPIs) for specific teams and individuals to measure their performance against specific business goals. Examples of KPIs are:

  • Key marketing performance metrics such as campaign revenue, cost per lead, and customer lifetime value
  • Key sales metrics such as new leads, lead conversion rates, and average revenue per sales account
  • Key customer service metrics such as average wait time, average resolution time, and first contact resolution rate

To help you visualize this type of data in a meaningful way, CRM programs automatically generate specific reports and display the data in dashboards. 

CRM programs usually have standard report formats that summarize frequently desired data such as sales forecasts. 

Many CRM programs also allow you to customize sales reports so you can analyze the data that is important to your business.

4. Application

CRM reports and dashboards provide you with information that you can use in practice. In order to put CRM data to practical use, you need a way to disseminate this information to your marketing, sales, and customer service departments. 

Many CRM programs allow you to create personalized dashboards so that each team member can view the data that best suits their role. 

For example, a sales manager’s dashboard might display a list of “hot leads” that are most likely to turn into sales in the next 90 days, which they can use to forecast revenue and prioritize their sales reps.

The use of CRM data may also include synchronizing it with another program for practical use. 

For example, integration with email marketing platforms allows you to store and segment your data in CRM, and send that data to a mailing list in your email marketing software, where you then create and submit your campaign. With two-way synchronization, key metrics such as open and click rates are automatically added to your CRM.

Common CRM Applications

CRM can be used for simple contact management as well as managing every step of your customer’s journey from the minute they show interest right through to becoming a long-term customer. However, CRM software is typically used for the following key tasks:

  • Customer contact information management
  • Automation of subscriber and subscriber lists for email and social media campaigns
  • Tracking marketing, sales, and customer service interactions with customers
  • Track leads and sales through the pipeline
  • Task and team management
  • Automating customer service tasks such as triggering emails when customers are “at-risk” of leaving
  • Analysis of the effectiveness of marketing, sales, and customer service

Who Uses CRM?

CRM is suitable for businesses of all sizes in any industry. Good customer relationship management is the foundation of business growth and is relevant to everyone.

  • Startups use CRM to acquire new customers and save time on data management.
  • Small businesses use CRM to streamline their workflow, expand their operations, and increase productivity.
  • Medium-sized companies and large companies use CRM to optimize marketing, sales, and customer service and maximize their revenues.

Virtually every industry uses CRM software, including livestock, as most CRMs can be customized to improve workflows. But it is true to say that many industries and departments find CRM particularly useful in the following areas:

  • Sales teams use CRM to streamline the sales process, manage sales pipelines, and optimize productivity.
  • Marketers use CRM to segment customers, track leads, and deliver customized content.
  • Senior business managers use CRM for business intelligence to help make strategic decisions.
  • Call centers use CRM data to reduce customer wait times and improve satisfaction.
  • Real estate agents find CRMs useful for contact management, matching lists with leads, and sales support.
  • Travel agencies use CRMs to store customer travel preferences and deliver superior, personalized travel experiences.
  • Accountants use CRM to manage their accounting processes, integrating with accounting applications to create a complete view of their clients.
  • Construction companies and contractors organize customer and project data with their CRM.
  • Hotels and restaurants increase customer loyalty by using CRM to provide more personalized services.

As these examples show, customer relationship management software is becoming popular across many industries, resulting in a growing number of vendors and solutions. 

To make the most of this valuable technology, read on to learn more about the important CRM terminology you need to know when comparing software options.

Section 2: CRM Glossary – ​​Popular CRM Terms Explained

Customer relationship management software has many specialized terms and acronyms. Knowing what this means can help you understand the features of the software and compare solutions to help you make the right choice.

Here are some of the common CRM terms:

CRM Glossary Starts With “A”

  • Account:  The customer or company to which the firm sells products or services, and there may be other records associated with that customer or company.
  • Activity: An employee’s action or interaction with a customer. For example, the activities of a sales rep can be tracked in a CRM system, such as finding calls or attending sales meetings.
  • Analytics:  Statistical interpretation of CRM data performed for the purpose of identifying relationships between variables, modeling trends, and predicting and optimizing performance.
  • Application Programming Interface (API): A  computer program that allows software integration between a CRM tool and another application to share data and functionality.
  • API:  See “Application Programming Interface”.
  • Auto Reply:  An email software service that allows you to import CRM data to send emails to multiple recipients at the same time or on a pre-set schedule.

CRM Glossary Starts With “B”

  • BANT: An acronym for “budget, authority, needs, and timeline”, referring to the criteria traditionally used to qualify potential clients. (Also see “CHAMPION”)
  • Business Intelligence:  Apply statistics to analyze CRM data to identify past trends, predict future trends, and improve current performance.

CRM Glossary Starts With “C”

  • Case: An area of ​​CRM configured for a specific activity or interaction. For example, a customer service case related to a specific issue.
  • Case management: A  systematic method for tracking and managing customer interactions.
  • Case management CRM: A  specialized CRM tool or application for managing customer interactions.
  • CHAMP:  An acronym for “Challenges Authority Money Prioritation,” which refers to the four modern criteria used to qualify leads.
  • Cloud CRM: CRM software hosted remotely by your CRM provider and accessible via the web or mobile app.
  • Comma Separated Values ​​(CSV):  A file format commonly used in spreadsheet programs such as Excel, characterized by the use of commas to separate data fields. Often used to store contact information. CSV files are often imported into CRM software or exported from CRM programs to other applications.
  • Contact Management:  Standard operating procedures for storing, retrieving, and using your customer’s contact information.
  • Contacts:  Typically any person or organization that interacts with your business, such as a leader, customer, or supplier, that you store in your CRM database along with contact information.
  • Conversion: The process of converting a potential customer into a paying customer.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of leads that turn into paying customers, calculated as the ratio of the number of leads that become customers to the total number of leads that interact with your sales representatives, expressed as a percentage.
  • CSV:  see Comma Separated Values ​​section.

CRM Glossary Starts With “D”

  • Dashboard:  Visual reports of all the data that matters to you, designed to make it easy for people to absorb information at a glance.
  • Database:  An organized collection of customer records. Usually refers to records stored in a digital format such as a spreadsheet or CRM system, but can also refer to physical records.

CRM Glossary Starts With “E”

Email Template: A  pre-designed or pre-written email that can be modified and sent to contacts, especially useful for bulk email campaigns.

CRM Glossary Starts With “F”

Field:  The area in the CRM database where you enter data. For example, a number field could be a phone number, and a text field could be an email address.

CRM Glossary Starts With “H”

Hot Lead: A  new contact who has exhibited certain behaviors indicating they are highly likely to make a purchase.

CRM Glossary Starts With “I”

Integration:  The process of exchanging data between a CRM program and other software in order to optimize business processes. For example, integrating CRM data into an autoresponder program automates the process of sending bulk emails.

CRM Glossary Starts With “J”

Unwanted Lead:  A leader who has expressed interest in a product but shows key signals that they are unable to purchase it, such as not having a sufficient budget. Therefore, it is unprofitable to waste time chasing them.

CRM Glossary Starts With “K”

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):  Variables were chosen to measure and track the impact of individuals on business performance.
  • Knowledge Base: A  digital tool that stores key business documentation such as support for assisting customer service representatives or customer self-service.
  • KPI:  See the Key Performance Indicators section.

CRM Glossary Starts With “L”

  • Last Touch: The last interaction with a customer before they become a paying customer.
  • Host:  An unqualified sales representative who has expressed an interest in your business but has not qualified for any of the BANT or CHAMP criteria.
  • Lead Conversion: The process of converting leads into leads or customers. (See lead.)
  • Lead Conversion Rate: The percentage of leads that convert to leads or customers. 
  • Lead scoring: The process of giving a lead a series of points to show how likely they are to buy from you. Ratings can be based on certain criteria such as company revenue, industry type, as well as buying signals such as content downloads or event attendance. 

CRM Glossary Starts With “M”

  • Marketing Accepted Leader (MAL): A  leader who has been identified as a valid opportunity to become a paying customer based on how well they meet certain criteria.
  • Marketing Qualified Leader (MQL): A  leader who has been judged to be worth the time and resources pursued based on their meeting certain criteria.

CRM Glossary Starts With “O”

  • On-demand CRM:  It’s a Cloud CRM. All your data is stored in clouds and accessed as per your request.
  • Local CRM: The CRM  software is stored locally on your own servers.
  • Opportunity:  A potential income-generating transaction with a person or organization that has expressed interest in your product or service.

CRM Glossary Starts With “P”

  • Pipeline Management: The process of proactively moving leads through the steps to becoming paying customers. Can refer to lead management for individual sales reps as well as sales teams.
  • Perspective:  A qualified leader whose profile matches your target market and shows specific buy signals.

CRM Glossary Starts With “Q”

Qualified  Lead: A lead that meets the established criteria and is proven to be a real opportunity worth your sales rep’s time and effort to convert into a purchase. Also known as a promising candidate.

CRM Glossary Starts With “R”

  • Record: The profile of an individual contact, organization, or opportunity. It can also be used to describe a string of data associated with an individual contact.
  • Report: A summary of data in a CRM system organized in a format suitable for easy interpretation and practical use.
  • Roles: Different levels of permissions that a CRM user can have to perform certain actions in the software. Used to monitor activity and data across teams and individuals.

CRM Glossary Starts With “S”

  • Sales Funnels: A visual representation of the number of leads, leads, sales meetings, and closed sales that are currently being processed by a sales rep or team. The conversion rate at which contacts at one stage of the sales process move to the next step can also be included. Since each step in the sales process involves more than the previous one (for example, the number of leads exceeds the number of leads), the visual representation is wider at the top than at the bottom, hence the “funnel” image.
  • Sales Pipeline: A  visual representation of each stage of your sales process. You use it to track all of your sales opportunities to a winning deal. It can also refer to the quantity and potential dollar value of current sales activity by an individual sales representative or sales team.
  • Segmentation:  Organize your contact list into groups classified according to selected criteria. You can classify leads that didn’t buy from you into a separate group from leads that did. Useful for more targeted marketing and personalized sales.

CRM Glossary Starts With “T”

  • Task: The action required to advance the business activity. Organizing a sales meeting will be a task performed by the sales team to develop a leader. CRM programs allow you to define tasks and track their progress.
  • Task Management: The process of organizing your tasks and those of others. 
  • Touch:  Marketing or sales interaction with a leader.

CRM Glossary Starts With “W”

  • Workflow: A  series of steps required to complete a business task.
  • Workflow automation:  when activities are started automatically without any manual input, for example, one task is started as soon as another is closed.

Knowing these CRM terms will make it easier for you to compare the features of CRM software products. Keep reading to find out how CRM software can benefit your business.

Section 3: Top 4 Benefits of CRM

How can CRM grow your business? Customer relationship management software offers many business benefits. These benefits span a wide range of industries and multiple departments, making the list numerous. To focus on a few highlights, four of the leading benefit categories include:

  • Save time and streamline your workflow with contact management
  • Maximizing sales with sales pipeline management
  • Improving efficiency with team management
  • Optimizing Performance with Analytical Reports

Save time and streamline your workflow by keeping your contacts in one convenient place

Contact information is at the heart of CRM as it is the key to building customer relationships. The customer relationship management tool provides you with a single digital interface to store, view and manage your contact information. This seemingly simple feature provides an amazingly powerful range of applications that save time, streamline workflows and deliver business benefits:

  • See all your contact information in one place instead of sifting through multiple apps or physical files
  • Track the history of all your interactions with a client
  • Store emails, documents, and files related to customer interactions
  • Manage tasks for contacts by creating to-do lists and tracking progress
  • Search contact databases to instantly get the information you need
  • Share contact lists with colleagues to ensure everyone on the team is up to date
  • Get to know your contacts by saving their social media account information and adding custom tags and fields for additional data
  • Create contact lists for easy export to applications such as email marketing tools
  • Contact categorization for more segmented internal communication and external marketing
  • See all interactions with contacts at a glance
  • View summary data from integrated applications for each contact

Manage your sales pipeline for maximum revenue

When you use CRM contact management to manage your sales contacts, the results can multiply the revenue flowing through your sales pipeline. Using CRM to manage your sales pipeline allows you to:

  • View all sales opportunities at a glance
  • Easily compare the performance of each individual sales rep or team
  • Identify the activities that have the biggest impact on sales conversion so you can do more of them
  • Track KPIs to identify areas for performance improvement and optimization
  • More accurate forecast of future earnings
  • Set realistic business growth goals
  • Prioritizing High-Value Opportunities
  • Determine where the prospect is in your sales cycle and what needs to be done next to move them forward
  • Compare sales activity with revenue projections to see if more search effort is required to meet quotas
  • Identify the top performers on your team and match them to your hottest sales opportunities
  • Track sales contact history including notes, emails, and attached documents.

Improve team efficiency by using CRM to manage your team

Customer relationship management software is not just for managing customer data. It works equally well for managing teams. Here’s how CRMs serve as a powerful tool for team management:

  • Store information about company personnel
  • Organize staff lists so you can easily identify teams
  • Efficiently distribute workload from one central point
  • Consolidate teams with specific roles so they only see their relevant contacts, sales, and customer service cases
  • Restrict access to sensitive information for security purposes
  • Create specific contact lists for internal communication
  • Coordinate team calendars
  • Meeting schedule
  • Delegate tasks among team members
  • Create step-by-step workflows for people to know exactly what and when
  • Monitoring the implementation of projects and tasks
  • Report on team and individual activities

Monitor and optimize performance with CRM analytics reports

Your customer and internal data serve as invaluable sources of information for your marketing, sales, and customer service teams. Using analytics in your CRM allows you to turn your data into actionable business intelligence. Using analytics to create CRM reports, you can:

  • Mining sales data to get an idea of ​​the state of your pipeline
  • Break down pipeline activity into each stage of the funnel, such as leads, qualified leads, opportunities for trending
  • Track sales activity to ensure your team is generating enough leads and closing enough deals to meet your revenue goals
  • Calculate the average cost of sales and the average cost of living for a customer
  • Track the average time it takes your team to close a sale so you can better predict sales volume and revenue
  • Control every aspect of your sales cycle, both for individual clients and for your team as a whole
  • View the number of sales opportunities won by individuals and teams to share best practices
  • Identify lost sales opportunities so you can take corrective action before it’s too late
  • Notice where your sales pipeline is leaking and take action to fix it
  • Set realistic benchmarks to measure progress against sales goals
  • Monitoring the work of individual sales representatives
  • Identify where reps are having trouble in the sales process and where they need to improve
  • Predict if your team members are on track to meet quotas
  • Compare individual performance to team averages
  • Export report data to other applications for additional functionality such as Google Data Studio
  • Share reports with other members of your organization

These benefits and other compelling reasons why companies adopt CRM software as it will enable all areas of the business to run more efficiently. Before settling on a CRM solution, you should read on to learn about the main types of CRM software that you can choose from.

Sections 4: Three Types of CRM Software

Customer relationship management programs contain various features. While there are many ways to categorize CRM software, in terms of functionality, most applications generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Operating room
  • Analytical
  • Cooperation

Operational CRM software

Operational CRM is the most popular category of customer relationship management software. They automate customer-related business operations such as sales, marketing, and customer service. By centralizing the management of customer data from these business functions, they help streamline the workflow.

Sales are one of the most popular operational CRM applications, and some CRM interfaces handle sales data exclusively. When used for sales, CRM operational software serves to support features such as

  • Storing contact lists
  • Lead tracking through the sales cycle
  • Storing information about leads through notes, emails, and document attachments
  • Prioritizing leads based on qualification criteria
  • Assigning leads to representatives
  • Schedule follow-up reminders for reps to contact leads
  • Create individual and team sales reports

Marketing constitutes another major CRM operational application, often closely integrated with sales CRM. Marketing CRM software performs functions such as:

  • Organization of contact lists generated from sources such as email, social media pages, online advertising, and direct mail
  • Lead segmentation for more targeted marketing
  • Lead tracking through the marketing funnel
  • Monitor prospect interaction across multiple channels
  • Evaluation of potential customers based on qualification criteria
  • Assign custom content that matches demographic profiles
  • Schedule automated follow-ups

Customer service has become the third major application of operational CRM. Customer service CRMs serve to both improve support and drive sales, increasing satisfaction and opportunities to increase sales. Operational CRM software helps customer service teams streamline key functions such as:

  • Organization of customer service data obtained from all support channels, including chat, phone, and email support
  • Storing notes, emails, and file attachments associated with support tickets
  • Map support tickets to customer account information for a more personalized and faster service
  • Segmentation of tickets requiring human assistance from normal requests that can be processed using self-service
  • Offer customized solutions for self-support channels such as knowledge bases and IVR based on customer data
  • Prioritize tickets requiring human support and plan them with available representatives
  • Scheduling automatic follow-ups and follow-up reminders for tickets that require them
  • Create specific workflows for agents to follow during a call so that a consistent level of service is always provided

Analytical CRM Software

Customer relationship management software can also serve as a source of business intelligence. CRM analytics software takes data obtained from customer interactions and identifies information that can be used to measure, predict and improve performance. Analytical tools can be built into CRM operating software or packaged separately.

CRM analytics can be applied to any of the business functions supported by operational CRM. When applied to sales data, CRM analytics software can be used to:

  • Identify trends that characterize potential customers who are more likely to buy
  • Classify leads based on buyer profiles
  • Identify your top sales opportunities and top customers for more sales activity
  • Team sales performance analysis
  • Determine which sales reps bring in the most revenue
  • Note the risks of missed quota and take corrective action
  • Determine which products sell best and those that need to be discarded
  • Determine the natural sales cycle for your products and services
  • Align Product Sales Trends with Inventory Planning

When used for marketing data analysis, CRM software serves to:

  • Deliver market research into audience demographics
  • Development of profiles of ideal buyers
  • Identify the best marketing lead sources
  • Segment audiences for targeted campaigns
  • Match personalized marketing content to individual leads
  • Tailor advertising channels to individual preferences
  • Analysis of the effectiveness of a marketing campaign
  • Optimize Lead Conversion
  • Determine which campaigns are generating the most leads and the best return on investment

Analytical CRM also provides valuable insights for customer support teams. When applied to customer service data, analytical CRM can:

  • Combine information from multiple support channels for a complete perspective
  • Segment Support Tickets for Trending
  • Analysis of customers’ buyer profiles for cross-selling and upselling opportunities
  • Measure customer satisfaction
  • Compare satisfaction across different support channels
  • Customer Health Tracking
  • Identify customers at the highest churn risk
  • Tracking key performance indicators that affect customer satisfaction
  • Determine which customer service issues are generating the most ticket volume
  • Determine if there is any delay in the support process

CRM Collaboration Software

The third main category of customer relationship management software is called collaborative CRM, also sometimes referred to as strategic CRM. This type of CRM software shares customer data across departments to promote a consistent customer experience for a company. 

For example, data collected by the customer service department is shared with marketing and sales representatives so that they can recommend products that are better suited to the customer’s needs. This serves to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Collaboration CRM software performs several main functions:

  • Interaction management
  • Channel management

Interaction management tracks and optimizes all customer-to-company interactions, be it marketing, sales, or customer support. 

For example, a purchase recorded by the sales team is passed on to customer service to trigger a follow-up call to customer service and check if the customer is happy with the product.

Channel management collects and shares data about a customer’s preferred communication channel. 

For example, some customers prefer to be contacted by email, while others prefer phone calls or text messages. Channel management ensures that all departments are aware of customer preferences. 

This contributes to increased customer satisfaction, building better relationships, and increasing loyalty.

Category Intersection

The three main categories of customer relationship management software are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Advanced CRM tools can combine features from all of these categories. CRM tools can also integrate with other programs to provide multi-category functionality.

Now that you know a little about the different types of CRM software, you are in a better position to compare solutions. Keep reading to find out the key features you should look for in a CRM tool.

Section 5: 14+ Things You Should Look for in a CRM and How to Choose Them

There is a lot to think about when you are deciding how to choose the right CRM for your business. Some important criteria apply to most companies looking for CRM solutions. Additional considerations apply depending on the size and nature of your business. 

Here are 14 common things to look for in any CRM solution, as well as some elements that may be important for your company’s size and industry.

For most CRM applications, certain essential criteria are commonly used. When making a CRM purchase decision, the following features should be considered:

  1. Contact management tools
  2. Sales pipeline management
  3. Analytics and reporting
  4. Task management and calendar planning
  5. Team Capabilities and Roles
  6. Workflow automation
  7. Setting
  8. Possibility of integration
  9. Mobility
  10. Ease of use
  11. Uptime
  12. Safety
  13. Customer Service
  14. Price

1. Contact management tools

Since contact data storage is the most fundamental feature of customer relationship management software, this feature should be first on your list when considering CRM solutions. 

All CRM tools can perform the basic function of storing customer data. Others have advanced contact management features such as:

  • One view of all client data in one place, including notes, external documents, emails, PDFs, and any integrated application information
  • Tagging capability so you can segment your contact list into categories such as leads, customers, or vendors
  • Import and Export allow you to easily extract data from programs such as Excel, Outlook, and Gmail.
  • Lists to segment your contacts based on different criteria

See what contact management tools are included in the CRM solution you are considering.

2. Sales management

Sales support represents one of the most common reasons for adopting CRM, making sales pipeline management one of the most important functions in CRM solutions. If you are planning to use a CRM for sales, look out for features such as:

  • Sales dashboards to see all key sales data at a glance
  • Ability to track the progress of sales opportunities
  • Pipeline Revenue Forecasts
  • Sales pipeline key performance indicators such as conversion rates
  • Advanced Sales Reporting
  • The ability to see the results of the work of team members

3. Analytics and reporting

Analytics ranks with sales pipeline management among the most important CRM applications. Most CRM tools include analytics and reporting capabilities. Some offer much more advanced business intelligence features such as:

  • Specialized sales performance statistics
  • Pipeline performance is broken down by variables such as sales rep, team activity, and pipeline forecast
  • Detailed tabular data is displayed
  • Advanced filters to focus on the information you need
  • Built-in reports displaying frequently requested information
  • Ability to create custom reports
  • Integration with external analytics tools to expand the functionality

4. Task management and scheduling

If you plan to use CRM for team collaboration, task management and scheduling become important considerations. A CRM software with these features can allow you to:

  • Associate contacts with ongoing tasks such as follow-up sales calls
  • Automate tasks to better organize your workflow
  • Categorizing Tasks for a Performance Report
  • Schedule tasks on individual and team calendars
  • Define repetitive tasks to streamline routine activities

5. Team Capabilities and Roles

Collaboration can be improved with CRMs that offer team and role management. Teams and roles allow you to control access to information by segmenting the workforce, contributing to a smoother workflow, as well as improved security. Look for a CRM that allows you to:

  • Organize internal contact into teams to limit the contacts, sales opportunities, or customer service cases they can access
  • Assign team members roles that define the data they can access and the tasks they can perform
  • Track performance and act both as a team and individually

6. Workflow automation

Task management, calendar scheduling, and team and role capabilities can help automate your workflow more efficiently. To use CRM for productivity, find a solution that includes:

  • Built-in features to automate common business functions such as sales tracking or marketing touch planning
  • Integration with other applications such as marketing platforms or accounting programs to increase workflow automation

7. Customization

Being able to customize your CRM can greatly enhance its functionality and value. Various CRM tools offer a range of areas that you can customize, including:

  • fields for recording customer information
  • lists for segmentation
  • team and roles
  • reports
  • dashboards for more efficient deployment of analytics

8. Possibility of integration

External integration can also greatly enhance the functionality of CRM. Many CRMs integrate with the most popular business software tools. 

Others offer much more choice or the ability to connect to a third-party tool like Zapier to connect your CRM to any tool. 

CRM sales pages usually contain a list of compatible applications for integration. Integration options typically include:

  • Accounting software
  • Contact lists from other programs
  • Email Marketing Tools
  • Google Suite
  • Help Desk Tools
  • Inventory management software
  • Billing tools
  • Marketing platforms
  • Payroll Time Tracking Software
  • Project Management Software
  • Phone and VoIP applications
  • Web Chat Tools
  • Web Form Applications

When considering CRM solutions, see if the tools you already use can be easily integrated with your CRM software.

9. Mobility

With the rise of business owners and workers doing business from their smartphones, mobile interoperability has become a sought-after CRM feature. CRM tools were originally designed for desktop computers. 

Some desktop apps that have been moved to the cloud still retain a desktop-centric design, while others have developed a mobile version. Other CRM tools have their own mobile design.

When choosing CRM tools, see how it works on your mobile devices. Also, find out if your provider uses cloud apps or traditional software installation.

10. Ease of use

User experience can have a significant impact on the success of your CRM solution. A well-designed interface can make your workflow easier, while a bad design can hinder functionality and waste time. 

Most CRM tools provide one or more dashboard views to view key information. Take a close look at the design of your CRM app dashboard before deciding whether to use it or not. Ideally, arrange a live demonstration or trial simulation of it in action. 

You can also get a good idea of ​​the usability of a CRM application from video demos, tutorials, and online reviews.

11. Uptime

Whether you are using a cloud-based CRM application or your team will be accessing the CRM application through an online portal, your ability to use CRM will depend on the reliability of your provider’s server. ISPs measure server uptime by expressing it as a percentage. 

A server with 99.999 percent uptime (“five nines”) only experiences about 5.26 minutes of downtime per year, which is considered very reliable. The 99.99 percent (“four nines”) uptime is about 52.6 minutes of downtime per year. Check your provider’s uptime rating when considering solutions.

12. Safety

Your CRM data is an attractive target for cybercriminals, and it’s important to consider security when choosing providers. The security of your CRM solution depends both on your provider’s practices and the type of security tools built into your CRM software, such as two-step verification. 

Tools such as team and role management can help you restrict access to sensitive information so that only authorized users can see it. Also, talk to your ISP about what security practices they follow so you can be sure your data is safe.

13. Customer Service

Because CRM is a technology product, customer support can make a big difference in your user experience. Before agreeing to a contract with a CRM provider, research the website, talk to their representative, and use their communication channels to see how responsive and friendly they are. 

Many CRM providers use chatbots, which can work well for standard questions but can be frustrating when you need to talk to a person. Consider questions such as:

  • Is training provided or is it self-service?
  • What support channels are available?
  • Who is responsible for migrating data from existing contact files to the CRM software?
  • Do you retain all rights to your data?
  • What is your provider’s policy for backing up and restoring your data in the event of an emergency?

14. Price

As with any business expense, price plays an important role when evaluating CRM solutions. Prices for CRM solutions range from free to premium packages.

Consider both declared costs and hidden fees when estimating prices. Talk to your supplier’s sales representative about questions such as:

  • Potential setup fee
  • Data migration fee
  • Tuition expenses
  • License fees
  • negotiable contracts
  • Free updates
  • Cancellation fee

When considering the price, be sure to weigh the costs against the potential savings in efficiency, productivity, and revenue that CRM can generate in order to evaluate the ROI. Cheaper is not necessarily the best investment. 

If you’re starting with the base package, consider the cost of the top package as well, as you want to make sure you can afford the next step up as your business grows.

Business size considerations

The size of your business may influence your choice of CRM. Startups and established small and medium enterprises have different requirements for a CRM solution.

Startups

If you are a startup, you may have a relatively small contact list, but people may be responsible for multiple roles. Keeping customer data in one place, along with all their interactions with your business, will help everyone work more efficiently.

Startups can also be in the process of building an efficient sales pipeline, and this often changes as they sell to more customers. Having a system that can be easily adapted to their changing needs is essential, CRM systems are perfect for this. 

Using CRM to streamline your sales process from the start helps busy business owners keep their revenue under control. By having an organized system to track and monitor interest in your business, you will ensure that nothing important will ever fall through the cracks, a CRM solution will be like your own PA.

For startups, the price also greatly influences the choice of CRM. If your startup is still on a tight budget, you can start with a freemium version of the CRM solution and upgrade later when the revenue levels increase.

Small business

Like startups, small businesses may need to export contact information from other software to a CRM program. However, an established small business typically has a larger customer database and higher sales volume, with a greater need for better sales automation.

Small business owners considering CRM software may need a solution that helps them manage their sales team. They may also want their CRM solution to handle marketing and customer service as well. Also, CRM software that stores data about partners and vendors, as well as customers, can be important.

An established small business may also use more software than a startup, making integration an important feature in a CRM solution.

Medium business

Midsize businesses have the same CRM needs as their smaller counterparts but on a larger scale. Their CRM solution may be required to work with a larger sales team with more complex sales procedures. Plus, they can use their CRM to manage larger marketing and customer service teams.

A medium-sized business may place more emphasis on revenue growth and efficiency gains than a smaller one. This puts the focus on the business intelligence side of CRM, making a CRM solution with advanced analytics and reporting tools ideal.

Midsize companies also tend to have more complex IT operations than small businesses. They may need a CRM with more advanced integration and customization features.

Industry Needs

CRM needs can also vary by industry. Some industries may require a CRM that they can customize to fit their workflows. Examples include:

  • Real estate
  • Travel agencies
  • Accountants
  • Construction
  • Hotels and hospitality

Real estate

For a real estate business, CRM plays an important role as a lead generation tool. When a home buyer contacts a real estate agent expressing interest in a property, the chances of a sale drop rapidly if the agent does not respond immediately. 

A real estate CRM system should allow realtors to manage communications with potential clients in one interface from their mobile devices in order to quickly respond to inquiries.

In addition, real estate CRM should help agents manage access to listings. CRMs can serve an important marketing function as they allow agents to extract leads from multiple listing services and online resources. The ability to share listings with clients by sending them links can also help schedule property viewings more efficiently.

Travel agencies

Travel agents need a CRM solution that can handle a wide range of data. In addition to storing customer preferences, a travel agency CRM must store information about flights, hotel reservations, itineraries, and all elements related to travel. 

A solution supporting this should be easily customized to help travel agents view all relevant information in one place.

Travel agency CRMs should also help agents provide superior customer service. CRM task management features can help agents keep track of travel to-do lists and send schedule reminders so that customers enjoy themselves from the moment they book. 

CRM can also support customer service by tailoring post-booking information such as resort guides, restaurant reviews, and the best places to visit. 

Delivering such a personalized customer experience, from inquiry to post-ride feedback, can be delivered and tracked with CRM software to increase loyalty and referrals.

Accountants

The accounting CRM must integrate the customer’s contact details with the relevant financial information. At a minimum, a CRM accounting tool should allow accountants to store notes and files related to client accounting. 

Ideally, the accounting CRM application should be able to integrate with the accounting application that the customer is using for optimal performance.

CRM accounting software can also help build relationships with clients by providing flawless service. 

For example, an accountant can schedule automated workflows in CRM to remind them and their clients when specific actions need to be taken to meet tax filing deadlines. 

Accountants can also use CRM to share financial reports and information with clients for better business planning.

Construction

For construction teams, CRM applications can serve as combined marketing, sales, customer service, and project management tools. 

A construction CRM should help teams share construction plans with potential clients and clients, as well as keep clients informed about project progress. 

This requires a solution with the ability to customize data fields and track scheduled tasks.

Construction crews can also use CRM to streamline communication with workers and suppliers. 

A construction-friendly CRM solution should allow project managers to schedule tasks and share reminders.

 Solutions that can integrate with other applications can also serve as tools to automate processes such as signing contracts and sending invoices.

Hotels and hospitality

For hospitality and hospitality businesses, CRM serves as a powerful tool for delivering superior service and increasing customer loyalty. 

Using a CRM to store reservation and booking information allows hotels and restaurants to view all customer-related information in one place, including notes on preferences and requests. 

To support this type of personalized service, the CRM must have an area for adding custom notes.

In addition, hospitality and hospitality providers can use CRM to send out promotional offers to generate repeat business. 

A CRM that lets you segment your customer list and integrate it with marketing apps can help you drive better results and increase revenue.

Choose the right features for your needs

CRM solutions support a wide range of features suitable for a variety of business sizes and industries. Consider the individual needs of your company and choose CRM accordingly.

Whichever CRM solution you choose, you will be faced with the task of implementing your software. Read on for some tips on smoother CRM implementation.

Section 6: Implementation and Deployment Guide for Your New CRM

The decision represents a big step towards CRM implementation, but it is only one step along the way. After deciding which CRM to use, you will also need to customize your solution, import data, integrate software features with workflow, train staff, and monitor results. 

Here are some step-by-step recommendations for a smoother CRM implementation while doing these tasks.

1. Consult with all relevant departments and decision-makers

Making a CRM decision is an important task that affects your entire company. This makes it crucial that everyone who will be affected by your CRM implementation is onboard your adoption process. 

If a key department or decision-maker is not on the same page as the rest of your team, this can make implementation an uphill battle. It can also interfere with securing a budget for the project.

Assign an implementation coordinator to oversee the process and ask them to either communicate the need for CRM to the relevant parties or assign someone to do the task. Parties that should be aware may include:

  • Leaders
  • IT supervisors
  • financial planners
  • Sales Managers
  • Marketing Managers
  • Customer service executives
  • Suppliers or vendors that will be affected by your CRM implementation

Make sure everyone understands how CRM can benefit your business in general and their department in particular. 

Whoever is responsible for the project budget should be presented with a cost-benefit analysis that demonstrates the return on investment in CRM adoption.

2. Decide how your CRM will fit into your workflow

To get the most out of your CRM tool, you must plan how your CRM data will fit into your current data workflow and your business processes. 

To achieve this goal, map out how data will flow into your solution from different departments, such as sales, marketing, and customer service, and back to those departments.

In the process, note what other software is used by these departments and should be in sync with your CRM in order to have one source of truth. 

Your IT team can help with this task under the supervision of your implementation coordinator and in consultation with the appropriate department managers.

3. Data collection for import

The workflow map will give you an overview of the data sources that will be imported into your CRM solution. Take inventory of these data sources and start collecting them. 

Some data may already be stored in digital format. Other data may also need to be digitized.

4. Customize your application

Before importing data into CRM, you will need to configure certain settings so that it is configured to receive your historical information. 

This will save you time later. Some settings can also be configured after the data has been imported, but it is better to specify the time in advance.

Items that may be required for customization may include:

  • Credentials for administrators and other authorized users
  • User types and permissions
  • Security Settings
  • Individual fields and activities
  • Layouts for Dashboards and Reports
  • Integration with other applications

5. Data transfer

At this point, you have reached the critical step of getting your data into your CRM solution. You will need to ensure that your data is in a format compatible with your CRM software in order to proceed.

All data to be included must be imported from the correct file type, so any data that does not need to be transferred to a compatible format first. 

You also need to make sure that the fields in your file match the fields configured in your CRM system. 

Make sure the fields are separated by proper punctuation (usually commas) and make sure the field length is set long enough to not cut off any data.

Your CRM provider may offer support for the data import process. Some include a step-by-step program to guide you. Talk to your provider for advice.

6. Check your CRM

Before using a real-time CRM, you’ll want to test it out to make sure everything is running smoothly. You can avoid large-scale issues later by testing your CRM on a small scale before deploying.

To make sure your CRM is working properly, you should test in several areas including:

  • Make sure users can access their accounts
  • Checking sample data to make sure all information is imported correctly
  • Testing the functionality of your database by performing basic tasks such as looking up contacts
  • View sample reports to make sure your analytics tools are working correctly
  • Integration testing works correctly and correct data is displayed
  • UI validation is easy to use
  • Checking if the security functions are set correctly

7. Train your staff

Adequate training can make the difference between a smooth CRM deployment and an unproductive chore. 

Managers and employees need to know how to use CRM before attempting to use it live with clients. Your provider may offer training services and resources.

Effective training starts with good documentation. Assign a team member to create a book of the best tips to get the most out of your CRM software. 

Use them to train key executives and employees. As workers learn to use your CRM, test it on a small scale to make sure there are no major issues before implementing it across a department or company.

8. Monitor Implementation Results

Once a CRM is deployed, monitoring results can help you get the most out of your investment. Set KPIs that track how well your CRM is performing by measuring areas such as:

  • Increasing the efficiency of lead generation
  • Increasing sales conversion
  • Reducing customer waiting times

Keeping track of these types of indicators can help you spot areas of concern that need to be revisited.

It may also allow you to make changes to standard operating procedures to improve productivity. Consider running split tests to see if you can find ways to improve your KPIs.

Following these steps can help make your CRM implementation smoother and more productive. What you get from your CRM will also greatly depend on which provider you choose. We recommend you to go through this book to understand the CRM software and how it works – Salesforce for Beginners: A step-by-step guide to creating, managing, and automating sales and marketing processes.

List of Useful Resources on CRM:

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