We have already seen how customer relationship management software can boost your sales. Another benefit of CRM software is the ability streamline your day to day operations. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Customer Relationship Management Software for Small Businesses
This article will discuss what Customer Relationship Management Software is and why it is important in for you as a small business owner. The intersection between commerce and technology for B2C relationships is as old as the accounts book, but in today’s world where software is increasingly cheaper to manufacture, and the functions so wide and varied, it can be difficult for small business to keep up to date with the relevant developments in the field. What is clear though, to both small and large enterprise alike, is the importance of one’s current customer base for new and continued business growth. The value of repeat customers goes much deeper than the repeat business that they offer, and any kind of system that can increase the value of that customer base is something that should be recognized. In its most basic description, Customer Relationship Management Software for small businesses is what a tool box is to a tradesman. There are two main purposes of this software. The first is to automate high effort/low yield tasks so that they become more cost effective and efficient. The second is to compile and monitor large data sets of historical and current business Intel so that they may be used to recognize growing developments, trends, opportunities, threats and loose ends in one’s business. In the following paragraphs I’ll discuss some of the most important types of Customer Relationship Management Software (CRMS), their different function and the value that they can offer to your small business.
What is Customer Relationship Management Software and what does it do?
One of the most common functions of Customer Relationship Management Software for small businesses is operational purposes. Operational software collects and stores all relevant customer information in one easily accessed program dash board where one can easily observe a customer’s history of transactions, contact information and any other recorded information that has taken place between business and customer. One of these programs might, for example, keep account of a current potential prospect in your sales funnel and combine this information together with other contact information if that person has had previous interactions or transactions with your business in the past. If that prospect continues to do business with you or interact with your business in the future, all of that information will be collected as well and stored in an individualized file for easy access and viewing. The benefit of this software is that it can offer a much more comprehensive outlook of your businesses relationship with any given customer, like in this example. For instance, a repeat customer who buys a certain product consistently can be identified as a loyal customer with special tastes and treated with a tailored experience accordingly. Opportunities such as these are the benefits that Operational CRMS can afford.
The operational system can be broken down into several minor components which have different segmented roles depending on the area of the business they focus on. All of them are important to overall operations but differ in function depending on their area of focus. The first of these is related to sales. Applications like Pipedrive and Salesforce keep a track record of all aspects of the sales process of any given prospect at any given point in the sales process. Some of the functions included in sales applications are employee related, such as monitoring sales performance and allocating quotas, and some of the functions are analytical, such as providing a platform for forecasting and identifying profitable trends and opportunities from a pool of organised data.
Closely related to salesforce automation is marketing automation. This is primarily concerned with automating all functions and processes related to marketing. Adding lubrication, speed and automated management to the overall marketing process, this function can help manage new campaigns, automate email marketing, web forms, surveys and other digital marketing utilities. Additionally, Marketing software usually includes a dash board that connects a campaign profile with all relevant data, such as sales and accounts information. Marketing automation software also includes automated systems for customer/provider interaction.
Another function of operational software is customer service. This can include all aspects of customer service and support, and the platforms can provide a large variety of channels to support customers through, from phone and email contact’s to knowledge bases and FAQ’s pages on websites.
Why is operational CRM important for small businesses? There are a few reasons that stand out. As mentioned earlier the integration of data in various areas of business into one organized place provides both ease and observation of management. As an example, if a business owner can use something like Zoho (a free CRM platform designed for small business) to keep track of his sales leads as they proceed through the pipeline, he can visibly see the data set and thus manage and prioritize his most valuable leads. He can also quickly identify poor performance across team members and has a data set to identify where incentives are working poorly or optimally. Because he can track this data set over a long period of time, he can also identify patterns in his company’s overall processes that can add value to his business. So for example, because our hypothetical business owner can track long spread data he can have greater ease in identifying leaks and misallocated resources, and thus increase revenue long term.
Another branch of CRM systems are Analytical systems. Analytical CRM systems act like an intelligence operative, collecting and analyzing customer data for patterns, trends and stand out information that can help company owners make better executive decisions. Through the use of a variety of techniques including data mining and pattern recognition, Analytical CRM systems help identify opportunities and leaks in overall customer management, relationship and sales marketing processes. Some of these problems can be otherwise hard to detect for business owners so there is a great deal of utility in systems that compile long term data and report urgent and important patterns. An example of this is Salesforce Small Business Solution, a CRMS product by Salesforce for small business. Among a myriad of other operational management features, this software offers sales forecasting. This collects data on prospects, current customer profiles and company revenues (to name a few) to aid users in predicting future sales revenue. The technology is not as sophisticated as some other types of analytical CRMS, like big data, but it is worth mentioning for its availability and utility to small business owners.
How can Customer Relationship Management Software help your Small Business?
If you are a small business owner reading this, you may be wondering if Customer Relationship Management Software is an innovation that is relevant to you, or if it’s just something that larger enterprises should be using. Investing in any new capital asset in your business is a decision that any small business owner knows is one that can’t be taken lightly, and new software platforms such as these can often time seem at best unnecessary and at worst a costly trap that complicates business operations. There are however several benefits to the software that make it worth considering.
As a small business your current customer base is the life blood of your business. This is true of any enterprise but the competitive advantage that small business has over a large enterprise is the attention and personalized service that they can offer to the clients that they regularly serve. Too many lost customers are lost because of a problem with customer’s service. Word of bad service can spread quickly, especially with the prevalence of new social media platforms, so now more than ever, customer service problems are of great urgency. Larger enterprise often have customer support centers that can manage these issues but if you are a small business owner, this luxury is often not available to you. Worse still, smaller enterprise can’t absorb customer base shrinkage with as much resilience. It is for this reason that some CRM systems are highly beneficial to small business owners. Operational Customer Relationship Management software can help small businesses to keep track of key customers contact details and preferences so that high value customers are consistently identified and catered to accordingly. As an extension of this principle, CRM systems also help in a more macro sense by identifying broader issues that are consistently losing you customers or even new prospects, because it’s a lot easier to identify these trends when all the data is easily available and presented on a virtual dashboard.
Additionally, this software is useful because of its capacity to give the prudent business owner extra tools for sensing business threats and opportunities. A good example is customer profiling. Because these services can track and record customer information, it becomes much easier to identify a business’s highest value customer’s profiles and cross reference them for similar demographic information that be used to future business strategy. Inversely, the high visibility of customer profile information and sales trends can help identify where resources are being wasted. Some of these trends aren’t easy or even possible to identify without rigorous statistic information, so the value of programs that keep track of everything for you in a cogent and organised way is that they make it a lot easier to comb past data for snippets of valuable information.
Another benefit for CRM software is its capacity to ease off the loss of loyal customers during business expansion periods. This problem that anyone who has or currently owns a small business will be able to relate to involves the following familiar scenario. In order to gain more clientele you have to fill out new staff, and the new staff don’t always know who the key clientele are and can end up treating a high profile customer without the quality of service that such a customer has come to expect. CRM software can help solve this issue by giving new employees a larger array of information on a heads up display dash board when dealing with customers so that they can have a better idea of who they are dealing with and avoid making poor service mistakes that can cost your business money.
With cheap platforms like Sightly or even Zoho, which is free, the relative benefits of CRM software for small business compared to the cost makes it an investment that is well worth considering. At the very least the software can provide operational fluidity so that the management functions of various sections of your business can be maintained with greater ease and elegance. However, the vast array of well documented and segmented data makes this software highly valuable for identifying profitable trends and opportunities or, perhaps more importantly, holes in your strategy that could be costing your business money. In today’s world where more and more people are starting businesses online and more people are turning away from corporate brands for their goods and services, CRM software is an opportunity that any small business owner can’t afford to ignore.