March 28, 2019
Getting a CRM system may be the smartest move your business ever makes.
A CRM (customer relationship management) service is a single software platform that allows a business to easily manage all of its relationships with both current and potential customers. With the right CRM, you'll save significant amounts of time, money and resources. How exactly? We're here to explain.
In this article, we'll show you how CRM can transform your operation for the benefit of both you and your customers.
What Are the Benefits of CRM?
A CRM service is a single software platform that helps a business to monitor and improve its relationships with both current and potential customers. That's a broad task, which is why we've broken down the main benefits below.
In each section, we explain how a typical CRM's features are designed to benefit everyone involved in your business – including your customers.
- CRM helps you understand your customers better – Data on each customer is gathered together into individual profiles
- It guides better decisions from your service agents – Those profiles offer insights that power smart decisions from your agents
- CRM software helps you develop leads – This gives you the steady flow of new customers that any business needs
- CRM can boost customer retention – A low churn rate is key to staying in operation, period
- CRM software lets your service agents collaborate – The more organic collaboration your team sees, the stronger your company
- It speeds up internal communication – Avoid the biggest drain on company resources: poor communication
- It can guide the future of your business – If you ever need to add features or pivot, CRMs offer the decision-driving data
- CRM software costs less than you think – The right CRM is such a time-saver than it will pay for itself, to boot
While every CRM has a slightly different interface, one essential element is some form of a customer profile: A database of customer-agent interactions that groups each customer's historical data into its own category. This lets agents see at a glance any given customer's service history, complaint history, and any known demographic data.
When did your customer last make a purchase? Have they brought up a similar problem in the past? Do their contracts expire soon?
With a CRM customer profile database, service agents can answer these questions as fast as they ask them. The resulting satisfied customers will have their needs addressed almost before they realize they have a problem in the first place. They'll consider new purchases, and recommend your services to others – making sure your bottom line stays healthy.
Your CRM's customer profiles can be applied across all areas of a business's customer relations, from sales to support to marketing to community forums. It's this holistic, intelligent structure that is at the core of a good CRM service. You already have plenty of data on your customers, but you'll only be able to take advantage of it if it's in the right place at the right time.
A good CRM is designed to not just collect data into useful profiles, but to give service agents that extra nudge that helps them decide what move to make next.
A few different tactics help CRM suggest actions to agents. First is the design of the user interface itself. The typical CRM divides an agent's dashboard into a journey: Converting a new lead into a customer, or a past customer into a higher subscription tier, might move their profile from one section to the next – mirroring their customer journey. This way, the agent sees their dashboard not as a static collection of customer accounts, but as a fluid, constantly shifting customer relationship.
Another feature that's increasingly common in modern CRM software: An AI assistant. For example, Salesforce offers Einstein analytics, an AI that can be layered across all of the Salesforce CRM modules to directly speak to agents, offering data-driven insights when needed. Should you end a ticket after a one-on-one response, or should you consider reaching out to a targeted group of customers who might face the same issue but haven't reached out about it yet? With the right AI, agents can be prompted to take a more proactive approach to keeping customers happy.
The end result is better efficiency for your agents' day-to-day activities. They won't be wasting brainpower pondering what next step to take – they'll be busy taking it.
Data profiles aren't just for customers. Profiles can be created whenever a business's audience shows signs that they're interested in becoming customers. Turn cold leads into warm ones, and you'll boost your business's chances of doing business with them down the road.
A typical CRM service offers some form of lead management – a way to track and maintain relationships with people who aren't yet official customers. A database of lead profiles can include relevant context, contact information, and the initial source for each lead.
Through a CRM interface, you can reach leads where they are. Marketing auto-responders can be set up to offer immediate feedback to leads as soon as they post to your website. Zoho CRM includes a “social tab” that lets agents contact potential leads through social media platforms, and Zoho's Enterprise plan even includes Zia Voice, an AI that predicts the best times to contact leads and when they might be ready for conversion.
Customer retention is a massive concern for a business, but churn rates are often overlooked in favor of customer growth rates. The truth is, even if you're happy with your operation's current profits, you must keep your churn rate at or below the rate that you gain customers – otherwise, your business won't stay in the black. CRM software's focus on sales helps bring in customers, but its focus on service helps retain them.
A CRM service module offers a central location for service agents to communicate with disgruntled customers. They might use live chat, they might use SMS text or another messaging service, they might use email or online forms, and they might call by phone. A CRM can channel all these cases, letting agents respond in a timely manner. Templates and auto-generated responses can take some of the pressure off as well.
Mass communication features are covered by most CRMs as well, from email campaigns to SEO blog posts to social media scheduling. Feedback can be folded into reports, allowing managers to shift strategy decisions at a high level. Through it all, the main business goal of retaining customers can be honed until your business is operating at peak ability.
Don't let a focus on customer relationships distract from another essential relationship that CRMs help bolster: Your team's internal bonding and ability to collaborate.
Thanks to features like file hosting and collaborative documents, each service agent can use their CRM account to access, comment on, or message each other essential reports or videos, which can then be exported and downloaded in a variety of formats. Within each customer profile, many CRMs will include a history of agent interactions, allowing new agents to see which of their team members might have previously interacted with a customer.
If your business operates in the field as well as from a home base, there are CRM integrations that can help service agents stay on top of changes in their workload though internal company messaging.
Going beyond just collaboration, many CRMs offer an entire internal social network that allows service agents to post to a variety of channels. This network also helps agents quickly contact the right individual colleague, or the right team to address a specific comment or question. Salesforce offers an internal social platform, called Chatter, which can be pulled up within seconds from anywhere within its CRM interface.
It's this infrastructure that makes a great CRM so useful to a company: In addition to strengthening your agent-customer relationships, it structures and strengthens your agent-agent and agent-manager relationships as well.
This benefit is why all C-suite executives should be familiar with their company's CRM. While they likely won't need to contact customers directly, executives do need to remain both accessible to their employees and aware of how their company's culture is evolving.
CRM's core function is to organize data, whether through a customer profile database, through communication channels for leads, or through internal collaboration tools. The sum of all that data is greater than the parts; it leads to insights that a business might never have noticed otherwise.
In all cases, these insights can lead to smart business decisions that will shape the entire future of your company. Process tracking reports can be generated to highlight the efforts of individuals (leading to decisions about who to promote and who to let go) or entire teams (leading to decisions about which teams to expand or which areas a team should improve in). In extreme cases, a company may choose to pivot to a new business model after noticing a particularly high success rate in a sector that isn't their core business model, but should be.
It's worth noting that this is only a benefit if you allow it to be. A CRM can deliver the best practices and insights to you with a bow on top, but someone in a leadership position will need to recognize and act on them in order for this benefit to guide your company into its next phase.
Most CRM services charge per user per month. The lower price plans tend to start anywhere from $20 to $80 per user per month, although some more stripped-down services start even lower (Apptivo even offers core CRM features starting at just $8/month). More comprehensive, enterprise-level plans tend to hover around the $100-$300 per user per month mark.
In all cases, the benefits that a CRM offers are immense, and spread across all aspects of any consumer-facing business. If you currently don't operate with a CRM software subscription, upgrading to any of the top contenders in the market will almost certainly save you much more than you'll spend.
If you're interested in seeing what the exact CRM costs might be for your business needs, you can start collecting personalized quotes from the best in the business now. Just fill out our one-minute quotes form below, and you'll be on your way to reaping the benefits of CRM software today.
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