How to Know You Need a Better Way to Manage Customer Information
In my last post I discussed ways that small businesses can utilise technology solutions to enhance their customer experience. One of those enhancements was around storing and tracking your customer information. I see lots of small businesses using Excel spreadsheets or their basic accounting system, like MYOB or Quickbooks, as the main database for customer information. Sometimes this works, but often it doesn’t. Here are some signs that indicate you might need a better solution for managing customer information.
- You communicate with customers via many different methods: Some businesses are simple and have only one touch with a client during a buying cycle. Others have much longer sales cycles and require many touches with the client via different mediums such as the phone, direct mail and email. If you are the latter, then a CRM system will really help in organising and tracking your communications to clients.
- You have more than a couple of sales people: Once you have a small team of sales people, it becomes hard for them all to know what the others are doing or have already done. There’s nothing more off-putting for a customer than having a sales rep call them one day, only to have another sales rep from the same company call them the next day! CRM helps manage customer accounts and sales tasks and allows the sales team to have visibility of activities in any particular customer account.
- The types of customers you have vary: If all your customers are in the same vertical market and around the same size, it’s easier to manage them. For businesses that deal with all sorts of different customers from mixed industries and different market segments, managing marketing and sales efforts is a whole different ball game. A CRM system can easily manage the demographics of your customers allowing you to customise different marketing and sales strategies at targeted groups or similar businesses.
- Your customers are repeat buyers: This point really depends on what you sell. If you sell widgets that last for 20 years and need no attention, then you probably don’t have too much trouble tracking what your customers buy. But if you sell widgets that have lots of different options, that require ongoing servicing, or that are quickly superseded by newer widgets then your customers probably have many more transactions with you which become complex to track. Using a CRM system can simplify this for you and, even more importantly, provide you with terrific sales data with regards to cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. This in itself is often how I prove to a small business that the investment in a CRM system will pay for itself in a very short amount of time due to all the additional sales opportunities it can create.
So there’s some points to think about if you’re wondering whether a CRM system is right for you. And a final word of advice: Don’t rush in to purchasing a CRM system. Trial several to see which fits your needs best and, I think most importantly, which integrates with your existing software tools. You can buy the biggest and best CRM system out there, but if it doesn’t integrate well with your existing tools then your staff aren’t going to use it. Most small businesses tend to use the Microsoft Office suite as one of their main productivity tools (Outlook, Word, Excel etc) so looking for a CRM that integrates with these, such as Microsoft CRM, would be a wise choice.