Customer/Contact Relationship Management (CRM) has several definitions depending on who you are talking to, but in essence it is software that contains additional information about your customers/prospects and suppliers (industry segments, mailing groups, contacts, etc). CRM helps keep a track on the contact level with important contacts whether it be via a simple telephone call or marketing and email campaign to promote a new product range. Extensive CRM can also contain financial sales information, pipeline management and much more.
In the broad sweep of typical ERP software modules used by merchants and suppliers it appears that CRM is the last component to be installed; if it is installed it is often poorly used. This article explores the reasons why it is often overlooked and what the Independent Supplier of Building Products could be missing.
Using a CRM database will improve your customer/contact service if used correctly. Improved customer service will inevitably lead to more sales; while improved contact levels with prospective customers will help towards increasing the customer base and can be a useful tool to monitor any drifting customers.
The same database can be shared with sales managers and directors as well as being inherited by new members of staff. This ensures that anyone who needs information on an account can access it without having to call the salesperson that has looked after the account for the last decade.
CRM is available regardless of which business software you currently use. If you’re not sure if you have it, you might find it built into your accounts system even if you don’t use it; it may also be a module available from your software supplier which you were unaware of. Even if this is not the case, there are a myriad of options whereby you can purchase or rent CRM systems directly from the authors. 9 times out of 10 these will be able to integrate in some way with your business software.
Do I need it?
In our experience there are several factors behind the lack of adoption by independent merchants or poor use of CRM by merchants and their suppliers. We regularly speak to many business owners that monitor the success of their customer and contact levels by the amount of cash in the business bank account. There’s merit in this approach until the cash drops and a key account or two stops buying.
When this happens, the owner will only then get involved and speak to the client. By this point it may be too late, as the client will often state a lack of communication and perceived interest; maybe they never received any calls and no one took an interest in their upcoming projects or no one got back to them on their complaint, etc. CRM encourages a more proactive response in these scenarios, preventing customer drift before it becomes a serious issue.
In addition, if you could proactively market to prospective accounts, regularly sending them special offers, product advice, and open days (maybe fuelled by a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea) would it do your business any harm in having a few more metaphorical eggs in your customer basket?
The question “do I need it” becomes even more pertinent when we are referring to the user; the staff member who feels they don’t need a computer system to help them sell, or doesn’t see the need to update a record when they speak to a client or after a visit. Even if you have an enthusiastic Manager or Director you will need a champion user, someone that not only uses it but becomes more successful because of it. This becomes incredibly useful if you find you need to show those old dogs the new tricks.
Think big, start small.
If, as a business owner, you feel that the introduction of CRM has merit then make sure you have a vision of what you want to achieve and then begin taking small steps to get there. If you stop staff in their tracks and force 20 more daily processes on them when you go live, then the project is doomed to failure. Gradually implementing change makes overcoming any small challenges much easier and the slow build approach to improving your service levels will incorporate winning the hearts and minds of your user; that positivity will prove invaluable as you move forward.
If your current business software has a basic CRM element and its free or low cost, then use that for a year or two and become accustomed with these processes before you move onto best of breed solutions; over time you may begin to see the merits of upgrading to a more functional ERP system with integrated CRM.
Whatever you do when it comes to adopting CRM remember these 3 tips; make it fast, make it simple and make it beneficial to the user. The overarching result will be that it will be beneficial to staff, customers, and the company.