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A Beginner’s Guide to CRM Systems

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system helps manage customer data. It supports sales management, delivers actionable insights, integrates with social media, and facilitates team communication. In addition, cloud-based CRM systems offer complete mobility and access to an ecosystem of bespoke apps.

Why have a CRM system?

A CRM system helps businesses keep customer contact details up to date, track every customer interaction, and manage customer accounts. It is designed to help companies to improve customer relationships and also Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). This is vital because of the vast amount of such data businesses generate daily.

The issue of customer data raises a challenge that CRM systems exist to address. Every time someone picks up the phone and talks to a customer goes out to meet a new sales prospect, or follows up a promising lead; they learn something new and potentially valuable. Traditionally, all this data went into analog or unconnected media such as notebooks or laptops, or even just stayed in people’s heads.

With no CRM…

These methods make it all too easy for details to get lost or forgotten or for a meeting or phone conversation not to be followed up on as promised. Moreover, choosing which leads or prospects to focus on can be guesswork rather than a rigorous exercise based on fact. Worse still, if individuals holding access to crucial customer information were to leave, then all their knowledge could walk out of the door with them.

A CRM helps ensure accuracy and efficiency.

A customer relationship management system aims to address challenges like these. It takes customer data and turns it into valuable, actionable insight that can transform a business. 

It helps everyone in a business to update records quickly and to get access to the latest information. If the system is cloud-based, they can do this wherever they are, on any connected device.

What does a CRM system do?

A CRM system provides a central place where businesses can store customer and prospect data, track customer interactions, and share this information with colleagues. It allows companies to manage relationships with customers, helping the business to grow.

With a CRM system in place, every question, service request, preference, and past contact detail about every customer is instantly available, which means that every new interaction with them should always be personalized, relevant, and up to date.

As well as tracking every phone call, email sent, meeting held and presentation delivered, CRM systems can also be used to add notes, schedule follow-ups, and organize the next steps that need to be taken. This ensures that opportunities to close deals or grow customer accounts won’t be missed.

By understanding customers better, cross-selling and up-selling opportunities become more apparent, too, giving organizations a much better chance to win new business from existing customers.

Key features of a CRM system

The key features of a CRM system typically include:

Contact management

CRM Customer Contact Management

All the latest information about customers — from contact details to service conversations — is readily available to access and update.

Lead management

The system enables users to track pipeline activities, tasks, and targets, all the way from prospect through to conversion.

Sales forecasting

Forecasting reports enable salespeople to have better visibility over their pipelines, qualify leads more accurately, and see how close they are to hitting their targets. In addition, sales managers can use reports to motivate and manage their people.

Instant messaging between employees

Real-time instant messaging functionality makes it easier for coworkers to ask and answer each other’s queries, for instance, in support of a live sales opp or service interaction. In addition, managers can check in on staff in the field, and employees can ask for instant feedback or support as needed.

Email tracking and integration with Outlook and Gmail

Syncing email clients instantly with the CRM system allows business people to get a complete view of their customers and leads without logging in and out of different approaches. Calendars and contacts can be viewed across every device, and emails can be created and managed within a single workflow.

File and content sharing

Team members can upload information to a centrally stored location and share it easily and instantly with coworkers.

Dashboard-based analytics

Information is aggregated and presented in intuitive, meaningful dashboard displays that can be customized based on each individual’s priorities.

Like Salesforce, advanced cloud-based CRM platforms go much further than this basic functionality, integrating with marketing automation and customer service systems to provide a complete, cloud-based ecosystem for customer data.

Evaluating and comparing types of CRM systems

When evaluating and comparing CRM systems, consider three types: desktop, server, and cloud. 

A desktop system is only for a single user who just needs an electronic version of a Rolodex for simple customer contact management, so for most businesses, the critical question to answer is: server or cloud?

The three critical types of CRM system include:

  • Desktop systems that run on a single computer
  • Client/server system that has a central database stored on a server, usually self-hosted with software installed on each user’s PC or laptop to access it
  • Cloud-based systems that are supplied and hosted online by a third-party provider, and accessible anywhere via a connected device

CRM systems for a changing world

As technology evolves, how we work and connect with customers evolves too. Advanced systems go beyond obvious CRM functionality to respond to developments such as remote working and artificial intelligence. Cloud-based CRM systems excel here as they can be updated as new technology becomes the standard.

Mobile-capable CRM for remote working

Mobile CRM Capabilities

Some CRM systems such as Salesforce now offer mobile CRM capabilities, which allow salespeople to access critical information wherever they are and update that information straight after a meeting while they are still in the field, so colleagues can follow up with the latest news before the competition.

With mobile CRM, it’s possible to run a whole business from a phone – closing deals, servicing customers, and even delivering 1:1 marketing campaigns without being tied to a desk. This functionality can also support homeworking and even allow organizations to reduce the amount of office space needed.

Social media integration

CRM platforms today can help businesses make the most of social media as a source of new leads, intelligence on prospects, and information for customer service agents. 

All these new social data streams are integrated with the rest of the available data about a customer to deliver the fullest ever picture and a host of new actionable insights.

Harnessing artificial intelligence

Some CRM systems can use artificial intelligence (AI) to learn from available data to make recommendations based on company processes. In this way, the system constantly and automatically improves, becoming more innovative and more targeted to customers’ needs.

Best CRM System for 2021

Salesforce CRM

Salesforce CRM is one of the world’s leading cloud-based CRM tools/software that provides creative CRM solutions that can be effectively used for all business requirement companies, from large-scale enterprises to small start-ups.

Salesforce CRM is based on cloud, scalable, and in turn very easy to use too. Customizable and provides a platform for growth and upgrades. Supports mobile and integration.

Salesforce CRM helps understand customer requirements; it indicates new ways to help, solves issues faster, and provides a quick and clean deployment. With just a single view, we can do the selling, serving, and marketing like anything.

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Focus on Force is the ideal preparation for your Salesforce Certification. I’ve spent more than 10 years working with the Salesforce platform in various roles (including business analyst, project manager, consultant, solutions designer, and solutions architect), and worked my way through 12 certifications in order to move up the career ladder. 

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