A CRM (customer relationship management) is the name for any system or model used to manage a company’s interactions with its current or future clients or customers.

It can be used to organise, automate and synchronise all of the customer facing areas within your company: from marketing to sales to customer service to technical support.

CRM gives you the time to develop other areas of your business, whilst giving you the reassurance that you’re not letting your existing clients down or responding to new enquiries in an efficient manner.

These are few of the benefits of implementing a good quality CRM

  • All of your clients’ information is stored in one place, it’s easy to update and share with the whole team.
  • Updates by colleagues should be saved immediately.
  • Every member of your team will be able to see the exact point when your business last communicated with a client, and what the nature of that communication was.
  • CRMs can give you instant metrics on various aspects of your business automatically. 
  • Reports can be generated. These can also be used to forecast and plan for the future.
  • You will be able to see the complete history of your company’s interaction with a client.
  • Calendars and diaries can be integrated, relating important events or tasks with the relevant client. 
  • Suitable times can be suggested to contact customers and set reminders.

There are obviously many more benefits to implementing a CRM, if you need more of a basic understanding of CRM and are a fan of over-long metaphors please read my piece from earlier in the year What is CRM and why do you need it?

What to consider before implementing a CRM plan

  • Do you have time to implement the CRM properly? Smaller systems for smaller businesses may need a month or two, whereas larger scale companies may need six months to one year. Implement it slowly and carefully, department by department, making sure each team has adjusted to it fully before moving on to the next. 
  • Make sure you and your team knows how to use it. This requires thorough training. The CRM will be useless if it just sits there unused.
  • Do you need every single feature offered by a CRM? It’s possible that some features are a waste of money for your particular needs. Different systems do different things, so make sure it also does exactly what you need it to.
  • Finding one system that will fit your needs in one package may not be possible, so be aware that you may need to customise it to fit into your company. There are infinite possibilities here so don’t get too carried away as costs will rise accordingly.
  • Make sure you know the total cost of your CRM. Not just the upfront fees or monthly charges, there’s also the amount of time, working hours and business that may be lost during implementation.
  • Ensure that the CRM works on mobile devices and can be accessed remotely. Employees aren’t necessarily sat at their desks when it needs to be used or updated. Real-time updates are necessary for ensuring that clients aren’t contacted twice with the exact same follow up.
  • If you’re leaving one CRM system for another one, how easy is it to transfer you existing data? CRM providers may keep your information in encrypted, difficult to export format, therefore outside help or applications may be required.
  • Does your hardware have the correct minimum requirements for the system you’re interested in? 
  • Will it work for Outlook, Gmail or whichever email provider your company uses? 
  • Does you CRM have full social media integration? It’s vital that any customers or clients interacting with you on social channels can be included in your CRM updates. You will find this happens increasingly as your public facing channels become more popular. For more detailed information download our best practice guide CRM in the social age.  
  • Do you have a fully CRM trained analytics team that can study and understand the data and reports the system will generate? It’s probably wise to implement a cleansing plan for your existing data before the new system is implemented. Sifting through contacts to remove any duplicated or defunct leads.
  • Can the system be easily updated, guaranteeing that it won’t become redundant in the near future?
  • Having an extra piece of software in the company, especially one as integral as this, means there’s a lot more to manage and possibly to go wrong. Make sure you have the technical support in place to ensure its smooth running.

For more on CRM read these helpful implementation tips from experts from within Econsultancy and outside.