In­sight Job


Inc. (USA) - - LEAD -

Cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment (CRM) is a data-based ap­proach that busi­nesses use to im­prove cus­tomer re­ten­tion, loy­alty, and prof­itabil­ity. Most large en­ter­prises adopted CRM years ago for a very sim­ple rea­son: It works. Re­search shows that ROI on a prop­erly in­te­grated CRM so­lu­tion can range from about $2.50 to $5.60 on every dol­lar in­vested. CRM can drive sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in lead con­ver­sion and rev­enue gen­er­a­tion, and it can im­prove cus­tomer ser­vice by as much as 50 per­cent.

Yet, while sur­veys have found that most small and mid­size busi­nesses (SMBs) are aware of CRM’s po­ten­tial ben­e­fits, only about a quar­ter of them have adopted it. One rea­son may be a lack of un­der­stand­ing about what CRM re­ally is, says Joseph See, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer at Pep­per­dine Univer­sity. “CRM is not a tech­nol­ogy strat­egy. It is en­tirely and solely a busi­ness strat­egy.”

SMBs may also be con­cerned about the time and ef­fort re­quired to im­ple­ment a CRM so­lu­tion and how quickly ROI can be achieved. “SMBs are busi­nesses that be­have like con­sumers,” says Bastin Gerald, founder of App­tivo, a de­vel­oper and provider of CRM and re­lated so­lu­tions. “They don’t have a lot of pa­tience. Ev­ery­one wants in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion.”

How­ever, the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of cloud-based and mo­bile­friendly CRM so­lu­tions should help al­lay those con­cerns. And with their abil­ity to in­te­grate mul­ti­ple per­for­mance-boost­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, they have more to of­fer SMBs than ever be­fore.

Ac­quir­ing and re­tain­ing cus­tomers is the key to suc­cess for SMBs, and they need a sys­tem that en­ables them to cre­ate a re­peat­able process to man­age all the in­ter­ac­tions they have with their cus­tomers, from sim­ple ques­tions about prod­uct features to com­plaints and in­voice in­quiries. “If you have a holis­tic view about your cus­tomer at the mi­cro level and are


able to tai­lor your in­ter­ac­tions based on their pref­er­ences, then you stay at the top of their mind,” Gerald says.

That’s what CRM so­lu­tions are de­signed to do, but choos­ing from the hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent prod­ucts in the mar­ket­place can be a chal­lenge. Among busi­nesses that have never used a CRM so­lu­tion be­fore, a big mis­con­cep­tion is that its pri­mary func­tion is to or­ga­nize your con­tacts—“the whole ‘glo­ri­fied Rolodex’ thing,” says Joe Mal­coun, CEO of Nut­shell, a B2B CRM so­lu­tion de­signed with small busi­nesses in mind. “In re­al­ity, the most im­por­tant ben­e­fit that CRM pro­vides is help­ing sales teams cre­ate and stan­dard­ize their sales process.” A CRM al­lows sales team man­agers to out­line all the steps that need to oc­cur on every deal, thus en­sur­ing that sales reps are tak­ing the right ac­tions at the right time. “The struc­ture that a

CRM pro­vides to your sales ac­tiv­i­ties al­lows you to cap­ture busi­ness that you would oth­er­wise have lost,” Mal­coun says. Busi­ness needs vary across the board, of course, and it’s im­por­tant to match those needs to the CRM so­lu­tion you choose. “No one should be em­bar­rassed about us­ing Ex­cel as their CRM,” says Nate Kontny, CEO of High­rise, a CRM ap­pli­ca­tion for man­ag­ing leads and fol­low-ups. “Too many com­pa­nies seem to want to scare SMBs into their tools. Don’t feel rushed to change, but when you do, try to find the so­lu­tion that fits your spe­cific place in the world.”

High­rise is de­signed for busi­nesses that “need a sys­tem right this sec­ond to help track leads and man­age fol­lowups,” Kontny adds. “That’s our ad­van­tage for a spe­cific cus­tomer—some­one who needs sim­ple, stream­lined, straight­for­ward, and in­stant.”

For SMBs look­ing for more so­phis­ti­cated ca­pa­bil­i­ties, CRM so­lu­tions mov­ing in the di­rec­tion of cus­tomer en­gage­ment man­age­ment, or CEM, have a lot to of­fer. “CEM is a new theme that has emerged and is be­ing talked about in the large- en­ter­prise seg­ment over the last four or five quar­ters,” Gerald re­ports. It may be rel­e­vant for SMBs as well, since the main idea is to bring all in­ter­ac­tions to­gether un­der a sin­gle um­brella. With more than 50 apps, App­tivo is able to pro­vide a CEM plat­form for SMBs, he says. “We have an in­voice por­tal for cus­tomers to log-in and check their in­voices and other such features, all of which will en­sure that our cus­tomers stay fu­ture-proof.”

The new cloud-based and mo­bile- op­ti­mized CRM so­lu­tions of­fer more ben­e­fits and are eas­ier to im­ple­ment and use than any­thing that has come be­fore, but reap­ing all CRM’s ben­e­fits re­quires ef­fort on the SMB’s part. “Im­ple­ment­ing ex­cel­lent CRM is a com­plex, com­pli­cated process that re­quires keep­ing track of a lot of mov­ing parts,” cau­tions An­drew Frieden­thal, CRM mar­ket re­searcher at on­line tech­nol­ogy con­sul­tancy Soft­ware Ad­vice. While CRM can cer­tainly help SMBs, they also need a plan to make sure the so­lu­tion they choose will cre­ate a solid CRM frame­work that will sup­port their busi­ness ef­forts, he stresses.

For­tu­nately, that is get­ting eas­ier to do as the CRM soft­ware mar­ket continues to diver­sify, cre­at­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties for busi­nesses to find the per­fect fit. “With af­ford­able pric­ing, in­dus­try-spe­cial­ized sys­tems and ac­cess to the ba­sic sales­force au­to­ma­tion sys­tems that are re­quired for busi­nesses to op­er­ate to­day, CRM is more at­trac­tive and avail­able to SMBs than ever be­fore,” Frieden­thal says. “A com­pany-wide CRM is, in many in­stances, the most use­ful tool for en­act­ing a cul­tural shift that will ul­ti­mately reap re­wards in the mar­ket­place.”

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