A CRM system is valuable for almost any business that has grown to the point where the owner doesn’t know everything about every customer. The CRM tracks and retains client data even as employees come and go — if your top salesperson leaves, for example, you don’t also lose information about their hottest prospects and pending deals. The CRM also improves efficiency by automating key tasks and eliminating the need to switch between multiple applications to view customer data.
Sales, marketing and customer service groups are the primary CRM users. But many others within the organization, including finance and ecommerce teams, also benefit.
CRM helps marketers create and track campaigns that deliver relevant information to new leads and current customers. A CRM system typically provides tools, such as customizable email templates, that help automate campaign generation. Some CRMs provide the ability to segment customers based on their preferences and previous buying behavior, so you can create targeted campaigns. For example, you could search for people who have bought a specific product and target them with an email campaign offering discounts for useful add-on items.
A CRM system also helps marketers better track and compare the performance of different campaigns. They can compare key metrics, such as response rates and costs for email, phone and online outreach channels, from within a single platform. CRMs that are integrated with ERP or financial applications offer the key additional benefit of enabling companies to directly measure the revenue generated by each campaign based on sales data managed by the ERP system.
For many companies, sales force automation (SFA) is the most pressing reason for implementing a CRM, and it provides the biggest immediate payback. The CRM tracks opportunities at every step of the pipeline, from lead to quote to completed sale, and records customer interactions at each stage. It helps sales specialists capitalize on opportunities, organize their time via reminders about meetings and upcoming tasks and monitor progress toward sales quotas. Especially when integrated with an ERP system, the CRM can help sales representatives gain a fuller picture of each customer by examining their previous orders, whether they pay promptly and any service issues.
Sales managers can use the CRM to track the performance of individual team members and the sales team overall. CRM systems help companies produce more-accurate sales forecasts based on the current pipeline and other factors, such as the estimated probability and value of each sale. Leading CRM systems also automate time-consuming and complex tasks, such as calculating compensation and commissions for the company’s salespeople and for partners that facilitate sales activities.
Superb service can be a decisive factor in building long-lasting, positive client relationships. With a CRM system, all customer service agents have access to each customer’s full history. They don’t need to go through the painful process of repeatedly gathering the same information each time the customer contacts the company, and they can immediately view any pending cases as well as previous service requests and orders. A CRM automates the creation, assignment and tracking of cases in response to service requests received via different channels, such as phone and email.
Some CRM systems also provide self-service capabilities, such as customer portals that let customers submit requests online, track the progress of cases and view their order histories. These capabilities can reduce the customer service team’s workload and improve the experience for customers who prefer to interact with the company online.
Integration between ecommerce platforms and CRM systems benefits the ecommerce team — and the rest of the company. Many businesses sell through third-party ecommerce websites and cloud-based platforms, but that often means the company needs to manage inventory in multiple unconnected systems.
An additional problem is that other groups within the business may not have visibility into customers’ purchases on those platforms. Because people may buy and interact via multiple channels, including ecommerce, phone, and in store, a lack of visibility into ecommerce sales can prevent companies from gaining a full understanding of customer activity.
CRM systems that integrate with ecommerce platforms can simplify inventory management and increase accuracy by updating inventory in real time across all sales channels. This integration also provides sales, marketing and customer service with a full picture of customer activity, including online purchases and returns.
The company’s leaders and top financial managers may not directly use most of the capabilities of the CRM system on a day-to-day basis. But the information in the CRM is critical to helping them understand and predict business performance. Combining data from financial and CRM applications into easy-to-digest reports helps finance and the CEO analyze key business metrics, including the return on investment (ROI) from the company’s marketing and sales efforts.
Notably, finance can use the sales forecasts produced by leading CRMs to generate accurate revenue forecasts more quickly and easily.