Customer relationships are the heart of any business. You need to know who your customers or clients are, what they need, and how you’re dealing with them.
Different businesses interact with their customers in different ways, but the principle remains the same: the ability to understand the people you’re selling to, and to service them in the most efficient way, is crucial.
Thankfully, technology is making this task easier. Wherever your customers live, and whatever you’re selling them, customer relationship management (CRM) software can make your life easier - and help you to grow your business sustainably.
What is customer relationship management (CRM) software?
CRM software allows users to store and display every piece of information they have about a customer, all in one place. Once the information is collated, the software will then allow you to use it to make better decisions regarding how to service them and how to maximise the return on your relationships.
With CRM, the possibilities are endless. For each individual customer, your chosen CRM software might be able to show you when you first made contact, how they reached you, how often they browse your website, their average purchase or order value, if they’ve ever had a complaint, their preferred method of contact, or virtually any other piece of information you can imagine.
Taken alone, each of these data points are useful, and can help you manage individual relationships better. But collected together and properly analysed, the information allows companies to make better decisions in aggregate, based on a deeper understanding of the ways in which your customers behave generally. CRM software is useful, therefore, not only in streamlining individual customer relationships, but also in building better business processes in general.
How do I choose the right CRM software?
There’s a dizzying array of CRM options available. Your choice of package will depend on a number of factors.
• Ease of use. The intuitiveness of the software is key. The best CRM for you is the one that you’ll actually use, so it’s important that you are comfortable with the interface and that it is available on your chosen platforms - for example, do you need a mobile option? If you have employees who’ll be using the software, is it easy enough to train them in it?
• Interoperability. You’re probably already using a suite of other software, whether that’s Google Docs or bookkeeping packages. A good CRM option will ‘play nicely’ with your existing tools.
• Customisability. It’s vital that your CRM software is easily customisable. No two businesses are the same, and your CRM needs to be flexible enough to mould to your needs. This might be as simple as allowing you to enter custom data fields, or it might be as complex as including options for macros and third-party plugins.
• Analytics. Collecting the data is only the first step. Good CRM software will enable you to see patterns and trends within that data, and will present these in an easily digestible format.
• Actionable insights. Once you’ve gathered your insights, your CRM software should also encourage you to take action. This might mean, for example, automation tools, which take some of the manual work out of frequently repeated tasks.
• Support. Finally, remember to consider the support options for your CRM software. Can you speak to a real human easily if something goes wrong? Can you phone them, or can you only contact them via live chat?
What does CRM software cost?
The price of CRM software can vary significantly depending on its scope, as well as on the size of your business and how many employees will be using it. Off-the-shelf options can typically be found for around £10-20 per month per user, or even for free with some providers.
More advanced options, with deeper analytic functions, start at closer to £100 per user per month, and can balloon to over £300.