By: Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead
Customers are the most important part of any business. Given that customers are the single most important asset of a business, it’s important we look after them. Investing in a quality Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is essential for businesses wanting to improve customer relations.
Before developing any bad or counter-productive habits, what best practices should small businesses mind when starting out using a CRM platform?
CRM Best Practices
To shed some light on the subject, Small Business Trends caught up with CRM expert Brent Leary of CRM Essentials. CRM Essentials is a management consulting and advisory firm focused on assisting businesses develop and implement CRM strategies and processes.
Choose a CRM Vendor That Offers Support
No two businesses CRM needs are the same and it’s important that you pick a vendor which can provide you with the support you’ll need. As Brent Leary told Small Business Trends:
“Choose the vendor that provides the kind of support you’ll need, it can be as important as the functions the software has”.
Consider the Set-Up Time and Ease of Use of the CRM
If you’re a CRM beginner, the last thing you want is to be faced with a complex CRM system that takes hours to install. Instead, opt for a CMR that is easy to use and requires little installation or set-up time.
Does the CRM Have Unique Features?
What features does the CRM app you are considering have? Are they unique and worth considering? Always look at the unique features of the CRM before you commit to a particular app, to make it worth considering.
Do a Needs Analysis Up Front
According to Brent Leary, the easiest part of using CRM is buying it. Businesses should carry out a needs analysis prior to purchasing a CRM. As Leary says:
“The most important part is doing a needs analysis up front to really detail what problems you are trying to solve, what processes you need to implement, defining what success looks like and how it’s measured.”
Grow with the Program
Rather than simply opting for a CRM package because it is free or doesn’t cost much, ensure you select a program that your business is unlikely to outgrow and you can effective grow with it.
Read Reviews on Different CRM Systems
Carry out important research on potential CRMs by reading reviews and testimonials on the platforms before you commit to a particular product. The more information you have on the different CRMs, the more informed choice you will be able to make.
Ask if the CRM Assists with the Find, Catch and Keep Lifecycle?
Brent Leary also pointed out the importance of making sure everyone has what they need to help customers at every phase of the lifecycle. When implementing a CRM platform in your small business, Brent advises to consider the “Find, Catch and Keep”:
You should, according to Brent Leary, consider:
“Finding prospects, catching them and turning prospects into customers, and keeping customers for the long haul by providing great services and experiences.”
Consider the Provider’s Customer Service Models
Another good CRM practice that Leary notes is to look at the provider’s own customer service models. A CRM isn’t a one-time purchase, you will need to have an ongoing relationship with your provider and therefore want a provider which offers quality customer care.
Avoid Opting Merely for the Biggest Names in CRM
It might be tempting to opt for the biggest names in CRM due to their reputation and credibility. However, as Brent Leary cautions, each firms’ CRM requirements are different so avoid merely opting for the ‘biggest names’ other companies use and recommend.
Eradicate Pain Points
Another effective CRM practice is to use a CRM system to eradicate ‘pain points’, things that frustrate your customers. By addressing and fixing negative customer experiences, businesses can build much better relationships with their customers.
Make It Mobile
With more and more people using mobile devices to get online and conduct consumer tasks, it is important to implement a CRM that can be accessed across multiple devices, including tablets and smartphones.
Go Beyond Features
In his Buyer’s Guide on choosing the right CRM tool, Brent Leary says businesses should “go beyond the features” and look at other important aspects of CRM integrations, such as pricing flexibility and data storage.
Ask Who is Responsible for Data Security, Backup and Recovery?
Small businesses can be irreversibly crippled if they fall victim of a security breach. It is therefore vital you consider the security of a CRM system and which party involved is responsible for data security, backup and recovery.
Think About the Customization of Communications
Businesses deal with customers who are at every stage of the purchasing process. Consequently, it is important your CRM enables you to customize communication strategies for different customers.
This ties in with personalization. Sending customers personalized emails and other methods of communication based on accurate customer data can significantly increase click-through rates. It is therefore important that your CRM system can provide the personalization that modern consumers crave.
Check Policy for Regulatory and Compliance Requirements
Another best practice for CRMs mapped out in Brent Leary’s CRM Buyer’s Guide, is to make sure your CRM service provider’s data policies and contract guarantees are compliant in handling sensitive customer information.
Surface Insights to Make It Easier to Build Relationships
In an e-book by Introhive.com titled ‘Don’t Dump Your CRM’ in which Brent Leary participated in a survey for, the CRM expert spoke of the importance of ‘surface insights’ within a CRM system.
“Using a system that brings to your attention and surfaces an insight that is relevant to your customer today can help salespeople build a strong customer relationship,” advises Leary.
Ask if CRM Programs Can Be Automated?
Another CRM practice that could potentially save small business time, effort and money, is to have CRM program that is automated. Some CRMs enable automated communication with leads, providing salespeople with more time to focus on people who are ready to buy.
Ensure Customer Data is Up-To-Date and Reliable
Another best CRM practice that can often go overlooked is ensuring your customer data is up-to-date and reliable. A CRM platform is only as good as the information entered into it, so ensure all data put in the system is reliable and accurate.
Always Follow Up
Use a CRM that automates customer follow-ups to build on your relationships with customers. This will give you more time to focus on other elements of running your business.
Focus on Collaboration
Many CRM platforms comprise of features that allow teams to collaborate with one another. Having the ability to collaborate should be a leading priority when choosing an appropriate CRM for your business.
Consider Your Business Goals?
Always look at the broader picture. Will and how will your CRM help you achieve the goals you have in place for your small business?
Think About Response Times
In his Buyer’s Guide to choosing the right CRM, Brent Leary highlights the importance of response times within a customer service perspective.
“It’s imperative,” notes Leary, “that systems route customer issues to the right agent, automatically escalate the issue as needed and track service-level agreements to ensure compliance.”
Consider API Calls
Are you planning on integrating customer applications with a CRM product? If so, Leary advises that you make the effort to understand limits on API calls into the platform.
Look to the Future
Another key point highlighted in Brent Leary’s CRM Buyer’s Guide is for businesses to look to the future. Knowing the future direction of your company, says Leary will:
“Focus traditional technology areas as a core competency or perhaps focus more on developing and refining the business model as the core competency as well as leveraging the right technology pieces and partners.”
Did we miss any CRM best practices? If you have experience in successfully implement CRM platforms into your small business, we’d love to hear all about it.