Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is quickly evolving from a valuable piece of software to a core function of the enterprise regardless of size or business model. Most CRM platforms target three key customer-facing operations: marketing, sales and service. This corresponds to the three crucial aspects of running a business once the product has been developed: Find your customers, induce them to buy, and make sure they are willing to buy again.
Why Use CRM Software?
The reason is simple: Businesses live and die by their customers, and the rise of digitally driven business activity means there is a wealth of data to be used to better understand what customers want, and what they need. The larger the enterprise gets, however, the more difficult it is to satisfy customers’ individual needs. The challenge, of course, is adopting the right CRM platform and then implementing it in ways that produce maximum customer satisfaction with minimal resource consumption. What’s different and key about today’s crop of best CRM software solutions is the level to which they are able to collect and analyze big data sets to not only discover the broad macro trends that are shaping consumer habits and buying inclinations, but to drill down into those data sets to find the micro opportunities that otherwise would be lost.
Still, it can be difficult to see exactly how a complex solution like enterprise CRM can produce tangible benefits to the bottom line. To that end, ITBE has identified these seven key benefits of CRM.
Top Advantages of CRM Software
Divining the needs and desires of customers is the primary goal of any business. CRM compiles and analyzes the massive data sets being generated by online and bricks-and-mortar sales channels to glean what customers want both now and in the future. Unlike traditional methods that treated customers as macro groups, CRM is able to do this on a highly granular, even individual, basis, letting sales teams know exactly what each customer desires.
CRM can also be instrumental in the development of new products, new sales channels, new markets and perhaps entirely new business models. In addition to internal data, CRM can look into a wide range of external/public data to quickly identify buying trends, emerging demographics, supply chain anomalies, and a host of other factors that would have previously gone unnoticed or would only have become apparent after the sales opportunity has passed.
With CRM tracking and analyzing data sets in real time, organizations will become less dependent upon traditional methods of consumer analysis. Many of these approaches, such as focus groups, test products and surveys, are not only expensive but highly inaccurate. CRM uses real data from real customers that is both up-to-date and highly granular.
Improved Customer Satisfaction
The single biggest complaint that most businesses receive from customers is that they don’t feel their needs are being addressed. CRM can help create a much more personal relationship with customers, allowing organizations to treat them as individuals rather than mass markets. At the same time, the data generated by CRM interactions can help head off product- and support-related issues, leading to higher levels of overall satisfaction.
The digital economy moves at a pace that is orders of magnitude faster than traditional business, and things will accelerate as we enter the era of the Internet of Things (IoT) and intelligent machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. In this world, product and service searches, not to mention actual purchases, happen in the blink of an eye, which means only a fully digitized marketing and sales platform can capitalize on them. By switching to a streamlined, and increasingly automated, approach to customer service, even large organizations are able to maintain the personal touch that many consumers demand. With CRM customization, the idea is not to remake the enterprise’s customer relationship processes but to integrate into existing models as cleanly as possible and then allow users to tweak the system in their own way and at their own pace. After all, the enterprise knows its customer and its business model best.
Economies of Scale
The more customers an organization is able to support at the lowest cost, the more it can squeeze profits out of increasingly tight margins. Quite often in today’s world, going the extra mile for one customer is a losing prospect, unless there is media exposure or some other means of return. With CRM, personalized relationships can be established and maintained at minimal cost, which not only boosts brand loyalty but also results in immediate improvements to the bottom line.
Improved Back-Office Functionality
Most CRM platforms these days are being made available as part of integrated office productivity suites. This greatly reduces the operational expenses of modern business, which mostly consist of getting one department to report data to another in ways they both can understand. With an integrated CRM solution, sales figures can be automatically updated to finance, budget, purchasing, supply chain and a host of other processes, all while sales leads, channel opportunities and other critical pieces of data can be forwarded, also automatically, to the appropriate revenue generators.
Once implemented, the benefits of CRM to an individual enterprise become many and varied. Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) organizations will no doubt see advantages in catering to large, diverse markets, while Business-to-Business (B2B) will be able to drill down into the often competing interests that exist within their clients’ organizations.
At the end of the day, the ability to effectively manage and analyze the swell of data coming from increasingly digitized sales channels will make all the difference in the new economy. Now that even the smallest firms have the ability to operate on a global scale, CRM is likely to assume a primary role in the next-generation business model.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.