Customer relationship management (CRM) software enables small-business owners to scale their sales and service operations by sharing crucial information throughout an organization. Solo entrepreneurs who want to scale their companies can use CRM software suites to capture key details from client relationships, track the results of marketing outreach programs, and prevent service problems from spiraling out of control.
CRM tools allow company leaders to better anticipate customer needs while enhancing service. Basic CRM software automates the process of tracking every interaction between a customer and a company representative. Many sales organizations already use some form of CRM software to estimate sales pipelines or to track closed deals. Advanced CRM software suites provide a more comprehensive view of a customer’s real relationship to a company’s products and services.
CRM software encompasses everything from the basic address book included on a standard cell phone to a powerful, cloud-based business intelligence system. Heavy competition in the CRM software space can sometimes lead to conflicting views about how to leverage customer relationships. The most popular CRM software suites combine basic sales tracking tools with task management systems that can automate the process of following up on leads and on closed sales. Advanced CRM tools can facilitate satisfaction surveys, recommend next purchases, and push order status information to customers’ online profiles.
Effective companies shape their products and services to fit the needs of their customers. CRM software gives company leaders unprecedented insight into the lives of regular customers. Organizations with multiple sales and service channels can use CRM tools to unify the flow of information, even enabling self-service options for tracking or ordering. Many CRM success stories involve teams that used software to elevate their interaction with customers and to discover new ways of developing essential products and services. For small-business owners, familiarity with a CRM software suite can become a filter for hiring strong team members.
Sales managers often assume that investing in CRM software results in immediate, measurable gains for their company's bottom line. In fact, implementing CRM software requires significant buy-in from key stakeholders, not just from company leaders and managers. Sales professionals often come to an organization with their preferred modes of tracking customer interactions, causing many CRM software implementations to become problematic. The most effective CRM software suites offer flexible ways of working with customer data, while pulling numerous threads of information together into a reliable knowledge base.
CRM software developers have already focused on social media as the next big opportunity for customer service innovation. Frequent users of social networking services, like Twitter and Facebook, expect companies to respond to service and sales requests using their preferred modes of communication. The latest CRM software integrates into customers’ social media streams, alerting company representatives to both kudos and problems. CRM software tools have also adopted social media functions, opening up communication within companies. Some customer service centers have adapted CRM tools to act as scoreboards for in-house games, awarding points for resolving customer problems or maintaining fast response times.