CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management – a core element for business success. A CRM system is typically a digital system used in the identification, targeting, acquisition, and retention of customers. Notice I said “typical digital system” – meaning it is usually some form of a computer-based system. However, it is quite possible to have a CRM that is not necessarily computerized. CRM is mainly concerned with profiling prospective and existing customers, intimately grasping their needs, catering for them, developing and sustaining working relationships with them. In this article, I discuss how you can use a CRM system to give your customers top-notch service.

What Is CRM All About?

As the acronym reads, customer relationship management is concerned with managing your interactions with customers. The thrust is to do so in such a way that creates symbiotic value for both the business and the customers. Working towards that entails a wide range of aspects. Some of the core aspects are marketing, contact management, lead generation and management, workflow automation, reporting, tracking (e.g. interactions), data management, and customer support, amongst others. CRM means all these aspects have to be centralized and streamlined into a working system. That is why the easiest way to handle CRM for your business would be to get CRM software.

Most good CRM software needs monthly subscriptions but that can be a good investment. Monthly packages can range from as low as US$10 – surely that is a small price to pay for effective CRM. Some of them have freemium models meaning you will only pay once you want to access premium features. Some examples of good CRM software are Salesforce, Hubspot, Salesflare, Streak, and Nimble, amongst others. In Zimbabwe, we are also seeing an emergence of home-grown CRM software. We have Workzuite – Workzuite offers an all in one productivity app that handles most business processes from one dashboard. From invoicing to payroll, CRM, HRM, Asset Management and Cloud drive.

How To Put A CRM System Together

Obvious using already built software makes the job easier. The features vary from software to software. However, there is an ever-present of whether or not your business needs CRM software. It is an interesting subject of discussion because there are solid arguments for and against it. All the same, I think it is important to discuss how you can do CRM for your business without necessarily buying CRM software. That way you will know that if you do get CRM software that would be a bonus.

After all, small to medium-sized businesses or startups do not necessarily need one at the onset. As the enterprise grows it becomes inevitable to operate without CRM software. So, how can you put together a CRM system without dedicated software? Here is how:

Effective Internal Collaborative Communication System

There is a critically important connection between marketing and sales for any business. Marketing increases brand awareness and generates leads. The sales side then comes in to follow up on leads to ensure they culminate in conversions (i.e. sales). They can be gelled as one or can be separate departments. There should also be a working relationship with the customer support side. Interactions generated under those two components will usually necessitate customer support needs. Thus if you can have inter-departmental coordination through effective communication you can efficiently manage customer relationships. A survey conducted by LinkedIn last year indicated that over 85 per cent of marketing and sales experts concur with all this.

Automating Workflows Where Possible

Another way is to look at your business and figure out where you can automate. That way you will increase efficiency, speed, and minimize the incidence of errors. That will also unlock more time for staff to focus on other core components of the business. Things like sending and responding to emails can be automated. The same can be done for customer interactions through social media and instant messaging platforms. You can use quick replies (which are essentially pre-recorded messages). You can also use chatbots. Even in your content marketing, you can schedule posts to automatically post without your effort. You can also use sales tracking apps to track sales and automatically generate reports. These are just examples but the whole idea is that you must automate wherever possible.

Having A Centralized And Detailed Customer Database

You can keep tabs on everything regarding every customer by having a database. You can use simple database management tools e.g. Excel or Google Sheets. The idea will be to ensure the database covers data central to effectively managing customer relationships. Such a database can have their personal details and sales history. Interestingly, at the very lowest you can even do this manually. For example, you can manually record every time a customer makes a purchase. This will help you have a spending profile of each customer. You can also do the same for lead generation and management. Using DBMS tools such as Excel or Google Sheets makes centralization easy plus it brings in automation as well. Overall, you must figure out how to centralize customer details and their interactions with your business or startup in one place.

Assign Responsibilities And A Reporting Framework

This will top off all the aforementioned areas I just discussed. Have dedicated staff overseeing all the core areas such that there will be accountability. Ensure every assigned responsibility will result in periodic reports. These reports will be designed in such a way that they can be consolidated into one master report. The whole idea will be to monitor and evaluate to note areas needing attention. This will also mean you must lay down standard operating procedures to avoid workflow clashes.

If you adhere to all these things and diligently apply them to your business you will reap great results. Customers are the life of your business or startup; without them you are nothing. That is why managing your customer relationships is important. Remember that you are not only focusing on existing customers but also prospective ones. So start from where you are and with what you have.