Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is increasingly taking centre stage within business strategies. As customers demand a more personalised and meaningful experience with brands, managing and meeting customer expectations for small businesses has never been more important.
A robust CRM strategy can be a key driver of business success, helping small businesses to manage customer engagement, as well as prospects. It is no longer enough to simply provide a useful product or an innovative service. Businesses looking to grow and compete effectively must consistently deliver a tailored customer experience to drive customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The common misconception that CRM is only needed for larger businesses should be scrapped. Excellent customer engagement and customer service for any business size today is a huge growth driver and demands a more strategic and sophisticated approach. This is not manageable through the simple recording of leads and contacts on a spreadsheet but needs a software tool to help.
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Digitisation of any part of a business should first start with assessing business goals. This is no different for CRM and customer engagement. Business owners should have these firmly in mind to enable them to select the right tool(s) from the right vendor. Having a strategic approach can directly impact a company’s ability to grow.
Questions small businesses need to ask when it comes to CRM include:
- Does your business wish to manage its leads more effectively?
- Do you wish to scale quickly?
- Do you want to drive better engagement with your customer base?
- Do you want to improve customer service?
- Do you want to make it easier to manage prospects and customers in the field?
- Does you want the CRM system to integrate with other tools used?
Any number of these aspects could be goals, and these are just a few examples to consider when looking to implement a CRM solution. CRM software, implemented correctly, will help to improve lead generation, and increase customer retention, hugely increasing the potential for business growth.
Mapping goals to the tool and the vendor will help to ensure the maximum business value is driven from your use of CRM and the right partner is in place to provide this for the long term.
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Questions to think about finding a CRM supplier
Once business goals have been established, you can think about vendors and what they are offering. The mapping exercise should lead companies to considerations which can include many aspects that can impact growth:
- Price: What is the initial cost of the tool and how often does the vendor tend to evaluate and potentially increase pricing? Are additional costs incurred for scaling? If so, how will this be impacted, based on business goals? This will give a more thorough idea of the investment required
- Implementation: As companies can have limited or no IT staff, how simple is the tool to implement? How easy is it to integrate with other tools used by the business? How easy is it then to integrate with other tools in the future? How quickly can the solution be implemented and ready for use?
- Ease of use and adoption: How simple is it to use? Does it require any heavy training or is it intuitive enough to be used without this as soon as it is implemented?
- Functionality and innovation: Does the tool contain all the functionality required to achieve goals cited by the business? Is the vendor innovative and does it regularly update its tools to improve its CRM solution?
- Maintenance: How much additional resource may be required (internal or external) to maintain the product and customise if needed in future? Is resource available from the provider or its partners easily?
- Privacy: As privacy continues to rise up on the agenda, does the provider ensure customer details are kept private and secure and are not sold on to advertisers?
- Reliability: How robust is the provider? Has it had any significant service downtimes or failures?
- Scalability: Does the vendor offer complementary tools to help a business grow? Can it handle growth at scale? What is the process to “upgrade” for more sophisticated functionality as business needs change?
- Cultural fit: How aligned are company values with those of the vendor’s? This is a factor which is growing in importance when considering long term partners for growth
- Mobility: Is the solution available on mobile devices and does it offer the same user experience as on the desktop? Does it have additional mobile features to enhance the
- experience when in the field?
‘The right CRM can bring together all the facets of customer operations into a single view’
Customers essentially hold the power to whether a business succeeds or fails, and underestimating the importance of an ongoing customer management strategy will see businesses fall short on meeting expectations.
Once the right solution is up and running, businesses can now look to drive return on investment and dramatically enhance all aspects of customer experience.
CRM can play a key role in driving business growth, allowing operations to improve and customer relationships to be enhanced. However, as a business grows, this process can become more complex to handle, but tools are there to help.
The right CRM can bring together all the facets of customer operations into a single view, to enable businesses to have a more accurate understanding of the customer’s journey. These insights help them attract and retain customers, ultimately growing the business.
This is not a one-off task, but an ongoing process which requires continuous reviews and updates to remain on track to meet goals. Customer preferences and needs are ever-changing and the process of nurturing a retained relationship built on trust and understanding requires a concerted and ongoing approach to drive growth.
How CRM works in detail
A business should develop a strong understanding of its customer base and who they are trying to reach in order to grow. Using CRM to analyse customer behaviour is a good place to start, helping to construct customer profiles.
CRM starts with the very first touch point, and often, this will be with a website of the business. A clear and easy to navigate website is essential, providing the customer with what they need by stepping into their shoes and understanding their needs.
Identifying and acting on customer triggers by offering them easy access, for example using live chats to allow customers to ask questions and receive prompt responses, is an essential part of a successful CRM strategy.
This will also allow businesses to give a tailored and personalised service as they build up data and knowledge of what a customer likes, dislikes and any issues they may be facing. Chatbots are a great way to do this and allow businesses to be reachable around the clock without impacting resource. Simple enquiries can be smoothly and quickly handled with more complex enquiries handed off to a human to handle within normal operating hours.
Creating customer loyalty and advocacy
It is much more costly to secure new customers than it is to grow business with existing customers, but businesses need to focus on both in order to maximise growth. Customer engagement, consisting of actively interacting with audiences, can help to bring in new opportunities while cementing existing relationships. Ultimately, this is how businesses will develop healthy and long-lasting relationships, building a customer base that is made up of advocates who promote a business as well as loyal, returning customers.
For any business, CRM needs to involve more than simply managing leads and contacts through a spreadsheet. Being able to view and understand entire customer journeys can bring insights into aspects such as customer behaviour and buying patterns to drive growth.
Implementing a CRM for any business can also help organise contacts, leads and deals, but in addition can automate time-consuming processes such as data entry, and instead focus more business attention on forming strategies and interacting with customers.
Using AI in customer relationship management
Technology developments such as AI can be helpful to enhance data analysis, forecasting and much more. It can provide further insights into customer preferences and demands and can automate tasks and responses to decrease response time to customers and to enable businesses to manage customer relationships more effectively. Many providers will already have AI embedded in CRM to offer such functionality seamlessly.
Especially for those with a small sales team, productivity needs to stay streamlined. This way, all their time and effort is spent on where it matters the most—delivering a stellar customer experience, and building brand loyalty.
Customer engagement will not be a one-size-fits all approach, nor will it remain consistent throughout a business’s journey. As the customer base grows, needs and expectations will develop; the business should be able to adapt easily and quickly through its software solution to take advantage of these changing needs.
Small businesses can use CRM technology to accurately track transactions and orders, enhance communication with clients by providing immediate feedback if requested, ensuring a smooth and responsive interaction. It can help drive further engagement through, for example, email marketing campaigns incorporating personalised triggers such as flagging abandoned shopping carts from online stores or sending related-product information based on sales histories.
Ensuring that a team is well looked after and equipped to be on hand to help customers should not be forgotten. Employee experience will have a direct impact on customer experience, so ensuring the basics are looked after and employees are not overlooked is vital.
For example, user friendly software can assist operations teams in keeping track of sales and deliveries, allowing them to follow up with ease. It can help employees reach their goals more easily.
All employees, not just those who are customer facing, play a critical role in helping a business grow effectively, and keeping a consistent culture and ensuring employees have the right focus and tools to achieve their goals is essential.
During tough times, it is the people as well as software solutions that can help to keep an organisation thriving, both in terms of customers and employees. Focused employees using the right CRM or customer experience solution can find new paths for growth, based on informed data-based insights. These can also help a business pivot fast and be flexible and agile enough to take advantage of new opportunities or to change direction based on customer demand. All of these have even more importance during unstable economic times.
The most resilient businesses will be those with clear goals on which their focus and solutions are mapped around. Customer experience is such a critical aspect today, especially in crowded markets, and can no longer be an afterthought. CRM is an essential component for small businesses to drive business growth for the long-term.
Software such as our own Zoho Bigin is designed for SMEs. Created to include relevant features and the ability to scale at a reasonable cost, it encapsulates the CRM needs of small businesses. When ready for the next stage of growth, small businesses can easily migrate across to Zoho CRM, to access deeper functionality to meet ongoing customer and prospect requirements.
Suvish Viswanathan is marketing director of Zoho Europe
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