CRM (customer relationship management) software lets businesses of all sizes gather and analyze data about customers. The software helps businesses make decisions about customer relationships with the focus of increasing sales and maintaining profitability.
When businesses build their customer bases, it is helpful to keep track of interactions since customer service is one way that businesses can differentiate. CRM software gives businesses the ability to do this and so much more. The data that CRM software collects and aggregates makes it easier for businesses to make decisions.
Choosing CRM software can be challenging because there are so many options. There are different types of CRM software and they have distinct features and benefits that fit the needs of various industries. They also are available at different price points that can affect your final choice of CRM platforms.
Types of CRM platforms
There are three different types of CRM platforms and they all do slightly different things with the data.
- Analytical: This type of CRM uses data to help businesses plan strategically. The data is showcased on dashboards and can be organized instantly for real-time information. This type of CRM is preferred for company leaders, like executives and managers.
- Collaborative: This is beneficial for the sales and marketing team. With a collaborative CRM, you can share files and communicate through email, chat, and other means. Teams can share information so they can organize their activities regarding customer service.
- Operational: This type of CRM is meant for businesses that are looking for automation in their customer service – often known as the sales pipelines. They want to be able to quickly access and manage customer contact information. Nearly all employees can use an operational CRM on a daily basis.
Useful features for all industries
Within those different types of CRM, there are different features that you will want to consider before committing to a brand.
- Acceleration: A good CRM will help businesses quickly collect and work with data. The data syncs in real time and can be accessed in the office or on the road. Employees from all departments can see what’s happening immediately to make decisions when working with customers.
- Alignment: With a CRM, both sales and marketing can work together to enhance customer service. Because a CRM gathers and organizes data, sales and marketing offices can share information about offered deals and signed contracts. Sales and marketing teams can also work together on a CRM to design and execute marketing campaigns.
- Analyzing: The data presented in a CRM lets management and sales look at trends. The different dashboard options should be designed to help management see patterns and trends so they can make wise decisions for sales, customer interactions, and social media posting.
- Boosting: The features in a CRM should allow teams to build their strategies so they can make better decisions about the sales pipeline. This happens because the CRM has robust information available on easy-to-read dashboards.
- Forecasting: The best CRM will let departments make wise choices based on data-driven predictions about the sales pipeline. This helps decision-makers set goals for their employees and it helps employees reach those goals. Using the data in a CRM lets businesses make appropriate changes while employees are striving to meet their goals.
- Monitoring: CRM platforms monitor the way that your customers interact with your social media posts. You can see immediately when they respond and reach out. Social media posts can help grow business, but bad responses can create problems. So, with the right CRM for you, you can fix the negative reactions and responses to the positive ones.
- Organizing: Prior to the development of CRM software, customer data was kept in a plethora of places, which made it difficult for everyone to have the same information. With a CRM, businesses can have all of the data about their customers in one convenient location. This is helpful when businesses have a turnover or when the pipeline sends customers to different departments. This is one feature that most CRM platforms have in common.
Scalability features to consider
As you get closer to choosing a CRM platform, it is important to understand how that CRM will grow with your business. Some platforms are limited in what they can do as your business grows, while others are robust in the way they change as your business changes.
The best CRM platforms need to have more than just the ability to save and organize data. It should be able to create reports that you can access in real time so you can make wise decisions. The reports should be robust and changeable as your needs grow, which also means you should be able to change the reports to fit the unique aspects of your business. If the CRM is not customizable to your business, it might not be right for you.
It is also important that a CRM can scale as you scale. If the CRM can only work with a certain number of customers or employees, then you eventually will need to find a second one to use as you outgrow your current CRM. As you scale, your CRM should have extra levels of security and more third-party integration features. It might be tempting to work with a free CRM, but these are often limited in their abilities to scale.
Some CRM platforms are complicated and require a significant amount of training before your employees can use them effectively. This can be expensive, especially for businesses that have limited resources. Therefore, it is important that a CRM be instinctual in its design so it can be loaded onto computers and used immediately. An even better scalable CRM feature is a help desk that gives immediately support for users who are in the office or on the road.
Possible problems with CRM platforms
Like all software, CRM platforms can have issues. So, as you look at software choices, you should consider that there could be problems. These issues can be fixed, but they can also create issues within your organization. It is vital that your CRM has top-notch security because your customers’ information will be stored in it. Customers could be angered if their private information is hacked because your CRM is lacking encrypted security.
It is also vital that your customers’ information is private within the CRM. Your customers’ information could be accessed by several employees throughout the day, so it is important that your customers know this and that your employees have set rules about maintaining privacy. It is important that there is a trial regarding who has used the data and for what purpose.
Prior to selecting your CRM platform, you should see what it looks like. View the dashboards and reports to see how friendly the interface is. If the platform is confusing, then your employees will not use it. It is important for you to ask the vendor how often the platform is updated and how users are involved in those updates. You should also ask how the vendors will help with employee training.
The price of the CRM is important to consider, too. A good CRM can be an investment, even if the CRM has a hefty price tag. There are free choices, but they are limited. Of course, you should consider how much the platform costs that how often price increases occur. It is best to stay within your budget, so be sure the platform does not nickel-and-dime you for features that you were expecting to receive for one flat rate or a recurring monthly rate.
Latest tech trends in CRM software
As you investigate the different software options, there is nothing wrong with asking about the latest technology trends in CRM platforms. Many of the newest features include artificial intelligence and chatbots. You can use the chatbot to ask questions and get quick answers. And, AI can be used to teach the platform about your customers and how you use data. A solid AI system will gather data and organize it based on what you have done in the past. Consider how much time this will save your organization if the CRM can use an AI feature to immediately build reports based o your previous actions.
With well crafted AI, your CRM should be able to integrate your data with different tech features. It should also help drive sales with automatic engagement with customers. This can lead to quick collaboration between departments that can drive deals to close faster with fewer mistakes. The best AI gets the job done without customers knowing they are not working with a real person. Keep in mind that this technology is new, so it might only be in beta in some CRM systems.
As many employees work remotely, it is also important that good CRM platforms can be accessed via mobile phones. In most cases, mobile software is not as robust as their desktop versions. But the vendors that lead the way will create robust mobile versions for employees who are frequently on the road.