Love your customer

What is a CRM System?
Customer Relationship Management is a software solution for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers. It helps you stay connected to them, streamline processes and improve your profitability.

Why is a CRM system important for a small business?
CRM solutions give your business data to help provide services or products that your customers want, offer better customer service, help sales teams to cross-sell and up-sell more effectively, close deals, retain current customers and to better understand exactly who your customers are.
These kind of systems have been the prerogative for large companies for many years, due to the cost attached. However now, especially with the arrival of cloud based software, it has become very affordable for small businesses and they can now reap the benefits of such systems.

How does a CRM system benefit a business with 1 to 5 employees?

To gain new customers is more expensive than retaining a satisfied client, as the cost of acquisition (networking, marketing, time) is not required when successfully retaining an existing customer.
A healthy or growing business needs to bring in new business, as well as giving superb and personal service to its existing clients.
This is where the return of investment in a CRM system begins!

Example: A Painting and Decorating business has two employees. The business owner attends networking events and also gains referrals from happy customers for whom they have just carried out work. He and his employee become very busy.
Networking is starting to take a backseat and eventually business becomes patchy. Customers who used the services some time ago are lost, due to lack of contact. So the owner sifts through old invoices or quotations to re-contact past customers to re-offer his services. This takes time. And time is money and should ideally be spent doing the activities, which create money – may that be networking to acquire new clients or actually doing the painting and decorating.
A CRM system ‘automates’ the task of reminding the business owner that the exterior paint job, he did 3 years ago might need refreshing, reminds him what other possible work he has seen at that location so he can follow it up in a timely manner. It can also be a ‘tracker’ for activities required for prospective clients, show you the history of work done and enable him to send newsletters, Season’s Greetings – even down to a Happy Birthday card, should he have that data for a customer. And it can do much more, but we shall leave that for a later date…
In short – the right CRM system will free a business to spend time creating revenue, rather than time costing revenue.

What is a good CRM system?
To choose the right system, you need to establish what you wish it to do for you specific business.

Some basic points
Look for a system, which has following features:

It needs to be able to start with a subscription for a single user and be easily expandable to many users. So look at solutions, which have a good set of basic features suitable for your business and what tasks you wish to ‘automate’. There is no point starting with a system, which simply holds your customer data and provides a ‘sales tracking’ feature only. Add-ons for better functionality can ‘balloon’ the cost.

Look for established providers, to ensure their system is bug free, simple to use and integrates with your preferred software applications, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and especially Outlook. The more processes are required to do, let’s say a mailshot from your chosen customer database, the less likely you will use the system.

Check where your data is being held and what the Service Level agreements are. You do not want to end up with your customer data base being available to a third party, should you terminate your subscription. Reputable providers should have datacentres in the EU and will therefore fall under the European Data Protection legislation, which is far tougher than that of the United States, for example.

Ensure you can import your date via a .csv file. This is an export format for Excel spreadsheets. So should you have relevant data in Excel, saving it as a .csv file will make data import into your chosen CRM system far quicker and easier.

What systems are out there?

There are numerous cloud based systems for small businesses available, however they tend to be a one size fits all – with minimal features to get the best out of the investment made. They often suffer from the inability to seamlessly integrate with the most popular applications in Microsoft Office – especially Outlook. There is a huge difference between being compatible and being integrated. Just imagine you set an appointment in the calendar of your CRM system and then you have to set it again, separately in Outlook!

Microsoft Dynamics, has been used by large corporations for a long time and has recently released a cloud based version for Small Businesses, starting with a single user. As it comes from Microsoft (love them or hate them) integration into their most popular applications should be seamless.
If you wish to consider a CRM system for your business and find out more, we would be happy to advise you, of course, without any obligation.

Engineer Artur

It’s IT support, Jim, but not as we know it

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