What does CRM software actually do?

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What does CRM software actually do?

A series of screenshots showing what a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program actually looks like.

As part of our mission to explain fundamental technology tools to small business, we invited Markinson Business Solutions to provide a basic introduction to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. CEO Ian Whiting provides the commentary.

When it comes to customer relationship building, no technology is as powerful as Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
Some businesses don’t use it however - perhaps believing that it may be too complex for their needs.
For those who want to know more about CRM its capabilities, a demonstration is worthwhile. Here are the most common features of a typical CRM (in this case Microsoft Dynamics CRM), with screenshots for illustration.

1. The dashboard

The dashboard is the most important screen in any CRM. 
Its aim is to reveal at a glance what is happening within the business, or within each staff member’s or manager’s specific purview.
This one might be typical of what a business principal or high-level manager would see. 
It shows what sales are in the pipeline, how many leads are current and which sources they’ve come from, as well as open helpdesk cases and their priority. Underneath, it displays the current user’s activities and tasks.
With a dashboard like this, you can quickly see how well different parts of your business are performing, enabling managers to anticipate and focus on potential problems.
While there are templates to assist with dashboard set ups, it’s important to tailor yours to the specific needs of your business.
At Markinson, many of our clients choose to display their top five products or top five customers by sales, or information about their inventory.

2. Activities

The activities screen tracks your interactions with individual customers or leads - right down to phone calls.
This means that knowledge of the relationship between your business and a customer can be seen by anyone in your business at any time. No longer is it trapped in only one individual’s head. 
As a result, your business is better able to deal with customers as a whole. This also helps to minimise risk, and lessen the impact should staff leave your organisation.

3. Contacts

CRM contact management systems are comprehensive and highly configurable.
This screen shows the specific details of a particular contact. A CRM will also track the relationships between contacts at a specific company - showing how they fit within their organisation.
For each contact, a CRM will reveal sales that have passed through that person, any marketing efforts that have targeted them, previous roles they’ve held, and so forth.
It can also be used to record that person’s preferences and interests - making marketing efforts more effective. You might note that a particular contact likes golf for example, and then ensure that they receive an invitation to this year’s golf day.

4. Accounts

Your CRM will also provide accounts management features. 
These allow staff to track the accounts they manage, including actions such as quoting, ordering and invoicing.
One feature is the ability to send product collateral other literature directly to customers and prospects from within the CRM platform (easily achieved while you’re speaking with the customer on the phone). In doing so, you create an automatic record of what material has been sent so that your future conversations are more informed.
You can also instantly resend ‘lost’ invoices, and quickly examine past orders to assist when discussing new ones.

5. Sales

Sales functions allow you to track leads more effectively by seeing how they’re arriving and what activities are taking place when they do.
Some of our own customers have learned over time which activities produce the most effective results, and have developed KPIs to encourage these behaviours in their sales teams.
Better qualification of leads using CRM can also work to improve results. 
Mobility is also playing an important role in securing sales. With a mobile-enabled CRM, you can meet with a client and check inventory or issue orders on the spot - making it convenient for them to deal with you. 

Summing up

While CRMs provide a raft of features and functions that can quickly become integral to the way you do business, it’s important to realise that CRMs are a means and not an end. A CRM won’t be an automatic fix for a business that’s not performing.
What it will do is provide a flexible structure for your information and processes that will make your activities more efficient while providing greater insight into customers and industry trends.
To reap the most benefits, it’s also worth considering engaging a CRM partner to assist with implementation. Experience helps when developing processes and dashboards, and a good CRM expert will advise your business on how to benefit from current innovations and trends. 



Ian Whiting is CEO of CRM, ERP and POS experts Markinson Business Solutions.

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