Following on from the e-guide on buying and implementing CRM software, I wanted to spend some time on the why, rather than how, of CRM implementing technology. So, over the next month or two, I’m planning on writing a series of posts aimed at picking out some of the key benefit areas, which will then form the basis of another e-guide in due course.
As a starting point, this post will cover the benefits of basic contact and activity management. In other words recording information about the people we deal with and tracking the interactions (phone calls, meetings, emails etc.) that we have with them. This is by no means the most sophisticated or exotic use of CRM technology, but doing it well can have significant benefits. So, as a starter, ten ways simple contact and activity management can benefit your organisation:
Better coordination of activity – if your organisation has more than one staff member interacting with a given customer, prospect, stakeholder etc, then there’s often scope to trip over one another. The bigger the organisation, and the larger the number of internal touch-points, the greater the potential for problems. One of my clients told me the story of their MD being shown out of meeting by a clearly amused customer, to find three of his senior colleagues awaiting their turn to see the same client. Other typical scenarios include telemarketing people unintentionally contacting customers, and salespeople getting ambushed by a major service issue when they were expecting to walk away with an order. Effective contact and activity management allows staff members to see at a glance who is in communication with a given person or company and interact knowledgably, effectively, and without duplication of effort.
Defending your reputation – it never looks good if you contact someone and get their details wrong. Perhaps they got married and changed their name, or changed their job title, address, left the organisation, or asked not to receive further correspondence. Each time it happens it damages the reputation of your organisation, and that can add up to a significant impact on brand image and customer loyalty. In the absence of CRM these changes are often recorded by someone, somewhere, but don’t ripple through the rest of the organisation. If the details of a key contact reside on ten Outlook Contact lists, then a change might take months to meander its way through all of them – if at all. Good contact management means there’s only one instance of a record to maintain, so changes are immediately available and everyone’s working with the most up to date information.
Harvesting insight – over the course of your many interactions with customers and prospects you’ll gather useful information about them and the organisations they work for. That information can be critical in helping develop the relationship and promote your products and services. The fact that a potential customer has a problem you can help them address might only be derived from snippets of information pieced together from multiple interactions. These insights, while potentially highly valuable, can quickly be lost if they aren’t documented and shared with those that need them. Typically they reside in people’s heads, notebooks, and other personal filing systems. By recording them within the CRM system, each hard won nugget of information becomes accessible to all customer-facing staff, allowing its value to be maximised and harvested over time.
Sharing the value of relationships – strong relationships have value, but that value is limited if those relationships are not understood throughout the organisation. By making them visible through the CRM system, their potential can be maximised. As an example, a client, who recently implemented a CRM system across their organisation, won a substantial piece of new business because it suddenly became apparent that colleagues in a different business unit had a strong existing business relationship with a key target prospect with whom they had been struggling to get any traction.
Getting new staff up to speed quicker – when employees leave there can often be a significant lag between their replacement joining and becoming effective in the new role. This can be a particular issue with new sales staff because of the impact it has on revenues. Using CRM to retain more information that might previously left with the departing salesperson, means that new joiners can get up to speed quicker, minimising the disruption of personnel changes, and helping maintain sales momentum.
Improving the quality of interactions – in the absence of effective systems, relations with key contacts are often owned by a single individual. If that employee happens to be travelling, ill, or on holiday, there’s generally little scope for anyone else to take appropriate action in their absence. Strong contact management improves responsiveness and means that any staff member can handle queries and issues in an informed and effective way:
Spotting the gaps – in the same way that understanding who we have relationships with is important, so too is understanding where we don’t have relationships, but probably should. One of the problems that many organisations experience is that assumptions get made as to who is managing the relationship with a potentially key contact, and the reality may be that it’s slipped below everyone’s radar. Good contact management allows the gaps to be spotted and addressed, and facilitates much more effective ‘man to man marking’ of key contacts. It also helps identify where organisational relationships are too reliant on a single point of contact who might move on in due course.
Improved productivity – one of the most common impacts on productivity I come across in companies not using CRM technology effectively is the time it takes preparing for key meetings. Invariably this results in ‘all company’ emails asking ‘what’s the latest on customer x?’. Everyone then gets to read and respond to the email which is unnecessarily time-consuming and disruptive. Other issues include the time involved in maintaining data held in multiple independent systems, spreadsheets, and databases, handling customer queries and questions, or generating reporting information. While there’s a time overhead involved in updating the CRM system, this is generally more than offset by the gains in productivity that result.
Getting the timing right – the main reason I bought my first CRM application (way back in the mists of time of course) was that when you were dealing with a lot of people, trying to remember when you should be calling them back and what you previously has discussed was pretty much impossible without a system. Contact management and CRM technology has been a boon, particularly for salespeople, in terms of improving effectiveness in managing their prospects and customers. The system can also help identify contacts that are not being contacted as frequently as you would like them to be, and also contacts with whom you are over communicating, which can often happen when you have key individuals who may be important to several different parts of your organisation.
Improving marketing effectiveness – the more contacts that are tracked in the system, the greater the scope for marketing to create targeted and relevant communications designed to help your organisation influence thinking, generate leads, and increase sales. A well designed contact database can also provide a wealth of analytical data including better insight into the people and companies exhibiting interest in your products and services.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, it may not be the most sophisticated use of CRM, but basic contact and activity management can have a significant beneficial impact. It also forms the foundation for more powerful applications of CRM technology which will be covered in later posts.