It’s everywhere. Every software company claims that they will make your business better. Some do. Many could if they were easier to use, implemented differently, or better integrated. The more you understand what the software needs to do for you, the better purchase decisions you will make. #generalruleofthumb. Most small business owners understand how to do basic email and they know the purpose for a website to help communicate their business to their customers, but when it comes to business applications that are used to run your business there are a number of things you should consider as a small business owner. This post focuses on CRM Software and how to understand the fundamental processes used in records management.
Managing Processes and Customer Records
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a solution that manages the process for any type of activity with an existing customer. Sales force automation (SFA) software manages the pre-sales processes to help acquire a new customer. While customer relationship management software manages the post-sales processes to manage existing customer needs.
However when looking at CRM solutions, you may encounter sales and marketing information that includes SFA capabilities. This is extremely common and often CRM has been often broadly defined as a solution to manage any customer interaction; from pre-sales to post-sales, to pre-sales again, and so on. Getting and keeping a customer often involves selling more products or services in addition to servicing and helping your customer base. If the customer is happy with your products or services it is always easier to sell them more than to get new customers, though one should never cease to grow your customer base with new customer as much as possible.
Like SFA software, the way CRM solutions work is very straight forward.
- Capture Customer Request (reactive)
When a customer contacts you about your products or services, you start using the software by finding the customer information in your system, and entering their request which create a new case record – it’s is similar to creating a file folder for the customer on his or her issue(s.)
- Create Customer Action (proactive)
There are triggers indicating a need to contact a customer. Scheduled maintenance, product repairs or recalls, or even a rebate. Another common activity is to up-sell or cross sell the customer for additional services, you again create a case record to start the process.
- Define the Case Type
Every case that you open will need a defined process that must be completed in order to meet the customer’s needs for that case. For example, if you need to replace a part under a rebate for the customer, the process may be, a) contact the customer, b) customer brings the product to you, c) replace the part and test the fix, and d) return the product to the customer. Some case processes have many steps, or even conditions at some steps, so case processes may need to be fairly complex. Usually, you can define each case type and the necessary processes t that you believe would resolve or complete the case.
- Work the Next Case Step
Next, in the normal course of the case processes, you or others in your business would be responsible to perform each case process step one-by-one, performing the actions that the case process requires.
- Record the Activity
For each step in the case processes, some activity will have occurred. The person who performed the step records the activity. Then, send the case on to the next step in the process. In some cases, you may not be able to go to the next step in the case processes. This is when you assign the case step to someone else who may be better suited to perform that step in the cases. This means multiple activities may be recorded for a single step in the case process.
- Go to the Next Step
Unless the you are the last case step and you are able to close it, a follow-up next step in the pre-defined case process becomes active. In addition, there is usually a step completion date and a responsible person tagged as be responsible for completing this step in the case process. Therefore the CRM software system acts as a reminder to follow-up on that action or with customer on case step process. All systems will automatically send reminders about this action so that it is not forgotten.
The last three steps are repeated through the entire sales process until a conclusion to the case is completed; the goal being to close the case with the customer being satisfied.
So why is using CRM software better than tracking customer follow-up and after sales issues on paper in a folder?
There are numerous benefits for using CRM software. It becomes particularly valuable when multiple people may be involved to resolve an issue. No one can really keep track of multiple support issues, customer requests, or after sales business on paper, especially if different people are needed to help make it happen. The software ensures that no “balls” get dropped. Each step in the resolution process is documented so that anyone can help the customer; even if they may not have been involved in many or any of the steps.
An important management benefit from the CRM software is that it is a great way to make business decisions. With documented cases, decision makers can visualize if problem trends are growing or decreasing, and then take action if necessary. It can also reveal which products and services are performing better than others. The data you’ll amass will be extremely valuable when making long-term decisions for the business.