Could CRM Software Boost your Business? Jay Ivey Provides the Answers
This week we caught up with Jay Ivey, CRM researcher and reporter at Software Advice.
Besides researching and reporting on B2B software solutions on the company’s B2B Marketing Mentor blog, Jay also publishes dedicated guidance for companies regarding best practices in marketing, networking and system management.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is just one type of software that Software Advice specialises in, and its implementation and use can go a long way to improving any company’s customer service performance.
We outlined some of the most probable questions business leaders might have about CRM software and asked Jay to provide the answers…
“What purpose does CRM software have in maintaining successful customer relationships?”
A CRM system is mostly about getting all your customer info in one place so its organised, accessible and up-to-date, and anyone in your company can access it. Its like a single source of truth when it comes to understanding previous interactions with a customer.
When you try to manage your customer relationships with manual methods, such as paper, sticky notes, excel; email; email managers…it’s kind of mad. You have a lot of interactions with a lot of customers that are scattered across personal inboxes and paper files, very hotch-potch. This can lead to some awkward situations, where maybe one person at the company is reaching out to someone that someone else in the company has already spoken to…and that could sour the relationship if they haven’t acknowledged the previous interactions.
The worst situation is if you’re in a business-to-business company where there are a lot of issues tracking leads. If you don’t have a more sophisticated and comprehensive software system with the potential to have all your customers in one place, that’s going to lead to opportunities falling through the cracks, and that’ll really hurt your bottom line.
So that’s all about the quality and consistency of customer information, but there’s also the simple matter of efficiency. There’s a lot that CRM does that if done properly, it could save your company a lot of time.
“How could Software Advice help me?”
At Software Advice, we really focus on helping them select the most appropriate tools that best fit their particular business needs, their business model and their particular industry. We don’t have a lot to do with helping them design a particular management strategy, but we help them with the software selection process itself.
The market for customer relationship management software is an extremely vast, baffling, tangled sort of universe; there’re over 1000 products easily. There’re also so many overlapping categories of software; different types of customer service software and marketing and sales software, and sub-categories of categories. Terminology and definitions are constantly shifting; buzzwords popping up. You have so many analysts and thought-leaders in this market all competing for head space, and that leads to it becoming maybe unnecessarily complex and convoluted.
At Software Advice our advisers specialise in a relatively specific area of CRM software in order to get really familiar with specific products. When businesses call us, we route them to the adviser who is most knowledgeable on their area of business and then we have a conversation with them where we ask them the basics – their price range; their business size; their needs. We would definitely approach a buyer very differently if it was a large enterprise-sized company that uses a huge solution, versus a small business that just needs something to keep all of their customer info in one place.
Its important to really think before you buy a piece of CRM software. Its really important to think about the day-to-day activities of your people in your business, and what you can realistically handle. Businesses need to think about what is worth investing in, first of all – such as a knowledge-base or ticketing system – and then whether they have the resources to uphold and manage that system.
“What should I be looking for in a good piece of CRM software?”
Contact management is usually the core centerpiece around which all other bells and whistles of a CRM system is built around for most businesses. The heart of the CRM system is usually just keeping all of your customers in one place. Then from there, your priorities are going to shift depending on what kind of company you are.
So if you’re a really small business and you don’t have a lot of resources, or you don’t necessarily have an I.T. staff to help educate your workforce, you’re going to want a system that has an extremely easy-to-use interface for an easy user experience; that’s usually much more of a high priority. There are a few CRM systems which specifically target small businesses – most of them are very pretty and very easy to use, and the creators focus a lot of development time into making them highly intuitive.
Simplicity is also a benefit with these sorts of systems – if you happened to be a tech startup with just 20-30 people, you’re already all wearing so many hats; everybody is doing a lot of different things. So you don’t really have time to get into some of the more sophisticated software options, you just want something to put out the fires.
On the other hand, if you were a huge company with a large team of dedicated support staff, and you deal with a high volume of customer complaints, its then more important to have some of the more sophisticated CRM features such as automatic call routing; the ability to prioritise different complaints; more sophisticated analytics to understand trends and so on. The things that are important to CRM software buyers depend a lot on the size of the business and the nature of the business.
“My business is not primarily in the retail industry. Would I benefit from a CRM system?”
CRM software is probably the only software that is applicable to every industry. Everybody has customers, whether these are consumers or other businesses…and you need a way to organise and understand your interactions with these customers. So it really applies to all industries.
“How do I know when I need to implement/replace a CRM system?”
I think that when a lot of people – especially small businesses – look towards buying a software solution, they kind of approach it like they’re buying toothpaste or something. Its almost as if they just hope to go to the store and pick something up and then its problem solved.
But its not that simple – the software you buy is so integral to the way your business works. A lot of the people that speak with us start to realise as they go that they need to spend more time thinking about the strategy. We ask them so many questions that it gets them thinking about its core; we ask them questions about whether they have the resources to maintain a system, or if they have the training staff needed to implement it.
We also ask them about experiences they may have had in the past, just so it gets them thinking.
Is CRM software a thing that is limited to medium to large businesses only?
I think its a very high priority for most large enterprise-sized businesses – most of these have a dedicated executive position who maintains the technology infrastructure within the company.
But for small businesses, it’s more of a mixed bag. It hasn’t always been a very important aspect, but now, in the last five to ten years, I think a lot more small businesses are thinking about it because there’re so many cheap options.
Before, CRM software solutions were really only accessible by big businesses because you had to have an I.T. staff to maintain them on your own server, and they had very expensive implementation costs. But these days there are so many products and options out there that are hosted by the vendor of the software, and these are often offered through affordable subscription plans that small businesses can utilise now.
So I think were seeing a lot more small businesses also making CRM software a priority simply because its accessible to them – even something as simple as a food truck using an iPad to make sales.
“I see that Salesforce, Infusionsoft and Hatchbuck are at the top of the Most Recommended list on Software Advice’s website. Does that mean these are the best software systems I should be looking at?”
Again, it really depends on the needs of the business. I think those three solutions are at the top of the list because they just fit the needs of the people who are calling us most frequently – not necessarily because they’re the best solution for everybody.
Salesforce were the first big cloud and they’ve grown out to be something so huge – they have something for everyone. It also just passed SAP, the most commonly used CRM system, according to a Gartner market share report, so I think that makes sense.
Infusionsoft is a good product – its specifically designed for small businesses. As far as small business-centric CRM systems go, its got really strong marketing features, so I would suspect that’s why that one is commonly recommended.
For larger companies, the best place to start making some kind of evaluation of what the top systems are would be to look at reports like the Gartner Magic Quadrant. I don’t think that I’d want to comment on what the ‘best’ CRM system would be – its really a vast sort of world and there are so many excellent systems.
If you’d like to learn how Software Advice could help you find the best CRM software for your business, contact Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him at @B2BMktMentor. You can also read more at B2B Marketing Mentor or on the Software Advice website.