Graphic depicting different customer touch-points

Research suggests that over 2 in 3 small businesses are not using any CRM system to manage their customer relationships.  Many preferring to record customer data on endless spreadsheets.

Whilst Excel and other spreadsheet software have their place, using a CRM system is best placed to help businesses better understand all they need to know about current or prospective customers.

In this post, we’ll explain what CRM is and help you to explore how a system to manage it can provide a truly customer-centric view throughout the customer life-cycle.  We will also provide 3 reasons why diving into adopting a CRM approach (and management system) will help you demonstrate the effectiveness and value of every touch-point you have with your target audience.

What is CRM and why is it important to customer relationships?

CRM wheel of functionality

At the heart of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is all of the activities, strategies and technologies that a business uses to manage each touch point with their current and prospective customers.

These touchpoints are likely to include engagement in your website, social media, email, blog posts, attendance at events and meetings, along with calls to salespeople and support desks, to name but a few.

Put simply, CRM helps businesses build customer relationships that create loyalty and customer retention. As both of these qualities affect a company’s revenue, CRM is therefore an approach that ultimately focuses on delivering increased profits for a business.

With most businesses having numerous current and prospective customers, there is a need for a tool that facilitates the collection and management of data.  This then enables them to communicate and understand their target audiences in a scalable way.  It is therefore worthwhile considering CRM and a CRM system, early in the business life-cycle, before it become an absolute necessity.

How to bring a CRM approach to life.

Whilst CRM, on the face of it, is simple, its implementation is far broader than being viewed as a tool governed by the sales process.  With an ongoing need to focus on a customer’s experience, there are 3 key considerations businesses will find useful exploring when adopting a CRM approach.

#1 Map out a customer-centric not function-centric journey from prospect to retention

Creating a map of the customer’s journey is best done visually.  There are a number of downloadable templates to help you do this, which obviously represent the journey in different ways:

Online Shopping Customer Journey Map

Graphical example of a customer journey map

Mobile Ordering Experience Customer Journey Map Template

Graphical example of a customer journey map

Mapping out your customer journey involves the following steps:

a) Identify your target group making sure you have clearly defined your business goal and the services or products you are offering.

b) Use research from a variety of sources to understand the behaviours of your target audience in terms of activityin both off-line and on-line channels.  Don’t forget to talk to front-line customer service staff within your organisation to gain first-hand ordering experience and identify any potential pain points. 

c) Build a Persona of who represents your average customer, including detailed demographic information about your target customers, such as their locations, gender, age group, job titles, organisational sizes, or even overlapping interests.

d) Map out the key marketing steps: the discovery phase, the consideration phase, the purchase phase and finally the retention phase. For each of the steps, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Why users want to purchase your product; 
  • The motivation of your buyers’ ordering behaviour
  • How do your users get to know your product; 
  • How do your customers feel
  • Any pain points/touch points of your users; touch points are all the chances where your customers can interact with your brand or service. 
  • How to effectively follow up your returning customers etc. 
The words "customer retention" emitting from a Megaphone

#2 Now that you have your customer journey map it’s time to focus on engaging with internal stakeholders

During this phase consideration needs to be given to being proactive.  This involves identifying what, in the customer journey, needs to be tracked and reported on.  Tracking is imperative if you are to identify what is being effective, and what you could do more or less of.  It will also help conversations between different departments.  For example, if a sales person is aware of what content is being viewed on your website, this will help conversations to nurture current and prospective clients towards your end goal. CRM systems are able to provide relevant views of each customer that enables individual departments to engage in an insightful way, thus boosting their effectiveness and productivity.

Secondly, a focus on profitability will also be required.  This is about being able to identify those customers who are your best customers and therefore will want to retain when any renewal time approaches.  Integrating financial information into a CRM system will give a 360-degree view of this information.

Thirdly, direct attention to customer service.  Not only will a CRM system help any customer service team to manage any service-related issues, it will also help the sales team to follow leads in real-time, as and when they come in, thus improving customer relationships.

Businessman hand touch CRM, Customer Relationship Management, icon over blur background, success in business concept

#3 General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)

Much has been shared very widely already on GDPR since the regulation came in to effect almost 2 years ago.  These guidelines focus on how businesses collect, store and manage data.

One limitation in businesses opting to store and manage prospect and current customer information on excel spreadsheets is the need to protect any personal data on these, along with being able to follow the various guidelines with regards to legislation.

CRM systems have invested in their systems to ensure that they are compliant with this legislation, with some offering modules to help businesses manage data breaches, Subject Access Requests and approve supplier compliance to GDPR.  

Tips and reminders

#1 CRM supports a customer-centric not a function-centric approach

#2 Use every interaction with your prospective and current customers (sales, finance, operations, HR and customer care) to refine your CRM approach

#3 CRM systems will ensure that you are compliant with GDPR, ensuring that you have a defensible position should the information commissioner come knocking.

#4 Ensure your CRM system provides a view of the customer that is valuable to the function viewing it.

#5 Encourage adoption of the CRM approach and system across every department in the business.  This will mean your customers get a consistent customer experience from everyone in the business.

#6 Identify ways to automate business processes within your CRM system.

Group of CRM or Customer relationship management flat design rocket with blurred background and soft light effect

So, in concluding, a CRM system to help manage the customer relationships between a customer and a business is pivotal in any small business looking to operate with a truly customer-centric approach; not just your marketing but in every touch point you have with current and prospective customers.  Following the considerations, tips and reminders above will assist you in facilitating the journey of adoption, satisfaction and better understanding of the lifetime value of each customer.

What do you think?

Are you a small business using a CRM system to improve customer relationships?  What are your top tips for using it to understand your customers’ needs better?

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Fiona is Opportunity Marketing’s consultant covering the South and has over 20 years’ experience in strategic marketing, covering brand management, service development, marketing communications, product life cycle development, and market intelligence. Vastly experienced and respected consultant, offering significant strategic management experience with a passion for marketing strategy and a keen eye for detail and a solid focus on return on investment.