Show Me the Money: CRM

Show Me the Money: CRM

Written By: Ken Jacobsen, Jr.

from May 4, 2015

Every organization has customers, although the organization may not call them customers. A manufacturer that doesn’t sell to end customers may call them distributors. A foundation may call them grantees or partners. A professional services firm might call them clients. A nonprofit might call them members. No matter what industry your organization is in, to be successful you need to properly serve the desires of your customers.

A customer relationship management (CRM) system can help with this task. Traditionally, CRM systems include four main components: sales, marketing, service, and process management. These systems are offered as either a hosted in-house or an on-demand/cloud solution and provide organizations with a planned and structured methodology for managing their customer relationships.

Process management, or the ability to easily tailor the system’s user interface and workflow, is why CRM systems are often embraced by the non-sales types of organization such as nonprofits and governments. CRM systems are now being used by many organizations, including nonprofits and government entities, to manage entire organizations, departments, or critical processes. Because Microsoft Dynamics CRM is specifically designed to be easily customized and tailored to a specific process, it is often being adopted as a rapid development platform that avoids the need to build custom applications from the ground up.

Often business analysts can be used to do much of this work themselves, instead of the organization having to rely on developers. This is both a faster and cheaper way to create a system tailored to the business’s specific requirements. Having systems built around their organizations’ unique needs and business processes eliminates the manual processes and workarounds that often plague organizations. This improves internal communications, provides better/faster customer service, and makes processes more efficient, which reduces organizations’ costs.

CRM systems can also improve the communications between marketing and sales, which is becoming more and more important as marketing is playing an increasingly large role in organizations’ business development processes. In today’s business environment, most customers are spending much more time self-educating themselves about products and services by using the Internet before contacting companies. Marketing needs to spend more time and money educating prospects.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s marketing campaigns can be used to track campaign responses, leads sent to sales, and opportunities closed by sales. This allows organizations to better understand where their leads are coming from, how they are spending the marketing dollars, and what tactics or campaigns are most effective. That way they can discontinue ineffective campaigns and spend their money more efficiently, as well as have better visibility of their lead-to-quote-to-sale process. Traditionally, marketing at many organizations has more or less thrown leads over the wall and trusted sales to be working them through their sales process. With an effective CRM system, marketers are able to keep an eye on the leads and help nurture them through the sales process and make sure none fall between the cracks and are forgotten.

Sales Force Automation is the core of most CRM systems. It allows lead and customer information such as contacts and call notes to be captured from the sales reps’ heads and centralized in a CRM database. Sales functionality that is most common with CRM systems includes lead, account, contact, opportunity, activity, correspondence, quotes, orders, and invoice management.

Systems like Microsoft Dynamics CRM that have workflow and process management included also allow an organization to standardize its sales process across the organization to ensure important steps aren’t skipped and the right things are done to close the business lead. This also helps with pipeline management and forecasting. Forecasting with sales reps is about as easy as forecasting the weather in Michigan. Some reps are overly optimistic in estimating the chances of closing a sale whereas others are much too conservative. By using a consistent sales process across the organization, you can be sure that the sales stage of an opportunity and its associated closing probability are consistently reported, so forecasts are more reliable and consistent.

Once a sale is closed, CRM’s customer service functionality can be used to ensure the customer stays satisfied. Most CRM solutions like Microsoft Dynamics CRM include a case management solution, knowledge base, and contracts and flexible service level agreements for tracking the customers’ different levels of support. Parature integrated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM allows customer service members to handle all support requests. Your customers can interact through Facebook, Twitter, live chat, email, phone, or whatever else is their preferred method of contact. That way you can support clients the way they want to work. Happy customers are easier to keep and sell additional products and services to.

Portal solutions such as CRM Vertex also allow customers to serve themselves. Customers can update their own contact information, place and find the status of orders, look up invoices, and submit service tickets. They can also create vendor portals and other stakeholder portals, which gives them better visibility. These portal solutions also allow CRM users to decrease the amount of time needed to service requests that could easily be handled through self-service.

In conclusion, CRM solutions allow organizations to run more consistent and efficient business processes, which reduces costs. CRM also allows organizations to better plan and execute marketing campaigns and track opportunities in the sales process through to close, which will increase their close ratios and thus sales revenue. A good CRM solution like Microsoft Dynamics CRM will quickly pay for itself.