Small business/large business management and success is largely dependent upon customer acquisition, customer relationship enhancements, and customer retention, otherwise known as Customer Relationship Management, or CRM.
CRM is a combination of enterprise strategies, business processes and information technologies that are used to learn about customersâ€™ needs and behaviors in order to develop stronger relationships with them.
In the not-too-far past, CRM mainly consisted of a roll-a-deck index file and a telephone and answer machine. An enhanced CRM system would have included an Excel spreadsheet.
Today the Net offers businesses many software applications that simplifies and speeds up the 3 cornered processes of customer acquisition, relationship enhancements and retention. CRM software systems streamline CRM at each phase.
CRM systems generally consist of a contact manager program, snail mail and/or email marketing campaigns, a sales tracking program, and a voice mail system or a multi-media contact center.
On the downside, CRM systems are only as good as the information it contains. The old programmerâ€™s motto â€œgarbage in, garbage outâ€ applies to CRM data quality.
One of the most common reasons cited for high failure rate of CRM systems is poor data quality, but this is easily avoided.
Make rules for creating new profiles. Double check data entries so that duplicates are avoided, email addresses are correct and that the data is inputted completely and correctly and isnâ€™t out of date. Re-establish customer contact if their info isnâ€™t correct or complete or is out of dateâ€¦.the extra contact canâ€™t hurt and will make them feel special.
All aspects of CRM are now available on the Net. Some big name packaged CRM systems are ACT!, Goldmine, and Epiphany. You can do a Google search for more packaged CRM systems.
If you are looking for free CRM software, try Open Office, a free replacement for MS-Office with some enhancements. Or go to FreeCRM.com
Packaged CRM systems or free systems might meet the needs of a small business, but large businesses generally require a custom-built, integrated CRM system.
What will using CRM do for your business? Besides streamlining all the functions of running a business and saving tons of time, basically, it will make your customers feel special by understanding their needs and fulfilling those needs in a personal manner, which will keep them coming back for more.
Your alternative? Donâ€™t use CRM and lose 50% of your customers every 5 years. Can you afford to do that?
Cynthia Macy has been a self-employed entrepreneur/consultant for 26 years and has found the software CRM systems to be time-saving and labor-saving and money-enhancing.