CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It sounds a bit stiff and technical but it’s just the process of getting to know and understand customers including their likes, dislikes, favourite products and interests.

The acronym ‘CRM’ often refers to the software that helps you to do this by collecting customer data and helping to interpret it. CRM software analyses how customers interact with your business. The better you know your customers the more likely you are to hold on to them.

Why use CRM software?

CRM software helps you to gather more information about customers, quicker and to use it more effectively. It’s just as useful for small businesses as it is for large multi-nationals and there are options for all budgets.

Traditionally, a restaurant owner might have got to know when one of his regular customers’ birthday was and offered her a free meal if she came in with her family that night. CRM software helps you to do that kind of thing on a larger scale. Personalised experiences drive customer loyalty.

Your CRM will gather important and helpful information about your customers every time they interact with your business to allow you to better meet their needs. It can take information from your point-of-sale system, marketing campaigns, social media interactions, sign-up forms and any surveys you send.

Using CRM software means you’ll be able to:

  • understand your customers better
  • spot opportunities for sales, diversification and growth
  • target marketing and promotions
  • identify and address business weaknesses
  • nurture existing customers and keep them coming back to you
  • offer the best possible customer service.

The latest CRM tools store your customers’ information in the cloud — which means it’s accessible any time, across any device.

Some CRM software also includes a customer feedback tool — a place where you can respond directly to complaints or comments.

What are the benefits of using CRM software?

CRM software allows you to get to know more about your customers more quickly and thoroughly than you ever could without it.
Benefits include:

Nurturing existing customers

It’ll help you gather and store contact details for customers and people who have shown an interest in what you do but not quite made a purchase.
This allows you to keep them up-to-date with new offers and services and remind customers you haven’t heard from in a while that you’re still there.
It also allows you to make customers feel valued and build brand loyalty

Better targeted marketing

Knowing your customers well means you can tell them the things they are most interested in and keep them coming back for more.

Whether that be news about a particular product or service, specific discounts, sales or something new you’re planning.

Saved time

Anyone who has ever tried to collate customer information into a spreadsheet will know how time consuming it is and how difficult it is to keep up-to-date.

CRM solutions allow you to store, analyse and filter lots of customer data and to trigger actions in response. A mechanic can send a customer a reminder that their MOT is due. A book store might send a list of bestsellers in advance of someone’s birthday.

A CRM with built in compliance measures for GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) will mean you stay within the law in terms of what data you can hold and for how long too.

Insights into your business

CRM solutions mean you won’t be making assumptions about who your customers are and what they like – you’ll know and that can help you to better serve them.

This can help you spot opportunities to offer other products or services that you don’t already or to do more of what works well and less of what doesn’t.

You may even re-evaluate who your target market is..

Identify new customers

You’ll know exactly who your product or service already appeals to and that means you can seek out similar people.

All the numbers in your CRM helps you spot trends in your customers’ behaviour and sentiment — which is invaluable as you make important business decisions.

What are common features in a CRM?

The most effective CRM solutions capture a range of quality customer information to help build robust profiles for everyone in your database. Commonly tracked data includes:

  • Customer Contact Info: customer name, email, address, phone number, preferred mode of contact (email, text) and how the customer learned about your business (online search, shop visit, social media—all of which can be gleaned from signup forms)

  • Complete Transaction History: items purchases, value of purchases, time of purchases and method of payment (all collected at point of sale)

  • Demographic Info: region where customer lives, birthdays, technology usage, hobbies and interests (can be gleaned from signup forms or collected over time with repeat customer interaction)

  • Customer Interaction Details: feedback on what customers like, what types of products or services they purchase most often, overall sentiment towards your business.

What should a CRM cost?

Some CRM systems are free at entry level and then there is usually a sliding scale of monthly fees based on how much functionality you need.

When you do start researching CRM options, you want to look at the software cost, the hardware cost (i.e., a computer to run the software), any customisation costs (does it cost money to add additional tools or format the directory in a specific way?), training costs and support costs.

Many CRM software vendors charge a monthly fee per user which you’ll need to factor into your costs.

What are CRM tools?

CRM tools are applications that tap into your customer directory so you can better communicate with your customers. Some examples of CRM tools include:

  • SMS messages: texts can be used to confirm appointments, update customers about service changes and make occasional announcements about timely information

  • Customer retention tools: personalisation, promotions, gamification (elements like leaderboards, badges and status updates), loyalty schemes.; a Harvard Business Review study has shown that increasing customer retention by 5% can ultimately increase profits by 25% to 95%

  • Customer support: making your business available to customers 24/7, whether through online chats or email support; the less you leave your customers hanging, the more likely they’ll come back to you again, even if they’ve had a problem with a product or service in the past. Using twitter to reply to customers: makes customers, especially Millennials, feel heard in real-time and lets them know that your business values each individual customer enough to respond to personal inquiries via a social and very public platform.

  • Customer management: keep records of customer contact details, purchases and orders, send invoices and add manual notes to customer profiles to further the insight you have documented on them.

CRM key points

CRM solutions are part of modern business in the same way that websites and social media are.

Even the smallest of businesses needs to understand who their customers are and CRM software is the quickest and easiest way to do it.

CRM software works across all the different touch points with your customers including your website, social media and point-of-sale system meaning you’ll get a rounded picture to help your business thrive and grow.

The insight it provides allows you to be one step ahead. You can understand and anticipate requirements in order to deliver top quality customer service, improve and enhance customer relationships and keep people coming back to shop with you.