CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software is used by companies around the world to manage and evaluate customer data (e.g., customer interactions, engagement history, etc.) throughout the customer journey. Nowadays CRM enables the collection of data from different communication channels such as a customer’s e-mail, telephone, website, and social media channels, allowing for a customer 360 view. In turn, this allows a business to learn more about their existing and potential customers to improve relationships, maximize customer acquisition and customer retention.
Clearing Misconceptions on CRM
Before we delve further into CRM’s roles and its potential to increase sales, let us look at some general misconceptions about CRM and provide some clarity:
How CRM Complements Sales
By having an effective CRM, sales executives will be able to know who the customers are, what they want, what is the history of interactions, as well as how upcoming interactions will occur. Furthermore, CRM also provides several advantages both externally and internally:
Provide a Better Customer Experience
By tracking and maintaining the relevant customer data (e.g., inquiries, customer-specific requests), sales executives will be able to:
- Provide personalized assistance and communication with customers
- Strengthen relationship and loyalty with customers
- Retain existing customers and onboard new customers
Improve Productivity and Efficiency of Sales Team
Sales executives can offload manual administrative work into CRM systems, such as auto-scheduling sales appointments, tasks, visits based on their needs. Surveys can also be configured to be automatically sent out, and the incoming responses collected and presented in live-data reports. Furthermore, many CRM systems have complementary mobile apps which enable on-the-go CRM for sales reps, resulting in more time to engage with customers, thus driving sales growth.
Increase Team Collaboration
Depending on the configuration, data in CRM can be shared among different teams. For example, a single customer 360-view can be achieved when different kind of data is maintained by different departments (e.g., sales, marketing, customer service, e-commerce), and the extent of data visibility across different teams can be adjusted according to business needs.
Provide Real-time Analytics and Insights
Many CRM systems now support real-time analytics where reports, charts, and diagrams are updated in real-time based on the current CRM data available. A lot of useful analytic data can be obtained with ease, for example:
- Individual sales executive performance
- Team performance
- Lead conversion rates
- Average deal size
- Deal velocity
Optimize Cross-selling and Upselling
Cross-selling enables the sales team to promote complementary products to customers based on their purchases, while upselling allows the sales team to offer premium products of the same category. The effectiveness of cross-selling and upselling related products can be enhanced by cross-checking the available and relevant data in CRM, thus increasing cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
Challenges in CRM Implementation
Although CRM systems are less complex than large enterprise systems like ERP, there are no fewer challenges during a CRM project implementation. Below are a few of these challenges:
Driving User Adoption
One of the key factors in a successful CRM implementation is in fact user adoption. No matter how delicate and complete a CRM project is implemented, a perfect implementation equals nothing without user adoption. Low user adoption can be caused by a lot of different aspects, which can be minimized via solutions or workarounds, for instance:
- Too much manual data inputs: An overreliance on manual field inputs defeats the purpose of having a CRM, as it does not help reduce overhead and manual work for sales executives. Some of these data can be automatically determined or populated based on certain conditions, which should be discussed in detail between project consultants and key users.
- High number of clicks to navigate to and/or perform certain functions: If a user needs to click on several buttons to reach a single function, eventually it will deter him or her from using the system entirely. This can be avoided by optimizing the UI for user convenience.
- Bad system performance/slow loading time: A slow system will impede user adoption as users slowly lose patience and revert to the pre-CRM ways of working. The implementation team should always ensure that the system is implemented without sacrificing performance.
- Low commitment from management/stakeholders: The management team and stakeholders must fully commit to embracing a CRM implementation, to drive user adoption at the subsequent executive level. Aside from using the system, the management team can incentivize employees for using CRM initially, then revise the KPI parameters later, for example.
Integration with Multiple Systems
Integration capabilities of a CRM suite can severely affect a CRM project implementation, depending on how vast the client’s existing system landscape is at that time. If a particular CRM suite does not have sufficient integration points to the existing legacy systems, it may cause a substantial cost increase to the client to cover the extra customization effort. Therefore, the choice of a CRM suite with appropriate integration capabilities is crucial for clients requiring integration to multiple systems.
Quality of Legacy Master Data
In many cases, CRM is integrated with existing legacy systems for master data (e.g., ERP). However, the legacy master data may not be clean enough for integration, for example:
- A lot of duplicate master data entries due to financial purposes (e.g., billing)
- No proper segregation of master data by required parameters (e.g., territory, sales area, geographical area)
- No linkage between related master data (e.g., contact master data and customer master data)
Therefore, the legacy master data should be evaluated first-hand before proceeding with the integration, and plan for data massaging if needed, including the use of advanced tools relying on artificial intelligence. Otherwise, an unclean integration will cause confusion and extra redundancy in CRM master data, which in turn dissuades user adoption.
In summary, CRM can absolutely boost sales performance and operational efficiency in the medium and long term, with proper implementation and change management. Similar to an investment, the future gains and benefits of an optimal CRM implementation far outweigh the initial cost.