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Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software Explained

As businesses grow, customer management can become increasingly tricky yet crucial. Onboarding more customers can mean that service levels and sales opportunities suffer, and customer satisfaction and retention can decline. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software allows businesses to manage their customers better, maximise sales opportunities and leads, and increase their customer service level.

What is CRM Software?

CRM software is a shared platform where sales, marketing and customer service teams can share invaluable customer information. Such as purchase history, buying habits, billing records and service requests. All customer touchpoints record in a single database allowing teams to improve their customers experience whilst increasing profitability due to effective customer management.

CRM software is often integrated with a company’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Most ERP systems now feature CRM as part of their package or make them available as an additional module. An ERP system is a piece of software that brings all of a business’s core processes under one roof. These include financials, inventory, order management, order fulfilment and supply chain, to name just a few. Putting all core processes in one place provides real-time 360-degree views, allowing companies to manage their operations better and achieve maximum efficiency.

Combining a CRM looking after all customer interactions and an ERP streamlining the processes that deliver the end product to the customer is invaluable to a business. It ensures that the product or service offering is the best it can be and that all customer touchpoints are positive.

The History of CRM Software

Collecting and analysing customer data is by no means a new idea. In the early 1980s, database marketing emerged as a new way of collecting and storing customer data and using this data to influence direct marketing strategies. By the late 1980s, this primitive database marketing had evolved into Contact Management Software (CMS), which helped businesses store and manage their customer data more sophisticatedly.

The 1990s saw further advances in customer management software with the introduction of Sales Force Automation (SFA) software. SFA software was the birth of the CRM systems we see today. It allowed businesses to collect customer data and interactions and automate critical processes such as marketing and billing. By the end of the 1990s, big players like SAP had developed their CRMs, adding additional features and services.

Historically on-site solutions that required hardware and software on a business premise, CRM is now often offered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The software is entirely cloud-based and usually offered as a monthly subscription by the software vendor providing access from anywhere, anytime, and on any device. The benefits are immediate, especially for field agents and sales representatives out in the field.

Cloud-based CRM can also cost less than on-premise solutions because they sit in the cloud and are maintained on remote servers by the software provider. That means businesses don’t require expensive hardware on-site and don’t carry the cost of maintaining it. The software is always the latest version and receives all updates as they are released. So cloud-based systems can often be more secure than on-premise ones despite the common misconception that on-premise must be more secure than the cloud.

One of the most popular CRMs on the market is NetSuite CRM. Over 80,000 businesses worldwide already use NetSuite ERP, so NetSuite CRM is an obvious choice when it comes to adding CRM into the mix. NetSuite CRM is a powerful piece of cloud-based software. It has all the functionality of a traditional CRM, with added features such as integrated e-commerce, sales forecasting, quotes, commissions and order management.

How Does CRM Software Work?

Excellent Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software such as NetSuite CRM have several key features;

  • Customer management.
  • Automated marketing.
  • Sales forecasting.
  • Incentive compensation.
  • Opportunity management.
  • Time tracking.
  • Real-time reporting.

Customer Management

At its core, CRM software provides businesses with a way to store and manage all information about their customers. This information can often be contact details, billing preferences, purchase history, product preferences and interactions with sales representatives, marketing campaigns and customer services. It allows companies to build an individual profile for every customer to offer their customers relevant products, services, and content.

As well as providing customers with a more relevant and customised experience, CRM software offers a way of significantly improving aftercare following on from a conversion. Customer service and support agents can give greater service levels because they have access to every customer’s interaction with the company. Better service levels mean increased customer satisfaction, which improves customer retention and growth.

Automated Marketing

Marketing teams are one area of the business that benefits significantly from a CRM. Having visibility of what customers have previously purchased, their frequency of purchase and their interactions with marketing campaigns allows them to tailor future marketing.

An excellent example of this would be a customer who purchased a laptop computer on an e-commerce website but didn’t buy a case at the time of purchase. Imagine then if this customer subsequently received an email marketing campaign follow-up containing an offer of laptop cases. The best thing about this being that the entire process could be automated. The CRM knows what the customer bought and can automatically schedule future marketing efforts based on your set campaigns. By providing a relevant cross-sell product, the chance of conversion increases. The customer also benefits from this customised approach.

Nobody enjoys receiving emails or adverts for products for which they have no interest. By tailoring the marketing content to the customer, they get relevant content that aligns with their personal needs and interests.

CRMs also allow businesses to segment their customers based on behaviour and interactions. Let’s take email marketing as an example again. Customers who have a higher average order value could receive marketing emails containing higher-end goods. Customers could also be segmented based on their interaction with previous marketing campaigns, allowing businesses to build a profile of the type of campaign the customer finds engaging.

The above are just a couple of examples of how CRM can revolutionise how a business might market to its customers. In a world where personalisation is essential to be competitive, companies that can’t personalise their customers’ experience are at an instant disadvantage. Customers nowadays expect a more personalised approach, and a CRM can help a business achieve this.

Sales Forecasting

Sales forecasting is an essential part of any business. Without an accurate sales forecast, companies are at risk of making poor business decisions, ultimately impacting revenue and profitability.

Let’s take a retail business as an example. Retailers must order sufficient stock to achieve future sales forecasts—most retailers must order stock from their suppliers months in advance. Over exaggerating a sales forecast followed by lower sales levels could leave the retailer with unsold inventory. If the sales forecast is under-exaggerated, the retailer won’t have sufficient stock to meet the forecast.

CRM tools can help businesses accurately forecast their future sales. They contain all historical customer data, which is invaluable when predicting future sales. CRMs are aware of the timescale involved in converting a new lead or customer and the customer’s order frequency and cash value to the business.

Also, new customers with less historical data can be modelled against similar existing customers to predict their future value. Companies can also use past marketing campaign performance to predict the performance of future marketing campaigns. With so much data at hand, sales and marketing teams can achieve an accurate sales forecast.

Incentive Compensation

A strong and motivated sales team is crucial to a business. Other than marketing, it’s the one sure-fire way for a company to grow. Your business may have the best product out there, but if your sales representatives aren’t showcasing it, you may as well shut up shop now.

From call centre agents making hundreds of calls a day to field agents nurturing prominent clients over months, your sales team must be motivated to sell. The way businesses traditionally deal with this is by providing incentives based on sales targets.

For smaller businesses, keeping track of employee sales targets and commissions might be reasonably straightforward. Still, it becomes a little trickier for more prominent companies, with hundreds if not thousands of employees. CRM software gives your sales force visibility of all current sales incentives within your business.

They can track their current sales and identify what is required to hit sales targets and earn bonuses or commissions. This real-time visibility can provide a real incentive to employees to reach their targets.

CRM can also automatically calculate commission and incentive payments for each sales team member, massively reducing the risk of error. Anyone who has worked in sales might have experienced disappointment when they find that your commission is wrong, or worse still, missing entirely. CRM reduces this risk, keeping your sales team happy and incentivised.

Opportunity Management

Sales representatives will testify that access to business information is key to their role, but sales representatives working in the field will truly understand its importance. It can mean the difference between closing a deal or losing it. It can often come down to how prepared and knowledgeable they are in the customer’s eyes.

Before the invention of portable computers, sales teams could lose a deal simply because the agent left an essential piece of paper behind on a desk. Things have moved on since then, with portable computing making life a little easier out on the road. Cloud-based CRM has taken things to a whole new level for sales forces who need to work remotely.

CRM provides sales forces with every aspect of customer data they could ever need to seal the deal. They can access the customer’s details, purchase history and product preferences to tailor their sales approach. All the information is accessible in one piece of easy-to-use software, real-time, on a mobile device, allowing representatives to be prepared and armed with valuable data for customer meetings.

Time Tracking

The ability to accurately track the amount of time and resource that goes into a sale is essential to ensure strong profitability. Without this, businesses can find themselves putting more time and effort into a deal than the sale is worth. Time is money, and spending too long on the sales process ultimately reduces profitability.

CRM software can track the time spent through the entire customer journey accurately. From lead through to fulfilment, businesses gain invaluable insight into how much time their sales employees have spent on the customer. Some CRMs allow service providers to calculate the billable hours charged to the customer for services and support.

By tracking time so accurately, businesses can get an accurate view of their productivity and profitability. They can identify parts of the sales process which are slow and clunky and make the necessary changes to speed them up. By doing so, they are ensuring maximum efficiency throughout the sales process.

Real-Time Reporting

Complete real-time visibility of operations is essential to every business. Having up to date accurate data allows companies to react quickly, make strategic business decisions and remain competitive. Software such as NetSuite CRM is cloud-based, meaning decision-makers have access to this data from anywhere, anytime, and on any device.

Business can get a real-time view of the current volume of enquiries, the number of resolved questions and outstanding queries. Marketing and sales teams have visibility of opportunities and the key statistics they need to go after them. They can identify precisely where in the sales process a customer is and focus their attention on progressing them further.

Teams and managers can view important KPIs in customisable real-time dashboards specific to an employee’s job function. Powerfully built in-reports aggregate ket data and provided insight into the business, with the ability to create customised reports to suit the nuances of a particular industry. Field agents can access this information on portable devices whilst visiting current and potential customers. This real-time access to all business data benefits all business areas and ensures maximum efficiency and profitability.

Summary

CRM software has significantly evolved over the years, increasing in both power and functionality. The benefits to a business are obvious. Customer is vital, and by managing their customers better, they are putting themselves at an instant advantage.

CRM revolutionised the way businesses acquire customers, market them, and sell to them. It has also revolutionised the customer experience. The visibility CRM provides along the customer journey allows companies to attribute time and resources to customer interactions to understand profitability and increase efficiencies. Ultimately this enables businesses to grow by improving their offering.

As NetSuite partners, we have helped countless businesses with their NetSuite ERP and NetSuite CRM projects. From conception through to deployment and beyond, our approach guides you along your NetSuite journey, providing advice based on our experience and knowledge. If you need help with an existing or future NetSuite project and would like to benefit from our wisdom, you can request a free call back here.

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