OPINION

Tricks of Your Trade: Little Things That Can Make CRM Better

There’s an adage in the CRM industry that every successful CRM implementation is customized in some way. That may not be as much of an absolute as it once was, with SaaS allowing smaller businesses to handle the basics of sales and marketing with what’s already in their CRM solutions. But, in order to gain a true competitive advantage from CRM, your business needs to find ways to use it differently than your competitors do.

While CRM is often seen as a remedial tool — it cleans up disorganized data, it allows disparate people to communicate about sales and marketing, it gives you a better view of the customer when service issues arise — it can and should be more than that. It should also amplify the positive traits that already exist within your company, and tap into ideas your staff has had that were never really possible before.

Put a Face With a Name

An example: A commercial real estate agency in southern California implemented its first CRM solution when it realized it was accidentally applying discounts twice, losing customer data and sending out redundant offers in marketing campaigns because of a mismanaged prospect list. CRM fixed all those basic issues — and instantly paid for itself, thanks to the elimination of double-discounting.

However, a real estate agency doesn’t run strictly on customer data. There’s an awful lot of face-to-face time spent with customers. One of the employees came up with the idea of taking a digital image of each customer at the end of a meeting. Why? Because, he said, he wanted to put a face with a name. And that’s exactly true — he would then add the pictures to the prospect’s record in CRM.

For the agents, this was a boon; while they might already recognize the people they spoke to in person, they now could review records using criteria to match prospects’ preferences to the properties they were selling, and get to recognize people they hadn’t yet met — but probably would.

So, when they saw one of these prospects on a site tour, they could walk up to him and say, “Mr. Johnson? You don’t know me, but you spoke to my colleague Bill not long ago…” The agent not only has customer data handy, but also has a natural starting place for a conversation and a means to strengthen the agency’s relationship with that prospect.

That’s genius.

Ask the Users

Another great example comes from the insurance industry. One large East Coast company built a step into its sales process that requires agents to examine data pulled into CRM from a social media aggregation tool. Instead of knowing just a prospect’s name and phone number, sales people now know the prospect’s marital status, number of kids, model of car, and any other information the prospect may have already published on the Web.

When the call is finally made, the agent asks the usual questions, but with policy quotes already made for that specific individual, the call can go faster, and the experience will be better for both agent and potential customer.

In neither case did a vendor come up with these ideas. They sprang from CRM users, based on what they experience in their businesses every day. They are based on ideas that have been proven to work on a human scale, and which CRM allows to scale up to gain greater efficiency, collaboration and effectiveness.

Also note that these are not expensive, dramatic customizations that required a team of consultants. In both cases, they simply required a modification of the processes that entered data into the CRM system.

Biggest Bang for Your CRM Buck

Every business has these seemingly small customer-facing things that it does well that could be used to tailor CRM to its business circumstances. Finding out what those things are takes some introspection, but it also requires you to listen to your happiest customers and find out what it is about your business that keeps them coming back.

Using CRM to replicate that positive experience for all your customers is the most effective — and often least expensive — way to make the most from your CRM investment.


CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at Forecasting Clouds. He has been a technology journalist for 15 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he’s not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he’s wearing his airplane geek hat; he’s written two books on World War II aviation, and his next two are slated for publication in 2010.

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