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Top CRM functions that help deliver return on investment from CRM

Every year, we conduct a survey with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to keep an annual benchmark of how SMEs are getting a good return on investment (ROI) from their CRM solutions.  Because there is so little hard information available to SMEs on how their peers are gaining value from CRM, we have started to make the headline results of our benchmark study publicly available, to help promote good practice.

Part of the study, which involved feedback from 300 respondents, looks at the specific operating benefits achieved through CRM and which features SMEs are using to help drive business growth.  This blog gives a summary of the top 3 operating benefits measurably gained by SMEs from their CRM.

#1 – Centralisation of customer data

Centralisation of customer data

Unsurprisingly, centralisation of customer data was the top ranking Business Benefit achieved with CRM, as stated by 87% of research respondents. This reflects the growing evolution of CRM being regarded not just as a stand-alone sales and marketing tool, but as a ‘central hub’ for the whole business. Being fully integrated with other company systems, the CRM provides a 360o view of how the customer interacts with the company at every ‘touchpoint’ – service, maintenance, product delivery, marketing response, new business development, billing, complaints, queries, training, deployment and roll-out… in short, everywhere.

By centralising data into a single repository,  information is brought up to date through the most recent customer contact (e.g. a quarterly service review), where more periodic contact (e.g. sales & marketing) might otherwise have been behind the times, thus improving recency and accuracy. Plus, anomalies are much easier to spot. All customer contact is therefore better informed.

‘Centralisation of Customer Data’ is an essential first building block for strategic CRM if it is to be deployed throughout the organisation, either immediately or in the future.  If all aspects of the business – sales, marketing, customer service, operations, product development, finance, etc. – are working from (and feeding into) the same knowledge base, then all are equally enabled with customer intelligence. Each can be expected to bear responsibility for building a good customer experience, thereby contributing to the growth of the company.  Centralisation necessarily improves collaboration across teams, especially when implemented through a ‘cloud’ deployment to enable remote access.  Information is shared in a way that makes it easier for teams to interact and assist each other.

#2 – Segmentation


Segmentation affects every part of a business – even though the popular perception is that segmentation is something the marketing department does.  In fact, segmentation offers actionable insights right from the strategy development phase: where to develop the business, what new products and/or services to develop, which markets and customers offer the greatest headroom for growth, where to concentrate resources to provide the best possible return, at what rate to migrate customers to new generation product portfolio, which customers to nurture and which to let go to competitors, and so on.

The reality is that segmentation drives many actions around the business: it helps deliver appropriate levels of service to keep customers satisfied, while identifying and avoiding  areas of unprofitable levels of customer service; it gives the insight to guide new product development that does not compete with current product sales – or at least helps manage a profitable transition between old and new product ranges; it helps finance to ensure timely payment without putting profitable customers off.

Segmentation helps businesses to know how customers fall into different profiles/groups, how they behave, how much attention and resource they consume and ultimately, the overall revenue and profit they generate. In short, segmentation allows resources to be applied to each client in accordance with their real value to the business, reducing wasted effort and maximizing the satisfaction of customers who really represent the organisation’s future.

#3 – Customer History

Customer History

In the jargon of databases (and all CRM solutions rely on one or more underlying databases), we talk about ‘structured data’ and ‘unstructured data’. Structured data is where one of a restricted range of values is entered into a field – maybe a customer profile group code, or customer age, address, monthly spend, and so on.  Unstructured data takes the form of freeform notes, pictures, descriptions, documents, etc.

A key function of a CRM is to provide easy access to the right information for each individual working in sales, marketing, customer service, operations, product, finance, etc. exactly when needed.  The result should be customer interactions that are as intelligent and up-to-date as possible.

However, while access to information needs to be automated through the CRM solution, not all the data itself needs to be conditioned into data items.  The reality of customer management is that anecdotal notes can help make the customer experience truly personalised.  People do business with people and a human touch is often best enabled through a combination of database profile and qualifying notes about reactions, personalities, politics and more.

Data analytics is really important, but it’s much more powerful when combined with anecdotal comments and updates, that can help provide more detail on the different personalities of different customer contacts. The fact that a CRM solution captures them is critical to long-term relationships, especially given that members of staff will inevitably come and go.  Customer history notes, and the discipline of having to fill them in, mean that some of the most powerful customer knowledge does not walk out of the door when staff moves on.

To find out more about the top CRM features to enable return on investment, read our annual Maximizer SME benchmark study, Return on Investment from CRM. Request your FREE copy of our report today!

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