9 Best Practices in using your Customer Relations Management (CRM) tool

Customers are the core of any business. Managing your existing accounts and your prospective leads will determine the long term future of your company. While many enterprises have invested in some sort of a CRM tool, very few are fully tapping the full benefits of it. In this post, I will talk about the best practices in CRM.

1. Make your entire force understand the importance of CRM

Unless you really understand the need for something, you will never put enough effort towards using it. While the high level management might release sound-bites about how “customer-centric” they are, very few organizations actually make “customer-centrism” a reality among their foot soldiers. It takes a lot of effort, but the management must really drive home the message that customer management is important for the survival tool of the business. You must make your staff understand the importance and make them use the tool in all their customer interactions.

2. Choose a right CRM tool that fits your needs

There is no one-size fits all. While Salesforce is the leader, not everyone needs to buy it. Many organizations just blindly invest in a CRM tool without taking into account of the special needs of the organization. Before going to invest in a CRM tool, consider some of the following things:

    • Do you have an internal IT team to manage a self-hosted CRM? If not, go for a cloud based CRM provider.
    • How many sales persons and customer support people are there in your organization?
    • What is the expected size of your customer database – in terms of number of leads, accounts and opportunities?
    • What is the learning curve of each CRM option for your personnel?
    • How will most of your sales persons access the CRM? If they are all mobile, does the tool offer rich mobile apps to access the database?

3. Make sure the staff is well trained on the various features of the CRM

Training is a very essential component for using the CRM tool to its full potential. Most good CRM tools have rich functionality and a good trained person can use it to a great advantage for your organization.

    • Wrong usage of CRM can lead to:
    • Inadvertent data leaks from your customer database.
    • Failing to capture certain customer interactions that could lead to lost sales.
    • Garbage data entered due to improper tagging and categorizing.
    • Inefficient usage of customer data. This could lead to important leads missed out and customers not served appropriately.

4. Connect all your communication channels with the CRM

To effectively use your CRM, you must tie all your customer channels to the tool. That includes email, phone conversations, social media interactions etc. By effectively capturing all the interactions across channels, you waste less time hunting for data (such as, what was the customer talking about the new design in the earlier meetings) and also can understand more about your customer needs.

5. Setup the CRM in a way it is easy for you to identify your best customers

One of the main goals of a CRM is to help you identify your best customers and understand their needs. The 80-20 rule usually applies here – 80% of your revenues are got from the 20% of the customers. Use the tool to also understand the patterns (such as your product getting more popular in Norway or October is when you get most orders) and use that in your business planning.

6. Categorize your leads and accounts correctly

Good CRM tools enable you to categorize your leads and accounts correctly. Thus, you can specify which is cold, which one is hot etc and prioritize your time and energy on the right set of customers.

7. Follow-up on enquiries appropriately

With a good CRM tool you should never miss a sale. Regardless of the sources of the enquiries – facebook page, email, Twitter mention, respond them appropriately and followup on sales opportunities with your major accounts.

8. Capture and maintain rich details about your customers

Include as many relevant details as possible in your accounts. If they had asked for a new feature or in market for a new purchase, capture those interactions. Understand their cultural background, company size, geographical details etc to better tailor your response to their queries.

9. Clean up the data regularly

CRM interactions generate a lot of data – plenty of emails, notes and documents to track. A garbage database is of no use to anyone. By keeping the irrelevant data, you will make the relevant data less visible. That will make it impossible to find the right contacts and interactions. Thus, clean up your irrelevant data, such as the cold leads that have not responded in more than a month.

Balaji Viswanathan

Balaji Viswanathan is the founder of Agni Innovation Labs that helps startups and small businesses with their marketing and management strategy. He has been blogging for the past 8 years on technology, finance and business related topics.

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