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What CRM Can Do for Your Business


Customer relationship management software delivers sales insights


Small business has always been about customer relationships — about knowing names, knowing preferences and offering the kind of friendly service that keeps customers coming back.

But as a business grows, that ability to relate on a personal level to each and every customer becomes more of a struggle. The owner may be more involved in operations, less involved with customers. Managers may spend more time handling employee issues and less time interacting with customers.

Yet effectively managing those customer relationships is a key to profitability. So the question becomes: How does a small business know when it’s time for a more sophisticated method of managing customer relationships?

Benefits of CRM

For a business with just a few employees, a single-user desktop application — such as Microsoft Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager (BCM) — may be all that’s needed to keep track of customers. With BCM, users can easily manage their contacts, accounts and sales leads and even run a variety of reports.

There comes a point in an organisation’s development, however, when sharing customer information across teams or departments makes more sense strategically and also offers greater efficiency as the number of customer records increases.

There is a large array of business software available today that collects key customer information — sales history, preferences, contact details and more — and serves it up in a way that is both useful and more easily managed. This type of software is commonly referred to as customer relationship management — or CRM. In the last decade, CRM has become a major focus of many mid-level and enterprise businesses.

But a growing number of small businesses are also realising that CRM makes sense — especially with the introduction of CRM software designed specifically for smaller operations. Microsoft Business Solutions CRM, for instance, was developed to fit the customer-management needs of businesses with 25 to 500 employees. It provides a wide range of automated customer service and sales features that not only frees employees from routine tasks, but provides valuable information that helps target the customers who drive the most profits.

Here are just a few of the customer service benefits Microsoft CRM offers:

Employees can quickly assign, manage and resolve incidents with automated routing, queuing and service request escalation.
Reports help identify common support issues, evaluate customer needs, track processes and measure service performance.
Employees can easily share sales and order information as well as support information and use it to identify top customers and prioritise service needs.

From a sales perspective, here are other benefits that Microsoft CRM offers:

Access to a centralised, customisable view of sales and support activity along with complete customer history either online or offline and from any location using a Web browser.
Shorter sales cycles and improved close rates with tools that enable lead and opportunity management, workflow rules customisation for automated sales processes, quote creation and order management.
Comprehensive reports that forecast sales, measure business activity and performance, track sales and service success, as well as identify trends, problems and opportunities.

Sales force automation and after-sales customer service and support may not be relevant for every business. But the advantages of data mining, which helps surface cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, have universal appeal. Still, that doesn’t mean CRM is for everyone.